Belching

Definition

Belching is the act of bringing up air from the stomach. It produces a characteristic sound.

Alternative Names

Burping; Eructation; Gas - belching

Considerations

Belching is most often a normal process. The purpose of belching is to release air from the stomach. Every time you swallow, you also swallow air, along with fluid or food.

As the air builds up in the upper stomach, it causes stretching of the stomach that triggers the lower esophageal sphincter muscle to relax. This lets air escape up the esophagus and out the mouth.

Excessive or repeated belching may be caused by unconsciously swallowing air (aerophagia).

Depending on the cause, belching may change in duration and intensity. Symptoms such as nausea, dyspepsia, and heartburn may be relieved by belching.

Common Causes

  • Pressure caused by the unconscious swallowing of air
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Home Care

You can get relief by lying on your side or in a knee-to-chest position until the gas passes.

Avoid chewing gum, eating quickly, and eating gas-producing foods and beverages.

See also: Learning to manage the symptoms of GERD

Call your health care provider if

Belching is usually a minor symptom. However, call a health care provider if the belching does not go away, or if you also have other symptoms.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

Your health care provider will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

  • Is this the first time this has occurred?
  • Is there a pattern to your belching? For example, does it happen when you are nervous or after you have been consuming certain foods or drinks?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

Diagnostic tests will depend on the findings of the physical examination, and other signs or symptoms you have with the belching.

References

Mayer EA.Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Dyspepsia, and Functional Chest Pain of Presumed Esophageal Origin. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds.Cecil Medicine. 24th ed.Philadelphia,PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 139.

Revision

Last reviewed 11/13/2011 by David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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