Belching, or burping, can be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Burping can also trigger the symptoms of GER, like heartburn.
People may use heartburn to refer to a condition called gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Although people sometimes use the terms interchangeably, heartburn is a symptom of GER, rather than the overarching condition.
GER occurs when stomach acid travels back up through the esophagus toward the throat. This can cause heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest.
Other terms people may use to describe GER
- acid reflux
- acid indigestion
- acid regurgitation
This article looks at whether and how GER causes burping and how to get rid of GER-related burps. It also answers some frequently asked questions.
GER can lead to burping, and in some people, burping can also trigger symptoms of GER.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that GER can also cause indigestion, of which heartburn and burping are both symptoms.
When a person experiences regular GER, a doctor may diagnose them with GERD. GERD has associations with two types of belching:
- Gastric burping: This occurs suddenly and automatically, as the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes and releases air that a person has swallowed. This helps to prevent swelling in the abdomen, called distention. People typically perform around 30 gastric belches in a day.
- Supragastric burping: This involves a person suctioning in air, often subconsciously, from their mouth into their esophagus. The person then expels the air through their pharynx, the tube that carries air, food, and fluid down from the mouth and nose. People may do this to relieve symptoms of acid reflux.
Those experiencing GER may swallow more frequently when stomach acid travels back up into the esophagus. Increased swallowing can cause a person to swallow more air, leading to belching.
Discomfort caused by GER, such as pain, pressure, and burning in the abdomen, chest, and throat,
Over time, this learned behavior can become a subconscious act.
Research has found that about 50% of people who have GERD also present with supragastric belches. In some people, the symptoms prompt the belching, while in others, the belching may trigger reflux symptoms.
Despite an obvious link between the two, experts do not fully understand the relationship between GERD and belching.
To help relieve burping, a person can take medications to treat the gas, such as Gas-X, or take medications to treat the acid reflux, such as antacids, including Alka-Seltzer or TUMS.
To help prevent gastric burping, a person should:
- avoid eating or drinking too fast
- avoid chewing gum
- stop smoking
- avoid fizzy carbonated drinks
- wear properly fitted dentures
- avoid certain foods associated with gas, such as lentils and beans, caffeine, cabbage, and broccoli
The treatment of supragastric belching may be more complex. This is because it typically involves psychological factors and habitual, learned behaviors, which can be challenging to overcome.
Treatment for supragastric belching is often based on psychology and
- Speech therapy: A speech therapist may help a person unlearn the behavior of supragastric belching. They do this by helping them become aware of the influx of air into the esophagus and teaching breathing, swallowing, and vocal exercises.
- Diaphragmatic breathing exercises: This is another form of behavioral therapy that can help people unlearn the behaviors that lead them to suck in and expel air in a supragastric belch.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This can help people identify warning signs of their behavior and use preventive exercises to help them stop the behavior.
Currently, the only medication a doctor may prescribe to treat supragastric belching is baclofen, an antispasmodic and muscle relaxant. Baclofen inhibits transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations (TLESRs), which is when the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes due to swallowing.
Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about GER.
Can GER cause bloating?
Can GER cause flatulence?
There is no direct relation between flatulence and GER, and it is unlikely that one may cause the other.
Some people may experience both at the same time, as certain things may cause or trigger both GER and flatulence, such as eating too much too fast.
Gastroesophageal reflux may cause gastric burping in some people. This happens when accumulated air in the stomach is expelled upward toward the esophagus due to spontaneous relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. GER can cause indigestion, which includes symptoms, such as heartburn and burping.
In the case of GERD, a person may experience supragastric burping. This is an unconscious, learned behavior in which people suction in and release air in a belch to try to relieve their symptoms.
To help relieve burping, a person can take medications and take several measures, such as eating smaller meals more slowly and avoiding fizzy drinks.
To treat supragastric burping, if it becomes habitual, a person may benefit from psychological help, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or speech therapy.