Name that GI track disorder.
November 2, 2008 9:06 AM   Subscribe

In the past six months I've gone from belching 2-3 times a week to belching 20-30 times a day. What's going on?

I know I need to see a doctor, but I'm living in a developing country right now and don't have easy access to one. So, until I head back to NY, I'm looking for some advice.

A few details:

I don't drink any soda or carbonated drinks. Ironically, this started about the time I stopped drinking soda.

These are disturbing belches - they're not "burps," rather they're long and deep.

I'm having no other abnormal gastrointestinal issues.
posted by anonymous78 to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"Living in a developing country right now" is kind of a big deal as you may not be dealing with typical Cleveland suburb ailments. We need to know more about your diet, exposure to the local environment, and so forth. When you're talking about developing and third world countries, parasites, giardiasis, etc are very real considerations. At the minimal end of the spectrum it could be reflux or a gut flora problem (lactobacillus yogurt helps).
posted by crapmatic at 9:14 AM on November 2, 2008

This started 3 months before I left New York so I'm confident it's not related to my current environment.
posted by anonymous78 at 9:16 AM on November 2, 2008

I (finally) made it to a doctor for a similar issue last week, and he informed me that what I was describing sounded like a textbook case of peptic ulceritis. Which is I guess a nascent ulcer? He put me on omeprazole, which I've been taking since Wednesday, and haven't noticed a huge difference yet. It apparently reduces acid in the stomach, and it's over the counter, so you may want to try that or some other acid-reduction med until you can get to a doctor.

Additionally: I spent 2006 in Afghanistan, and my sister (BS in nursing, working on her master's) is pushing me to try to get tested for "helobacter pylori," a bacteria that she says is conducive to ulcers. So that may be something to consider as well.
posted by kavasa at 9:26 AM on November 2, 2008

Could you drink more water, to dilute whatever is causing the belching, as a stopgap?

I'm disgusting. I belch and fart (eye-watering!) with alarming regularity. I do so *less* when I'm properly hydrated.
posted by notsnot at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2008

i drink lots of water - several liters a day so i don't think it's a hydration issue.
posted by anonymous78 at 9:36 AM on November 2, 2008

Are you burping partly digested food gas? Or just plain air? If you're taking in too much air when eating your food, it has to come out somewhere. It's easy to do it, and hard to notice unless you stop to pay attention to your eating habits.
posted by Solomon at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2008

If you drink coffee - instant or other - that could be the culprit.
posted by watercarrier at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2008

Did you drink a lot of soda?

If you did, I would guess that you have developed a kind of dependency on gas propulsion assisted movement of food through your gastrointestinal tract, and that you are swallowing an unusually large volume of air to replace the carbon dioxide propellant that no longer bubbles out of the liquids you drink.

From this point of view, the reason you didn't belch before the way you are doing now is that all that carbon dioxide is very soluble in your body fluids, and was carried away by your bloodstream to your lungs, to be breathed out along with the the carbon dioxide generated by your metabolic activities.

But air is much less soluble in you (especially the ~80% of it that is nitrogen), so you have to belch back out the air you are swallowing to replace that lost carbon dioxide.
posted by jamjam at 10:29 AM on November 2, 2008

Are you chewing sugarless gum (or any kind of gum), or using any non-sugar sweeteners (I'm thinking specifically of sugar alcohols like sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, etc.)? Do you drink your water through a straw or narrow-necked bottle?

How's your anxiety level? I will sometimes unconsciously swallow air when I'm nervous. I know you said you don't have other GI symptoms, but do you feel any of that air sitting around in your belly just before you belch it out? Do you feel even slightly bloated (with air)?

Lastly, do you have any chronic diseases?
posted by peggynature at 10:59 AM on November 2, 2008

jamjam - i only drank a soda a day

peggynature - i do chew a lot of sugarless gum and i drink water out of bottles. i'm also super stressed; however, i don't have any chronic diseases though - at least not that i know of.
posted by anonymous78 at 11:43 AM on November 2, 2008

I worked at a stressful job overseas once and it inflated me like a balloon. Take a few days off to clear your head (maybe ask for a doctors recommendation if you need it) and see if things improve. You body might be warning you about your attitude to work. Do not reply that you cannot afford the time off.

