Not being able to burp properly is linked to painful and distressing symptoms

Burping is one habit that might earn us a telling off when we are children, with it considered by many to be both rude and unpleasant. While this might be the case, it is actually an indicator of something going on with our health.

According to a new study, being unable to burp could lead to some painful and isolating side effects, impacting the sufferer’s daily life. Known as retrograde cricopharyngeus dysfunction (R-CPD), the inability to burp is caused by failure of a muscle in the throat to relax to allow the outward passage of gas.

To evaluate the impact of this condition on quality of life a team from Texas Tech University, studied results from 199 affected adults. The results, published in Neurogastroenterology and Motility journal, revealed that sufferers of this condition do have a decreased quality of life.

Most of the participants reported issues such as abdominal bloating, socially awkward gurgling noises, excessive flatulence, and difficulty vomiting. They also noted embarrassment, anxiety/depression, negative impacts on relationships, and work disruption due to the condition.

Lead author and medical student Jason Chen explained: “R-CPD encompasses more than just the physical challenge of being unable to burp; it also significantly impacts people’s daily lives, relationships, and mental wellbeing.

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“Future efforts should concentrate on raising awareness about R-CPD, which can help increase identification and treatment rates.”

Despite the physical and mental strain caused by R-CPD, only half of the participants said they discussed their symptoms with their primary care clinician.

And an overwhelming 90 percent of them felt that they did not receive adequate help from their healthcare providers.

The researchers believe that changing this statistic and educating medical professionals on the topic is key to improving quality of life for sufferers.

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Mr Chen said: “R-CPD is unfamiliar to many healthcare providers, leaving patients underserved.

“It not only affects daily life but also personal and professional relationships.

“Raising awareness by understanding disease basic features may increase diagnosis and treatment rates, improving quality of life.”

Kakubu Karagama, an ear, nose and throat consultant at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, told the BBC that the condition had been “tormenting people for a long time”.

“When you eat something or drink, you have this pain,” he said. “Some patients have to lie down so that the gas will come up, and some people have to stick their finger in their mouth to force themselves to be sick, so that the gas will come out with it.”

He has been using Botox injections, which work by relaxing the cricopharyngeus muscle, to treat the condition since 2016.

This treatment had been “life-changing” for “almost every single patient” on whom he had operated, he claimed.

But this is currently only available as a private procedure.

“You can imagine if I said to you ‘I can’t burp’,” Mr Karagama said. “This is the problem. Most people would laugh at it.

“People don’t understand the physiology of burping.

“A lot of people don’t even know that the symptoms they’re having is because of this condition. The majority of the patients that have presented to my clinic said that they’ve had this all their life.”

According to Yale Medicine, aside from the lifelong inability to burp or belch, symptoms of R-CPD can include:

  • Abdominal and/or chest bloating and pain
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Gurgling noises from the neck and chest
  • Difficulty vomiting or fear of vomiting (emetophobia).

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