Burping occurs when gas from the stomach is expelled through the mouth, such as after a large meal or a fizzy drink. Other than the disapproving looks you might get, burps are usually nothing to worry about. Burping up liquid or partially solid contents from the stomach -- sometimes called the “wet burps” -- may be due to acid reflux; again, these are generally nothing to worry about if they occur only occasionally. Frequent and troublesome acid reflux, however, is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Changes in eating habits, lifestyle changes and various medical options may all help you take on burping caused by acid reflux, or prevent it altogether.
Symptoms and Causes
Burping up liquid or solid substances is actually a form of regurgitation. Next to heartburn, regurgitation is the most common symptom of GERD. According to the "Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology," 80 percent of people with GERD suffer from some regurgitation, while about 13 percent of GERD patients complain of regurgitation at least four days per week and consider it to have a noticeable impact on their quality of life. People who suffer from regurgitation may experience a sour, bitter or acid taste in the mouth, and an unpleasant sensation of fluid moving up and down in the chest area.
Eating more frequent, smaller meals instead of a few large ones and sipping fluids rather than guzzling them are two of the first things you can do to stop acid reflux burps. A full stomach puts pressure on the muscular valve between the stomach and the esophagus that normally forms a seal between the two. Acid reflux occurs when that valve, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, is failing to close tightly. Carbonated drinks fill the stomach with gas and also put pressure on the LES.
Certain foods and beverages can cause the LES to relax, making it more likely for acid to splash from the stomach into the esophagus. Some foods to be aware of include anything with caffeine, and chocolate, peppermint and raw onions. However, everyone is different, so the best plan is to take notice of anything you eat or drink that might be aggravating your symptoms. You also may want to slim down. Weight loss is one of top lifestyle recommendations for people who suffer from acid reflux. Excess weight increases the risk of GERD -- reasons for this vary, and may include the extra weight exerting pressure on the stomach and LES -- and diet may contribute to both obesity and reflux.
Modifying Your Activities
Gravity is a huge factor in burping and regurgitation, so you may find it helpful to avoid high impact activities such as jogging or aerobics that cause stomach contents to splash upward. You may also want to avoid exercises that require you to bend over, lay head-down on an incline or turn upside-down. Wearing looser fitting clothes and avoid body hugging garments that can put pressure on the LES can also help.
When you are dealing with more than just an occasional wet burp, drugs called proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, are usually the first line of defense against acid reflux and are highly effective against heartburn. However, they are widely regarded as less successful for treating regurgitation. For persisting severe cases, surgery may be an option. The most common surgery for acid reflux and regurgitation is called a fundoplication. It involves coiling the upper part of the stomach around the lower end of the esophagus. Successful fundoplications strengthen the LES, restoring its function as the “one-way valve” to prevent acid reflux.
Medical advisor: Jonathan E. Aviv, M.D., FACS