Aerophagia (Air Swallowing) Overview Vector

Aerophagia (Air Swallowing): Causes and Treatment (2024)

by | Updated: Jun 1, 2024

Aerophagia, a condition characterized by excessive air swallowing, is often overlooked but can lead to uncomfortable symptoms and potential complications.

While it may seem like a harmless habit, aerophagia can result in bloating, belching, and discomfort, affecting individuals of all ages.

Understanding the causes, symptoms, and potential treatments of aerophagia is essential for effectively managing this condition and improving overall quality of life.

What is Aerophagia?

Aerophagia refers to the condition of swallowing too much air, which usually occurs while eating or drinking. This excess air ends up in the gastrointestinal tract and can lead to symptoms like bloating, burping, abdominal discomfort, and flatulence. It’s often associated with rapid eating or drinking, talking while eating, chewing gum, or drinking carbonated beverages.

In some cases, it might also be linked to certain habits or anxiety-related behaviors. People with conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or those who use CPAP machines might also experience aerophagia.

Aerophagia Air Swallowing into the Stomach Vector Illustration


Aerophagia can be caused by several factors, often related to habits or certain conditions. Here are some common causes:

  • Eating or Drinking Rapidly: Consuming food or drinks too quickly can lead to swallowing excessive amounts of air.
  • Talking While Eating: Engaging in conversation while eating increases the likelihood of inhaling air into the stomach.
  • Chewing Gum or Sucking on Hard Candies: These activities can cause you to swallow more air than usual.
  • Drinking Carbonated Beverages: The bubbles in carbonated drinks like soda or sparkling water introduce extra air into your stomach.
  • Smoking: Inhaling smoke involves drawing in air, which can lead to swallowing it.
  • Improper Fit of Dentures: Ill-fitting dentures can make it difficult to chew properly, leading to increased air swallowing.
  • Anxiety and Stress: People may breathe faster and more irregularly during periods of anxiety, leading to more air being swallowed.
  • Use of CPAP Machines: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines for sleep apnea can sometimes force air into the esophagus and stomach if not properly adjusted.
  • Certain Eating Habits: Some eating styles or habits, like not chewing food thoroughly, can also contribute to swallowing more air.

Note: Addressing these factors often involves behavioral changes or adjustments to eating habits, and in some cases, medical intervention may be necessary to help manage the condition effectively.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of aerophagia primarily involve discomfort related to the digestive system due to the accumulation of excess air.

Here are the key symptoms:

  • Bloating: A feeling of fullness or swelling in the abdomen.
  • Burping: Frequent and sometimes uncontrollable belching.
  • Flatulence: Increased passing of gas.
  • Abdominal Pain: Discomfort or cramping in the abdominal area.
  • Distended Abdomen: Visible swelling of the stomach area.
  • Heartburn: Some individuals might experience heartburn or acid reflux symptoms due to the upward pressure of the trapped air.
  • Gurgling in the Stomach: Audible noises from the abdomen, typically caused by the movement of air through the digestive tract.
  • Difficulty Breathing: In severe cases, the distended abdomen can push against the diaphragm, affecting breathing.

Note: These symptoms can vary in intensity and might be more pronounced after eating or drinking. If these symptoms are persistent or severe, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional to rule out other possible causes and to discuss appropriate management strategies.


Treatment for aerophagia typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes, behavioral modifications, and, in some cases, medical interventions.

Here are some common strategies for managing and treating aerophagia:

  • Eat and Drink Slowly: Take your time while eating and drinking to minimize the amount of air swallowed.
  • Avoid Carbonated Beverages: Reduce or eliminate intake of fizzy drinks to decrease the amount of gas in the stomach.
  • Stop Smoking: If you smoke, quitting can reduce symptoms, as smoking often leads to swallowing air.
  • Chew Food Thoroughly: This helps reduce the need to swallow frequently, which can minimize air intake.
  • Limit Gum Chewing and Hard Candies: These can increase the amount of air you swallow.
  • Avoid Talking While Eating: Try to eat quietly without conversing to decrease the likelihood of swallowing air.
  • Manage Stress and Anxiety: Since anxiety can increase the rate and depth of breathing, managing stress through techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or counseling can be beneficial.
  • Check Dentures: If you wear dentures, make sure they fit properly. Poorly fitting dentures can cause you to swallow more air.
  • Adjust CPAP Machines: If you use a CPAP machine, ensure it is properly adjusted to prevent air from being pushed into the stomach.
  • Dietary Changes: Some people may find relief by adjusting their diet to avoid foods that produce excess gas or trigger gastrointestinal symptoms.

In cases where behavioral and lifestyle changes do not alleviate symptoms, it may be necessary to consult with a healthcare provider.

They can rule out other conditions that might mimic or exacerbate aerophagia, such as gastrointestinal disorders. In some instances, medications that reduce gas or treat underlying conditions like acid reflux may also be prescribed.

Aerophagia vs. Indigestion

Aerophagia and indigestion are both gastrointestinal conditions but differ significantly in their causes and symptoms.

