Burping to expel trapped gas in stomach: Causes, symptoms & treatment tips

Heather Campbell
 min read

Burping to expel trapped gas in stomach can be a relief, but too much isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Burping to expel trapped gas in stomach: Causes, symptoms & treatment tipsBurping, also known as ructus or belching is the venting of the stomach through the esophagus and mouth.

As a whole, burping is a natural way for excess air in the stomach to escape through the esophagus and then the mouth. We are always ingesting air, and the occasional burp is nothing to worry about, but if it occurs frequently, you should go to your doctor to check it out.

Without noticing, we swallow air all day long. This happens while eating, drinking, or talking.

This causes an accumulation of air in the stomach which leads to the expansion of the stomach. And as the stomach expands, a signal is sent from the stomach wall to the brain.

This signal then causes the sphincter between the esophagus and stomach to relax and the air present in the stomach can then escape through the esophagus and mouth.

Burping to expel trapped gas in stomach: Introduction

The stomach is actually equipped with a kind of venting mechanism. This protects the stomach from extreme expansion due to air accumulation.

The air we ingest accumulates in the stomach. A small amount of air will be passed with the food to the intestine and the remaining air leaves our bodies through burping.

Everyone needs to burp sometimes to get rid of excess air. This is quite normal, even if burping is considered inappropriate in our culture.

Burping may occur as a complaint of a stomach disorder or other illness.

However, it can also be an isolated complaint. Burping can be a very frequent and bothersome phenomenon. Some people even have to burp up to several times a minute.

What are the causes of problematic burping?

Burping can have several causes and here are the most common causes:

Ingestion of air

Burping is caused by swallowing air. Everyone swallows small amounts of air while eating, drinking, or talking.

However, some people swallow a lot of air. This swallowing of air is known medically as “aerophagy”.

Swallowing air can be exacerbated by stress, chewing gum, smoking, eating, drinking, and talking restlessly.

Misuse of muscles in the neck region, for example, when talking, can also be a cause.

Foodstuffs

Some foods can cause extra air in the stomach.

Think carbonated soft drinks, beer, onion, cabbage, leeks, peppers, legumes, garlic, large amounts of (unripe) fruit, large amounts of sugar and/or fat, and spicy herbs or spices.

If you use and consume a good amount of any of the above products, you may need to burp more often.

Heartburn

Burping more often occurs in conjunction with heartburn (acid burn and belching) or functional stomach discomfort.

Burping is often accompanied by bloating, nausea, and upper abdominal pain.

Tip: Extensive information on heartburn can be found in our other article Heartburn: Causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments & remedies

Gallstones and peptic ulcer

Burping may additionally occur as a result of gallstones and stomach ulcers.

In both cases, however, other symptoms usually precede burping. Look for more information about gallstones can be on this website.

Colds

Burping is also more common in people who have a cold or a nose, throat, or larynx condition and it is thought that burping in such cases is due to a different way of breathing and swallowing.

Diagnosis of burping

The diagnosis of burping can easily be made by the doctor or patient based on the symptoms.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms and other symptoms, a general practitioner may order further investigations.

Complaints and symptoms of burping

Swallowing (a lot of) air can cause bloating and nausea. Usually, letting out a burp then relieves the air, and the symptoms disappear.

If burping is a symptom of another condition, such as an ulcer or gallstones, other symptoms will be present.

Related post: For specific information about indigestion, read our other post Functional dyspepsia: Signs, symptoms & best remedies

How to reduce symptoms

If burping is a symptom of another condition, then that condition is what must be treated.

There is often no effective treatment for “burping” as an isolated complaint.

The tips and advice below can help reduce symptoms.

In some cases, a speech therapist can help relieve symptoms, for example, if the patient uses the muscles in the neck incorrectly when talking or breathing.

Medications

There are medications on the market that counteract or reduce possible gas. These medications are available by prescription but can often be purchased at a pharmacy or drugstore.

The effects of these drugs are controversial. Therefore, it is better to eliminate or combat the cause of the symptoms in any case rather than symptom itself.

Tips and advice on burping

The tips and advice below can help reduce air swallowing and burping:

  • If you suffer from a lot of burping, it is best to avoid or use the products below in moderation:
    • Sharp herbs and spices
    • Eggs
    • Plums, melon, radishes, unripe fruit, and large amounts of fruit (no more than 2-3 pieces per day)
    • Nuts
    • New potatoes, leeks, onion, garlic, legumes, cabbage, bell pepper, and Brussels sprouts
    • Large amounts of sugar and/or fat
    • Carbonated soft drinks and beer
  • Do not use gum because you swallow a lot of extra air while chewing gum.
  • Focus on a healthy, varied, and fiber-rich diet. Choose balance and avoid overly heavy dishes and meals. Be sure not to eat too late in the evening.
  • It may help to first press the back of your tongue against your palate before swallowing. Possibly a speech therapist can teach you a better swallowing method.
  • Eat and drink slowly and chew well, with your mouth closed. When you eat and drink in a hurry, you take in more air. So eat and drink at leisure, stress-free. Feel free to take the time to chew thoroughly and enjoy all the flavors in your mouth. Scooping up and swallowing everything as fast as possible like a hungry pet is really not a good idea for fighting burps!
  • Try to avoid stress and tension. During periods of stress, you often (unknowingly) swallow a lot more air.

Burping to expel trapped gas in stomach: Conclusion

While burping in itself shouldn’t be a cause for concern, if there are other symptoms, or if it occurs too regularly, then it is always wise to seek a professional opinion.

Sometimes, a few nutritional tweaks is all that is needed, but it’s best to be safe rather than sorry.

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More