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Anxiety Aerophagia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, FAQ

Marilyn Folk author
Written by: Marilyn Folk, BScN
Last updated: March 2, 2021


aerophagia and anxiety symptoms

Aerophagia is a medical term used to describe excessive air swallowing.

While we all ingest some air when we eat, talk, breathe, swallow, or laugh, Aerophagia occurs when we take in too much air.

Taking in too much air can cause numerous gastrointestinal symptoms, which can cause and aggravate many digestive-related anxiety symptoms.


Common Anxiety Aerophagia Symptoms

  • You have unusual stomach gas, distention, or bloating.
  • You have frequent belching.
  • You have a bloated or swollen belly.
  • You get pain or shooting pains radiating from the stomach, chest, or abdomen.
  • You feel like you have air bubbling up in your throat.
  • You feel an uncharacteristic air pressure on your throat, which seems to be coming from your stomach.
  • Esophageal air gurgling.
  • Heartburn.
  • You have excessive flatulence.

This symptom can occur in one type of symptom only, can change and cause another type, and involve many or all types of symptoms.

This symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you might have this symptom once in a while and not that often, have it off and on, or have it all the time.

This symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety symptoms or occur by itself.

This symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress or occur “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.

This symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This symptom can change from day to day and from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, or Hyperstimulation Test.

The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including Aerophagia symptoms.



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Why Anxiety Causes Aerophagia

Medical Advisory

We recommend all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms be discussed with your doctor as there are medical conditions and medications that can cause anxiety-like symptoms.

If you've done that and your doctor has attributed your symptoms solely to anxiety or stress, you can be confident there isn't a medical or medication cause.

Most people swallow about two quarts of air a day just eating, drinking, and swallowing, which is expelled by burping or flatulence.

Common ways we take in air include:

  • Eating too fast
  • Chewing gum
  • Talking while eating
  • Drinking through a straw
  • Eating hard candies
  • Smoking
  • Drinking carbonated beverages
  • Mouth breathing
  • Rigorous exercise
  • Ill-fitting dentures
  • Gulping fluids

Research has also found that stress, including anxiety-caused stress, and emotional swings, can cause and aggravate Aerophagia.[1][2][3]

Here’s why:

1. Anxiety

Anxious behavior, which creates anxiety, activates the stress response, causing many body-wide changes that give the body an emergency “boost” of energy and resources when we believe we could be in danger.

This survival reaction is often referred to as the fight or flight response.[4][5]

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about the many changes caused by the stress response.

Some of these changes include:

  • Reduces saliva for some people, causing a dry mouth. A dry mouth can increase swallowing, capturing more air into the stomach.
  • Increases saliva for some people, causing an increase in swallowing and capturing more air into the stomach.
  • Increases respiration, which can cause an increase in mouth-breathing and swallowing more air into the stomach.
  • Reduces digestive enzymes and increases hydrochloric acid, which can cause hunger pains, increased saliva, and increased swallowing, capturing more air into the stomach.

To name a few.

Any one or combination of these stress changes can cause and aggravate Aerophagia.

Many anxious people have digestive problems due to anxiety, which can include symptoms due to anxiety-caused Aerophagia.

2. Chronic stress (hyperstimulation)

The body can recover relatively quickly after the stress response ends.

However, when stress responses occur too frequently, such as due to overly anxious behavior, the body can’t complete recovery.

Incomplete recovery can create a state of semi-stress response readiness. We call this state “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are stimulants.

Hyperstimulation is also often referred to as “hyperarousal,” “HPA axis dysfunction,” or “nervous system dysregulation.”[6][7]

Hyperstimulation can cause the changes of an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated.

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about the many ways hyperstimulation can affect the body and how we feel.

Many anxious people develop stomach problems and symptoms due to hyperstimulation-related Aerophagia.

Furthermore, prolonged hyperstimulation and Aerophagia can cause persistent digestive system problems, which can lead to chronic stomach and digestive symptoms.

3. Behavior

Habituated behavior can also cause episodes of Aerophagia.

For instance, some anxious people develop an unconscious habit of air swallowing, especially when they are nervous or overly anxious.

4. Other Factors

Associated with anxiety, there are other factors that can cause and aggravate Aerophagia and other anxiety symptoms, such as:

Medication

Side effects of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can mimic, cause, or aggravate anxiety symptoms.

Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you are unsure if your medication is playing a role in your symptoms, including Aerophagia.

Recreational Drugs

Many recreational drugs affect the nervous system, which can cause and aggravate anxiety symptoms, including Aerophagia-aggravated stomach problems.

Stimulants

Stimulants bring about their stimulating effect by causing the secretion of stress hormones and other chemicals into the bloodstream, stimulating the body.

Increasing stress hormone secretion can cause and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, including aerophagia and stomach problems, since stress hormones fuel anxiety symptoms.

