Aerophagia – Why Swallowed Air Causes Digestion Problems

Mouth breathing problemsThe simple definition of aerophagia is when you swallow too much air into your gastrointestinal tract.

Most people swallow a little air when speaking, eating or drinking. But in cases of aerophagia, the amount of swallowed air is so large it can cause abdominal bloating, intestinal pain and excessive burping and belching.

The majority of swallowed air is usually burped back out, but with excessive mouth breathing the air may regularly pass from the stomach into the small intestine. When you’re lying down this amount is likely to increase.

Once this air is in your gastrointestinal tract any that is not absorbed into the small intestine (primarily oxygen), has to go somewhere. That passage out often leads to abdominal bloating and painful intestinal cramps.

Basic Causes of Swallowed Air

Eating or drinking too quickly can cause people to swallow air excessively, especially when eating with their mouth open, or talking while eating.

Drinking carbonated drinks like soda or beer is another way we get gas into our stomachs. As is drinking with a straw, gulping liquids down or drinking from water fountains.

Most of this swallowed air will usually get burped out. But if you have a problem with abdominal bloating and stomach cramps you may want to minimize these kind of drinks and drinking in this way for a while and see if the symptoms lessen.

Chewing gum, sucking on sweets and dragging on cigarettes can all lead to more swallowed air. All of these are also good things to give up for better health anyway.

How to Stop Mouth Breathing

Nasal congestion or other problems leading to mouth breathing, especially when you’re sleeping, may be a cause of aerophagia. Mouth breathing not only significantly increases the chance of air going into your stomach, it is also a far less healthy way to breathe.

Breathing through your nose is surprisingly important. When you breathe through your nose, the air is warmed and filtered of possible contaminants.

Nose breathing also helps generate nitric oxide, which has many important functions in our bodies, including destroying pathogens in our respiratory system, regulating blood flow, releasing hormones and playing a part in many neurological functions.

Mouth breathing, on the other hand, lessens oxygen absorption and can contribute to poor sleep and sleeping disorders, general fatigue, loud snoring and sleep apnea (associated with heart attacks), and a whole host of health problems. This is even more important for children, whose whole facial development can be affected by excessive mouth breathing, particularly during sleeping.

For occasional problems with mouth breathing, like congestion with allergies or colds, special breathing strips have been shown to be effective at clearing the nose and allowing you to breathe normally, especially during sleep.

For ongoing problems and aerophagia, a knowledgeable healthcare professional should be consulted on how to stop mouth breathing. More doctors are becoming aware of the problem, but it’s worth finding a specialist who understands the serious impact of continuous mouth breathing and is prepared to treat it.

This site on normal breathing also goes into great detail on why mouth breathing is such a serious health issue and has long term practices to fix it.

Aerophagia and Anxiety

When we are anxious, nervous or tense we may swallow air without realizing it. Too much caffeine from coffee can definitely contribute to this but stress at work or in personal relationships is also often a factor.

Talking too fast is another stress related behaviour that can lead to mouth breathing and swallowing too much air. This kind of aerophagia is usually more of a subconscious problem and slowing down, breathing through the nose and becoming aware of the behavior and our breathing in general is the start of letting go of it.

In the next post there are some specific solutions I’ve found to help stop swallowing air.

Photo 1 credit with thanks: [Olivia] 

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I have cpap and the forced air causes serious abdominal pain, bloating. It takes 8 hours to relieve the pain through belching the air out during which time I cannot find a comfortable way to sit, stand or lie down.
Please add this to side effect to your writings. Thank you.

    bhairavi Vaswani

    Pls check for gall bladder stones
    If The pain you describing is rotational and unbearable then certainly get it checked


    I use a CPAP and have the same problems as Bonnie. It’s from having air forced down your throat all night, not all of it goes into your lungs. I’ve tried everything but unfortunately some people just have this problem using CPAPs. It’s gotten so bad I’m looking into jaw surgery to open my airways so I don’t have to use a CPAP anymore.


