You are quietly sitting at the dinner table after a big meal, sipping your favorite soda when all of a sudden you feel this sudden rush of air flowing into your mouth. You pass out the air through your mouth and everyone hears that familiar sound, you just “burped."
Burping or belching is a natural reaction of the body when gas builds up in the stomach. Everyone burps, and that’s a fact of life. Burping is as natural as sleeping or eating, and it begins as soon as babies take their first feeding.
What is a burp?
A burp is produced when gas that has built up in the stomach is expelled through the mouth. Gas build up in the stomach may be due to two major factors, eating and swallowing air. It might come as a surprise to some of us, but along with food, air enters the stomach. It is a common misconception that air is automatically passed on to the lungs. When food is swallowed, it passes through the throat and into the esophagus which exits to the stomach. The passageways for food are all hollow tubes, and this allows certain amounts of air to enter the stomach. When too much gas is contained in the stomach, air is released through the mouth (belching) or through the anus (flatulence).
Why do we burp?
Eating certain types of food can cause unusual gas buildups in the stomach. Gas is a natural byproduct of food digestion in the stomach. Certain types of food produce more than the usual gasses and give the stomach a sensation of fullness (bloating).
Some types of vegetables produce large amounts of gasses when being digested. Here are some examples of these vegetables–cabbage, beans, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce. Fruits such as apples, pears and peaches are also known to cause gas.
Eating large amounts of fatty foods does not only predispose you to dangerous medical conditions but they also cause burping. Fats are the slowest nutritional component of food to be digested; fatty foods tend to stay longer in the stomach and cause gas to build up.
Lifestyle and Burping
Like some diseases a poor lifestyle can cause more frequent bouts of burping. Smoking and drinking cause gas buildups in the stomach. This is why we find ourselves burping more often after downing a few drinks or smoking. Lack of exercise and a sedimentary lifestyle also cause burping. When we do nothing for long periods of time our body adjusts, and it takes more than the usual time for normal body processes like digestion to happen. Living a stressful life also causes burping. Stress causes acid production, and this builds up the gasses in the stomach. In addition, wearing tight clothes, especially, those which put additional pressure on the stomach area can cause burping.
By just looking at your favorite carbonated soda, you can easily determine that it contains large amounts of air. These gasses cause the fizzle and hiss we find so amusing. Beer also contains fair amounts of gasses; this is why we find ourselves burping after drinking our favorite six pack. Drinking large amounts of liquid also causes burping. Water along with air passes to the stomach when we are drinking, the longer we have this tract open, the more air is introduced to the stomach.
Burping in infants
Babies are fed by breastfeeding or milk formulas. When liquids are taken in, large amounts of air are also passed to the infant’s stomach. It is not uncommon that babies sometimes cry after being fed. Babies cry because it is their only means of expressing hunger or discomfort. When babies cry after being fed, this may be due to the fact that they are feeling fullness in their stomach. Babies are then induced to burp to release the gas buildup in their stomachs.
Medical conditions associated with burping and belching
Burping or belching is also known as eructation. Burping signals more than the usual gas formation in the stomach. Burps are also symptoms of medical conditions of the digestive system. Some of the diseases associated with gas formation are gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, GERD (acid reflux disease), lactose intolerance and ulcers.
Gas buildup may also be due to a blockage in the digestive tract. Polyps or inflamed tissues can block the normal passage of air to the lower digestive tract causing a bloated feeling and gas to be passed out through the mouth.
What can I do about it?
Belching or burping is the body’s natural response to gas buildup in the stomach. This is a natural process, and thus should not be prevented. It is best to let the process happen to relieve the symptoms produced by bloating.
Belching and burping is a natural process and what we can do is to minimize its occurrence. Totally eliminating the incidents of burping is impossible. It is best to understand what causes burping and how to best avoid them. Relief from stomach pains due to gas buildup is only done through flatulence or burping. Gas cannot be dissolved or eliminated by any type of medicine. When you feel that bloated feeling in your stomach and need to pass some air, the best thing to do is to excuse yourself and let the natural process happen in privacy. If you feel you are belching excessively, see your doctor for a further evaluation to rule out more serious digestive disorders.
Written by, Ronald Uy, RN
© Hemorrhoid Information Center 2009
Belching, Bloating and Flatulence. Retrieved October 10, 2009 from The American College of Gastroenterology: http://www.gi.org
Intestinal Gas (Belching, Bloating, Flatulence). Retrieved October 10, 2009 from MedicineNet.com: http://www.medicinenet.com
Belching. Retrieved October 11, 2009 from Health Encyclopedia – Diseases and Conditions: http://www.healthscout.com