I grew up believing that whenever I let out air through my mouth, I was overfed. However, belching isn’t precisely what happens when you’ve had too much to eat.
Read further to all about belching, from why you belch, to what should be done in complicated cases of belching, and prevention.
Belching is an everyday bodily activity. It is one of the two ways the human body expels excess air from the stomach (The other way is through the anus). Belching mostly occurs when the belly expands, distends, or when too much air is swallowed.
Belching is also known as eructation and burping, and it releases the air to lessen distention.
What causes burping?
Burping happens when a person has swallowed too much air. There are several reasons why a person may take more air than usual. Here are some of the most common reasons for belching:
- Eating or drinking too quickly
- Drinking carbonated beverages
Young children and babies may swallow excess air while feeding without even realizing it. This explains why babies burp shortly after being breastfed or after drinking formula to let out the excess air they swallowed while feeding.
It is still possible for a person to belch when the stomach isn’t exactly full of air. This is mainly because belching has become a tool for lessening abdominal discomfort or just another habit.
Belching cannot relieve all abdominal discomfort, except for the ones caused by swallowing excess air. Nevertheless, a lot of people still choose to relieve abdominal pain in this manner.
Aerophagia is known as the involuntary or voluntary swallowing of air. Swallowing too much air can happen when you eat or drink too quickly. It can also occur when:
- You talk while eating
- You chew gums
- You smoke
- You drink through a straw
- You suck on hard candies
- Breathing through your nose
- Having an anxiety attack
- wearing poorly-fitted dentures
Certain foods and drinks are also capable of causing belching more frequently. These kinds of foods and drinks include alcohol, carbonated drinks, sugar, foods that are high in starch, or foods high in fiber can cause belching.
Common culprits that cause bloating include:
- Whole-wheat bread
A wide variety of drugs may cause belching, or lead to disorders that can cause belching. These medications may include:
- Laxatives, such as lactulose and sorbitol
- A type 2 diabetes medication known as acarbose
- Pain-relieving medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen
Excess use of drugs for pain may lead to gastritis, which is a condition that can result in belching.
Certain medical conditions may also have belching as a symptom. Nevertheless, belching is a very reasonable response to abdominal discomfort, so there have to be some other symptoms for a diagnosis to be made.
Some of the conditions that may cause belching are:
- Gastroparesis: This is a condition in which the muscles in a person’s stomach wall are weakened.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): This is a disorder that makes acid from the stomach to flow up into the esophagus.
- Peptic ulcers: Sores on the stomach, esophagus, and upper part of the small intestine.
- Gastritis: A condition that leads to inflammation of the stomach lining
- Lactose intolerance: The inability to digest lactose (an ingredient in milk) properly.
- Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori): A bacteria that leads to stomach infections, which can cause belching.
- Sorbitol or fructose malabsorption: This is an inability to digest carbohydrate fructose and sorbitol properly.
There are other causes of belching that are less common, and they include:
- Dumping syndrome: A condition that makes the stomach empty before food is properly digested
- Celiac disease: This is an intolerance to gluten, which is an ingredient found in different foods made from flour such as cakes, crackers, and bread.
- Pancreatic insufficiency: A condition that happens when the pancreas is unable to release the needed enzymes for food digestion.
Emergency cases of belching
Belching as a sole symptom is not usually a reason to be concerned unless it is excessive and happens frequently.
If you have a distended stomach for a long time, and you do not feel relieved after belching, or if you are having severe abdominal pains, please consult your doctor immediately.
How do you treat belching?
Normal belching needs no form of treatment as it comes and goes on its own. But, when it becomes regular, you will need to consult a doctor to find any possible condition that may be responsible for your belching. The prescribed treatment for belching will depend on its cause.
If you belch excessively or you have a distended stomach, and you are unable to expel air, get into a comfortable position and lay on your side with one knee slightly raised towards your chest.
You can also adopt a knee to chest position, as it can be quite helpful. Remain in that position till all the gas passes. If you have noticed that you often belch, ensure to avoid the following:
- Chewing gum
- Eating and drinking fast
- Drinking carbonated drinks
Those above may worsen the problems.
If your belching has become excessive, it is essential that you talk to your doctor. The doctor will then proceed to gather information on your symptoms by making specific inquiries such as when the belching started, and if this is the first time you are experiencing such excessive burping.
Expect your doctor to also ask about patterns such as your eating habits and whether you burp while drinking or eating if you burp due to nervousness if it only happens when you eat specific foods or dink particular beverages. You may also be asked to keep a food diary for a few days.
Make sure to fill your doctor in with any symptoms you experience, no matter how irrelevant you feel they are. This information will be helpful to your doctor as he attempts to paint the correct picture of what you may be dealing with. Your doctor will be able to find a solution once the cause is determined.
After your doctor carries out a physical exam on you, he or she may need to carry out further tests like an abdominal x-ray or a gastric emptying study. The other tests that may be carried out include:
- CT scans
- MRI scans
- Maldigestion tests
- Ultrasound scans
- Methane and hydrogen tests
All of these will provide your doctor with a vivid view of your digestive system, and that will help your doctor makes a diagnosis.
What are the consequences of not getting treatment for belching?
As we have mentioned earlier in this article, normal belching does not require any form of treatment, and it can happen to any person regardless of age or gender. Normal belching also has no complication, so there is nothing to worry about.
However, if you notice that belching has become a more common thing as a result of a digestive issue, there is a massive chance that the problem will get worse if you leave it untreated. You may also start experiencing other symptoms pending when the condition is diagnosed and treated.
How can you prevent belching?
Belching is a very natural thing. You should be able to control it by avoiding items that will most likely make you belch. If you would like to prevent belching, try to:
- Avoid chewing gums or consuming hard candies
- Avoid talking while eating
- Make sure to be seated as you slowly eat every meal
- Avoid alcohol and other carbonated beverages
- Try to avoid situations that may induce anxiety and lead to hyperventilation
- Take probiotic supplements to assist indigestion
Make sure not to purchase any over-the-counter drug that claims to help control burping if you do not have a prescription from your doctor. If burping doesn’t occur often and does not disturb you, then you have nothing to worry about.
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