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Belching

Definition

Belching is the act of bringing up air from the stomach.

Alternative Names

Burping; Eructation; Gas - belching

Considerations

Belching is most often a normal process. The purpose of belching is to release air from the stomach. Every time you swallow, you also swallow air, along with fluid or food.

The buildup of air in the upper stomach causes the stomach to stretch. This triggers the muscle at the lower end of the esophagus (the tube that runs from your mouth to the stomach) to relax. Air is allowed to escape up the esophagus and out the mouth.

Excessive or repeated belching may be caused by swallowing air without realizing it (aerophagia).

Belching may last longer or be more forceful depending on what is causing it. Symptoms such as nausea, dyspepsia, and heartburn may be relieved by belching.

Causes

Home Care

You can get relief by lying on your side or in a knee-to-chest position until the gas passes.

Avoid chewing gum, eating quickly, and eating gas-producing foods and beverages.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Most of the time belching is a minor problem. Call a health care provider if the belching does not go away, or if you also have other symptoms.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

  • Is this the first time this has occurred?
  • Is there a pattern to your belching? For example, does it happen when you are nervous or after you have been consuming certain foods or drinks?
  • What other symptoms do you have?

You may need more tests based on what the health care provider finds during your exam and your other symptoms.

References

Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Dyspepsia, and Functional Chest Pain of Presumed Esophageal Origin. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 139.


Review Date: 10/13/2013
Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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