Aerophagia: Definition, Symptoms & Causes

Instructor: Kirstyn Wade

Kirstyn is a registered nurse and has a master's degree in Nursing Education. She has taught college Nursing courses.

Aerophagia is a condition that involves swallowing too much air into the stomach. In this lesson, you'll learn about the exact definition of aerophagia, the symptoms, and possible causes.

Abdominal Discomfort

Tim has recently been having some abdominal discomfort. He has been feeling bloated, and having to burp more frequently. While this isn't causing him to miss work, or stop doing his normal activities, he is finding it to be quite a nuisance. He decides to make an appointment with his primary care doctor to learn more about what might be causing this issue.

A patient presenting with abdominal discomfort.
Abdominal Discomfort

What is Aerophagia?

After meeting with his doctor, Tim finds out he has a condition called aerophagia, also called aerophagy. Aerophagia is when a person swallows too much air, and this air gets into the stomach. Patients with aerophagia swallow so much excess air that it can cause symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Aerophagia?

When excessive amounts of air enter the stomach, it either has to go back out through the mouth, or it enters the intestines. When the air is vented back out, it results in burping or belching symptoms. If air enters the intestines, it can cause abdominal bloating and distention.

Aerophagia can also cause increased flatulence and acid reflux as well. In extreme cases, the amount of air could be enough to cause a gastric volvulus, ileus, or respiratory problems. A gastric volvulus is when the stomach rotates more than 180 degrees causing an obstruction and strangulation of the gastric tissue. This becomes a medical emergency and surgery must be performed.

An ileus occurs when there's a lack of movement in the intestinal tissue, causing a blockage of materials trying to pass through the digestive tract. When food can't pass through the digestive tract, it causes an obstruction in which no food, liquid, or gas can get through. Without treatment, an ileus has the potential to perforate the intestine, which can be fatal.

What Causes Aerophagia?

Aerophagia can occur on its own, or it can be a symptom of another disorder. Aerophagia is sometimes caused by chewing too much gum, drinking lots of carbonated beverages, eating too fast, or using CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines at night. CPAP machines are used for individuals with sleep apnea, which is when a person's normal breathing pattern is stopped during sleep. This can be caused by a variety of issues, but a CPAP machine helps keep the airway open by maintaining enough pressure in the throat so the airway itself does not collapse. In all of these instances, individuals are at risk of swallowing air.

CPAP Machine
CPAP Machine

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