Burping is normally NBD. Your body inevitably swallows excess air throughout the day, and that air has to go somewhere. With a simple burp, your stomach can ditch the extra air and get back to its regular digesting.
But there is such a thing as too much belching. If you notice that you’re constantly burping—and it’s actually affecting your quality of life—that may spell a problem. Here are six things your burps might be trying to tell you about your health.
1. You’re eating too much and/or too fast.
Okay, so this isn’t a health condition in itself, but overeating and bingeing can cause problems in the long run. If done regularly, overeating can lead to weight gain and increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
In the short-term, overeating and bingeing can lead to digestive problems, like bloating, gas, heartburn, and—yep—burping. Here are all the reasons eating more slowly is good for your health.
2. You could have acid reflux or GERD.
During an acid reflux episode, stomach acid is “leaking” backwards into the esophagus. Since the esophagus isn’t lined to deal with that acid, it causes intense pain in the chest (as anyone who gets heartburn can confirm). Learn more about what causes acid reflux here.
A lesser-known symptom of acid reflux is burping. These aren’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill burps, though. If the stomach acid creeps up enough, the individual may regurgitate some of that acid up into the mouth, leading to a phenomenon known as “wet burps.” These leave a sour and unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Plus, some people with heartburn find it soothing to swallow air while dealing with their chest pain, as if trying to push the stomach acid back downwards. The excess air has to come back out, leading to burps. (See #5.)
3. You could have a hiatal hernia.
Hiatal comes from the word hiatus, meaning “an opening” in Latin. When you have a hiatal hernia, part of your stomach protrudes through your diaphragm. Your muscular diaphragm helps support the esophageal sphincter, the valve that keeps your stomach closed off from the esophagus. Because of this misplacement of the stomach, a hiatal hernia can lead to acid reflux.
Let’s put it this way. Imagine your digestive system is one of those blue Icee cups with the clear, domed lid you get at the movie theater or 7-Eleven. The domed lid is your diaphragm, the straw is your esophagus, and your stomach is the blue Icee inside. The hole at the top is how the straw (esophagus) connects to the Icee (your stomach).
But now imagine you filled your Icee cup so high that the blue stuff bulges out the small opening at the top (accidentally, of course). Now your Icee (stomach) is outside the lid (your diaphragm). When the stomach—errr, Icee—is protruding like this, there’s a bigger risk for complications, namely the spilling of stomach acid into the esophagus (or blue Icee onto the floor).
4. You might have food sensitivities.
Lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, or irritable bowel syndrome are usually associated with, um, bathroom symptoms. It’s true that upset stomach and bloating are some of the most common symptoms of these conditions. However, some people with food sensitivities also experience excess burping after eating trigger foods.
When someone eats a food they’re sensitive to, it can cause excess gas in the digestive tract. Usually, this gas passes out your (ahem) backside, but it can also escape as a burp as well, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
5. You could be swallowing too much air.
Everyone swallows some air, but swallowing *excess* air leads to a condition called aerophagia. Air usually enters the lungs, but in the case of aerophagia, air is going through the esophagus and into the stomach. All that extra air can cause hiccuping or burping.
This tends to occur in certain groups of people, such as people with sleep apnea who use CPAP machines at night, or even people who play band instruments. It is treatable, and it can be prevented by, say, adjusting the pressure of your CPAP machine, so let your doc know of your symptoms to help you find relief.
6. You could have a bowel obstruction.
“Bowel obstruction” is actually a generic term referring to anything that physically blocks food or stool from passing through your intestines, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This could be caused by a hernia, abdominal adhesions (a buildup of scar-like tissue), or even cancer.
Because the intestines are obstructed, gas can build up and cause burping. Other symptoms of a bowel obstruction include severe cramping, vomiting, loud bowel sounds, bloating, and constipation. These can require surgery and deserve immediate medical attention, so see a doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
Otherwise, some excess burping can be alleviated simply by tweaking your habits. Eating more slowly, keeping a food journal, or managing acid reflux might help. Seek a doctor’s advice if you need a little help battling your burps.
Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease) in adults (beyond the basics). Waltham, MA: UpToDate. (Accessed on December 26, 2021 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acid-reflux-gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-in-adults-beyond-the-basics?view=print.)
Adhesions. Washington, DC: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on December 26, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/adhesions.html.)
Aerophagia causes and resolutions. Washington, DC: American Sleep Apnea Association. (Accessed on December 26, 2021 at https://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/cpap-therapy/troubleshooting-guide-for-cpap-problems/aerophagia-causes-and-resolutions/.)
Belching. Washington, DC: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on December 26, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003080.htm.)
Belching, bloating, and flatulence. Bethesda, MD: American College of Gastroenterology. (Accessed on December 26, 2021 at http://patients.gi.org/topics/belching-bloating-and-flatulence/.)
Intestinal obstruction. Washington, DC: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on December 26, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/intestinalobstruction.html.)
Lactose intolerance in children. Bethesda, MD: American College of Gastroenterology. (Accessed on December 26, 2021 at http://patients.gi.org/topics/lactose-intolerance-in-children/.)
Obekli T, Akyuz F, Akyuz U, Arici S, Iliaz R, Gokturk S, Evirgen S, et al. Belching in irritable bowel syndrome: an impedance study. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017;23(3):409-14.