Belching, also referred to as burping, is a way of releasing gas that enters or is produced within the upper part of the digestive tract. This includes the esophagus (food pipe), stomach and sometimes the initial portions of the small intestine. Belching is a natural act, despite it being considered socially awkward to belch loudly in public. However, when belching can sometimes be a problem when it becomes constant or excessive, or when the odor is uncharacteristically offensive.
How Many Times A Day Should You Belch?
There is no definitive answer for this questions. Some people may recall only burping a few times in the day while others may do so more often. It largely depends on how much of air is swallowed. The more air that is swallowed, the more a person will belch. Air swallowing does not only occur during eating and drinking. It may also occur throughout the day with talking and breathing.
Some people will belch more frequently if there are other factors present that increase the likelihood of more gas in the gut. For example, a person suffering with conditions that cause nasal congestion will have to breathe through the mouth. As a result this will lead to more air swallowing. Similarly, drinking carbonated beverages on a constant basis will also lead to more frequent belching due to the gas that is in the gut.
Read more on excessive belching.
Causes of Constant Belching
Defining constant belching can be difficult as it is subjective to some degree. To some people it may refer to episodes of repetitive belches whereas to others it may be occasional belches throughout the day. Most of the time the causes of constant belching are due to dietary and lifestyle habits. It therefore does not pose any health risk, despite the discomfort.
Carbonated beverages are a common cause of belching. The gas in these drinks, carbon dioxide, escapes the fluid and accumulates in the gut. It distends the stomach and causes discomfort. Eventually the gas is passed out as a belch. Carbonated drinks include sodas, carbonated water and beer, as well as other alcoholic and non-alcoholic fizzy drinks. Once the gas from these drinks is expelled, the belching reduces to normal limits.
The consumption and breakdown of foods in the gut causes some gas production. Nevertheless, most of the gas that comprises a belch is derived from swallowing air. There are some foods that are known to increase digestive gas. These are mainly plant foods such as beans and cabbage but can also include animal foods such as eggs, and in paticular boiled eggs. These foods usually have a high sulfur content.
Air swallowing occurs for several reasons other than mouth breathing due to a blocked nose. Talking excessively, eating too fast, prolonged strenuous physical activity, gum chewing, tobacco smoking and poorly fitting dentures are some of the other reasons for air swallowing. Most of these activities are avoidable without medical intervention and simply requires a change in dietary and lifestyle habits where possible.
Nasal congestion is one of the common causes for air swallowing due to mouth breathing. This may arise with infections like the common cold and allergies. It can also be due to problems like a deviated septum, foreign body in the nose or nasal polyps. With a blocked nose, there may be excessive air swallowing even when eating at a normal speed or with talking in moderation.
Acid and Bile Reflux
Acid reflux is a common condition involving the esophagus (food pipe). Normally the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) blocks the back flow of stomach acid and enzymes. When the LES weakens, the stomach contents flow upwards into the esophagus where it causes irritation. Bile reflux is less common where bile in the duodenum (small intestine) flows backward into the stomach. Belching may be a symptom of both conditions.
Gastritis and Peptic Ulcers
Gastritis is a stomach condition where the walls of the stomach become inflamed. Most of the time this is due to Helicobacter pylori infection. H.pylori is a bacterium that can survive the stomach acid to burrow into the stomach wall where it causes localized inflammation. The excessive use of NSAIDs is the other common cause of gastritis.
Peptic ulcers may follow gastritis. The ulcers are open sores that may form in the stomach or in the duodenum (first part of the small intestine). H.pylori and NSAIDs are also commonly responsible for peptic ulcers. Both gastritis and peptic ulcers may lead to symptoms such as upper abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and excessive belching.
Gallstones and Gallbladder Disease
Gallstones are one of the more common types of gallbladder conditions. Stones that form within the gallbladder may block the flow of bile out into the small intestine. Bile is necessary to break down fats in food and allow for digestive enzymes to then digest it. Other conditions like gallbladder inflammation (cholecystitis) and also lead to a disturbance in digestion. This may result in symptoms like excessive belching.
Disorders of the pancreas can also affect digestion since the pancreas produces powerful digestive enzymes. These enzymes are then secreted into the duodenum of the small intestine, along with other secretions like bile. This ensures that food is broken down so that the nutrients can be absorbed in the small intestine. In conditions like pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes inflamed as digestive enzymes are prematurely activated within the pancreatic tissue.
A deficiency or lack of certain enzymes impairrs the ability of the gut to digest certain foods, which is known as a food intolerance. This can affect the functioning of the small intestine in particular. In some conditions, the nutrients cannot be absorbed in the gut thereby leaving residual nutrients in the bowels. This is known as a malabsorption syndrome. Both a food intolerance and a malabsorption syndrome can give rise to symptoms like constant belching, particularly after eating a problem food.
Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is where there are large population sizes of bacteria in the small intestine. These bacteria can consume nutrients within the small intestine and also irritate and damage the bowel lining. As a result this further affects the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Symptoms includes abdominal cramps or pain, bloating, diarrhea and excessive belching as well as excessive flatulence.
Read more on belching and nausea.