    Have you tried adjusting your settings on your CPAP machine? I lowered mine from 10 to 9, and just that little bit STOPPED my stomach pains!!!
    Hope this helps!


    I also have cpap and problems with the extra air causing bloating and abdominal pain which is why I’m searching on here to find if anyone else has similar. Thanks for your post Bonnie, always nice to see your not the only one and it’s something common to our apnoea issue.


    I’m having trouble with the same thing


    Does any one else find that forced air causes constipation?


    Hi I wonder if you can help me I think I have aerophagia so I would like to know if you could when you say you uncomfortable does it make you feels sick. Thanks anyway good luck


    You probably have oral/pharyngeal dysfunction if you struggle with swallowing air. There is something wrong with the function of your swallowing mechanism (look up how to swallow on google and find a medical journal abstract or anything from Mike Mew and retrain your swallowing mechanism) if you cant do this, there is something structurally wrong with either your tongue (check for a tongue tie) pallet (narrow arches not allowing full tongue pallet contact) or soft pallet. I get how you feel because ive been there.

    Best of luck.

terri paul

I have serious abdominal problems, 10 surgeries , it wasn’t until the 8th the Dr.s started to mention to much air in my intestines ,of course being under all the medications they had me on ,they neither explained nor could I even think at the time to ask , how in the world does someone swallow air. Well it’s been 1 1/2 years since my last surgery, and it just hit me what they said,my opinion some dr.s really stink at giving advice(like they are entitled to do) I think the ones that don’t give the information they should give ,might start taking a little advice from Patch Adams.

Bob P.

I am a “mouth breather” and I do get bloating often. Sometimes my stomach gets hard.

I am not a gaseous person and do not have any pain. No ISB.

The bloating does cause breathing problems.

With the exception of bloating, everything else seems fine.

My nostrils are clear, but breathing is mainly via mouth.

I do avoid the “No-No” foods and beverages.

I have been to a Doctor. They never mentioned mouth breathing.

Anybody out there with the same problem as mine???


    I am mouth breather also. I hate that I look normal one minute and 6 months pregnant the next.I have seen 2 doctors and the both mentioned I have aerophagia. Neither mentioned mouth breathing. I was only told i was taking in too much air.


    I am a mouth breather too partly do to my Sinusitis problem. Yea my stomach feels bloated and hard .. just lately I got bronchitis and had trouble breathing..I noticed I became very bloated from the rapid struggle to breathe thru my mouth and my stomach was hard. I too noticed discomfort when trying to breath when I am bloated.


    How is your breathing ?


Thanks for the very informative article. I’ll definitely use these tips. (:
I was wondering if you could give me some advice. I swallow too much air because I have a chronic dry throat. It’ll help my throat to chew gum and hard candy, but it’s at the cost of chronic belching.
Do you have any recommendations for me to replace these behaviors with, so that I can stop swallowing because of my throat?
Thank you!


    Hi Nicole,

    A dry throat is usually a sign of mild dehydration so I’d carry a water bottle with you and drink more regularly. It’s a little unusual but just smelling peppermint essential oil usually stimulates saliva so this may help. Chewing fennel seeds, while not as sweet as candy, also stimulate saliva and help prevent bloating and other intestinal issues

    Hope this helps,


Kelly Ryan

I am a mouth breather and suffer from gas that comes out the bottom end :-(

vijay katyal

It is an informative article.It should be studied by all.


I have noticed this air swallowing happens when I sleep with a fan blowing on me in the summer. I can feel my stomach filling up and the pain is terrible.

Shirley L.

I have been using a cpap for a couple of year now and I have been miserable . I have so much bloating and my stomach and colon are so crampy. It just seems to be getting worse. I am going to stop using the cpap. I just almost can not function with this air issue. I am going to get an oral mouthpiece and that will help I hope. The cramps are so painful and often cause diarreha . the cpap mask leaks all night and it really makes no difference how it is fitted or the style. This site has helped me to understand what is happening to me. I was so worried, wondering what was wrong with me. Now it all makes sense.


