Belching is the act of bringing up air from the stomach. It produces a characteristic (typical) sound.
Burping; Eructation; Gas - belching
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.
- Pressure caused by the unconscious swallowing of air
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Belching is usually a minor symptom. However, call a health care provider if the belching is persistent and unexplained, or if you also have other symptoms.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
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.
Ohge H, Levitt MD. Intestinal gas. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2006:chap 10.
Rao SSC, Attaluri A. Gaseousness and indigestion. In: Rakel P, Bope ET, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2009. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 3.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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