We humans have the remarkable ability to speak.

But, putting speech aside, our bodies make several other noises that can also be a form of communication, as long as we recognize the message.

Let’s start from the top and work our way down and consider some of these noises.

Consider the nose. The nose has several functions, including the important one of sneezing. We sneeze because we have to release materials from inside our nasal passages. The most important one may be bacteria or other infections or inflammations.

This can result in passing the material we sneeze out to others, subjecting them to the possible spread of the problem. Of course, a handkerchief or tissue will help minimize that.

Let’s move down to our chest and discuss the cough. We cough in an attempt to clear our lungs of materials that also can produce infections. We spread them to others if we are not careful to cover our mouths.

Did you ever wonder why we have a response to someone sneezing, but not to someone coughing? If you know why the cough is not recognized like the sneeze, please let me know. I have no idea.

That brings us to the “burp,” which is known as “eructation” by medical providers. Burps start in the stomach, move up through the esophagus and out the mouth. Various gases are present in our stomachs and then want to get out before having to pass through all our bowels and turning from burps to something else I will discuss below.

If you drink a carbonated beverage you are more likely to burp, since your drank the gas. But, during the digestion process, other gases can be produced. Either way, cover your mouth and use the age-old excuse that, in some Asian countries, burping during and after a meal is a sign that you thoroughly enjoyed the food.

In fact, all the gasses that get through your stomach, or are manufactured as byproducts of the digestion process, will pass along and as they do they create sounds. If you don’t believe me, find someone you know (hopefully someone you know well), put your ear on their abdomen and listen carefully. These are called “bowel sounds,” or “borborigmy.” They are almost always present. In fact, if they are not present, that could be a message from your intestines that something could be wrong.

On the other side, too many sounds can also mean potential problems. That is why your health care provider will usually listen to your abdomen with a stethoscope to determine that all is well.

Finally, one more noise we may hear comes from our joints. As we get older and develop some degree of arthritis, our joints begin to “creak” when we move them. If you notice that this process is increasing in severity with more and more noises, it is our joints communicating with us that we should probably see our health care provider for a check.

The bottom line is when your body talks to you, listen. If the conversation becomes different from the usual, then take that as a message to check into the possibility of some illness.

Dr. Michael M. Warren is Ashbel Smith professor of surgery at University of Texas Medical Branch Division of Urology. Write him at michael.warren@galvnews.com.

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