Air Swallowing – Causes, Treatment

Swallowing air

Aerophagia is an excess of air in the gastrointestinal tract , which is associated with chronic stomach cramps , flatulence and, more rarely, shortness of breath . This is usually caused by swallowing air with increased mouth breathing or chewing, swallowing and speaking too quickly.

In most cases, aerophagia is harmless and is treated with breathing and speech training, but severe aerophagia can also rupture the esophagus due to the changed air pressure conditions in the stomach.

What is air swallowing?

Aerophagia is a disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Typical symptoms include abdominal pain , stomach cramps, bloating and increased belching. Patients often also experience a persistent feeling of fullness or even shortness of breath. The cause of these symptoms is an excess of air in the digestive system, which sometimes puts uncomfortable pressure on the lungs, which explains the feeling of shortness of breath.

Excess air in the stomach occurs when the patient swallows excessive amounts of air. To a certain extent, swallowing air is normal and has no consequences whatsoever. Excess air is then expelled via burping. Too large amounts of air can no longer be regulated by mere belching. Above a certain amount of air, oxygen gets into the small intestine , which can result in painful gastrointestinal cramps and chronic flatulence.


One of the most common causes of aerophagia is a stuffy nose or other airway problem that forces the patient to breathe through the mouth. While breathing through the nose does not get air masses into the stomach, mouth breathing sometimes swallows large amounts of air, which can lead to painful accumulations of oxygen in the small intestine. Food intake can also be the cause of aerophagia.

For example, if you eat or drink too quickly, you swallow a lot of air. People who drink a lot of carbonated drinks are particularly at risk. If you also like chewing gum, particularly large amounts of air collect in the stomach, which penetrate into the small intestine. Sometimes aerography occurs when a patient speaks too fast.

Another cause can be poorly fitting dentures. Sometimes, however, aerophagia is a concomitant symptom of another disease. In particular, allergy sufferers with lactose intolerance often suffer from the phenomenon.

diseases with this symptom

    • three-month colic

Diagnosis & History

Actual aerophagia is only referred to when the patient suffers from persistent symptoms. If individual symptoms of the above only occur sporadically, then it is probably not the phenomenon, but a normal regulatory phenomenon of the gastrointestinal tract.

Anyone who continuously suffers from flatulence and stomach cramps within a year but for three months , for example, may be affected by aerophagia. The doctor makes the diagnosis mainly on the basis of the anamnesis, which gives him important information about the patient’s individual eating and speech behavior. Under certain circumstances, the doctor excludes other clinical pictures using differential diagnostic methods and confirms the diagnosis of aerophagia by listening to the patient with a stethoscope.

In most cases, aerophagia are not further threatening in their course. Only in extreme cases do variants of the disease occur that cause the esophagus to rupture due to the greatly increased air pressure in the stomach. Such extreme cases can occasionally occur if the patient fails to take any measures to prevent air swallowing after a diagnosed aerophagia.


In principle, swallowing air is an extremely unpleasant but harmless symptom. However, complications can also arise when swallowing air. In general, all the consequences of swallowing air can be considered a “complication” in a broader sense. This usually leads to more or less severe abdominal pain and quite severe flatulence.

These symptoms are usually a burden for the patient. Sometimes there is a strong feeling of discomfort. However, if the swallowing of air is very pronounced, it can lead to serious complications that can endanger the health and sometimes even the life of the patient. In small children in particular, there is a risk of intestinal obstruction in the context of severe air swallowing. Such is to be regarded as life-threatening and requires immediate treatment in the hospital.

Another possible complication that can occur in extreme cases is tearing of the esophagus. This complication, which is also life-threatening, occurs when large quantities of air are swallowed, which puts great pressure on the esophagus, which it can ultimately no longer withstand. In addition, severe flatulence, which often occurs when swallowing air, can lead to shortness of breath.

When should you go to the doctor?

It is perfectly normal to swallow air when eating or drinking. Therefore, it is not necessary to consult a doctor. Those affected can chew more consciously and more slowly and should avoid carbonated drinks.

