Burping or belching refers to release of air, accumulated in the stomach, from the mouth along with a sound. The sound of a burp is not caused due to vocal cords, but due to vibration of the upper esophageal sphincter muscles. The muscles vibrate due to passage of gas/air through it.
A belch is a process which helps decrease the air content in the stomach, thereby providing relief from associated discomfort. It may occur due to varied causes, including digestive system conditions like stomach ulcers, gastro-esophageal disease, gastritis, indigestion, hiatal hernia, etc.
It may also be noted that burping also causes the patient to swallow air, which in turn can cause air buildup in the stomach, thereby causing constant and excessive belching.
Causes of frequent belching
Some of the most common causes of excessive belching are listed below:
- Swallowing of air: Medically termed as aerophagia, excess swallowing of air can occur due to drinking aerated water or carbonated beverages, eating rapidly, smoking, drinking beverages via a straw, and chewing gum, etc. Such excess air is released via a burp.
- Drinking carbonated beverages and aerated water, by itself, can also increase the gas content in the stomach thereby causing constant belching.
- Eating habits: Irregular meal schedules, overeating, intake of lots of fats in the diet, spicy foods, can also cause digestive problems, thereby leading to excessive belching.
- Nutritional supplements and medications: Certain nutritional supplements and medicines can also increase the gas content in the stomach, thereby causing flatulence as well as increased burping. Prescription as well as OTC medications can have this effect.
- Food allergies: Excessive and constant belching can also occur as a side effect of eating foods that a person is allergic to. For example, people with lactose intolerance will experience flatulence along with continuous burping after the intake of milk or dairy products.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women may suffer from continuous belching due to the following reasons:
- The ever-growing uterus tends to take up excess space in the abdominal cavity. This subsequently has an effect on the digestive processes and slows it down, which then causes gas accumulation and burping.
- The levels of progesterone hormone, instrumental in relaxing all the muscle tissues, tend to increase significantly during pregnancy. The muscles of the digestive system and intestinal tract also relax, and the digestive processes also slows down. This gives rise to excessive belching, nausea, and bloating.
- GERD/gastro-esophageal reflux disease: Also called acid reflux disease, GERD is a stomach ailment marked by pushing back or regurgitation of stomach acids into the esophagus. In addition to constant belching, patients may suffer from an acidic flavor in the mouth, breathing difficulties after meals, heartburn, nausea and pain in chest.
- Gallbladder disease: The gallbladder is a vital organ located in the abdominal cavity, under the liver. It helps store bile made by the liver; bile assists in digestion of fats. Gallbladder problems can thus affect the digestion of fats, thereby causing continuous and excessive belching, as well as symptoms like heartburn, nausea, vomiting, chills, bloating, pain in chest, and fever.
- IBS/Irritable Bowel Syndrome: This digestive disorder is marked by malfunction of the large intestine. Patients may suffer from symptoms like excessive burping, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, cramping, nausea, flatulence, and bloating. IBS has no known cure, but changes in the diet and adherence to some precautions can help control the associated symptoms.
- Dyspepsia: The condition adversely affects the digestive processes and is marked by burning sensations across the intestinal tract as well as discomfort in the abdomen. People tend to swallow excess amounts of air when faced with such distress; such accumulated air is later released from the body as continuous burps.
- Hiatal hernia: Also called hiatus hernia, the condition occurs when there is a rupture in the diaphragm; subsequently the front part of the abdomen protrudes into the chest or thoracic cavity, thereby adversely affecting the digestive processes. Eventually, regurgitation may occur marked by discomfort in the abdominal area and continuous and severe belching.
- Gastric cancer: Any kind of stomach cancer may be accompanied by varied gastric issues such as nausea, excessive constant belching, pain in abdomen, and vomiting, etc. Patients need to consult an oncologist and subsequent treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.
- Gastroparesis: It is caused due to increased weakening of the stomach or gastric muscles. Such weakened muscles do not possess the strength to push the food forward to the next section of the digestive system for further food digestion. Thus, increased sluggishness of the abdominal muscles adversely affects the digestive process, wherein food tends to stay in the stomach for abnormally long periods. Subsequently patients may suffer from constant excessive belching, constipation, heartburn, vomiting, and nausea. Irregular bowel movements also mean that patients cannot completely relieve themselves.
- Other causes: Constant and excessive belching may also occur due to increased intake of chocolates; vegetables like beans, cabbage, lentils, apricots, onions, and sprouts; and other acidic foods.
Treatment of frequent belching
Treatment of frequent belching is dependent on the underlying cause. Consult a doctor for severe cases of constant belching. Presented below are some home remedies:
- Runny nose caused due to allergies or cold can cause increased swallowing of air. Use OTC nasal decongestants to ease nasal symptoms and belching.
- Intake of fennel, caraway, celery, or anise seeds or drinking chamomile tea after meals can help reduce the instances of both flatulence and burping.
- Adjust dentures every year as poorly adjusted dentures can also cause aerophagia.
- Avoid foods that cause belching and other allergic reactions. Antihistamines can be taken to find relief from allergic reactions.
- Drink lots of water and fruit juices to aid digestion. Properly chewing food when eating also helps food digestion.
- Reduce the intake of wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, colas, and chocolate as they cause gas buildup. Abstain or limit the intake of alcohol. Quit smoking. Avoid spicy and oily foods, carbonated beverages, and aerated drinks.
- Intake of primrose oil, peppermint oil, or other natural oils can alleviate stomach pain and cramping associated with IBS. Intake of a fiber-rich diet is also recommended for IBS patients.
- Intake of cucumber, celery, asparagus, leeks and other alkaline-abundant foods can ease acid reflux disease.