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Surprise Belching

Q: Lately, I've been embarrassed by burps that slip out without warning. They sometimes happen mid-sentence before I even know they're coming on. And they occur at weird times, like hours after I've eaten. It's become really humiliating! How can I make it stop?

Dr. Donnica:
Burping or belching is also known as "eructation," which is simply passing stomach gas (or a small amount of acid) out of your mouth. Normally, this passage goes out the other way, but belching commonly occurs when stomach air goes up instead. Belching after a big meal or after eating quickly is normal and common. It results from swallowing air while eating. Belching may be increased by foods or beverages that cause the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the one-way valve between the esophagus and stomach, to relax. Things to avoid include onions, mints, tomatoes, carbonated beverages, chocolate, and alcohol. While anxiety, chewing gum or smoking may also exacerbate belching, reducing stress, eating slowly (and consuming smaller quantities at one sitting), and practicing relaxation techniques may help. If these strategies do not help, consult your physician.

Abnormal belching may also be caused by GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease or "heartburn," a condition in which the LES is abnormally relaxed, allowing stomach air to be easily expelled upward. This can be treated medically. While unlikely, there are also some other very rare medical conditions, which may cause this problem. If the problem persists or gets worse, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Created: 12/29/2005  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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