Belching is something which every human being does and sometimes several times in a day. It can become embarrassing also if a person belches in a gathering. Excessive Belching for some people can become a habit also, which is a bad one. But what exactly is Excessive Belching? Not many people know the science behind belching.
Belching, which is commonly known as burping, is the act of passing air through the mouth from the stomach. This occurs due to accumulation of air in the stomach which has been swallowed. So, to stop belching, we have to reduce the amount of air which we swallow. A person belches when there is buildup of air in the stomach due to swallowing excessive air which in turn leads to distension of the stomach. A person by way of belching expels the air which is present in the stomach to reduce the distention. Eructation is also another name for belching.
What Causes Excessive Belching?
It is common for babies and young children to swallow large amount of air without knowing it. This is the reason why babies are burped, to expel the swallowed extra air, immediately after they have been breastfed or formula fed. It is also possible to belch even when there is no air accumulated in the stomach. This happens when it has become a habit for someone or becomes a way of relieving any discomfort in the abdomen. However, belching will only help with discomfort, which occurs as a result of swallowing air, but there are many people who will try to relieve their abdominal discomfort through excessive belching.
As mentioned above, belching occurs as a result of swallowed air, which gets accumulated in the stomach and distends it. Some of the common causes of why we swallow more than normal air are:
Excessive Belching Caused Due to Aerophagia
Aerophagia can cause excessive belching in a person. Aerophagia is a condition where there is involuntary or voluntary swallowing of air. Aerophagia can occur when a person is eating or drinking very quickly. Aerophagia can also occur in the following situations:
- Chewing gum.
- When a person is talking and eating at the same time.
- When a person sucks on hard candies.
- When drinking through a straw.
- During an anxiety or panic attack.
- Wearing dentures which are not properly fitted or are poorly fitted.
- Drinking carbonated drinks.
- Drinking or eating fast or too quickly
- Stress or anxiety.
- Nose breathing.
Foods and Drinks Which Can Cause Excessive Belching
There are certain drinks and foods which cause frequent or excessive belching in a person. These are alcohol, carbonated drinks, foods which are high in sugar, starch or fiber which produces gas. Common food culprits which cause gas and belching are lentils, beans, broccoli, onions, peas, cabbage, bananas, cauliflower, whole-wheat bread and raisins.
Medications Which Can Cause Belching
There are various medications which directly cause belching or lead to disorders which cause excessive belching. These medications are:
- Acarbose, which is used in treating type 2 diabetes.
- Sorbitol and lactulose, which are laxatives.
- Pain medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin, as overuse of painkillers can cause gastritis which leads to belching.
Medical Conditions Which Cause Excessive Belching
There are some medical conditions, which can cause excessive belching such as:
- Excessive Belching Caused Due to GERD: Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a disorder which causes the upward flow of the acid from the stomach and through the esophagus (food pipe).
- Excessive Belching Caused Due to Gastroparesis: Delayed gastric emptying is a condition where there is poor motility of the stomach causing delaying in emptying or improper emptying of the stomach. In this disorder, there is weakening of the muscles in the stomach wall. This results in delay in digestion, as stomach muscles help in pushing the food through the digestive tract.
- Excessive Belching Caused Due to Peptic Ulcers: Peptic Ulcers are the sores present in the esophagus, stomach, and the upper part of the small intestine. Ulcers can also cause belching.
- Gastritis is a disorder where there is inflammation of the stomach lining which can cause excessive belching.
- Malabsorption of sorbitol or fructose is a condition where they are not digested properly leading to belching.
- Lactose intolerance is the inability to properly digest lactose, which is found in dairy products. Lactose intolerance can also cause belching.
- Helicobacter pylori are a bacterium which causes stomach infections, which in turn lead to increased or excessive belching. Helicobacter pylori can also cause peptic ulcers, gastritis and GERD.
- Celiac disease is a condition where a person has intolerance to gluten, which is an ingredient found in flour-rich foods like crackers and breads. This can also cause excessive belching.
- Pancreatic insufficiency is a condition where the pancreas is not able to produce enzymes which are required for digestion.
- Excessive Belching Caused Due to Dumping syndrome: This is a disorder where there is emptying of the contents of the stomach before they have been properly digested. This disorder is commonly seen after gastric bypass surgeries or surgeries where a part of the stomach is removed.
