These 4 Signs Could Indicate Your Burps Aren’t Normal At All
A burp is worth a thousand words. Usually it’s your body’s way of casually saying, “Hey, everything’s cool here.” After all, a little burping here and there is totally normal: “It just represents the backwards passage of air from the stomach or esophagus up through the mouth,” says Dr. Lea Ann Chen, gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. “This air is typically swallowed when we breathe or eat, [which is called aerophagia]. When there’s a sudden release of air into the esophagus that causes it to stretch, there is a reflex that allows our upper esophagus to relax and helps us belch and release the air.”
But if persistent bouts of belching are constantly getting in the way of your everyday routine, then you might want to listen more carefully to the message your body is trying to transmit. “When burping continues over a long period of time or gets worse, it could mean there’s something else going on that may require further discussion with your physician,” says Dr. Bhavesh Shah, medical director of interventional gastroenterology at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif.
There are a number of serious conditions that can cause you to bring up unusual amounts of wind. Some of the most common culprits are gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which the contents of your stomach back up into your throat, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition in which excess bacteria develop in the small intestines and then creates extra gas that passes through your gastrointestinal tract, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, gastroparesis (impairment in the motility of the stomach, which is common in diabetics), or hiatal hernia (when part of the stomach slides up into the chest, above the diaphragm).
If you want to figure out why you’re practically belching the ABCs on the regular, you’ll have to shift your focus away from the burping and figure out if you’re experiencing it hand-in-hand with other symptoms that are typical red flags of another illness.
“Burping by itself is almost never a sign of a more serious condition,” says Dr. Ketan Shah, gastroenterologist at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, Calif. “But if it is accompanied by other symptoms, however, that can suggest the presence of other conditions. For instance, if your burping is accompanied by heartburn (a burning sensation in the chest) or regurgitation of stomach acid, that can suggest GERD. If it is accompanied by difficulty with food or liquids passing down the esophagus, that can suggest blockage in the esophagus (benign or malignant) or impaired motility of the esophagus.”
Some other partner symptoms that should trip your alarm include:
Generally speaking, vomiting is a worrisome symptom even when it happens on its own. But when it’s teamed up with incessant burping, it’s a clear-as-day sign that a more serious problem could be creeping behind those belches.
“It could suggest benign conditions like acid reflux or a hiatal hernia,” says Bhavesh Shah, “and it could point to motility problems such as gastroparesis. On the other hand, vomiting [with excessive burping] could also be a sign of an obstruction either in the stomach or small intestine, and the obstruction could be from benign conditions like an ulcer.”
If you’re experiencing the burp-upchuck combo frequently, let your doctor know about it just to be on the safe side.
Unexpected Weight Loss And Loss Of Appetite
Shedding 4.5 or more kilos overnight might sound like a pretty sweet dream, but if it happens in real life, the reason could actually be nightmarish.
“Unexpected weight loss is probably the most alarming of alarm symptoms,” says Bhavesh Shah. “It should be presumed to be due to a malignant [cancerous] process until proven otherwise. This is because cancer develops from rapidly dividing mutant cells, which require high energy to divide so quickly. They use the energy and nutrients that we would normally use, which leads to weight loss.”
Similarly, if you’re burping more than usual and your appetite seems to be slamming the brakes, that should also be cause for concern: “When associated with weight loss, decreased appetite could be a sign of inflammation, infection, ulcers, or cancer,” says Bhavesh Shah. “Though these conditions should be ruled out, decreased appetite and weight loss could also be signs of severe depression.”
If you seem to be losing more weight—or craving fewer foods—with every incessant belch, that’s one double-trouble symptom you should never ignore. Hit up your physician to rule out anything life-threatening ASAP.
Constipation Or Diarrhoea
The occasional clogged pipe usually isn’t anything eyebrow-raising. But once constipation starts playing second fiddle to other symptoms like burping, you’d better start asking some questions.
“If a patient develops new-onset constipation, or if it is associated with bleeding, severe bloating and pain, vomiting, belching or weight loss, then it may be a sign of a [bowel] obstruction, [such as a tumor, scar tissue or a twisted colon],” says Bhavesh Shah. “However, patients with constipation often have IBS, which is often associated with increased gas, which can cause belching.”
On the flipside, going to the bathroom too much can be just as concerning as not going to the bathroom at all: “Diarrhoea can also be due to IBS; however, especially if associated with other symptoms, it can also be due to conditions such as celiac disease (gluten allergy), SIBO, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis—all of which can also result in an increase in belching,” says Bhavesh Shah.
A quick trip to your doc’s office should help you figure out just how serious your potty situation is.
Lately, social media has been abuzz with #fitspo photos that prove even people with washboard abs can experience serious belly bloat over the course of a day. Abdominal distension (or the expansion of the abdomen beyond its usual size) isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s typically the result of food fermenting in your intestine, which produces excess gas—and therefore more burping.
“However, persistent or severe distension can also be a sign of an obstruction, SIBO, or severe food allergy or intolerance, such as lactose intolerance, gluten allergy or fructose intolerance,” says Bhavesh Shah. If you’re burping a bunch and your tummy constantly feels poofy and uncomfortable, team up with your physician to figure out if a particular food just isn’t sitting right with you.
Sometimes, making small lifestyle changes can be enough to shoo away bothersome burping. “Effective modifications include discontinuing chewing gum, smoking, drinking alcohol and carbonated beverages, and gulping food and liquids,” says Ketan Shah. “You can also try eating smaller and more frequent meals, avoiding overeating, losing weight, and waiting at least three to four hours after eating your last meal before lying down.” If that doesn’t work, then you might have to visit your primary physician or gastroenterologist for further medical investigation.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com