Did you know that in some countries, your host would be vastly offended if you didn’t belch at the end of a meal? Of course, we all burp from time to time, but sometimes this can become excessive, making life not only embarrassing but also uncomfortable. Should we be worried about excessive belching or is it just a sign that we’ve over-indulged a bit too often?
What causes belching?
Belching is caused when air that’s trapped in our stomach is released through our mouth. Sometimes this is because we’ve eaten rich foods that are difficult to digest or because our digestive system works slowly. When food stays in the stomach for a long time, stomach gas builds up, which is then released through belching. But perhaps surprisingly, belching is also frequently caused by swallowing air. You may not even notice that you’re gulping air into your stomach, but there are lots of possible reasons.
Why we sometimes swallow air
We can often swallow air without realizing we’re doing it. Foods that contain lots of air, such as whipped desserts and fizzy drinks. For some people, however, swallowing air simply becomes a bad habit. Smoking and chewing gum are two very common causes of taking in extra air, as well as badly-fitting dentures. Swallowing air can also be a symptom of stress or anxiety, which develops into a nervous habit that happens almost automatically.
Other causes of excessive belching
Sometimes there’s a physical cause for excessive belching. Digestive disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and acid reflux can make us belch more frequently, and having a hiatus hernia also makes us more vulnerable.
Is frequent belching a sign of something more serious?
If you suffer from excessive belching, you shouldn’t ignore it, because apart from being uncomfortable and embarrassing, it can occasionally be sign that you have a more serious health problem. Continual burping may be a symptom of a digestive disorder like a stomach ulcer, which can lead to pain and internal bleeding if it’s ignored for too long. An inflamed gall bladder can also cause you to burp frequently. Again, if it’s not treated, you can suffer extreme pain and you may need to have your gall bladder removed altogether— in serious cases, it could even rupture.
Further, continual belching can indicate that you have stomach cancer, which naturally needs to be treated as soon as possible, and some people experience belching caused by angina or heart problems. Even if your belching is caused by stress, the long-term effects of stress and anxiety on the body can be very serious, and may lead on to more dangerous health issues like high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. Occasionally, excessive belching occurs during early pregnancy, often in relation to morning sickness.
Home remedies for excessive belching?
Once your doctor has ruled out any significant underlying cause, there are plenty of ways you can help yourself to manage your belching. Begin by eating your meals slowly and chewing your food well—this will aid the digestion process and limit the production of gas. Avoid rich, fatty foods and take smaller servings, because this will also help your stomach to process the food more effectively (and benefit your waistline too!). Regular exercise will boost your digestive health and speed up the progress of food through your intestinal tract. Finally, you may find sleeping with your head slightly raised will reduce pressure on your stomach and help it to function better.
Foods and drinks to help
Eating foods and sipping drinks that aid your digestion can also limit belching. Ginger is famed for settling the stomach, although some people prefer papaya or pineapple. Food containing wholegrains—such as barley soup or brown rice salad—can also help, and adding ingredients such as cardamom or asafoetida during cooking is a popular approach. You may find that a drink like lemon and bicarbonate of soda (or lemon and apple cider vinegar) can work wonders, whilst a daily probiotic will help balance the bacteria in your digestive tract. If you suffer from stress, strategies like daily mindful meditation or CBT are useful.
You don’t have to put up with the embarrassment caused by continuous belching. Get checked over, make a few simple lifestyle changes, and you could soon be living a transformed life!