Sleep Deprivation

Going without adequate sleep can affect the body in many ways, such as:

  • It prevents the body from sufficiently refreshing itself
  • Stresses the nervous system
  • Impairs brain function
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Increases blood sugar
  • Increases moodiness
  • Increases cortisol secretion to compensate for feeling tired (cortisol is a powerful stress hormone)

These effects can cause and aggravate anxiety symptoms, including stomach symptoms brought on by Aerophagia.

Low Blood Sugar

Even if low within the normal range, low blood sugar can cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, such as stomach problems caused by Aerophagia.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies, such as low vitamin B and D, to name two, can also cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, including Aerophagia.

Hormone Changes

Hormones affect the body in many ways. A change in hormones can cause many anxiety-like symptoms, as well as aggravate existing anxiety disorder symptoms.



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How To Get Rid Of Anxiety Aerophagia

When Aerophagia is caused by other factors, addressing the cause can help alleviate it.

When Aerophagia is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, it will subside as the stress response ends.

Keep in mind, it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. This is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When Aerophagia is caused by hyperstimulation, reducing and eliminating hyperstimulation will reduce and eliminate hyperstimulation-related Aerophagia.

However, eliminating hyperstimulation can take much longer than most people think. It’s common for symptoms of hyperstimulation to linger as long as the body is hyperstimulated.

Furthermore, hyperstimulation can cause multiple types of stomach and digestive problems, affecting and aggravating each other.

For instance, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is often caused and aggravated by anxiety and hyperstimulation. IBS can also irritate stomach problems caused by Aerophagia.

Nevertheless, eliminating hyperstimulation will eliminate anxiety-caused Aerophagia.

You can reduce and eliminate hyperstimulation by:

  • containing worry
  • reducing stress
  • increasing rest
  • regular deep relaxation
  • regular light to moderate exercise
  • regular good sleep
  • eating a diet of whole and natural foods.

To name a few.

Short-term Remedies

Even though eliminating hyperstimulation will eliminate hyperstimulation-caused Aerophagia, some people have found the following strategies helpful.

However, keep in mind that each person can have a unique symptom experience since each person is somewhat physically, chemically, psychologically, and emotionally unique. What might work for one person might not for another.

  • Sit down, relax, and give yourself more time to eat. More relaxed eating, rather than being in a hurry, can reduce swallowing excessive air.
  • Take smaller bites.
  • Take smaller sips of fluids.
  • Chew slower and thoroughly.
  • Eat with your mouth closed.
  • Don’t talk while you eat.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages.
  • Avoid sucking on hard candies.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Avoid chewing gum or excessive gum chewing.
  • Have your dentures properly fitted.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Slow down your lifestyle so that your body can slow down overall.
  • Increase rest.
  • Get regular good sleep.
  • Avoid stimulants.
  • Learn stress and anxiety-reducing breathing techniques, such as controlled diaphragmatic breathing, which can soothe the Vagus nerve and promote good digestive health.
  • Learn to relax your body at every opportunity.
  • Take antacids if the problem becomes severe.
  • Address your stress and anxiety issues.

Therapy

Therapy is the most effective way to overcome anxiety disorder and its symptoms since unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors are the number one reason why anxiety disorder and its symptoms persist. [8][9][10]

Dealing with your anxiety issues (Level Two recovery) is the most important work if you want meaningful results.

If you have difficulty containing, becoming unafraid of your symptoms, eliminating your symptoms, overcoming your anxiety issues, or having what seems like out-of-control worry, working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the best way to attain success.

All of our recommended therapists have personally experienced anxiety disorder and have overcome it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder combined with their Master's Degree and above professional training makes them a good choice when wanting to overcome anxiety disorder and its symptoms.

Nutrition Science Practitioner

When stomach and digestive symptoms become chronic, such as bloating, belching, stomach distention, upset stomach, stomach pains, and other gastrointestinal problems, they can upset the entire digestive system.

This upsetness can lead to a host of other digestive system problems and symptoms. In this case, they can be stubborn to turn around without professional help.

Working with a professional Nutrition Science Practitioner, such as Liliana Tosic, might be required.

Moreover, sometimes anxiety-related digestive problems can lead to or trigger other digestive problems, such as leaky gut. Here again, working with a Nutrition Science Practitioner can help you return your digestive system to healthy function.

An experienced Nutrition Science Practitioner can be extremely helpful when the digestive system is experiencing chronic problems and symptoms.

For instance, a temporary change in diet and eating habits could be all that is required to return an upset digestive system to normal and healthy function.

When To See A Doctor

It’s wise to have another conversation with your doctor if your Aerophagia and its symptoms persist or worsen despite treatment.

