Most of us belch several times in a day with little thought of this expulsion of gas. It is normal and occurs when there is a build up of air and other gases in the upper digestive tract. However, when belching becomes excessive and is accompanied by other symptoms like diarrhea, then it could be due to come underlying problem.
Diarrhea is a term that is often used loosely to describe and change in stool consistency with frequent bowel movements. However, the term diarrhea specifically refers to having more than three bowel movements in a 24 hour period with the stool often being watery in consistency. It is one of the common gastrointestinal symptoms that occurs several times in a year.
Excessive Gas to Excessive Stool
Belching and diarrhea may seem unrelated at times. Belching is the expulsion of gas through the mouth. This gas is from the upper digestive tract. Gas present in the lower tract is expelled as flatus rather than as a belch. Diarrhea on the hand is most commonly associated with a lower digestive tract problem, like conditions affecting the colon.
The majority of gas expelled with a belch (burp) is air. The swallowing of air (aerophagia) affects every person, although some people are affected to a greater degree like with eating too fast or with nasal congestion. The rest of the gas arises from chemical digestion, is produced by gastrointestinal bacteria and to a small degree is gas from the blood that is passed into the gut.
In diarrhea the water content of stool is higher than normal. Therefore stool cannot for a solid but soft consistency. This water is mainly drawn out from the body and into the small intestine and normally would be reabsorbed within the colon. The movement through the gut and bowels, known as bowel motility, may also be faster than normal.
Most of the time diarrhea is acute. It arises suddenly, lasts for a few days at most and then resolves, often on its own without any treatment. Sometimes diarrhea can be persistent or recurrent in which case it is considered to be chronic. However, when diarrhea arises alongside excessive belching it is most likely due to an acute condition like viral gastroenteritis.
Other Signs and Symptoms
Excessive belching and diarrhea are symptoms that may be seen in several different conditions. The presence of other symptoms depends on the underlying cause.
For example in food poisoning, germs and toxins that causes gastrointestinal upset usually enter through the mouth, and often with contaminated food and water. It then irritates and inflames the upper digestive tract causing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, excessive belching and abdominal discomfort.
Loss of appetite, abdominal bloating and cramps worsen over time. As the irritation and inflammation extends further down the gut, additional symptoms like excessive flatulence and diarrhea arises. These digestive symptoms are present with most of the conditions that cause belching and diarrhea at the same time.
Other symptoms like a fever, headaches, malaise and muscle pains may only occur in specific conditions.
Causes of Belching with Diarrhea
Some of the more common causes of concomitant belching and diarrhea have been discussed below. There are many possible conditions that may give rise to these two symptoms at the same time. This includes dietary and lifestyle diseases, certain substances include medication and various diseases, including digestive and a few non-digestive conditions.
Belching and diarrhea may not seem like serious symptoms. However, if it is severe and persistent it can prevent proper hydration and facilitate excessive water and electrolyte loss. As a result dehydration may arise which can be serious and even life threatening at times. Always consult with a medical doctor if there are signs of dehydration.
Food and Drinks
Several foods and drinks can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and causes symptoms like belching with diarrhea. This does not refer to foods that are contaminated with infectious agents and toxins which may lead to food poisoning.
For example, high consumption of cola or alcoholic drinks like beer may cause excessive belching and diarrhea. A similar effect may occur with certain foods, particularly gassy foods that increase gas within the gastrointestinal gas.
Overeating can also contribute to both belching and diarrhea. Gas produced by chemical digestion is one factor that increases belching as well as air swallowing. Overeating is often accompanied by eating too fast which can further increase air swallowing.
Eventually this food has to be digested and remnants are expelled and this may be diarrheal stool. However, diarrhea can occur almost immediately after overeating due to the stretching of the stomach and duodenum of the upper digestive tract which stimulates movements in the colon.
Various infectious agents (viruses, bacteria and protozoa) as well as toxins produced by these agents can cause diarrheal illnesses. In food poisoning, these agents and toxins enter the body through contaminated food and water
Food poisoning causes acute gastroenteritis and/or enterocolitis. There are often both upper and lower digestive symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, excessive belching, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps and pain, excessive flatulence and diarrhea.
With a food intolerance the body cannot digest certain nutrients in specific foods. These remaining nutrients may then irritate the digestive tract and lead to excessive belching and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance is a common food intolerance where the body cannot digest the milk sugar, lactose.
This is due to the lack of specific enzymes needed to digest these nutrients. Sometimes the bowels cannot absorb certain nutrients despite digesting it. This is known as a malabsorption syndrome but often referred to with food intolerances.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder meaning that it is not due to any disease. Instead it is a result of abnormalities in bowel function and the cause is often not clear. Foods, psychological stress and other factors may trigger symptoms but are not the cause.
The two main features of IBS are abdominal pain and alterations of bowel habit. People with IBS may experience a host of digestive symptoms, like belching, abdominal pain and diarrhea. These symptoms may arise periodically as acute episodes.