Why Do We Burp?

Burping is a normal bodily function
woman with soda burps

You’re in the middle of a dinner with friends, when all suddenly, you get the urge to burp. You quickly grab your napkin and try to discreetly cover up it up.

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While it can be embarrassing, it happens to all of us. And whether you call it a burp or a belch, it’s a normal bodily function.

“Burping is your body’s way of expelling excess gas from your stomach,” says gastroenterologist Alison Schneider, MD.

Dr. Schneider explains what causes us to burp, how we can avoid it and when we should seek help for excessive burping.

What causes burping?

“When we swallow food or drinks, it goes through a tube called the esophagus and into the stomach,” explains Dr. Schneider. “It’s there that stomach acid and digestive enzymes work to break food down into nutrients that we use for energy. Gas is created in this process.”

We can also swallow air along with food or drinks. Those gases can come back up through your esophagus. Burping is a way for our body to release the excess gas.

“Carbonated beverages are most commonly associated with swallowing air and are the most common reason people burp,” says Dr. Schneider. “Most of the time, that air actually stays trapped in the esophagus until it comes back up.”

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If you have heartburn you may also experience burping.

“Heartburn is the condition when acid flows backward from your stomach into the esophagus, a muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach,” further explains Dr. Schneider. “This is also known as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). During these events, it is possible to experience burping or belching.”

Is it normal to burp?

Even though it may seem gross, burping is a normal bodily function.

“Burping as many as four times after a meal is considered normal,” says Dr. Schneider.

If you’re burping a lot, your diet may be to blame.

“You’re more likely to swallow air and burp if you eat too quickly, drink carbonated beverages, chew gum, suck on hard candies, drink through a straw or have dentures that do not fit well,” she adds. “There are also foods that can be associated with excess burping and belching and people may find that they have specific foods that are more likely to cause these symptoms.”

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Here are a few tips to avoid burping:

  • Eat or drink slowly.
  • Avoid foods like broccoli, cabbage, beans and dairy products.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages like soda and beer.
  • Avoid chewing gum.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Move after eating.
  • Use an antacid.

When is excessive belching a problem?

While burping is a normal function, it can be associated with certain conditions like:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)/acid reflux. “This is when the acid in the stomach flows back into your esophagus and can cause heartburn or regurgitation symptoms,” says Dr. Schneider.
  • Indigestion. Also known as dyspepsia, this is a common condition associated with discomfort in your upper abdominal area. Symptoms can also include burping, belching, bloating, heartburn and nausea.
  • Gastritis. “This means inflammation of the stomach lining,” says Dr. Schneider. “This can be associated with pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen, feeling full soon after eating a meal, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.”
  • Helicobacter pylori/ulcers. The bacteria can cause an infection in the stomach. It can be associated with gastritis and stomach ulcers. Symptoms include stomach pain, fullness, bloating, belching and nausea.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is a chronic condition associated with bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation.

For any of the above, it’s important to speak to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and determine if additional evaluation or treatment is needed.

“If burping or belching too much is interfering with your daily life or if pain or other symptoms accompany this symptom, this may indicate another underlying illness requiring treatment,” warns Dr. Schneider.

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