Prevalence

How common is this symptom? In an online poll we conducted, 62 percent of respondents said they experienced this symptom because of their struggle with anxiety. As you can see, Aerophagia is a common anxiety symptom.



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Aerophagia Frequent Questions

What causes Aerophagia?

Aerophagia occurs when we swallow excessive air due to eating too quickly, gulping drinks, excessive swallowing, talking, laughing, breathing, chewing gum, sucking on hard candies, or rigorous exercise that causes rapid breathing, to name a few.

Visit the “Causes” section in this article for more information.

Can anxiety cause Aerophagia?

Yes, anxiety can cause Aerophagia due to how anxiety affects the body, such as increasing or decreasing saliva secretion, increased respiration, increased hydrochloric acid secretion, and how anxiety affects the stomach.

Visit the “Causes” section in this article for more information.

Can Aerophagia cause upset stomach symptoms?

Yes, excessive air swallowing is a common cause of stomach distress and symptoms, such as frequent belching, distention, bloating, nausea, heartburn, and radiating pain from the abdomen.

Visit the “Symptoms” section in this article for more information.

How do you stop Aerophagia?

There are many ways to stop Aerophagia, such as:

  • Sit down, relax, and give yourself more time to eat. More relaxed eating, rather than being in a hurry, can reduce swallowing excessive air.
  • Take smaller bites.
  • Take smaller sips of fluids.
  • Chew slower and thoroughly.
  • Eat with your mouth closed.
  • Don’t talk while you eat.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages.
  • Avoid sucking on hard candies.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Avoid chewing gum or excessive gum chewing.
  • Have your dentures properly fitted.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Slow down your lifestyle so that your body can slow down overall.
  • Increase rest.
  • Get regular good sleep.
  • Avoid stimulants.
  • Learn stress and anxiety-reducing breathing techniques, such as controlled diaphragmatic breathing, which can soothe the Vagus nerve and promote good digestive health.
  • Learn to relax your body at every opportunity.
  • Take antacids if the problem becomes severe.
  • Address your stress and anxiety issues.

Visit the “Treatment” section in this article for more information.

Is Aerophagia bad?

Anxiety-related Aerophagia isn’t bad in itself. Many anxious people experience Aerophagia and its symptoms. However, prolonged Aerophagia can cause lingering gastrointestinal problems that may require medical or nutritional assistance.

It’s always wise to talk with your doctor about any new, changing, persistent, or returning anxiety symptom.

Can Aerophagia cause anxiety?

If you are worried about Aerophagia and its symptoms, yes, Aerophagia can cause anxiety since worry is a behavior that creates anxiety. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist can help you address worry-caused anxiety.

Visit the “Therapy” section in this article for more information.

Is Aerophagia dangerous?

Anxiety-related Aerophagia isn’t dangerous in itself. Many anxious people experience Aerophagia and its symptoms. However, prolonged Aerophagia can cause persistent gastrointestinal problems that may require medical or nutritional assistance.

It’s always wise to talk with your doctor if your symptoms persist or worsen.

Can Aerophagia cause shortness of breath?

Yes! Aerophagia can cause shortness of breath because of how it can affect the digestive system. Many people who have stomach and digestive problems and symptoms also experience episodes of shortness of breath.

It’s wise to discuss episodes of shortness of breath with your doctor to ensure there isn’t another medical or medication cause.

How do I stop myself from swallowing air anxiety?

There are many ways to stop yourself from swallowing excessive air due to anxiety, such as slowing down your breathing, containing anxious behavior, slowing down your talking, relaxing when you eat, relaxing your body overall, and so on.

If you are having difficulty managing your anxiety, we recommend connecting with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist to help you overcome your anxiety issues.

Visit the “Therapy” section in this article for more information.



The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


Additional Resources:


Return to Anxiety Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Aerophragia anxiety symptoms.


REFERENCES:

1. Appleby, Brian S., et al. "Aerophagia as the Initial Presenting Symptom of a Depressed Patient." Primary Care Companion To The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1560900/

2. Bredennord, A.J., et al. "Aerophagia, gastric, and supragastric belching: a study using intraluminal electrical impedance monitoring." British Medical Journal, https://gut.bmj.com/content/53/11/1561

3. Chitkara, D.K., et al. "Aerophagia in adults: a comparison with functional dyspepsia." Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 14 Oct 2005, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2005.02651.x

4. "The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis." DUJS Online. N.p., 03 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 May 2016.

5. Godoy, Livea, et al. "A Comprehensive Overview on Stress Neurobiology: Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications." Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, July 2018. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00127/full

6. Elbers, Jorina, et al. "Wired for Threat: Clinical Features of Nervous System Dysregulation in 80 Children." Pediatric Neurology, Dec 2018, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0887899418302716

7. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4373764/.

8. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3584580/.

9. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017, jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2654783.

10. DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change.