Do you find yourself having an issue with burping? It can be distressing. Most in the United States would not consider burping to be good manners or fitting a professional setting. But I suggest you don’t simply excuse burps. Instead, don’t simply excuse burps – explore them.
Perhaps you don’t have an issue with burping in your home. That’s your choice. I daresay that if you have young boys in your home, they may consider burping to be a skill worthy of practice. My sons were delighted when they could “burp” their ABCs. Sigh!
Whatever your opinion of burping, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what an occasional or frequent burp may indicate about your digestion.
What Do Burps Tell Us?
The obvious answer is that you have gas in your stomach that needs to come out. Gas cannot be absorbed by our bodies, so it needs to escape. And it can go up or down depending on where it is produced.
So where does it come from? I often share with my clients that gas is not produced by the human body, but rather by the bacteria residing in the body.
The most common source of gas in the stomach that comes out as a burp is fermenting food. Think about kombucha, sauerkraut or wine. Their fermentation produces a natural byproduct – gas. When the food you eat sits in your stomach too long, bacteria begin to have a feast. Sometime later, the gas from their feast will begin to come out.
But I Ate Hours Ago
Digestion of food is an extended process. A bite that enters the mouth is chewed and swallowed, sending it to the stomach. There stomach acid works to break the food up until it is more liquid – called chyme – and passes into the small intestines.
Food is supposed to be in the stomach about 2-3 hours while it is broken down by stomach acid. Burping can mean that the process is taking too long, either because of insufficient chewing or low stomach acid.
A side note here: if you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn, you have low stomach acid. Sure, your doctor may have told you that you have too much stomach acid and you need to take medicine to suppress it. Yet, decades of studies have clearly demonstrated that the main cause of acid reflux is low stomach acid.
This causes the esophageal sphincter (the door to the stomach) to become loose and floppy, allowing stomach acid to pop up into the esophagus. It hurts because the esophagus doesn’t have a protective lining like the stomach.
Burping happens when food stays in the stomach 4, 6, or 8 hours after eating and bacteria begins to ferment the food. That process produces gas that must be released. You may also notice that you feel full before you finish what seems like a normal meal size. This is because food is still in your stomach from the prior meal.
Do you tend to be a gulper? Some people swallow a lot of air when they eat or drink, which would also need to be released from the stomach. Babies with suckling issues may swallow air when they drink, carrying the habit into later years.
Or, you may be like my sons who purposely gulped air to support their ability to burp their ABCs.
How to Turn Things Around
The first step is so simple you may be surprised. Start by chewing – a lot. I have observed many people put a bite in their mouth, chew a couple of times and then swallow. That is not conducive to good digestion.
Next time you sit down to a meal, focus on chewing each bite at least 10 times. Meat should be chewed 15-20 times. It takes practice to learn to chew enough with each bite, and it is well worth the effort.
Beyond improved chewing, there are steps that can be taken to boost stomach acid levels. Are you currently taking medication for acid reflux? If so, it is best to work with a practitioner who is educated in the process.
If not taking medication, you can explore taking ½ tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in 1 tablespoon of water in the middle of each meal. This will provide a gentle boost to your stomach acid. Observe whether doing this over several days reduces your burping. If it doesn’t, you may need stronger support under supervision of a functional practitioner.
As you can see, something as seemingly simple as a tendency to burp can be a sign of insufficient digestion. And when digestion isn’t working properly, your body is not able to effectively extract nutrients from your food. This leaves your body malnourished.
Functional Medicine Can Help
Functional Medicine recognizes symptoms as signals from the body that it needs support. Rather than squelching symptoms with medication, it is far more beneficial to explore what the body needs. A health coach trained in Functional Medicine, like me, can help you do that.