However, unintentional swallowing of air can lead to such amounts of air in the abdominal cavity that the abdomen is severely bloated. The person concerned has the feeling that his heart is being crushed. Self-treatment with Lefax, fennel or caraway tea can be done here. But it is better if the doctor investigates the causes of the increased air swallowing. Aerophagia can cause severe discomfort, bloating, and chronic gastrointestinal distress in adults.

Especially when this phenomenon occurs in children, it can lead to serious complications. If children keep complaining about abdominal pain, a visit to the pediatrician should therefore be considered. Air swallowing can be so dramatic in children that it can cause gastric volvulus, intestinal obstruction, or difficulty breathing. If you suspect such consequences, you must act immediately. Without timely medical intervention, life can be in danger.

The doctor can test affected adults for food intolerances. He can question diet, drinking and eating habits. The physician should also rule out psychosomatic reasons for swallowing air. In the worst case, swallowing air can tear the esophagus in adults.

Treatment & Therapy

Treating air swallowing is a causal one. During therapy, the patient learns to give up the very habits that caused the excess air in the stomach. One starting point is, for example, learning to chew and swallow slowly and with your mouth completely closed. In individual cases, a change in diet may be indicated. Carbonated drinks, coffee and chewing gum, for example, will be eliminated as part of this.

Incorrect speech habits can be adjusted in speech therapy if they are related to excess air in the digestive tract. The therapy is often accompanied by breathing exercises designed to relax the patient. On the other hand, the patient gets to know nasal breathing during these exercises. Yoga practices are sometimes used for the purpose of breathing exercises.

If the air swallowing is related to medical devices or dental implants, the therapy responsible for the excess air may be replaced or switched. Herbal teas such as fennel or chamomile are often used to relieve the acute symptoms . Appropriate medication can possibly regulate gas formation in the intestinal tract.

In rare cases, the administration of sedatives accompanies the course of therapy. This measure is necessary, for example, for severely frightened patients or people with mental disabilities.

Outlook & Forecast

Air swallowing is a relatively harmless symptom. It has no medical effect on the human body, but it can be very uncomfortable for the patient. In most cases, swallowing air causes severe gas, abdominal pain, and severe belching after eating.

The flatulence often puts pressure on the lungs , which can lead to breathing difficulties . However, this is relatively rare. This disease is physiological in babies and young children. The affected person feels bloated and suffers from very severe flatulence. Such flatulence can be very uncomfortable, especially in a social setting, and lead to social problems.

Usually, the problem can be easily treated as it is caused by improper diet and breathing technique. The treatment should definitely be carried out together with a doctor so that the air swallowing disappears. As a rule, air swallowing occurs primarily in stressful situations, and talking to a psychologist can be helpful in analyzing these situations. The treatment can also be carried out with medication, whereby these primarily prevent and combat flatulence after swallowing air. The air swallowing itself must be treated by the patient.


Swallowing air can be prevented by chewing slowly and swallowing with the mouth closed. Deliberately speaking slowly is also a suitable preventive measure. When it comes to diet, avoiding carbonated drinks serves as a precautionary measure.

Relaxation practices and conscious nasal breathing can also help to avoid the disease. It may also be necessary to clarify allergies, since lactose intolerance, for example, can be identified, which can play an increased role in the development of aerophagia.

You can do that yourself

If someone has trouble swallowing air, they should take action. The lack of air balance may be due to incorrect eating habits or an excess of carbonated drinks. Lack of exercise can also play a role, because a sluggish intestine cannot expel too much air.

The first thing to do is to check your eating habits and find out why you are swallowing too much air. The eater may be stressed or distracted while wolfing down the food. In this case, slowing down eating and conscious chewing can bring about an improvement. Eating mindfully often helps. Those affected by aerophagia should preferably drink still water.

If you suspect you have swallowed too much air again, a gentle abdominal massage can bring relief. A walk after each meal stimulates intestinal peristalsis. Those affected can provide short-term relief with fennel tea . If air swallowing becomes a psychological problem, a doctor should be consulted.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.