How to Stop Swallowing Air and Prevent Aerophagia
There are many potential causes of excessive hiccups, regular belching and mild aerophagia (swallowing air) so it’s important to identify the primary culprit or culprits for you personally. Start by eliminating the simpler known causes for a few days and notice whether the symptoms lessen.
It’s worth keeping a note of the following suggestions for how to stop swallowing air and mouth breathing. By tracking the results you get from avoiding a potential cause for several days, and especially reintroducing it, you can pin down what makes you swallow air excessively and reduce or eliminate it.
Importantly, if you have a serious case of aerophagia you should seek medical advice from a specialist. Many people though will see improvement and can reduce the amount of air they swallow with some of the simple changes ahead.
Common Practices That Lead to Swallowing Too Much Air
Drinking carbonated drinks, such as acidic soda or beer, sends carbon dioxide straight into your stomach. Give them a rest for a few days and see what effect this has on your symptoms.
Drinking with a straw, rushing and slurping or gulping down liquids and drinking from a water fountain are all likely to introduce extra air into the stomach.
Try slowing down when you drink. Drinking a lot of liquid during a meal is also worth avoiding as it hampers proper digestion.
Chewing gum, sucking on hard sweets and smoking cigarettes can all lead to swallowing excess air. For some people one of these will probably be a little harder to give up, but it’s definitely worth it if you value your health.
Heartburn or acid reflux after eating can cause burping and belching that then leads to swallowing too much air. Ginger tea is an excellent natural treatment for heartburn if you find yourself gulping air with an upset stomach.
An ongoing inflammation of the stomach lining, GERD or a gastritis ulcer can also cause heavy belching and swallowing too much air, particularly after a meal.
In these cases strong abdominal pain is usually present and swallowing air excessively is a symptom of a more serious problem that needs prompt medical attention.
Slower Eating Means Less Swallowed Air
It’s very beneficial to eat slowly and chew thoroughly. This is extremely important, not just for swallowing air, hiccups and belching, but for proper digestion as well.
Rushing eating and gulping down your food, especially when eating with your mouth open or talking, can send a lot of air into the stomach and lead to abdominal bloating and cramps. Aside from the simple enjoyment of it, there’s a lot of value in taking the time to taste your food properly .
One of the worst things a person could do is rush a meal close to bedtime. Hurried eating is bad enough for digestion and swallowed air. Do this right before bed and you are really asking for trouble with too much air in your stomach and further digestive problems.
Eating slowly, at least two hours before bed, lessens the chances of both swallowed air getting into the digestive tract and wider digestion issues.
What is Aerophagia?
The simple definition of aerophagia is when you swallow too much air into your gastrointestinal tract. The term usually refers to swallowing air subconsciously and at levels high enough to cause gastrointestinal problems.
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, belching or hiccups.
The majority of swallowed air is usually burped back out, but with aerophagia the air may regularly pass from the stomach into the small intestine. When you lie down to sleep at night this amount is likely to increase significantly.
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.
Aerophagia and Anxiety
When you are anxious, nervous or tense you may swallow air without realizing it. Too much caffeine from coffee can contribute to this but stress at work or in personal relationships is also often a factor.
Talking too fast is another stress related behavior that can lead to gulping in breaths through the mouth and swallowing too much air.
High levels of tension and anxiety also increase your breathing rate and can even lead to hyperventilation where you are exhaling more than you inhale and swallowing excessive air.
These kinds of aerophagia usually start subconsciously and are often side effects of other problems that need to be made conscious and addressed.
Slowing down, breathing through the nose and becoming more aware of your breathing in general is a good place to start. This process helps to become aware of problematic behaviors and begin letting go of them.
How to Stop Swallowing Air Subconsciously
A cure for behavioral or subconscious aerophagia usually involves calming down, slowing down and becoming conscious of always breathing through the nose to avoid swallowing air.
A knowledgeable healthcare professional can discuss possible medical treatments but ahead are a few simple suggestions that may help.
4 Unusual Ways to Calm Down
‘Calm down’ is an easy thing to say to someone, so instead, here are 4 tangible things that have helped me personally to relax, let go and get to sleep easily.
- For relaxing, the Gamma meditation is a recording that you listen to with headphones on that will completely transport you away from whatever is stressing you out. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a great reset on a busy day.
