Burping is also known as belching. It involves the release of gas from the digestive tract to the mouth. Burps occur when air is swallowed while eating or drinking and is then expelled.
The air that is released is a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen.
- The inability to burp is uncommon, but some healthy people are unable to do it.
- Burping can reduce gas and abdominal discomfort.
- Most people experience gas after eating and release it through belching or flatulence.
What is the inability to burp?
Burping may help prevent abdominal gas, and reduce discomfort.
Not being able to burp happens when the upper esophageal sphincter temporarily loses its ability to release air.
The upper esophageal sphincter is a muscular valve surrounding the upper part of the esophagus (food pipe) just below the throat passage.
The sphincter muscle relaxes during swallowing, but the rest of the time, it contracts. When a person burps, the sphincter muscle needs to relax momentarily to allow air to escape.
It is important for the sphincter muscle to let go downwards for swallowing. It is also important that the sphincter muscle releases air upwards during burping.
Not being able to burp can make a person feel miserable. It may feel as if an air bubble is sitting at the sphincter muscle with no place to go. The inability to burp may be painful, and cause abdominal pain and bloating.
Methods to trigger burping
When triggered, burping can bring about relaxation and make a person feel better quickly.
1. Carbonated beverages
Soda, beer, and other carbonated beverages are bubbly and gassy. Drinking any carbonated beverage causes gas buildup in the stomach, triggers a burp, and relieves abdominal pain.
Sipping the beverage is not enough. It is important to drink a large amount quickly to force swallowing of more air and increase the chance of a burp.
Movement can put pressure on the air in the stomach and force it upward, potentially causing a person to burp. If a person is sitting, they should stand. If they are standing, they should sit. Lying down and quickly standing up is another option.
Other times, more action is needed. Walking, jogging, jumping up and down, or stretching may push air out of the stomach.
3. Eat gas-promoting foods
Apples and pears may build up gas in the stomach, creating pressure that may encourage burping.
Eating gas-promoting foods can help build up gas pressure in the stomach, resulting in a burp after consumption. Foods that may promote belching include:
- some fruits, including apples, pears, and peaches
- hard candy
- chewing gum
- whole grain bread
Chewable calcium carbonate supplements, such as Tums and Rolaids, are designed to relieve acid ingestion. Burping is an unexpected side effect of antacids.
5. Forcing air
Forcing air into your throat is one way to get the sphincter muscle to contract.
First, suck in air into the mouth to the point of expanding the jaws and throat. A person should keep sucking air this way until an air bubble forms in the throat.
The next step is to block the mouth with the tongue by touching the top of the month with the tongue. Next, release the air by slowly lowering the tongue and parting lips.
6. Swallowing air
Swallowing air is another way to induce a burp, and it is easy to do. Exhale until the lungs are empty. Then breathe in deeply and hold for as long as possible. Exhale and inhale again, and swallow the air.
Drinking a glass of water or pinching the nose can make this even easier.
7. Triggering the gag reflex
Triggering the gag reflex can force a burp, but it should be considered as a last resort. A person can trigger a burp by touching the back of their mouth with a clean finger. The touch should be light and only enough to release air upwards.
The goal is only to burp, not to vomit. Too much force can cause vomiting, so it is important to be gentle.
Gas and bloating conditions
Most people pass gas up to 21 times a day, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
There are some health conditions, however, that cause people to experience gas and bloating more often. These people could benefit from triggered burping.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to break down lactose, a type of sugar commonly found in milk and other dairy products. People with this condition may experience gas or bloating and struggle to burp at times.
Avoiding dairy can help to minimize symptoms, and inducing a burp may help when feeling bloated, gassy, and unable to burp.
Upper gastrointestinal disorders
Upper gastrointestinal disorders may prevent a person from burping properly.
Many upper gastrointestinal disorders can either cause frequent burping, or the inability to burp. These include peptic ulcers, acid reflux, or gastroparesis. These conditions can benefit from some of the techniques to induce burping.
Peptic ulcers are sores that may develop in the food pipe, stomach, or small intestine.
Acid reflux is a disease where stomach acid irritates the lining of the food pipe. Symptoms include gas and bloating after eating that worsens with lying down.
Gastroparesis affects the stomach muscles and makes it hard to empty the stomach. It also affects digestion and causes bloating and a feeling of fullness even when a person has eaten little food.
Dysfunction of the belch reflex
Dysfunction of the belch reflex is rare, and most medical literature on it is not current.
One article in the medical journal, Gastroenterology, reported on a woman aged 25 who complained of debilitating chest pain resulting from upper esophageal sphincter (UES) dysfunction. She had a history of chest pain, including gurgling in her chest, and the inability to burp during pain episodes.
Studies on UES abnormalities and dysfunction do not specifically mention the inability to burp as a symptom, so it is hard to know the prevalence of this condition. Nonetheless, it is possible triggering the sphincter muscle could help to induce burping.
Dyspepsia is not a specific medical condition. Rather, the medical term describes a burning or gnawing feeling in the chest or upper abdomen, usually after eating.
Most people describe the feeling as "gas," and other symptoms may include stomach rumbling, belching, or the inability to belch, and increased gas in the stomach or intestines. Causes of dyspepsia can be minor or severe.
Reducing gas, bloating, and burp problems
Anyone experiencing painful gas, bloating and problems with burping, can reduce these symptoms by:
- avoiding gas-causing foods
- drinking water before meals
- eating and drinking slowly
- avoiding smoking, chewing gum or drinking with a straw
- avoiding artificial sweeteners, as these are known for causing gas.
While annoying, gas is a natural part of the body's digestive system. However, if gas or burping problems are painful or chronic, these concerns should be brought to the attention of a doctor, especially in people who have had previous surgery related to the stomach or digestive tract.