Why you burp
Though it may be unpleasant for you and those around you, burping is a completely natural way to get rid of air swallowed during eating and drinking. It’s also known as belching or eructation.
Burping keeps your stomach from expanding too much from swallowed air. The air travels back up the esophagus, leading to an audible release that most people call a burp.
You might swallow air when you:
- eat or drink too quickly
- drink carbonated beverages
- breathe rapidly
Foods high in starch, sugar, or fiber and issues with digestion or heartburn could also be to blame.
You can treat a burping episode with a few simple tricks. If gas, bloating, and burping interfere with your day often, though, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
Burping usually starts after you eat or drink. If you’re burping a lot after a meal, you can try the following treatments to help your stomach release the excess air:
- Walk around or do light aerobics after eating. Physical activity helps with digestion.
- Lie on your side or try a knees-to-chest position like the wind-relieving pose until the gas passes.
- Take an antacid to neutralize stomach acid and prevent heartburn, which can cause burping. Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) is particularly useful if your burps smell like sulfur.
- Take an anti-gas medication like simethicone (Gas-X). It works by binding gas bubbles together so you have more productive burps.
- Drink ginger tea after eating. Ginger may help relieve gastrointestinal irritation and prevent stomach acid from flowing back up the esophagus.
- Chew fennel seeds after your meals. Though not backed by research, fennel is thought to help expel gas from the intestinal tract and assist digestion.
- Sip on chamomile tea. It’s believed to help prevent acid reflux.
- Limit activities that cause you to swallow air quickly, like laughing and drinking too quickly.
You can lessen your burping episodes by finding ways to reduce how much air you swallow.
Change how you eat and drink
Here are some tips to consider to prevent swallowing so much air:
- Eat and drink slowly.
- Don’t talk while you chew.
- Don’t use straws.
- Eat smaller portions.
Modify your diet
Avoid carbonated drinks, including beer. Carbon dioxide gas can cause bloating and burping.
Avoid chewing gum or hard candies. They make you swallow more than usual.
Cut back on foods high in starch, sugar, or fiber, which cause gas. Common foods include:
- whole-wheat bread
- sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol)
Avoid dairy if you’re lactose intolerant. Steer clear of foods that might cause heartburn, like:
Make a few lifestyle changes
Stop smoking. While you inhale cigarette smoke, you’re also swallowing air. Quitting smoking can be difficult, but a doctor can help you come up with a smoking cessation plan right for you.
If you wear dentures, make sure they fit well. Poorly fitting dentures can make you swallow more air while you eat.
Decrease stress. Excess tension can cause you to swallow air and also lead to heartburn, which can increase burping. Periods of anxiety can also cause hyperventilation. This can make you swallow more air.
Treat a stuffy nose with a decongestant, like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), or a saline spray. Nasal congestion and sinus congestion caused by the common cold, allergies, or a sinus infection can make you swallow more air.
Change your behavior
Research suggests that burping can sometimes be a learned behavior or habit. Therapies that have shown promise in treating people who burp excessively include:
In one small pilot study, five participants with chronic burping were told to breathe slowly and diaphragmatically, with their mouth slightly ajar while lying down. Then they did the same while sitting up. Researchers found this type of behavioral therapy cured the burping altogether.
Burping is a part of life, but it’s considered a problem when the symptoms become frequent and interfere with social situations. Excessive burping can be a sign of a more serious medical condition.
Nevertheless, people rarely consult their doctor about burping.
Though it’ll usually be accompanied by other symptoms, excessive burping could be a symptom of the following underlying conditions:
Heartburn is the top symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but burping is a fairly common symptom, too. GERD is a disorder that causes acid from the stomach to flow upward into the esophagus.
Other symptoms of GERD include:
- sour taste in the mouth
- difficulty swallowing
- a feeling of excessive fullness
A bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is the most common cause of peptic ulcers. The bacteria penetrate the mucous lining of the stomach, making the stomach cells more vulnerable to acids. Eventually, an ulcer can form in the stomach, esophagus, or intestine.
Excessive burping is one symptom of an ulcer. Other symptoms include:
- gnawing stomach pain
Treatment involves a combination of antibiotics and proton pump inhibitor (PPI) to reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces.
Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach lining. An H. pylori infection is the most common cause of gastritis, but other risk factors include:
- extreme alcohol consumption
- routine use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- tobacco use
The most common symptoms of gastritis are:
- burping and hiccups
- a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a chronic digestive condition. It’s characterized by a group of intestinal symptoms that typically occur together. These symptoms vary from person to person.
For some people, excessive burping is a symptom of IBS.
Other IBS symptoms can include:
- abdominal cramping and pain
- alternating episodes of constipation and diarrhea
IBS can be difficult to diagnose at first, because its symptoms often mimic those of other conditions.
Many people with IBS find relief with dietary changes.
People who are lactose intolerant don’t have enough of an enzyme needed to digest the lactose found in milk and dairy products.
When people with lactose intolerance drink milk or consume other dairy products, the undigested lactose moves into the intestine and interacts with bacteria. This can cause symptoms such as:
If you’re lactose intolerant and still want to consume dairy, you can try taking a lactase supplement to aid in digestion.
A hiatal hernia occurs when a small portion of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm and into the chest area. This type of hernia is most common in people who are over 50 years old.
Hiatal hernias don’t usually cause symptoms. But when they do, the most common symptoms include:
- excessive burping
- trouble swallowing
- chest pain
A hiatal hernia can play a role in the development of both acid reflux and GERD.
Burping can be minimized with a few simple lifestyle and dietary changes. A few burps after a meal are normal, but certain habits or conditions can make you burp a lot more than that.
Swallowing too much air is the simplest explanation for burping. But see a doctor if your burping is uncontrollable or accompanied by stomach pain or chronic heartburn.