In certain cultures, a belch after dinner is
traditionally considered a compliment to the cook.
In the Western world, if an adult belches after
dinner--or at any time, for that matter--it is
considered a breach of manners.
Babies burp, and it is certainly a satisfying sound
to the mother or father who has been patting or
rubbing the baby's back. Children belch, too,
because they think it's a funny game, and
sometimes the competition gets noisily intense.
Over the years, however, such child's play can turn
into a habit of frequently and unconsciously
swallowing air--a habit that can result in belching.
If you suffer from aerophagia--the medical name
for repetitive belching--you have probably endured
the embarrassment of an unexpected outburst at
precisely the most inelegant moment. But your
habit can easily be broken if you just become aware
of when and how you swallow air and stop doing it.
"Chronic belchers may force themselves to belch
because it provides temporary relief," says
Lawrence S. Friedman, M.D., associate professor
of medicine at Jefferson Medical College in
Philadelphia. In fact, it has been demonstrated that
repeated belching produces more of the same. On a
fluoroscope (a special type of X ray used to
visualize a body part in motion), a belching person
can be seen forcing air into the mouth and
esophagus. So if you're a chronic belcher, you need
to make a concious effort to squelch that belch.
Here is yet another reason to give up smoking if
you remain in the ever-dwindling population that
still engages in the habit. "By inhaling on cigarettes,
cigars, or pipes, you are swallowing excessive
amounts of air--much more than the belch can let
out," says Gayle Randall, M.D., assistant professor
of medicine in the Department of Medicine at the
University of California at Los Angeles School of
Medicine. And if you are counting on chewing gum
or sucking on hard candy to help you kick the habit,
think again; these activities stimulate air
Mind your manners.
Mom was right again when she told you not to talk
with your mouth full. "This habit allows air into the
mouth, which is then swallowed with the food,"
says Thomas Stahl, M.D., assistant professor of
general surgery at Georgetown University Medical
Center in Washington, D.C. Anyway, he adds, it's
an unappealing form of behavior.
People who gulp down food and beverages are, for
one thing, swallowing excessive amounts of air.
They're also crowding the stomach with too much
to digest, which causes a gaseous buildup. "Once
you take a mouthful, put down your fork and chew
your food well before taking another bite," advises
Anxiety and stress can cause you to swallow more
often, which increases the amount of air taken in.
"You'll have to make a conscious effort to minimize
air swallowing even though you may feel that your
mouth is dry, because you'll only complicate your
stress with stomach gas," says Stahl.
Don't catch cold.
One sure thing about a cold is that it brings along
postnasal drip, which will probably make you
swallow much more frequently. So try to blow your
nose to clear your nasal passages. Better yet, you
should try to protect yourself from exposure to cold
Avoid bubbly beverages.
Drinking carbonated beverages, including beer,
creates air in the stomach. "Stay away from these
drinks," advises Randall.
Drinking through a straw will only increase the
amount of air you swallow.
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