Rumble, crackle, pop, achhoo … Familiar with that? Yes! Our body makes several kinds of noises and it somehow has a way of picking the worst possible timing. “Why did you have to rumble like that in front of my boss?” you ask your stomach or, “I was in the room alone a minute ago, why couldn’t I have burped then?”
We have all been in that embarrassing spot where our body decides to make noises of its own accord. Some can be scary, some annoying, while some can be downright embarrassing. But remember, more than the noises these sounds are a natural mechanism of our body talking to us. Telling us things like when it is time to eat, time to stop eating, time to avoid certain kinds of food, or time to seek medical attention and so on.
Today, we will educate you about the six most common noises that our body makes, along with some weird facts associated with them. Also, you will learn when you need to worry about these noises.
Burping or belching
Burping is the act of passing gas or air from the digestive tract through the mouth. It happens when you voluntarily or involuntarily swallow too much air. When excess air is swallowed, the stomach expands and burping releases the gas to reduce distension. Common causes of swallowing air include eating quickly, talking while eating, drinking carbonated beverages, chewing gum, chewing with your mouth open and smoking.
Any such foods that produce high amounts of gas while being digested can also cause ‘smelly burps’. Pulses, dals and Sulphur-containing vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions and radish are the main culprits. Burping is often a sign that you have eaten enough and that it is time to stop.
Weird fact: In some cultures, a burp after a meal is considered to be a compliment for the chef!
When to worry: Burps accompanied with a heartburn (burning sensation in the chest) and acidity could indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Chronic burping may imply an infection or ulcers in the stomach or intestines.
It is the thunder from down under! Now, before you go all “ewwwww” and turn your face away, you should know that farting is the most common body noise that there is. Everyone does it, you do it, I do it and so does the Queen of England. It is nothing to be embarrassed about unless it is in front of ten others. Even in such a case, you can always save the day with proper etiquette.
Farting or flatulence is merely passing of swallowed air and gases produced by intestinal bacteria when digesting food through the rectum. Your fart will be smellier if you consume a Sulphur-rich diet. Avoid pulses, dals and Sulphur-containing vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions and radish to save yourself the embarrassment of smelly farts during that big meeting! Excessive farting may happen due to indigestion after overeating or eating foods that don’t agree with your digestive tract.
Weird fact: Most people typically fart 13 – 21 times a day. Holding farts in can backfire and actually make the noise louder. Yikes!
When to worry: Flatulence accompanied by cramping and diarrhea may suggest lactose intolerance (allergies to milk sugar – lactose). Similarly, sodas and fruit juice consumption followed by abdominal cramping, diarrhea and flatulence could mean fructose mal-absorption.
Growling of the stomach
Call it growling, rumbling, grumbling or gurgling, we all know the sound that the stomach makes ever so often, too well. It is absolutely normal and happens when food and air move through the intestines. The intestinal muscular walls contract in order to process the consumed food.
These noises are louder when the intestinal tract is relatively empty and hence these rumbling sounds are often associated with hunger. Carbonated drinks and artificially sweetened beverages and foods can intensify the rumbling sounds and are best avoided. Eating in small portions every 2-3 hours will also pacify this hunger signal.
When to worry: Rumbling sounds accompanied by severe pain, cramping and nausea warrant medical attention.
Sneezing is a reflex. When dust, germs, pollen, pollutants – basically a foreign object intrudes your nostrils, the brain sends out a signal to get rid of it. This is typically followed by a deep breath and then an ‘achhoo’. It is the body’s way of rebooting the nasal environment. The germ-ridden spray from a sneeze can travel up to 5 feet or more. It is hence important to cover your nose and mouth while sneezing with a napkin or the crook of your elbow.
Many people often sneeze in twos or threes because one sneeze may not be enough to get rid of the irritant in the nose. Sneezing along with a runny nose is often a symptom of flu. If you feel the need to sneeze, always let it out. Trying to suppress a sneeze can lead to serious injuries like ruptured ear drums and blood vessels in the eyes, and diaphragm damages.
Weird fact: Bright sunlight, plucking eyebrows, and even sex can trigger sneezing for some people.
When to worry: Persistently sneezing in multiples could indicate allergies.
Hiccups happen when the diaphragm (a sheet of muscles that separates the chest area from the abdominal cavity) involuntarily spasms. These spasms cause the vocal cords to close and hence the intake of breath is suddenly stopped. The closure of the vocal cords causes the distinctive ‘hic’ sound.
Sudden changes in temperature, emotional situations like anxiety or nervousness, swallowing air, overeating, drinking fizzy drinks are some of the reason you may get hiccups.
Hiccups can be annoying and there is a lot of folklore about how to appease them. Scientifically speaking, what does help is breathing into a bag, which leads to increased carbon dioxide in the lungs, relaxing the diaphragm contractions.
Weird fact: Ultrasounds have shown that even fetuses have hiccups!
When to worry: Seek medical advice if the hiccups last longer than 48 hours, since it could mean a problem in the central nervous system. Persistent hiccups with heartburn could also mean acid reflux problems.
Cracking and popping of joints
Knuckle cracking is a known territory for most. There is a fluid surrounding the body joints, lubricating them. When you crack your knuckles, the space between the two joints increases causing a small vacuum bubble in the fluid which causes the crack sound. Knuckle cracking has not been proven to be beneficial or harmful. However, contrary to popular myth, research does suggest that knuckle cracking does not lead to arthritis.
If you hear your knees pop or your ankles crackle when bending, climbing stairs or getting up from a sitting position, it is because of the snapping of the tendons (a tissue that joins muscles to bones). The tendon may move slightly from its original position, and make a popping sound when it snaps back to its original position with respect to the bone. These sounds are completely normal and nothing to worry about.
When to worry: Popping along with pain, tingling, swelling or locking of joints could mean a ligament or tendon injury or onset of arthritis.
So, now that you know your body and the reasons behind the various sounds it makes, it’s time to stop fearing them or being embarrassed by them (at least, when its occurrence is not in your hands). Understanding your body and its sounds will help you eat better and live better!
2 thoughts on “Understand your body noises”
Good to know facts.