Belching is the act of expelling air from the stomach
through the mouth. It usually occurs when the stomach distends, or expands because
of too much swallowed air. Belching releases the air to reduce the distention.
Other names for belching include burping and eructation.
What causes belching?
Belching occurs when the stomach fills with swallowed air.
There are a number of reasons why more air than normal may be swallowed. The most
common reasons are:
- eating or drinking too quickly
- drinking carbonated drinks
Babies and young children may swallow large amounts of air without realizing
it. Babies are burped shortly after drinking breast milk or formula to expel
the excess air that was swallowed during feeding.
It’s possible to belch when the stomach is not full of air. This is usually
because belching has become a habit or a tool for reducing abdominal
discomfort. Belching will only relieve discomfort associated with swallowing
air. But it’s not uncommon for people to try to relieve other abdominal
discomforts in the same way.
Aerophagia is the voluntary or involuntary swallowing of
air. Swallowing excessive amounts of air can happen when eating or drinking too
quickly. It can also occur when:
- talking and eating at the same time
- chewing gum
- sucking on hard candies
- drinking through a straw
- wearing poorly fitted dentures
- having an anxiety attack
- breathing through your nose
Some foods and drinks can also cause more frequent belching.
These include carbonated drinks, alcohol, and foods high in starch, sugar, or
fiber that cause gas. Common culprits include:
- whole-wheat bread
A number of different medications may lead to belching or to
the disorders that cause belching. These may include:
- a common type 2 diabetes medication called
- laxatives, such as lactulose and sorbitol
- pain medications, such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and
Excess use of pain medications may cause gastritis, a
condition that can cause belching.
Some medical conditions may also cause belching as a
symptom. However, as belching is a natural response to abdominal discomfort,
there must be other symptoms present to make a diagnosis.
Conditions that may cause belching include:
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): a disorder that
causes acid from the stomach to flow upward into the esophagus, or food
- gastroparesis: a disorder in which the muscles in your
stomach wall are weakened
- gastritis: a disorder that causes inflammation of the
- peptic ulcers: sores on the esophagus, stomach, and
upper part of your small intestine
- lactose intolerance: inability to properly digest
lactose, an ingredient found in dairy products
- fructose or sorbitol malabsorption: inability to
properly digest the carbohydrates fructose and sorbitol
(H. pylori): bacteria that cause
stomach infections, which can increase belching
Less common causes of belching include:
- celiac disease: an intolerance to gluten, an ingredient
found in many flour-rich foods like breads and crackers
- dumping syndrome: a disorder that causes your stomach
to empty before its contents have been properly digested
- pancreatic insufficiency: occurs when the pancreas is
not able to release enzymes needed for digestion
Belching as a single symptom is not usually cause for concern unless it’s
frequent or excessive. However, if your stomach has been distended for a long
period and belching does not relieve the distention, or if the abdominal pain
is severe, seek medical attention immediately.
How is belching treated?
Normal belching does not require any treatment. However, if belching becomes
excessive, you should contact a medical professional to explore possible
conditions that may be causing the problem. Treatment will depend on the cause.
If you’re belching excessively or if your stomach is distended and you
cannot expel the air, lying on your side usually helps. Adopting a
knees-to-chest position can also be helpful. Hold the position until the gas
If you often experience belching, you should avoid:
- eating and drinking quickly
- drinking carbonated beverages
- chewing gum
These may make the problem worse.
If your belching has become excessive, it’s important to speak with your
doctor. Your doctor will gather information on your symptoms by asking
questions about when the excessive belching began and if it has happened
before. They will also ask about patterns, such as whether the belching occurs
due to nervousness or after consuming a particular food or drink. They may also
ask you to keep a food diary for a few days.
Make sure you mention any other symptoms you have, even if you don’t think
that they’re relevant. This will help your doctor build a full picture of the
problem, which will help him or her find the most likely solution.
Your doctor may examine you physically and could order further tests such as
abdominal X-rays or gastric emptying studies. Other tests include:
- MRI scans
- CT scans
- ultrasound scans
- maldigestion tests
- hydrogen and methane tests
These will give your doctor a clear view of your digestive system, which
will help them make a diagnosis.
What are the consequences of leaving belching
Normal belching does not require any treatment and has no consequences.
However, if belching has become more frequent due to a digestive system
problem, it’s possible that the symptoms will worsen if left untreated. You may
also begin to experience other symptoms until the problem is diagnosed and
How can belching be prevented?
Belching is a natural action. You can control it by avoiding items that are
likely to make you belch. If you want to prevent belching, you should:
- Sit down and eat each meal slowly.
- Avoid chewing gum or sucking on hard candies.
- Avoid carbonated beverages and alcohol.
- Stop consuming any foods or drinks that make belching
- Take probiotic supplements to aid in digestion.
- Avoid anxiety-inducing situations that may cause hyperventilation.