I am miserable 99% of the time! I burp constantly.. I get pain that leaves me crawling to the couch, the amount of air is so tremendous! Once I burp for an hour, it’s gone. I literally cry sometimes in pain. The pain is not daily, mind you, but, it starts in my stomach & pushes up into my chest, shoulders, back. It’s unimaginable although occasional. But the burping is chronic. I also get irregular heartbeat when I have too much air in my stomach. I’ve had an upper GI done & hpylrori was found. I’m 2mnths post treatmnt & its negative now. I don’t know what to do Gastro mentioned aerophagia, but how do I cope? Am I a mouth breather? I dont know.


    Hi Crissy,

    Sorry to hear about your problems with swallowed air. It’s a difficult topic as there can be so many different causes for different people. This article has more on in and this one may help as well

    All the best,



    Crissy, I feel like this is the first time I’ve finally found someone who has my identical problems and goes through what I go through, so I sure hope you get this and there is a way for us to get in touch and stay in contact. To Jim who responded, I need to know when this article was written and when Crissy’s comment happen, cause for all I know I could be super late to this without any dates.

    Crissy, like you I belch 24/7 whenever awake, what we eat seems to play no role, I can go a whole day not eating and still be belching all the same. The way you described your tremendous air pains, I’ve labeled them as “air attacks” to myself because wow they really are so severe. I’ve had close to 10 of them, I don’t work and have limited my physical activities as much as I can to not run into these. I learned something from your story though since mine is a little different. I had a fundoplication surgery that made me unable to belch for 2 years (you can imagine how terrible that went for me, worst 2 years of my life). During this period was when I first ran into an air attack and all my consecutive ones, but since I could not belch, these were all prolonged nightmares that went on for much longer than an hour, usually 4-5 hours (which felt much longer of course) until I was able to finally fall asleep. The first time it happened I didn’t know if I was going to die from it, but luckily sleep does the trick. This period was when I had to stop working, however, I did not know that an hour of belching can also get me through it, as I have continued my caution of minimal activities even after getting my Fundoplication undone and being able to belch. I have an almost PTSD trauma of these waking nightmares. Even for just one hour, I can’t imagine its something you want to live with, so I wanted to let you know the role physical movement and activities plays into it, along with food amounts. What we eat isn’t as important as how much we eat; smaller snack sized portions are better. I definitely had a few attacks trigger just because I was eating meals like a normal person and then went on with my day and BAM the hell broke lose. A rule of thumb I follow is if you eat, don’t do much; if you got to do things, don’t eat much. That’s the tricky back and forth balance I play in everyday. It sucks but its all we got. I constantly think about how everyone around me takes for granted their ability to eat and move on with their day. I’ve had this condition since I was 15 and am now 29, though it started negatively affecting my life a lot worse after my Fundoplication surgery that left me unable to belch for two years till it was undone. It was just funny constant belches at first to where I am now at home all the time.

    I’ve had other surgeries too and numerous procedures, tests, etc. Whenever in surgery recovery I too have a fast heartbeat all the time, another thing we relate on. I also had Hpylori found and treated, seemingly unrelated like you. I do not think we are mouth breathers, I don’t know everything about you but for me I don’t talk much and am always conscience of the basic “no straw drinking, fast eating etc.” rules you see everywhere regarding air swallowing. Though I do think Aerophagia is what we have, its just some weird uncommon form of it I don’t yet understand. I’m hoping we can stay in touch via email/social media or whatever to see what helps each other out and etc. Despite all this I keep a positive mentality, I don’t get depressed or anxious, I’m always looking forward to the next great movie/game and have family/friends. Well besides the obvious fact that a terrible digestive system ruins your happiness and such, it hasn’t made me depressed by definition of depression as I do look forward to things and enjoy them. I just can’t live the life I once had, and I’ve never been able to relate with someone else over this. I thought it was just me, but I think it might be you too.

