What Is a Burp—And Why Do Humans Do It?

Medically reviewed by Jay N. Yepuri, MD

Burping, also known as belching, is a normal bodily function. It's the audible sound that happens when excess gas is released from the stomach through the mouth. A burp is usually triggered by daily activities like eating and drinking. While burping is common and typically not a cause for alarm, excessive burping that interferes with your daily routine may be the sign of a digestive disorder.

What Causes a Burp?

A burp is the escape of gas from the digestive tract. You can have excess gas in your digestive tract if you swallow too much air. The purpose of burping is to release this excess gas from sitting in the digestive tract.

Here's exactly what happens inside your body when a burp is produced: Each time a little bit of extra air is swallowed—usually during the process of eating or drinking—it's pushed into the stomach. Air builds up there, which causes the stomach to stretch out. While the stomach is extending, a muscle at the bottom of the esophagus (the tube connecting the stomach and the throat) automatically relaxes. This allows that excess air to travel up and out of your mouth.

What Triggers Burping?

Burping is usually triggered by swallowing too much air. This can happen naturally during the following activities:

  • Eating, especially too quickly

  • Drinking, particularly carbonated beverages

  • Gum chewing

  • Talking while eating

  • Wearing loose-fitting dentures

Aside from these common triggers, burping can also be prompted by certain digestive disorders or other health conditions. In these cases, you might notice the burps are excessive, uncomfortable, or come with other digestive symptoms like abdominal pain or nausea.

Is Burping Good for Health?

Burping every day—even up to 30 times per day—is pretty normal. It's the body's way of releasing excess air from sitting in the digestive tract, similar to the way the body releases gas through flatulence (farting). So yes, occasional burping is considered to be good for your health.

But if you find yourself burping excessively—like up to 20 times times a minute—there's probably another issue at play, like a digestive disorder or a behavioral response.

A good rule of thumb to differentiate between normal burping and excessive burping is to consider how the burping impacts your day-to-day life. Experts generally classify excessive belching as burping that's bothersome enough to interfere with your daily activities more than three days per week.

What Can Cause Excessive Burping?

While occasional burping is normal, excessive burping may be the result of a health condition. Some conditions that can cause you to burp more than usual include:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): This is a condition that causes stomach acid to flow back up toward the mouth. In some studies, excessive burping was reported in up to half of all participants with GERD.

  • Functional dyspepsia: This describes frequently having an upset stomach. More than half of people with the condition experience frequent burping.

  • Gastroparesis: This is a condition marked by your stomach not emptying itself of food as quickly as normal. Frequent burping commonly results from this condition.

  • Anxiety and depression: Some research has linked these conditions to frequent burping. While there's not enough evidence to identify the exact cause, it's been suggested that swallowing more air during stressful situations could contribute to the association.

Disorders that cause frequent or excessive burping may be more common than you'd think. One global study of more than 73,000 adults found that roughly 1% of the participants had a burping disorder.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Burping is one of the most common symptoms that prompt people to visit gastroenterologists (healthcare providers who specialize in digestive disorders). While burping is a pretty common digestive symptom, it can still be bothersome. And while most times it is just a part of normal bodily functioning, burping may point to a deeper underlying issue.

You should contact a healthcare provider if your burping is excessive or isn't going away. You should also seek medical guidance if your are experiencing other symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhea, or constipation—particularly if these symptoms begin or change suddenly.

During your office visit, a healthcare provider will likely ask about your symptoms and when they're happening. For example, do you notice that you burp more frequently when you're nervous? Or does the belching tend to be prompted after eating certain foods? From there, tests may be ordered to narrow down a potential diagnosis, like GERD or another issue.

Fortunately, treatment options are available to help treat whatever the underlying issue may be. Some gut-brain modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and specific breathing techniques have also been shown to be helpful for improving certain cases of excessive burping.

How Do You Avoid Burping?

Most burping is part of a natural bodily process, so it's not possible to avoid it completely.

But if your burping is a little too frequent for your liking or borders on being uncomfortable but not quite excessive, there are several things you can do to try to minimize your burping. Here are some techniques you can try to avoid burping:

  • Eat and drink at a slower pace so you swallow less air.

  • Limit fatty, spicy, and gas-causing foods (like beans, onions, cabbage, and whole grains).

  • Limit carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine.

  • Avoid chewing gum and sucking on hard candies.

  • Exercise regularly to help with general stomach-related symptoms.

  • Consider probiotic supplements like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to maintain overall digestive health.

  • Try deep breathing techniques, which may help burping among people with GERD, particularly when combined with a proton-pump inhibitor (a stomach acid-reducing medication).

  • Lie on your left side while resting with your knees toward your chest, if possible, to help eliminate excess air and gas in the stomach.

A Quick Review

Burping is the act of releasing excess air from the stomach out through the mouth. It's an audible sound that commonly happens after swallowing too much air during activities like eating, drinking, or chewing gum. It may also be referred to as belching. Excessive burping—which may mean burping more than 30 times a day—could signal a digestive disorder or other health condition like gastroesophageal reflux disease or frequent upset stomaches. But most times, burping is not a cause for alarm and is instead just a normal, healthy way that your body is getting rid of extra gas.

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Read the original article on Health.