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9 Ways to Tell if Your Burping Habits Are Normal

Burping can tell you a lot about your health.

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It’s not such a bad habit

Unless you were burping the alphabet or having burping contests with your friends, your childhood burps shouldn’t have been considered such a bad habit after all because you probably couldn’t help it. “A small amount of belching each day is normal. You swallow air all day, so it’s a physiologic process,” says Scott Gabbard, MD, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. If you seem to be burping more than usual or it becomes bothersome, that’s the time to talk to your doctor.

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You can have a burping disorder

It sounds like a perfect excuse to justify that satisfying post-meal burp, but belching disorders do exist. “Supragastric belching is a phenomenon that occurs when patients swallow too much air into the esophagus. This results in frequent and repetitive belching,” says Dr. Gabbard. It’s nearly impossible to tell when you’ve swallowed too much air (or any air at all), so behavioral therapy is often used to train patients to recognize when it’s happening and stop, he says.

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Burping can be a side effect of paralysis

Believe it or not, your stomach muscles can actually become partially paralyzed (it’s called gastroparesis), which prevents food from being emptied properly; the result is extra belching. “Paralysis of the stomach is common in patients with diabetes because diabetes can effect nerves throughout the body, including the stomach,” says Dr. Gabbard. Besides diabetes, the reason behind stomach paralysis is still a bit of mystery; what doctors know for sure is that it’s the result of damage to the nerves or muscles of your belly.

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Burping can signal a swallowing problem

“When patients come to me about belching, I always ask them if they have trouble swallowing,” says Dr. Gabbard. When people have difficulty swallowing, they feel like food is stuck and wont go down, so they swallow some more and end up gulping lots of air, too. “Once they get the food to pass through, they have to belch afterward from all that air,” he says.

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Smelly burps can be more than just an embarrassment

If your burps smell like rotten eggs, you might need more than a breath mint; something could be wrong with your stomach. “If you have excessively malodorous belches, we would want to make sure there’s not a problem where your stomach isn’t emptying correctly or there’s a blockage,” says Dr. Gabbard. When your stomach doesn’t empty properly, food can sit there and become fermented by your gut bacteria, which produces sulfur compounds that result in a foul smell. Here’s what your bad breath reveals about your health.

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You might have a tumor

A tumor can cause blockage of the esophagus that results in burping. Extra belches probably won’t be the first sign that you have cancer, says Dr. Gabbard. Patients usually have additional symptoms, like unexplained weight loss, vomiting, or changes in stools.

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Burping could reveal why you’re bloated

If you’re feeling bloated plus letting them rip, you might have a disorder called functional dyspepsia. “Many patients are misdiagnosed with reflux but they actually have functional dyspepsia,” says Dr. Gabbard. The disorder causes a feeling of fullness and discomfort of the upper abdomen; people then force a belch to try to relieve that pressure. Here are silent signs of acid reflux you might be ignoring.

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Reflux is a big trigger of burping

“When stomach acid splashes back up into the esophagus, patients start subconsciously doing air swallows to try to get those contents back down,” says Dr. Gabbard.

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Not everyone can burp

“People who have had surgery to their stomach, such as a procedure for reflux that wraps the stomach, they may not be able to burp,” says Dr. Gabbard. Another esophageal issue called achalasia makes it difficult for food and liquid to pass into the stomach from the esophagus, and patients often have difficulty burping, he says.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Alyssa Jung
Alyssa Jung is a writer and editor with extensive experience creating health and wellness content that resonates with readers. She freelanced for local publications in Upstate New York and spent three years as a newspaper reporter before moving to New York City to pursue a career in magazines. She is currently Senior Associate Editor at Prevention magazine and a contributor to Prevention.com. Previously she worked at Reader's Digest as an editor, writer, and health fact checker.