Thursday, July 9, 2009


I happened to catch this word, borborygmus (pronounced bor-buh-rig-mus), in a recent issue of O! magazine. I don't read this magazine often, but secretly only bought it because there were some interesting articles on animals in it. And who says we don't buy magazines for content? Ha!

Anyway the magazine said the definition was "the grumbling noises your stomach makes." Well, immediately, I thought
hunger. This is true to an extent, but after some quick google search, it's actually the sound produced from gas movement in your intestines. Bleh, that is nice to know eh? It's just that the growling is typically associated with the stomach, because it is usually louder.

The origin of
borborygmus is Greek, translating as an onomatopoeia (a word that imitates the sounds it makes) meaning "rumbling." This Scientific American article explains in detail the mechanism of what is going on in your body. In digestion, there is a term called peristalsis. It is a series of wave-like muscular contractions which helps move food along within the digestive tract. Peristalsis increases with the consumption of food, however, it also occurs in the absence of food and when the stomach and small intestines have been empty for about two hours. Once this has occurred, stomach receptors respond by causing a reflex generation of waves of electrical activity (migrating myoelectric complexes) that leads to hunger contractions. This then leads to an intestinal "housecleaning" of sorts which causes the grumbling noises associated with hunger.

It is good to distinguish here that these are NOT hunger pangs which result 12-24 or more hours after the last meal. The
borborygmus is more like a false hunger pang.

I bring this up, because I know for so many of us, it seems are bodies are constantly hungry. This is true after years of deprivation, and it is quite nuisance when it seems our bodies do not believe we have just fed it! However, I think a lot of what we are feeling too is this
borborygmus, at least after initial refeeding.

I know the worst time this has happened is when I've been at therapy
appointments and my stomach decides to growl loudly despite having eaten a short time ago. None of my therapists have ever said anything, but I always wonder if then, they question whether I have eaten or not. This borborygmus (it's nice to have a name to it) always makes me want to shout, "Really, yes, I have eaten, just an hour or two ago, I swear." And then, I just imagine some stare, eyes looking down upon me, like a schoolteacher looking over her glasses, saying "Uh-huh." Then, it makes me feel guilty for all the times I've lied about not eating, when really now, I just want to be believed.


Kim said...

What a weird word. I've never heard that before! My stomach likes to conduct a full symphony at times, but then it's silent other times. These days, it seems I rarely get to that "really hungry" stage because I'm always eating (seemingly)...but I know what you mean.

Just Eat It! said...

I feel the same way in therapy appointments, too! When my stomach grumbles, I automatically assume that my therapist or other professional thinks I'm starving. I usually want to yell, "I just have intestinal distress, I promise!"

Tiptoe said...

Glad to know there are others that can relate. Now, if only our stomachs decided to cooperate, that would be nice.