What Causes Burping & Belching?

Carbonated drinks often cause belching.
Carbonated drinks often cause belching. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Belching, also referred to as eructation or burping, is the act of releasing gas from the digestive tract out through the mouth, often with a sound and sometimes an odor. This act is associated with relieving abdominal discomfort after the release of the air or gas.

The Process of Belching

Belching is actually a complicated process requiring coordination inside the body. The larynx voluntarily raises, relaxing the upper esophageal sphincter, allowing for easy air passage from the esophagus to the throat; this avoids any food or liquid traveling to the lungs while the lower esophageal sphincter opens, allowing air to pass from the stomach to the esophagus. During this process, the diaphragm descends, decreasing chest pressure, increasing abdominal pressure and promoting airflow from the stomach to the esophagus.

Types of Belching

The most common type of belching, or burping , is the flow of air from the stomach through the mouth. There is another type of belching that is uncommon. Some individuals are aerophagic and swallow excessive amounts of air without realizing it. Sometimes when these individuals belch, the air not only flows out from the stomach, but also in through the mouth and back to the stomach, causing another belch. This in and out airflow allows certain individuals to belch at will, even with little to no air collected in the stomach.

Causes of Belching

Common causes of burping are swallowing air, gulping drink and food rapidly and drinking carbonated beverages, but there are other reasons a person might belch. Some people belch purely by habit, and some people belch whenever they experience any type of abdominal discomfort, regardless of the cause. Other more serious causes of belching are stomach cancer, chemical poisoning, a hiatal hernia, nocturnal heartburn, a peptic ulcer and reflux esophagitis.

How to Avoid Belching

To avoid belching, stay away from carbonated drinks, aerated food such as whipped cream, beer, drinking through straws, extremely hot drinks, lactose-containing products, excessive swallowing and saturated fat. Other precautions include eating slowly and with a closed mouth and sticking to a low-fat, high-fiber diet.

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