What Is Belching? Why It Happens and How to Treat It

Medically Reviewed By Cynthia Taylor Chavoustie, MPAS, PA-C
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Belching, or burping, is the release of gas from the esophagus and stomach through the mouth. Though generally harmless, some conditions that cause belching can result in serious complications. A common cause of belching is swallowing air. Swallowing air and belching are natural occurrences that result from eating or drinking too quickly. Chewing gum or drinking carbonated beverages can also introduce air into the stomach and cause belching.

In addition to swallowed air, many gastrointestinal conditions and diseases can cause belching.

Belching is rarely serious but can be uncomfortable if it occurs often. Also, belching can be intrusive in social situations.

This article explains what belching is, why it happens, and what can cause it. It explains how you can stop or manage to belch.

What is belching?

An overhead shot of a person eating pasta
Studio Firma/Stocksy United

The American College of Gastroenterology says belching is a common process resulting from swallowing air while talking, eating, or drinking.

Air that accumulates in your stomach will come out a belch through the mouth or pass as rectal gas, known as flatulence.

How does belching happen in the body?

The medical name for belching is “eructation.” Gas moves from the stomach up the esophagus and out through the mouth.

What causes belching?

Belching is the release of air from the digestive tract, most often as a response to swallowed air in the stomach. Swallowing air voluntarily or involuntarily is known as “aerophagia.”

Everyday habits and behaviors that encourage the swallowing of air are major causes of belching.

Everyday causes of belching

You may develop belching from swallowed air in various situations, including:

  • swallowing air during eating
  • chewing gum
  • drinking carbonated beverages

Gastrointestinal causes of belching

Almost any condition affecting the digestive tract can cause belching. These include conditions where the movement or flow in the digestive tract is obstructed, interrupted, or delayed.

In disorders that lead to belching, the enzymes or processes needed to digest food completely are either deficient or absent. Examples include lactose intolerance, food allergy, and gallbladder disease.

Belching can result from many conditions affecting the digestive tract, including:

  • food intolerances or allergies, such as lactose intolerance
  • gastritis, which is inflammation of the stomach lining
  • gastrointestinal reflux disease, a condition in which acid from the stomach flows into the esophagus
  • gastroparesis, which is a disorder that slows the movement of food from your stomach to the small intestine
  • pancreatic disease, which encompasses a variety of conditions that affect the pancreas
  • peptic ulcers or stomach ulcers
  • pregnancy, in which the fetus pressing against the stomach can cause you to belch

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When should you contact a doctor?

Belching is rarely serious. Contact a doctor for advice if it becomes bothersome, too frequent, or uncomfortable.

In rare cases, belching may be a symptom of a serious or life threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated. These symptoms may include:

How do you treat and reduce belching?

For belching resulting from everyday causes, your doctor may suggest the following:

  • limiting carbonated drinks such as beer or soda
  • avoiding starchy foods such as cauliflower and broccoli
  • limiting dairy foods
  • avoiding chewing gum or sucking on hard candies
  • eating slowly

Your doctor may examine your stomach or mouth to check for gastrointestinal conditions that may be causing the belching or ask about any eating patterns when the belching occurs. Belching resulting from various gastrointestinal conditions will each require its treatment.

Ways to reduce belching

  • Eat and drink food slowly to avoid swallowing excess air.
  • Limit the number of carbonated drinks, including beer and soda.
  • Limit the amount of fibrous or starchy foods, such as broccoli or beans.
  • Avoid chewing gum or sucking on hard candies because these can cause you to swallow excess air.

What are the potential complications of belching?

Belching is generally a harmless symptom that does not produce long-term complications. However, some gastrointestinal conditions associated with belching may have serious complications due to the underlying disease rather than the symptom of belching itself.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about belching and their answers. Cynthia Taylor Chavoustie, MPAS, PA-C, has reviewed this information.

What‘s the difference between burping and belching?

Belching and burping are the same, expelling air from your stomach through the mouth.

Is excessive belching normal?

Eating, especially specific foods, or drinking may cause lots of belching. If simple changes do not reduce the belching, contact a doctor.

Can anxiety cause burping?

You tend to swallow a lot more air during stressful situations, so there may be a link between anxiety and burping.

Summary

Belching can occur during everyday activities such as eating, drinking, or even talking. Swallowing excess air is usually the cause of belching and eating particular foods, such as those that are fibrous or starchy.

Belching is usually not a serious issue but may cause discomfort or happen too frequently for your liking. Belching may link to an underlying gastrointestinal issue, so contact your doctor if you feel you belch or burp an unusual amount.

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Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Taylor Chavoustie, MPAS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 28
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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