When Should Excessive Belching not be Ignored?
If the patient is only suffering from belching or has excessive belching as a single symptom, then it is not a cause for concern. However, if the belching is excessive or occurs frequently then patient should consult his/her doctor to find the cause and treat it. If there has been distension in the stomach for a prolonged period of time and excessive belching has not provided relief from the distention or if the patient is having severe abdominal pain, chest pain, heartburn, bloating, changes in bowel habits and unexplained weight loss, then it is important to seek immediate medical attention.
Self-Treatment for Excessive Belching
You can try these things on your own if the belching is excessive or if there is distension of the stomach and you are not able to expel the air. Lie on your side as this usually helps. Adopting a knees-to-chest position may also help in relieving the discomfort. This position should be held until the patient has passed the air from the distended stomach. Patient should also try to avoid eating and drinking quickly. Also patient should avoid food and beverages which cause excessive belching such as carbonated beverages, chewing gum, spicy food etc.
Treatment for Excessive Belching
Normal everyday belching does not need any treatment. However, if there is frequent or excessive belching then patient should seek treatment. First the patient's medical history is taken and various investigations are carried out to determine the underlying cause for excessive belching. The treatment for excessive belching is started according to the problem diagnosed. The doctor will ask questions regarding the patient's symptoms. Whether the excessive belching has occurred before or is a new condition. Patient is also asked about the patterns of belching, such as if the patient has belching due to nervousness or after he/she has consumed any specific food or drink. Patient is also asked to keep a food diary.
It is important that the patient also mentions any other symptoms which he/she has along with belching. This will make the diagnosis of the patient's condition easier.
After a physical exam is done, patient may need to undergo investigations, such as abdominal x-rays, gastric emptying studies, MRI scan, CT and ultrasound scans, hydrogen/methane tests and maldigestion tests. This will provide a clear picture of the patient's digestive system and will help the doctor in making a correct diagnosis. Treatment is started according to the diagnosis of the patient's condition.
Consequences of Untreated Excessive Belching
As mentioned previously, there is no treatment needed for normal belching. However, if there is frequent or excessive belching, then it indicates that there is a problem with the patient's digestive system. And if this condition is left untreated, then symptoms can also worsen. Patient may also have other symptoms along with belching. So it is important to get to the root cause of the problem and get it treated. Patient should not ignore symptoms such as chest pain, heartburn, bloating, changes in bowel habits and unexplained weight loss.
Prevention of Excessive Belching
- Always sit down during your meal and chew your food slowly.
- Stop consumption of foods or drinks which worsen the belching.
- Avoid sucking on hard candies or chewing gum to prevent excessive belching.
- Another effective way to prevent excessive belching is to avoid drinking alcohol and carbonated beverages.
- Probiotic supplements help with digestion, so try taking them to prevent belching.
- Avoid stress and anxiety as it can lead to hyperventilation.
- Another effective way to prevent excessive belching is to ditch the straw and drink your fluids from a glass.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes.
- Quit smoking.
- Don't drink excessively hot drinks, such as tea or coffee, as it will lead to increased swallowing of air. Allow them to cool a bit first before drinking.
Natural Remedies to Stop Excessive Belching
- Fennel seeds have been used for centuries to cut down on the wind and belching and they also help with the digestion. Similarly Caraway, celery or anise seeds also help to treat excessive belching naturally. Take half-a-teaspoon of any of the above mentioned seeds and chew them after a meal. This will help in preventing belching after your meal and also help in expelling gas from the intestinal tract.
- Chamomile tea is good and effective natural remedy for relieving stomach aches and can also help in relieving belching.
- Ginger is yet another natural remedy to stop excessive belching as it provides immediate relief. Powdered ginger capsules or tincture should be taken before meals. You can also eat a piece of fresh ginger root. Other alternative is to make ginger tea. You can do this by finely grating teaspoon of fresh gingerroot, then add a cup of boiling water to it and let it steep for five minutes. After this, strain the tea and let it cool before drinking.
- Cardamom tea also aids with digesting the food better, so that less gas is produced. Put 1 teaspoon of cardamom in one cup of water and let it boil for 10 minutes. Drink this tea with your meals to stop excessive belching naturally.