You’re just done eating a gloriously tasty meal. And as you sit there reminiscing over the good time you’ve just had with that satisfying mix of flavors, you feel a large pocket of air slowly, but swiftly rising from the base of your throat. You make haste to put a hand over your mouth to suppress it but before you know it, your burp has already rolled out of your mouth, causing people from the other table to give you the “eyes.”
And as you sheepishly take leave of your table, you wonder – “where did that monster come from?”
What Is A Burp?
Burping is very often a completely natural bodily process that enables air to be released from either your food pipe or your stomach. It produces a characteristic sound, which can be either too loud or fairly discreet, depending on what you’ve just had for your meal. And although it is perfectly normal, and is rarely a sign of anything serious, it can cause a significant amount of embarrassment and even at times, discomfort.
How Is A Burp Produced?
Every time you eat, you also end up swallowing air – quite unconsciously, of course. In fact, there is even a term for swallowing air; it’s called aerophagia.
There is obviously no place for excess air in your body and it has to be expelled out somehow. So the upper sphincter muscle of your esophagus or food pipe decides to relax, letting out all that extra air through your mouth in the form of a burp. And since gas escapes quickly, it usually doesn’t allow you to cover your mouth in time.
Burping: A Sign That You’ve Eaten Just Enough
There’s a lot more to burping than just the mindless dispelling of extra air or gas by your body.
The first burp after you’re done eating is a signal from your stomach that you’ve eaten just the right amount. It’s also a sign that your stomach has enough to work with in terms of digestion, and that any food eaten beyond that burp will not be digested.
Food that isn’t digested in a timely manner will sit in your tummy for a long time and begin to ferment within your digestive system. This can lead to increased acidity, which in turn, releases excess gases in your body. It can even lead to the production of toxins that will make you susceptible to aging lower your immunity, making you vulnerable to infection-causing bacteria. For these reasons, you may want to consider taking that first burp more seriously.
The next time you have a smelly burp, it’s a good indication of indigestion, meaning that you probably have food rotting away in your system. This should be reason enough to start a detox or an internal cleansing right away, so you can get rid of all that extra matter in your stomach before it complicates things for your health.
Excessive Burping: A Sign That You’re Overeating
If your meal is accompanied by a can of fizzy soda or a pint of beer, you’re swallowing another gas called carbon dioxide in addition to all that air. Carbon dioxide contains thousands of tiny bubbles that add up to quite a bit of air. The thing with carbonated drinks and beer is that they deliver air and carbon dioxide directly to your stomach as you swallow. The gas is then produced from the partially digested food in the stomach and is then sent out of your body in the form of a burp.
For this reason, burps that are dispelled after consuming gassy drinks are often smellier and noisier as compared to those that are dispelled by the food pipe after eating a decently sized meal.
Similarly, eating beyond your first burp, in spite of your tummy telling you that it cannot hold more, can lead to fermentation of that excess food matter. As explained earlier, this can lead to a production of toxic gases and may even result in acidity. As a way of expelling out that excess gas, you will experience not only frequent, but incredibly smelly burps.
Burping And Acid Reflux
Sometimes, burps can be short and discreet. Other times, they can be loud and guttural, accompanied by heartburn or a feeling of nausea – as if you throw up in your mouth a little as you burp. This is yet another sign from your stomach, except this time, it’s signaling that you may have a serious case of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux.
Many of the things that cause the release of excessive gas can also lead to acid reflux. For instance, drinking too many carbonated drinks can lead to both release of gas (as we have seen before) as well as acid reflux.1 If you consume fizzy drinks in spite of having acid reflux, it can further exacerbate your situation.2
However, the reverse can also be true, wherein attempting to release gas may actually trigger acid reflux. Studies have shown that swallowing air may cause your stomach to expand beyond a certain point.3 This can further trigger the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that works as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach, to relax. As a result, the acidic contents of the stomach are allowed to go back up the esophagus, sometimes even along with the food, giving rise to the most common symptom – a frequent, burning sensation in the middle abdomen or your chest that is known as acid indigestion or heartburn.
There are a few ways to relieve the painful symptoms of acid reflux such as:
- Avoiding lying down for about 3 hours after eating
- Being conscious of portion sizes and eating smaller meals
- Avoiding going to bed on an empty stomach
- Avoiding anything that’s high on citrus content
- Avoiding caffeinated, carbonated, acidic, or spicy foods and drinks
|↑1||Song, Ji Hyun, Su Jin Chung, Jun Haeng Lee, Young-Ho Kim, Dong Kyung Chang, Hee Jung Son, Jae J. Kim, Jong Chul Rhee, and Poong-Lyul Rhee. “Relationship between gastroesophageal reflux symptoms and dietary factors in Korea.” Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility 17, no. 1 (2011): 54.|
|↑2||Johnson, T., L. Gerson, T. Hershcovici, C. Stave, and R. Fass. “Systematic review: the effects of carbonated beverages on gastro‐oesophageal reflux disease.” Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics 31, no. 6 (2010): 607-614.|
|↑3||Watson, Nathaniel F., and Sue K. Mystkowski. “Aerophagia and gastroesophageal reflux disease in patients using continuous positive airway pressure: a preliminary observation.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 4, no. 5 (2008): 434.|