While it can be embarrassing at times, burping is a normal bodily function. You swallow air right along with the food and drink you consume. The air builds up in the stomach, but eventually it needs to be released. Yet this release of air back up through the esophagus should not be accompanied by food or stomach acid. A number of health conditions could be to blame if this is happening to you, so it's important to get checked out by your physician.
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Dyspepsia refers to a group of symptoms related to gastrointestinal function. In addition to burping up or regurgitating food after eating, you may also experience abdominal bloating, pain, nausea, heartburn and a lack of appetite. You may feel overly full after eating as well. Dyspepsia can be a sign that you have some type of GI condition, although this is not always the case. Smoking, psychological stress, alcohol use and medications such as aspirin can cause such symptoms as well.
Dyspepsia is often a sign of having a peptic ulcer. Such ulcers can affect both the first part of the small intestine and the stomach. A bacterium called H. pylori is the most common cause of ulcers, although nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also be to blame. In addition to GI-related symptoms, you may experience unintentional weight loss due to difficulty with holding down food. Regurgitating food within hours -- or even days -- after eating can be a sign that your ulcer is becoming more severe, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Burping up food following meals could also be an indication of an esophageal condition. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is one of the more common digestive diseases. It involves the backflow of stomach contents -- including food and gastric acid -- into the esophagus. This can cause considerable burning and discomfort. Being obese, pregnant or a smoker or overeating can all contribute to developing GERD, according to the UCLA Center for Esophageal Disorders. Although rare, achalasia may also cause food regurgitation. In this condition, the lower esophageal sphincter doesn't relax, keeping food from reaching the stomach.
Seek medical attention if you're repeatedly dealing with regurgitation episodes. Whether overeating, a medical condition or psychological stress is the culprit, this activity is not normal and may have lasting consequences. Getting medical treatment is particularly vital if you do have a stomach or esophageal condition. Left untreated, ulcers can cause internal bleeding or food obstruction. GERD can affect your respiratory system and increase your chances of developing esophageal cancer. Untreated achalasia also ups the risk for this form of cancer.