Under Your Skin Cartoon

Your Growling Tummy and Massage

The question: Why does my GI tract sometimes make so much noise when I’m in my massage session?

The answer: There’s actually a fabulous word for that sound. Borborygmus. Go ‘head, say it again in your head. It kinda sounds like a dinosaur or some badass Transformer, but it’s the technical term for “intestinal rumbling caused by movement of fluid or gas.” 

Okay, before you go getting all embarrassed, this sound can be a real compliment to your massage therapist, and here’s why.

Your Autonomic Nervous System (the bit that governs the things in your body that you don’t consciously control) has two main branches: the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System. 

When your Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in as a result of stress, it puts your body into a “fight-or-flight” state. You’re on high alert, adrenaline production increases, your heart rate goes up. You’re in a kind of “crisis of now” mode, and your body isn’t thinking about digestion and other basic bodily functions. It’s thinking about things like revving up your muscles to either fight to survive or run like hell.

And that “stress” can be on a spectrum. It might not be as dramatic as a full-on, life-or-death situation, but even if you’re walking around feeling tense or anxious about something, the Sympathetic Nervous System is being activated. And we all know what that can feel like – the rapid heart rate, maybe you feel dizzy or achy or just keyed up and stressed.

When your Parasympathetic Nervous System takes the wheel, when you’re relaxed and at ease, your body is in a more mellow “rest-and-digest” mode. Since it’s not picking up any immediate threats, it lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and it shifts into taking care of basic functions like making things like saliva and tears and, yup, triggering digestion.

The beauty of a relaxing massage session is that it can help the Parasympathetic Nervous System to take over, letting the body know it’s okay to chill out and take care of the business of living.

So next time your belly makes noise during your massage, enjoy it, and know that your therapist probably enjoys it in a way, too, weird as that might sound. It’s letting us know that you’re in a relaxed state, which is exactly where we hope you get to be.