One Doctor's Opinion
A Burp...Just Rude...Nothing Else Right?
February 18th, 2011

A "burp" is formally called a belch or eructation and medically defined as the expulsion of intestinal gas from the mouth.  Most of us already know that it is usually accompanied by a nasty sound and an even nastier smell. But the real question is whether or not it is purely an etiquette problem or an indicator of other issues. Amazingly, what we have just blindly accepted as a rude burp all this time, may not only be just a burp--sometimes it can  signal other medical problems or conditions.

Most commonly, it is caused by plain old eating or drinking just regular food. Part of the normal mechanism of swallowing our food or liquids will also unavoidably involve the ingestion of air. As we continue to eat, the air pressure builds up in our stomach and out pops the embarrassing sound from our mouth--the other end is another story, but not today.

Here are some possible warning signs that should not be ignored if they happen with the burping (there are more, but these are important) and they should be discussed with your doctor:

  • Any hint of chest pains with burping going on
  • Dyspepsia or indigestion type of feeling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Heartburn
  • Excessive sweating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath

Here's a partial list of some causes of belching--some common, others interesting:

  • Being totally normal
  • Chronic air swallowing--especially when eating
  • Chewing gum
  • Being a mouth breather
  • Here is an important one--a certain type of heart attack that affects the underside or lower part of the heart--chest pain with belching
  • Esophageal reflux disease
  • Dentures that do not fit properly
  • Stomach ulcer disease
  • Food intolerances
  • Drinking too many carbonated beverages
  • Intestinal obstruction--may have abdominal pain with belching
  • Tumors in the intestine or stomach
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Gall bladder or pancreas disorders
  • Obesity
  • Dairy intolerance
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Just simply drinking and/or eating too fast

Wow! Long list....several "go figure" ones huh... Interestingly, the bottom line is that humans are generally a "gassy" species. Burping several times a day is part of a human's normal daily activities...not to mention gases that pass the other way several times a day.

How do we help to reduce our rudeness? First of all.....slow down....take it easy and slow....chew your food and stop gulping it down like you are at a race. The less air you swallow, the less problems you will have. Some problems may be mechanical or even hereditary and you have no control over them. Sometimes changing your dietary habits can help you to avoid foods that you know cause you to be excessively gassy. Other times, the cause of the belching needs to be addressed by a medical professional--ulcers, hernias, heart problems etc.

On a more serious note... In spite of belching being a normal part of all of our every day lives, we need to keep in mind that there are some conditions as listed above that fall outside the normal range when we should become concerned--especially those that are listed in the first list above that are warning signs.

As always, if you feel you are having these problems, make sure and discuss them with your personal doctor as he/she knows you best.

So until next time....slow down and enjoy your meals....and Stay Healthy Hawaii!


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