Most of us feel bloated or burped at some point in life. This bloating can occur as a result of swallowing air. We all inhale a small amount of air when talking, eating, drinking or laughing. And it does not cause any discomfort. But if we swallow too much air, it develops numerous gastrointestinal diseases. This condition is known as aerophagia. Let’s better understand this condition and how to prevent it.
What is Aerophagia?
Aerophagia occurs when a person repeatedly ingests enough air to burp frequently or cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Aerophagia or aerophagia can occur for several reasons. But when you talk or eat quickly or are in a stressful situation, you experience it more. Under normal circumstances, the inhaled or swallowed air, which is not used by the respiratory tract, enters the digestive system and exits as flatulence. But in aerophagia, the person swallows too much air (more than two liters) and experiences some gastrointestinal symptoms. The symptoms of aerophagia can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic).
What Are the Symptoms of Aerophagia?
Under normal circumstances, half of the swallowed air is relieved by regurgitation and the rest expels as flatulence. But in aerophagia, the excess air causes a host of gastrointestinal symptoms, such as:
- Burps often, sometimes several times a minute
- Unusual stomach gas, which causes a distended or bloated stomach
- Gurgling sounds from the stomach
- Visibly distended abdomen
- Pain or discomfort in the stomach, sometimes shooting pain radiating from the abdomen to the chest or throat.
- Gastric acid
- shortness of breath
- Decreased appetite
- A patient may experience intestinal problems such as diarrhea or constipation.
A person may experience only one type of symptom or may have many or all types of conditions. These symptoms may occur occasionally, frequently, or persist indefinitely.
A person with stress and anxiety also often experiences belching, as aerophagia helps people with anxiety cope with stress.
What Are the Causes of Aerophagia?
The following are the possible causes of aerophagia:
- Eating too quickly, such as eating a second bite before swallowing the first
- Talk while eating
- Breathing through the mouth
- Drinking drinks from a straw as sucking to drink through a straw attracts more air
- Chew gum
- to smoke
- Consuming carbonated drinks
- Vigorous exercise causes mouth breathing and swallowing more air.
- Loose prosthesis
- People who breathe through respiratory support machines (usually continuous positive airway pressure CPAP machines) are more prone to aerophagia.
- Anxiety and depression
- People with a cervical spinal block
How is aerophagia diagnosed?
The symptoms of aerophagia are similar to other intestinal diseases such as:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Food allergies that cause intestinal complaints
The doctors first rule out the other digestive disorders to finally diagnose aerophagia. To identify aerophagia, a patient must meet two criteria, such as:
- All relatives or friends noticed that the patient was swallowing air
- The patient burps repeatedly
Patients may experience aerophagia as a side effect of non-invasive ventilation (NIV), which doctors diagnose during a routine checkup when patients are still attached to the machine.
More than 8% of patients with cognitively delayed disorders may have aerophagia. Coordination between breathing and swallowing was disturbed under these conditions.
What are the treatment modalities for aerophagia?
Many patients do not realize that they are swallowing air. Definitive treatment for this condition is still not available. Some medications (dimethicone and simethicone) can help reduce gas formation in the intestines. The doctors may suggest the following modalities to prevent aerophagia:
- Try to eat or drink slowly so that you swallow less air.
- Chew your food well before swallowing.
- Try to eat your food with your mouth closed.
- Avoid drinking carbonated drinks, such as cold drinks, soda or beer.
- Don’t drink your drinks through a straw.
- You should become aware of swallowing air, and if you notice the habit, stop swallowing immediately and practice breathing slowly to calm yourself down.
- Stress and anxiety increase aerophagia. You should practice relaxing techniques or get professional help to stay calm, such as meditation, yoga, muscle relaxation therapy, aromatherapy, or disease awareness.
- Avoid smoking, because as you inhale smoke, you also swallow air.
- Do not chew gum or suck on hard candies.
- Use properly fitted masks or tubing when breathing with a CPAP device.
- Check the fit of your dentures when you wear them. The ill-fitting dentures can cause you to swallow more air while you drink or eat. Therefore, adjust them if you think they are misfits.
Aerophagia is a treatable condition with attention to the disease. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you.