What Is Aerophagia?

Aerophagia happens when you swallow a lot of air -- enough to make you burp frequently or upset your stomach. It can be a nervous habit, but you also might get it if you eat, chew, or talk quickly.

What Causes Aerophagia?

You get aerophagia when you swallow so much air that it makes your stomach feel bloated and uncomfortable. Chewing gum can make it worse.

Doctors often see aerophagia as a sign of other problems, such as an illness that affects your digestive system, or a psychological disorder like anxiety or depression.

You may also have aerophagia if you have sleep apnea and use a device called a CPAP machine to help you breathe while you sleep. The device blows air into your nose and mouth, so you may end up swallowing more air than normal.

Nearly a quarter of adults and about 7% of children get aerophagia.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of aerophagia are:

  • Frequent belching, sometimes several times a minute
  • Bloated or swollen belly
  • Belly pain

These problems can last 2 years or more in some people. The symptoms are similar to other stomach illnesses, such as acid reflux, an irritation of the stomach lining, or irritable bowel syndrome.

Your doctor can help you figure out what's really going on. He may ask you some questions about whether you feel nervous or depressed. People with depression or anxiety problems often swallow more frequently, and aerophagia is a common symptom of depression.

Treatment

There's no drug or procedure that cures aerophagia, but you may get relief if you change the behavior that makes you gulp more air in the first place. For instance, your doctor may suggest you cut stress to help you swallow less often. Or you may need to avoid chewing gum or sucking on hard candy, which can lower the amount of air you swallow.

If your aerophagia is due to depression or anxiety, you may need medicine or psychotherapy. If acid reflux or heartburn makes you swallow more frequently, antacids may help.

Are you a smoker? Aerophagia is another reason to quit, since smoking can lead you to swallow air. Also, loose dentures can cause you to swallow more air, so if you wear them, make sure they fit well.

If you use a CPAP device, check with your doctor. It may need adjustments that control its airflow or how it fits on your face.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on February 8, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology: "Management of Belching, Hiccups, and Aerophagia."

American Sleep Apnea Association: "Aerophagia Causes and Resolutions."

Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: "Aerophagia as the Initial Presenting Symptom of a Depressed Patient."

Digestive Diseases and Sciences: U.S. Householder survey of functional gastrointestinal disorders. Prevalence, sociodemography, and health impact."

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: "Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Dominate Pediatric Gastroenterology Outpatient Practice."

Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics: "Aerophagia in adults: a comparison with functional dyspepsia."

Perspectives In Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology: "Management of Belching, Hiccups, and Aerophagia."

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: "Nausea, gastroparesis, and aerophagia."

The Mayo Clinic: "Belching, intestinal gas and bloating: Tips for reducing them."

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.