Aerophagia is the medical term that describes the act of swallowing excess air during routine activities such as eating, drinking, talking or laughing, for example.
Although some level of aerophagia is relatively normal and common, some people may end up swallowing a lot of air and therefore develop symptoms such as a feeling of swollen belly, heaviness in the stomach, frequent belching and excess intestinal gas.
Thus, aerophagia is not a serious problem, but it can be quite uncomfortable, and its treatment is important to improve the person’s comfort in everyday life. The most suitable doctor to treat this type of disorder is usually the gastroenterologist, who will try to identify the possible causes and indicate some ways to avoid them.
The most common signs and symptoms in people who suffer from aerophagia are:
- Excessive burping, and may have several in just one minute;
- Constant sensation of swollen belly;
- Swollen belly;
- Stomach pain or discomfort.
Since these symptoms are very similar to others caused by more common and chronic gastric problems, such as reflux or poor digestion, many cases of aerophagia can last more than 2 years before being identified by the doctor.
But unlike other gastric changes, aerophagia very rarely causes symptoms such as nausea or vomiting.
The diagnosis of aerophagia is usually made by a gastroenterologist, after screening for other problems that may have similar symptoms, such as gastroesophageal reflux, food allergies or intestinal syndromes. If no changes are identified, and after evaluating the person’s entire history, the doctor can arrive at the diagnosis of aerophagia.
There are several causes that can be the cause of aerophagia, from the way you breathe, to the use of devices to improve breathing. Thus, the ideal is that an evaluation is always made with a specialized doctor.
Some of the causes that seem to be more frequent include:
- Eat too fast;
- Talk during meals;
- Chew gum;
- Drink through a straw;
- Drink lots of sodas and fizzy drinks.
In addition, the use of CPAP, which is a medical device indicated for people who suffer from snoring and sleep apnea, and which helps to improve breathing while sleeping, can also result in aerophagia.
The best way to treat aerophagia is to avoid its cause. Thus, if the person is in the habit of talking during the meal, it is advisable to decrease this interaction when eating, leaving the conversation for later. If the person chews gum many times a day, it may be advisable to decrease its use.
In addition, the doctor may also prescribe medicines that help to relieve symptoms more quickly and that reduce the amount of air in the digestive system. Some examples are simethicone and dimethicone.