Pull My Finger

Something of a foul nature is approaching in this post, but as long as you hear noise, that means that your system is working.  People often joke about flatulence and passing wind, but we all do this and the average person passes wind or farts about 15 times a day.  Instead of stomach noises being used for humor, let’s try to learn more about our bodies, as a normal digestive system is going to let some gas escape from time to time, thus bowel noises are part of life.  Intestinal gas, or air in the digestive tract, is usually not noticed until we burp or pass it rectally (flatulence).  Everyone passes gas several times daily, and occasional burping or belching is normal.  The entire digestive tract, from the stomach to the rectum, contains intestinal gas as the natural consequence of swallowing food and air and digesting food.  Borborygmi (audible rumblings) is a normal phenomenon that anyone can experience.  It is associated with hunger, slow or incomplete digestion, or the consumption of certain foods.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is part of the digestive system, which processes nutrients in foods that are eaten and helps pass waste material out of the body.  Chewing your food helps to break it down, and when it is lubricated with saliva, it forms a cohesive mass known as the food bolus.  Food moves from the throat to the stomach through a hollow, muscular tube called the esophagus.  Muscular contractions in your stomach walls help to mix food and digestive secretions turn this into chyme.  Chyme is a waste product derived from the pulpy acidic fluid which passes from the stomach to the small intestine, consisting of gastric juices and partly digested food.  After leaving the stomach, partly-digested food passes into the small intestine and then into the large intestine.  The colon (large bowel) is the first part of the large intestine.  The large intestine is connected to the sigmoid colon, which is the last section of the bowel and its job is to hold feces until you’re ready to defecate or expel feces by controlling your sphincter muscle to push the stool out.  I don’t think that it is necessary to dig too deep into the anal canal and describe the squamocolumnar junction or the anal verge, but basically the anal canal ends at the anus (the opening of the large intestine to the outside of the body), although I do need to mention peristalsis.

Peristalsis is a series of wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract, and this involuntary constriction and relaxation of the intestine or another canal muscles pushes wastes out of your body.  This movement begins in the pharynx which is connected to the esophagus, once a food bolus (a semi-solid mass of food) is formed, and it ends in the anus.  If your stomach starts gurgling, and grumbling, this is most likely a sign that you are hungry, but borborygmi can also occur when you are not hungry and this noise is caused by an excessive gas moving back and forth in the intestine.  Intestinal gas comes from either swallowed air or the fermentation by bacteria of poorly digested carbohydrates in the colon.  Anytime you swallow food, you are also taking air in with it and this may be why your mother told you to chew your food with your mouth shut.  Having excess air in your gut causes your food to be improperly absorbed and if these gases remain trapped in your digestive system, it will produce bloating and abdominal distention.

Abdominal sounds (bowel sounds) are made by the movement of the intestines as they push food through.  The intestines are hollow, so bowel sounds echo through the abdomen much like the sounds heard from water pipes.  Most bowel sounds are normal and they indicate that the gastrointestinal tract is working.  If you hear your stomach making noise, most of this is caused by gas and intestinal contractions of the muscles that mix and propel contents in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  Even when you’re not eating, your gut is moving.  If you have food in your intestine, it should muffle the sound, but if you have air in there, and that’s all you’re moving, that is what you’ll hear.  If your stomach produces more than one gurgling sound, then that makes borborygmus plural and you have borborygmi.

Written for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Borborygmus.

13 thoughts on “Pull My Finger

      1. See, this is what happens when I try to be sincere. 🙂

        When I was in school, I think second or third grade, a girl I knew and liked very much, died because she had tried to hold in her gas, because girls were not supposed to let air flow.
        She had stomach cramps and pain, spent the night in the hospital and died the next day. The nuns and the teachers made sure every girl in boarding school knew about the circumstances that led to her death, and while it still was not alright to ‘hear’ gas, we no longer tried to hold it back, but went to bathroom or outside, when needed.
        Her name was Anja.

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      2. Holding it in is not a good option because gas expands from pressure and pressure must be let out. Going to the bathroom or outside is always more polite then letting one rip in front of others.

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  1. What a thorough exploration of borborygmi! Cruciferous vegetables can cause a lot of internal ‘combustion’, and there is an unsavory aspect to the whole digestion process for some people (well it’s not pleasant conversation fodder for anyone I suppose). In some diabetics, there is a condition known as gastroparesis. That is due to diabetic effects on the nervous system. Both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes can cause nerve damage. One of the nerves diabetes may damage is the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve controls the movement of food through the stomach. I have diabetic neuropathy of my feet (loss of sensation, tingling, and sharp stabbing pains sometimes). I also suffer (apparently) from gastroparesis due to diabetic neuropathy. That is something I would not wish on anyone. The pain is very intense, partially I suppose because the internal gas can’t escape properly as things aren’t moving along. Even in constipation, one might still have flatulence or belching, but in gastroparesis (well for me anyway), that expulsion doesn’t occur, and damn! The abdominal distention and as mentioned, pain, is off the freakin’ charts.

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    1. Do you test your blood sugar Melanie. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise, but it is important to know your numbers, so you can take in more or less carbohydrates. Eating beans or cabbage can build up gas and if you are experiencing stomach issues, you should avoid these and any other gassy foods. Diabetes is very serious and not much fun and I have to work very hard to keep my blood sugar low. I am sorry about all of your pain.

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