    – Alex


    Crissy, you are describing me to a tee! I have left arm pain, chest pain, and cannot lie down and still get my breath. When I was younger, (20’s) I made many trips to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack. A Cardioligist told me, “The heart has no pain recepters. Why you get chest, arm and back pain with a heart attack remains a mystery to us.” I swallow air when eating, it then makes me feel nauseated, my mouth waters and I swallow. It is a vicious circle. I am now in my 70’s and have lived with this for 50 years.


    Before I get out of bed I lay on my back & take my finger apply pressure for 30 to 60 seconds to different areas of my gut . This move the air out & relieve bloating which will relax your gut.

Nell leh

Gosh I never knew I could swallow too much air ,but it makes since.every since I was 14 had bloating went on for yrs until I had a gallbladder blockage,which was right after I gave birth to almost 13 pound babyin 68 and the chaplain came into my room to pray for me and said yo will never be able to eat or drink the way you have been doing.i thought to my self right,and I ate what ever I wanted till99 my colon was dead it just wouldn’t pump anymore,and I don’t wear a bag he just left me 4 inches,I almost died,but I still ate what I wanted,and now I find out it was all from swallowing too much air through my mouth,sinus problems all my life never have been able to use my nose,unless I put a strip over,I smoked and that was the start of my nose problems,now haveing very bad time with it ,at 75 yrs old,wish I had just a little of the money it has cost if only if only someone said,you are taking on too much air,what would be different now’,,,,


i have kidney failure and i am on dialysis twice a week.during dialysis we are given a snack to eat ,mostly when laying down. after dialysis i always suffer from exessive air in my stomach and this usually lasts for up to 8 or 10hoours,during which i burp and fart and this makes me feel bad and it also is painfull. lately i am sitting down for dialysis and it feels better. i think now that eating while laying fown was the cause of this problem.


Cpap users…..Have your Doctor adjust your settings. Your Cpap is going too high. Your doctor can have your supplier adjust your machine. You will notice an immediate difference.


I know I take too much air in. I eat while I talk and am the last one to eat. I have to swallow constantly throughout the day to get relief as I have upper abdominal pain. My GI doc diagnosed me with SIBO and am on a low Fodmap diet. It doesn’t seem to be working although down 10 pounds in 1 month. He prescribes Gasx but I don’t want to take meds and I want to heal myself naturally.
Any info. or tips you have worth sharing would be appreciated.

Laurie Bugleiwcz

I burp all the time because i breath into much air because i think i have asthma but my doctor says thats its anxiety, but i still have the need to breath deeply also its annoying everyone around me how i burp :(


I have suffered with too much air in my stomach on and off for years. I’ve had sonogram and upper GI. Also years ago I had an Endoscopy and I had inflammation in my stomach and eventually it got better. I’m currently going thru this again. It’s frustrating. I walk everyday and watch what I eat but it’s still happening. Also when I’m out walking and sometimes it happens then. Then I deal with relieving it for hours .


So I am 35 and for the past couple years I’ve delt with the same problems probably once every 6 months . I think it’s caused from swallowing to much air and I can’t stop my self from doing it once it starts. Last about 3-4 days and it’s not not annoying but it hurts after to much to much air gets trapped in my intestines. Burping and expelling so much gas it’s a relief for a second then it’s back. Does anyone have any home remedies to help control this issue? I’m sure the anxiety plays a big part in all this!


I have sleep apnea and every so often I wake up with a stomach full of air, very uncomfortable. I get up and take baking soda and water and it takes probably an hour to get rid of all the air out of both ends.

My sleep apnea machine is set at the lowest setting and I wear a chin strap to keep me from breathing through my mouth.

If anyone can offer any help I would be grateful.


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