Healthy Body

OK TMI: Why Do I Burp So Much? Because It Can Be Kind of Embarrassing

Isadora Baum

Photo: Getty Images/Leland Bobbe
You may burp after having a soda, or upon eating a meal in under five minutes, or just out of the blue. But if you feel like you have belching episodes frequently, or simply more than other people you know, you may wonder, Why do I burp so much? 

As it turns out, there are a plethora of possible answers to explain why you burp so much. Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York City-based internist and gastroenterologist, says swallowing excess air is a main reason for burps. “This air accumulates in the esophagus and rarely makes it to the stomach," he says, which can lead to burping. He adds, though, that "the causes of burping can be multifold, such as talking while eating, drinking bubbly drinks, eating too fast, chewing gum, smoking, or sucking on a hard candy."

"The causes of burping can be multifold, such as talking while eating, drinking bubbly drinks, eating too fast, chewing gum, smoking, or sucking on a hard candy." —Niket Sonpal, MD

Additionally, excessive burping may be related to an underlying health concern, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a form of acid reflux, or general trouble with digestion, which can leave you with shortness of breath and—you guessed it—burping a lot after eating a meal. GERD, marked by stomach acid flowing backward up into the esophagus and throat, can lead to especially painful burping as well as create a less-than-savory taste in your mouth that may linger.

“Chronic acid exposure in the esophagus can cause pre-cancerous changes,” says Dr. Sonpal. So, if you suspect you may have symptoms of GERD, see a medical provider who can work out a treatment plan with you (including a GERD-friendly nutrition plan).

Of course, the first step in answering the question of why you burp so much is identifying what the underlying cause for it may be. From there, you can work toward learning how to better control or manage issue for long-term relief. If it becomes clear, for example, that a specific food or drink or eating pattern is leading you to burp excessively, making a simple lifestyle or dietary change may greatly help the issue. In fact, even with GERD burping, what you’re eating and how you are digesting—whether it’s too fast or too slow or with large bites versus small bites—can make a difference.

Below, get a breakdown on different types of burps to know about, a deeper dive into how acid reflux and GERD may factor into why you feel you burp a lot, and advice about when to seek the help of a medical provider.

Different types of burping to know about

Just as there are several causes that may lead you to burp a lot, there are also different types of burps themselves. “Gastric belching and supragastric belching are the two different types of burping," says Dr. Sonpal. "Gastric belching is normal and occurs from the expulsion of air from the gastrointestinal tract,” Gastric belches are often smelly, since the air has come from the stomach.

Supragastric belches are venting air that is sucked into the esophagus before coming out again, and supragastric belches may happen unconsciously or consciously,” Dr. Sonpal says. This type of burp may be related to psychological factors such as stress and anxiety disorders, so there may be a mental component at play. That said, this kind of burping may also simply relieve symptoms of a bloated stomach, he adds.

It's also worth noting that if you pay attention to the smell of your burps, you may be able to learn about the type of burps you're producing and why. “Sometimes when there's excessive ketone production, burps can also have a sweet smell to them,” says Aaron Hartman, MD, an integrative and functional medicine doctor. So, if you’re following a ketogenic diet, eating more high-fat foods, red meat, and eggs, for example, you may experience indigestion and burping (and also potentially diarrhea and bad breath) and need a remedy that won’t take you off of your nutrition plan—which, ideally, you created with the help of an accredited health nutrition professional.

“Other smells such as an ammonia smell can be suggestive of liver detoxification issues or overgrowth of ammonia-producing bacteria in the GI tract,” Dr. Hartman adds. If you experience symptoms of this sort, you'd best be served by consulting a medical provider.

How acid reflux factors in to why you burp so much

Beer, dairy, cruciferous vegetables, beans, spicy foods, and acidic foods are just a few culprits of food items that may contribute to acid reflux which in turn leads to excessive burping. “What they all have in common is they make you swallow more air than you normally would,” says Dr. Sonpal. “Certain fruits, such as apples and peaches, soda, whole-grain foods, and eggs can also make you burp.”

Different foods also crucially carry different potential to cause burping. “For some people with something called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), many types of fiber will cause them to have excessive burping and gas,” says Dr. Hartman. “This is mainly due to abnormal bacteria growth in their small intestine that break down the fiber and cause this gas.”

Certain kinds of protein, though—like egg whites, egg yolks, and red meats—can cause different kinds of burping depending on the amount of stomach acid a person has. (This is where that link to the keto diet can come into effect.) “In this case [of the keto diet, excessive burping is] more due to a lack of stomach acid and digestive enzymes than it is to overgrowth of bacteria,” Dr. Hartman says.

Plus, beyond the aforementioned food triggers of acid reflux as well as soda, how you eat your meal—no matter what foods it includes—matters. Timing is everything when it comes to acid reflux and excessive burping. “Gas and burping can mean different things and typically if you burp within 45 minutes of eating a meal and have lots of gas, that has more to do with your stomach not producing enough stomach acid or it working slowly,” says Dr. Hartman.

Furthermore, if you are polishing off your food at lightning speed or eating an amount that leaves you feeling overly full, then you may be more likely to experience acid reflux burping, indigestion, and other unwelcome discomfort. So what to do? Try slowing down that pace and being mindful of portion size.

When should you see a doctor?

In addition to cases of GERD, there are other reasons to see a doctor about excessive burping. According to Dr. Sonpal, it's normal to burp anywhere from three to six times after eating or drinking; however, this number can fluctuate based on what you have consumed. “For example, if you drink carbonated beverages, you may burp more frequently,” he adds. If you are not eating these types of foods or drinking much soda and you’re over this normal range, it’s time to see a doc.

And while a high-intake of acid reflux trigger foods can lead to shortness of breath and burping—and to a higher degree with faster consumption and larger portion sizes—burping is often not dangerous. “However, if your stomach is bloated or distended for an extended period of time, and burping does not relieve this, and you experience severe abdominal pain, you should see a doctor immediately,” says Dr. Sonpal, who notes that excessive belching can point to a more serious problem, in a case like this, like ulcers.

And if you have dramatic weight loss, poor nail and hair health, a pale appearance, nausea, or pain accompanying your burping, you may not be receiving adequate nutrition, which may point to an underlying health condition. In this case, the doctors agree you should seek medical attention.

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