Aerophagia, also called aerophagy, is a condition where patients swallow too much air. This air then goes directly to the stomach which can result in a number of complications such as belching, feelings of bloating and abdominal pain.
Symptoms of Aerophagia
• Feeling bloated/full
• Passing Wind
This has many causes and can be a result of a range of lifestyle habits such as chewing gum, drinking carbonated soda drinks, eating too quickly, using CPAP machines (continuous positive airway pressure for sleep apnea patients). Any of these situations can cause you to swallow excessive air and so if you experience the symptoms listed above then you should try to avoid fizzy drinks and chewing gum.
In other cases though the aerophagia can be a symptom of something more permanent such as in 8.8% of cognitively delayed patients where their coordination between swallowing and respiration. It is possible sometimes to treat this with thorazine which is an antipsychotic drug used sometimes to treat hiccups. It can also be a psychosomatic condition where the swallowing of extra air is caused by nervousness or shock – when we are nervous or scared this tends to alter our breathing patterns. Sometimes aerophagia will not have any known cause and normally this results in flatulence rather than belching – the air entering the stomach somewhere other than through the mouth. It can also be a sign of allergies – particularly of lactose intolerance.
In some cases aerophagia can be quite a dangerous side effect – such as in NIV which is ‘Non Invasive Ventilation’ regularly used for the treatment of various respiratory problems and cardiovascular problems. Here the trapped air can be heard by listening with a stethoscope outside the abdominal cavity. If left this can result in gastric distension causing the stomach to inflate and cause the aspiration of the stomach into the lungs, or potentially even rupture the oesophagus due to the build up of air pressure.
There are many remedies for aerophagia that you can use yourself and mostly this will involve altering your lifestyle and diet – i.e. consuming less chewing gum, eating more slowly, eating with your mouth closed and stopping drinking fizzy drinks. At the same time controlling your breathing and particularly when you are nervous can help to prevent the problem. Sometimes we are also prone to taking big ‘gulps’ of air before we start speaking so if this is a habit you are guilty of then try to stop. In cases where it is being caused by treatment such as NIV or CPAP your doctors should be able to diagnose and prevent the problem while you might also want to get tested for allergies such as lactose intolerance. As mentioned the medication thorazine has also been proven to be useful in some instances.