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Do you swallow excess air? You may end up with aerophagia

Published on:4 October 2021, 18:29pm IST
If you are someone who swallows air all the time, you run the risk of suffering from aerophagia. Here’s all you need to know about this condition.
Geetika Sachdev
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aerophagia
Aerophagia can have several causes. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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How often have you heard people tell us, “Don’t swallow too much air.” Well, they say that for a reason. Most of us ingest air when we talk, eat or even laugh. But we continue to do it without realising, right? When air swallowing happens beyond normal and happens in an excessive or repetitive manner, it is called aerophagia. Some of its symptoms include abdominal distension, bloating, belching, and flatulence. It can be either short term or long term. 

What are some of its symptoms?

As per research, humans swallow about two quarts of air every day, just when they eat or drink. Half of it is released through burping, while the rest travels through the small intestine, and then is eliminated from the body in the form of flatulence. Those who have aerophagia swallow in a lot of air and experience certain uncomfortable signs and symptoms. 

aerophagia
Aerophagia is the medical term for excessive and repetitive air swallowing. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

A study published in the Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that 56 percent of people with aerophagia complained of belching, 27 percent of bloating, and 19 percent of both abdominal pain and distension.

Another research published in the journal Case Reports in Gastroenterology revealed that this distension is less in the morning, and progresses throughout the day. The Merck Manual goes on to say that we pass gas about 13 to 21 times a day, but it is much more in those with aerophagia. 

Is it aerophagia or indigestion?

It is sometimes particularly confusing to differentiate between indigestion and aerophagia because some of the symptoms are similar.  The study published in the Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics shows that those with indigestion were more apt to show the following symptoms:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • feelings of fullness without eating large amounts
  • weight loss
What are some of the causes?
1. The way you breathe, eat and drink

It really matters how you eat, drink and breathe. If you do it very quickly, you are bound to swallow more air. If you talk while eating, chew gum, drink through a straw, smoke, breathe through your mouth, exercise like crazy, or wear loose-fitting dentures, then this is bound to happen.

aerophagia
Aerophagia can be caused by eating, drinking or even talking too fast. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
2. Medical issues

Those with certain medical conditions are more prone to aerophagia. For instance, those who suffer from noninvasive ventilation (NIV). Sleep apnea is another condition, in which the airways become blocked, while you’re sleeping. In such cases, a CPAP machine provides continuous air pressure through a mask or tube. Most patients who use this machine often run a higher risk of aerophagia.

Also, read: 5 possible reasons why you’ve been burping all the time

3. Mental health issues

As per a study titled Aerophagia in adults, it was found that 19 percent of those with aerophagia had anxiety versus just 6 percent of those with indigestion. The connection between anxiety and aerophagia was seen in another study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

How is it treated?

If your symptoms are getting out of hand, make sure to see a doctor. But become a little more conscious of your actions: 

  • Become conscious of air gulping
  • Practice slow breathing
  • Learn effective ways of dealing with stress and anxiety
  • Take small bites and chew food properly 
  • Eat with your mouth closed 
  • Do not smoke, drink or have carbonated beverages

Geetika Sachdev Geetika Sachdev

An independent writer and journalist, Geetika loves sharp and fresh humour, just like her coffee! If not writing, you'll find her cafe-hopping and raiding the best book stores in town.