- Improving the quality of the air in the room you spend the most time in is a great way to lower elevated cortisol levels associated with both high stress and health problems. I use the true ionic air purifier described here. The high levels of negative ions it produces, similar to the air at the beach or beside a waterfall, definitely helps lower tension and calm your mind.
- The Sedona method is a unique way of letting go and releasing emotions rather than suppressing or expressing them. For something that starts off sounding so simple, it will nothing short of change you life.
- Sleep Soundly by MindSync is not music, but rather gentle running water sounds with embedded frequencies that guide your brainwaves down into the sleep phase. It can be especially useful when there are outside noises when you are trying to sleep as it tends to block out distractions and prevent them from waking you.
A good night’s sleep makes a big difference to preventing aerophagia the following day. When you start the day off already tired it isn’t long before the stress hormones are taking over just to keep you going.
Once you’re getting proper sleep, replacing coffee or cola and its jittery caffeine ‘energy’ can really help as well. Caffeine stays in the body for a surprisingly long time and it’s very hard to be calm and peaceful after a strong coffee.
Consciously Slowing Down
Slowing down is something you really have to be conscious of for a while until it becomes a habit. It’s well worth the effort though.
Try and watch yourself during the day and see all the ways you get yourself to rush around. If you are swallowing too much air then all of this hurried behavior often contributes to the process.
It helps to appreciate that there is a certain energy to it that you may subconsciously be going for. But also recognise that it’s a stressful form of energy that ends up aging you, greying your hair and potentially leading to future health problems.
As an example, I used to always sleep in for as long as I could before getting up for work. As a result, I was often rushing to try and avoid being late. I realized at some point it was the energy of rushing around I was subconsciously going for.
Once I became aware of what I was doing, I could consciously see that the early morning stressful energy was setting me up badly for the rest of the day. I decided to get up 15 minutes earlier and get to work in a more relaxed way.
Simply becoming conscious of slowing down and giving myself more time in the morning, led to a big change in how relaxed and calm I was for the entire day. The tone you set at the start of the day often stays with you for the rest of it.
I’ve found Qigong breathing exercises first thing to be an incredibly beneficial way to start the morning. Whatever you find works best for you, I’d suggest giving yourself the time to start the day in a relaxed way is really important.
Try going to sleep a little earlier and waking a little earlier. That extra 15 – 20 minutes can make a big difference to your stress levels the next day by giving you the chance to slow down and take your time.
This alone may help avoid the type of situations which used to lead to rushing around, increasing your anxiety and subconsciously swallowing air.
Mouth Breathing Vs Nose Breathing
In recent years, many scientists and health care professionals have become interested in the importance of breathing through the nose, rather than the mouth, especially when sleeping.
Excessive mouth breathing during sleep can cause poor uptake of oxygen, deterioration in the muscles of the throat, jaw deformities, respiratory problems, bad breath, gum disease, a weakened immune system, snoring and sleep apnea, and fatigue and poor health in general.
Mouth breathing when sleeping, can be particularly dangerous for those already ill. Researchers have found that the early hours of the morning have a significantly higher mortality rate for sufferers of diseases like angina pectoris, stroke, asthma, seizures, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and coronary spasms.
For someone already in a weakened state, the lack of oxygen from mouth breathing can have a devastating effect on their health. With the exception of during heavy exercise, breathing through the mouth is something you really want to avoid.
If you become aware that you are swallowing air or breathing through your mouth during the day it’s really important to slow down and come back to calmly breathing through the nose and from the diaphragm.
If you’re having trouble remembering to do this, or would just like to improve your breathing in general, it’s worth looking into the Buteyko breathing method. Improving the quality of your breathing is closely related to improving your level of health and well being and the Buteyko breathing method is one of the best ways I’ve found to do this.
Breathing properly through the nose during the day also increases your chances of avoiding mouth breathing when sleeping, which is even more important for your overall well being.
Snoring isn’t just annoying (mouth breathers are much more likely to snore), it’s actually really damaging to your health (and quite likely your relationship too).
This can be an important first step, but ultimately, learning to breathe properly with a method like Buteyko would give a person the best chance to improve their breathing, stop swallowing air, prevent aerophagia and enjoying the calm, stable energy that comes with doing so.
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