What do I do for Sour Burps?

Also called acid reflux, sour burps is a widespread gastrointestinal condition. It often affects older people over the age of 40 years. The most common associated symptom is heartburn, but the condition may also occur without any expected symptoms.

Sour burps may sometimes be the symptom of or the cause of other underlying health problems. Burping from the mouth refers to the release of gas present in the digestive system; it often occurs unconsciously. Most of this digestive gas is the air swallowed during drinking, eating, chewing gum, and talking, etc.

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The presence of sour burps is also dependent on the level of physical activity and the diet of a person, as well as other underlying physical issues like indigestion, obesity, and pregnancy. Burping is a normal bodily activity. However, if it occurs frequently or persistently, then it may be a sign of some underlying digestive or other health issues.

Sour burps or acid reflux: An explanation

Sour burps or acid reflux occur due to the backward flow of the stomach’s acidic contents, which may include recently consumed drinks and foods as well as gastric acid, digestive juices, and powerful enzymes made by the glands in the stomach lining. Malfunction of the digestive enzymes and or non-digestion of the food and drinks usually triggers such backward flow. The position of the patient, malfunction of the LES/lower esophageal sphincter which prevents backward flow, elevated pressure in the abdomen are other contributory factors.

Sour burping may be accompanied by other symptoms such as pain in mouth and chest and sore throat. These symptoms often occur due to the presence of stomach acid in the esophagus. Some patients may also experience heartburn, nausea, and chronic acidic flavor in the mouth.

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux is a more severe form of reflux and is often interchangeably used with acid reflux. In GERD patients, the digestive gas and acidic contents of the stomach are pushed backwards further up the esophagus as compared to acid reflux. In addition to above listed symptoms affected people may also suffer from burning pain in chest, regurgitation, indigestion, burning pain in throat and mouth, acidic sour taste in mouth, and excessive belching.

Causes of sour burps

Some of the common causes of sour burps are listed below:

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  • Eating habits: Eating very fast and overeating are two of the most common causes of sour burps. Acid reflux may be more pronounced if patients consume beverages or foods with caffeine, alcohol, or fizz. Excessive talking when eating food as well as breathing through the mouth because of nasal problems like a congested nose can also contribute towards swallowing in of excess air, which then mixes with stomach acid and gets released as sour burps.
  • Obesity: Acid reflux is more common in obese individuals for varied reasons such as overeating; leading a sedentary life without any physical activity; large girth which increases the pressure on the abdomen; and increased instances of diabetes which prevents the emptying of the stomach, thereby causing sour burps.
  • Intake of aerated/fizzy/carbonated drinks, alcohol, and caffeine: Normal function of the LES or lower esophageal sphincter can get adversely affected by caffeinated beverages and alcoholic concoctions, thereby triggering sour acid reflux. Burping is quite common after the intake of carbonated drinks. An underlying case of sour burps can get aggravated further when the fizzy beverage that is consumed also contains alcohol or caffeine. For example, certain cola sodas, energy drinks, and beer, sparkling wine, and other alcoholic drinks.
  • Pregnancy: Sour burps and increased belching is quite prevalent in pregnant women. This is because of two main causes: (1) Elevated levels of progesterone, which relax all the muscles leading to accumulation of gas, and other hormones that adversely affect LES function, thereby triggering acid reflux. (2) Increased pressure on the abdomen by the rapidly growing uterus can also cause the backward flow of stomach contents.
    • Pregnant women also tend to eat a lot more than normal which leads to overeating and eventually results in persistent sour burps.
    • Pregnant women are easily fatigued which causes them to breathe through the mouth, thereby causing excess swallowing of air, thereby contributing to acid reflux development. This may also occur in women with pregnancy anemia who suffer from breathlessness.
    • Digestive disorders: Varied disorders that affect the upper digestive tract can also trigger a case of acid reflux. Sour burps are especially likely to occur when the underlying disease affects the LES band of muscles, the stomach, and/or the first section of small bowel duodenum. In these cases, sour burps occur due to delayed stomach emptying, nil or deficient barriers to backward flow of stomach contents, and increased production of acids. A few common digestive conditions which may trigger the above issues include gastroparesis, hiatal hernia, pyloric stenosis, gastrinoma, and bowel motility disorders.
    • Tobacco use and smoking: There are many ways in which chewing and smoking tobacco and other forms of tobacco use can contribute towards development of sour burps. The most common way is increased swallowing of air, especially during smoking and chewing tobacco. Stimulant activities of nicotine and other chemicals present in tobacco can also trigger excess production of stomach acids as well as deteriorate the LES, thereby causing acid reflux.

Treatment of sour burps

In addition to lifestyle changes, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, intake of a balanced diet, and exercising, etc., sour burps may be treated in the following ways:

  • The most common drug used to alleviate acid reflux is antacids; they can be readily purchased over the counter at any drug store. The medication works by neutralizing the effects of stomach acid, but its effect is typically temporary.
  • Another OTC medication called raft barrier agents may sometimes be consumed along with antacids. These agents float above the layer of stomach juices, thereby acting as a barricade between the esophageal wall and the stomach.
  • H2-antagonists, proton pump inhibitors, and other acid-suppressing medicines prevent stomach acid production. It offers relief from sour burps for many hours.
  • Simethicone and other anti-foaming agents help reduce the accumulation of digestive gas which may be affecting LES function and facilitating the backward flow of stomach contents.
  • Metoclopramide and other prokinetic medications quicken stomach emptying. It is not widely used for sour burps, but may be recommended when delayed gastric emptying is the cause.
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