Also stay away from tea.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:00 PM on November 2, 2008

I had an ulcer and I had this symptom. Frustratingly, though omeprazole initially helped, eventually things got worse and worse and at one point I didn't really even want to leave the house. I read most of the published medical literature on GERD and tried several diets including low fat/high fiber, the mainstream approach. Eventually I tried the low-carb diet for two months because of this small study and the symptoms finally diminished. Honestly I was kind of poor at the time and 90% of my diet became eggs. Maybe it was time that healed it, but I think the diet helped. I gradually normalized my diet, but I still try to eat under 100 g of carbs a day. I do drink a lot of probiotic fermented milk to help me digest the carbs I do eat.
posted by melissam at 12:11 PM on November 2, 2008

My mom had this and it turned out to be a hiatal hernia. Long, low belches, all day long. She took zantac (which I believe is now available OTC), cut out coffee, tea, chocolate, and fruit, and it went away.
posted by HotToddy at 12:29 PM on November 2, 2008

If it's all just upper-GI gas, not vomity or diarrheic, I'd bet on it being a mechanical air-swallowing thing, or maybe a sugar alcohols reaction thing.

I would vote on the sugarless gum being the main culprit. Both the chewing action and the sugar alcohols in it can put air/gas in your GI tract -- I love gum, but have completely cut it out (in my case, I don't belch the air up, and it just sits there painfully and makes me feel like ass.)

You can take simethicone (OTC stuff like Gas-Ex) if you feel bloated. But in order to stop the problem at its source, I'd try cutting out the gum first. And don't replace it by sucking on sugarless candies -- if you need something in your mouth, try real sugar instead. Not great for the teeth, but what are you going to do if it's something that gets you through the day. Just keep drinking water periodically and brushing your teeth as usual.

If cutting out gum and avoiding sugar alcohols doesn't help, maybe try drinking your water out of a wide-mouthed glass, or pouring the water into your mouth from the bottle rather than covering the opening with your mouth and sucking it back.

Stress reduction would be good in any case. Not like you can quit your job or whatever it is that you're doing, but try some deep-breathing exercises, stretches, mindfulness meditation or whatever. The internet can help you out with that -- I'm definitely not the person to ask for stress-reducing techniques :)
posted by peggynature at 1:37 PM on November 2, 2008

This is often a symptom of GERD, as others have mentioned.

Here are some suggestions: stop consuming any caffeine, ice-cold liquids, anything with tannins (this means red wine, grape juice and tea especially), and, if you can, alcohol and chocolate. Don't lie down after eating. Stop chewing gum. Keep hydrated.

I have a loooooong history with GERD, and nobody knows better than I that what works for one person won't necessarily work for another person. Hopefully these suggestions - which don't really help me, but help many others - will do something for you.

What works for *me*, personally, is meditation. All of my severe GERD symptoms are dramatically lessened when I spend 15-20 minutes per day meditating. I realize this may sound strange. Personally, my symptoms are directly related to stress (even low-level stress that I don't consciously notice), and I don't think that's an uncommon phenomenon.
posted by Cygnet at 1:38 PM on November 2, 2008

Chewing gum will cause you to swallow a lot since spit will form. You will inadvertently swallow air in the process of swallowing your spit, which will lead to burps later on.

Also, I remember seeing a study where people who were nervous tended to involuntary swallow more than non stressed people, causing burps later on.

Skip on the gum and see if you can calm your nerves.
posted by nikkorizz at 2:40 PM on November 2, 2008

nthing the yogurt recommendation.

Do they sell Greek-style yogurt where you are?

If so, try that. I had your problem a few months ago, tried all of the over-the-counter remedies with no success.

I had a cup of plain yogurt and the problem went away within hours. I suspect that was because the yogurt re-introduced beneficial bacteria into the GI tract and improved my digestion.

It's worth a try.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:50 PM on November 2, 2008

« Older Where can I buy a huge order or desposable ponchos...   |   Election night refreshments? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.