Abdominal (Bowel) Sounds
or bowel, sounds refer to noises made within the small and large intestines,
typically during digestion. They are characterized by hollow sounds that may be
similar to the sounds of water moving through pipes. While bowel sounds are
most often a normal occurrence, frequent, unusually loud sounds or the lack of
abdominal sounds may indicate an underlying condition within the digestive
Symptoms of Abdominal Sounds
sounds are sounds made by the intestine. They may be described by the following
- high-pitched sounds
Accompanying Symptoms of Abdominal Sounds
sounds alone are not usually a cause for concern. However, the presence of
other symptoms that accompany the sounds may indicate an underlying illness.
These symptoms may include:
- excess gas
- frequent diarrhea
- bloody stools
- heartburn that doesn’t respond to
- unintentional and sudden weight loss
- feelings of fullness
your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms or abdominal pain. Prompt
medical care can help you avoid potentially serious complications.
Causes of Abdominal Sounds
abdominal sounds you hear are most likely related to the movement of food and
air through your intestines. When your intestines process food, your stomach
may grumble or growl. The walls of the gastrointestinal tract are mostly made
up of muscle. When you eat, the walls contract to mix and squeeze the food
through your intestines so it can be digested. This process is called
peristalsis. Peristalsis is generally responsible for the rumbling sound you
hear after eating. It can occur several hours after eating and even at night
when you’re trying to sleep.
can also cause abdominal sounds. According to an article published by the Endocrinology and
Metabolism Clinics of North America, when you’re hungry, hormone-like substances in the
brain activate the desire to eat, which then sends signals to the intestines
and stomach. As a result, the muscles in your digestive system contract and
cause these sounds.
sounds may either be classified as hypoactive or hyperactive. Hypoactive, or reduced,
bowel sounds often indicate that intestinal activity has slowed down. On the
other hand, hyperactive bowel sounds are louder sounds that can be
heard by others. They often occur after eating or when you have diarrhea.
occasional hypoactive and hyperactive bowel sounds are normal, frequent
experiences on either end of the spectrum and the presence of other abnormal
symptoms may indicate a medical problem.
of the sounds you hear in your bowel are due to normal digestion, but abdominal
sounds with accompanying symptoms may be due to a more serious underlying
condition or the use of certain medications.
hypoactive, or missing bowel sounds may be attributed to:
- an infection that causes problems with the nerves
in the intestines
- a hernia, which is when
part of an organ pushes through a weak area of the stomach muscle
- a blood clot
- reduced blood potassium, or hypokalemia
- a tumor
- a blockage of the bowels, or intestinal
causes of hyperactive bowel sounds are:
- food allergies
- infections that lead to inflammation or diarrhea
- laxative use
- bleeding in the digestive tract
- inflammatory bowel disease, particularly Crohn’s
of hypoactive abdominal sounds or the absence of bowel sounds are:
- certain medications, such as codeine
- general anesthesia
- abdominal surgery
- radiation exposure
- damage to the intestines
Tests for Abdominal Sounds
abdominal sounds occur with other symptoms, your doctor will perform several
tests to diagnose the underlying cause. Your doctor may begin by reviewing your
medical history and asking a few questions about the frequency and severity of
your symptoms. They will also use a stethoscope to listen for any abnormal
bowel sounds. This step is called auscultation. Bowel obstructions typically
produce very loud, high-pitched sounds. These sounds can often be heard without
using a stethoscope.
doctor may also perform some tests:
- A CT scan is used to take
X-ray images of the abdominal area.
- An endoscopy is a test
that uses a camera attached to a small, flexible tube to capture pictures inside
- Blood tests are used to
rule out infection or organ damage.
Treating Abdominal Sounds
will depend on the cause of your symptoms. Normal bowel sounds do not require
any treatment. If you’re embarrassed by these sounds, you may want to limit
your intake of foods that produce gas. These include:
- artificial sweeteners
- carbonated drinks
- whole grain products
dairy if you have lactose intolerance. Swallowing air by eating too quickly,
drinking through a straw, or chewing gum, can also lead to excess air in your
digestive tract. There’s no evidence that taking probiotics can help with bowel
sounds, according to the International Foundation for Functional
Gastrointestinal Disorders. It’s important to remember that most of these sounds
can only be heard by you. Most other people are unaware of them or unconcerned,
so there’s no need to be embarrassed.
Abdominal Sounds and Medical Emergencies
If you have
signs of a medical emergency, such as bleeding, bowel damage, or severe
obstruction, you may need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. At the
hospital, a tube may be placed through your mouth or nose and into your stomach
or intestines to empty them out. You will usually not be able to eat or drink
anything afterward to allow your intestines to rest.
people may need surgery. For example, if your intestine is found to be
completely blocked, you may need surgery to remove the obstruction as well as
any part of the intestine that was damaged.
are available for certain gastrointestinal illnesses like Crohn’s disease or
ulcerative colitis. If you are diagnosed with one of these conditions, your
doctor may prescribe medication for you.
Outlook for Abdominal Sounds
outlook for abdominal sounds depends on the severity of the problem. More often
than not, sounds in your digestive system are normal and should not be a cause
for concern. If your abdominal sounds seem unusual or they’re accompanied by
other symptoms, seek medical care right away to reduce the risk of
rare cases, certain complications can be life-threatening if left untreated.
Intestinal obstructions, in particular, can be dangerous. The obstruction can
lead to tissue death if it cuts off the supply of blood to part of your
intestine. A tear in the intestinal wall because of the dead tissue can lead to
infection in the abdominal cavity. This can be fatal. Other conditions and
diseases like tumors or Crohn’s disease may require long-term treatment and