Aerophagia involves the swallowing of excessive amounts of air, which leads to symptoms such as bloating, burping, flatulence, and abdominal discomfort primarily due to the physical presence of air in the digestive tract.

In contrast, indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, generally arises from difficulties in digesting food and can include symptoms like heartburn, nausea, a feeling of fullness, and upper abdominal pain. These symptoms result from issues such as acid reflux, stomach ulcers, or gastritis, rather than from excess air.

Note: While both conditions can cause discomfort and bloating, the underlying mechanisms and specific symptoms differ, guiding distinct approaches in management and treatment.

FAQs About Aerophagia

Is Aerophagia Bad for You?

Aerophagia is not typically harmful in the long-term sense, but it can cause significant discomfort and interfere with daily life.

The primary issues include bloating, burping, and abdominal pain, which, while not dangerous, can be bothersome and negatively impact quality of life.

Is Aerophagia Permanent?

Aerophagia is not usually a permanent condition. It often results from specific behaviors or habits that can be modified, such as eating too quickly or talking while eating.

By addressing these behaviors, most people can significantly reduce or eliminate the symptoms of aerophagia.

What are the Risk Factors for Aerophagia?

Risk factors for aerophagia include rapid eating or drinking, talking while eating, using straws, chewing gum, smoking, wearing poorly fitting dentures, and experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety.

Certain medical devices, like CPAP machines for sleep apnea, can also contribute to the condition.

How Do You Stop Aerophagia?

Stopping aerophagia involves behavioral changes to reduce the amount of air swallowed. These changes include eating and drinking slowly, avoiding talking while eating, reducing the consumption of carbonated beverages, and quitting smoking.

Additionally, managing stress and ensuring any dentures or CPAP machines are properly fitted can also help alleviate symptoms.

Is Aerophagia Caused by Anxiety?

Yes, anxiety can be a contributing factor to aerophagia. Anxiety often leads to changes in breathing patterns, such as taking quicker, shallower breaths, which can result in swallowing more air.

Stress management and anxiety reduction techniques can be beneficial in reducing symptoms of aerophagia in affected individuals.

Does Acid Reflux Cause Aerophagia?

Acid reflux does not cause aerophagia; rather, the relationship is typically the other way around.

Swallowing excess air can lead to increased belching, which may promote acid reflux by repeatedly relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to escape into the esophagus.

Does Aerophagia Cause Heartburn?

Aerophagia itself does not directly cause heartburn, but it can exacerbate conditions like acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which are primary causes of heartburn.

The excess air swallowed can increase stomach pressure and lead to more frequent reflux of stomach contents, including acid, into the esophagus.

Does Aerophagia Cause Belching?

Yes, aerophagia commonly causes belching. Swallowing excess air leads to air accumulating in the stomach, which the body expels through belching.

Frequent and sometimes uncontrollable belching is one of the most noticeable symptoms of aerophagia.

Can Aerophagia Cause Back Pain?

Aerophagia is not typically associated directly with back pain. However, severe bloating and abdominal distension caused by swallowed air can lead to discomfort that may affect posture or strain the back indirectly.

Generally, back pain would be considered an uncommon symptom directly linked to aerophagia.

Can Aerophagia Cause Chest Pain?

Yes, aerophagia can sometimes cause chest pain. The swallowed air can lead to significant bloating and gas, which might create pressure in the stomach that pushes against the diaphragm, potentially causing pain or discomfort in the chest area.

Can Aerophagia Cause Constipation?

Aerophagia does not directly cause constipation. While the primary symptoms involve the upper digestive tract, such as bloating and belching, it does not typically affect bowel movements or lead to constipation.

If someone experiences constipation along with symptoms of aerophagia, other digestive conditions might be at play.

What Happens if Too Much Air Goes Down the Esophagus?

When too much air goes down the esophagus, it typically leads to symptoms like belching and bloating as the body attempts to expel the excess air. This can cause discomfort and sometimes pain due to the distension of the stomach.

In more severe cases, it might exacerbate symptoms of acid reflux or GERD by increasing pressure within the stomach and forcing stomach contents back up the esophagus.

Is Aerophagia Life-Threatening?

Aerophagia is generally not considered life-threatening. It primarily causes discomfort and inconvenience due to symptoms like bloating, burping, and abdominal pain.

However, it’s important to manage the condition effectively to maintain quality of life and avoid exacerbating other digestive issues.

When to See a Doctor for Aerophagia?

You should consider seeing a doctor for aerophagia if the symptoms are persistent, severe, or causing significant discomfort and disruption to daily activities.

Additionally, if you’ve attempted lifestyle and behavioral changes without improvement, or if you experience other symptoms such as severe pain, difficulty swallowing, or significant weight loss, professional medical advice is recommended to rule out other underlying conditions.

Final Thoughts

Aerophagia is a condition that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life if left untreated.

By recognizing the symptoms and addressing the underlying causes, individuals can effectively manage and alleviate the discomfort associated with air swallowing.

Seeking medical advice and adopting lifestyle changes can be instrumental in mitigating the effects of this condition and promoting overall well-being.

John Landry, BS, RRT

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.