While the symptoms of indigestion and burping can be mild, some of the underlying causes can be very serious. The most common causes are gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastritis, and stomach ulcers. GERD occurs when food travels back up the esophagus instead of remaining in the stomach. Gastritis and stomach ulcers are similar in that they both are disorders pertaining to the stomach. Inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining is called gastritis, whereas stomach ulcers are sores produced in the lining.
GERD sufferers may think that they are experiencing acid reflux because both describe the disorder of stomach contents being released into the esophagus. Food is not the only thing to travel up the esophagus, but also bile in some cases. Asthma, obesity, and smoking are just some of the risk factors associated with GERD. GERD symptoms, in addition to indigestion and burping, include vomiting blood, difficulty in swallowing, and chest pain. Treatment for GERD ranges from over-the-counter medications to surgery.
Gastritis occurs when the lining of the stomach swells or becomes irritated. The inflammation results from bacterial overgrowth and infection. Individuals can identify possible gastritis by black stool, bleeding of the rectum, and vomiting along with indigestion and belching. In most cases, gastritis can be treated quite easily, but in rare cases can lead to stomach cancer. Dietary intervention, such as avoiding spicy foods and antacids, is often used to treat gastritis.
Stomach ulcers differ from gastritis because painful sores develop in the stomach lining. Some medications can cause ulcers, such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Often the cause is bacterial infection from a particular strain known as Helicobacter pylori. Individuals with stomach ulcers experience a gnawing pain, but also indigestion and burping issues. Depending on the severity of the pain, stomach ulcers can be treated with antacids, or emergency medical assistance may be needed.
Indigestion and burping are often taken for granted when there should be cause for concern. There are often other symptoms that can accelerate the problem from a mild condition to one that should be cause for serious concern. Severe and chronic pain is an example of a symptom that should be reported to a medical professional. He or she can administer the appropriate tests to diagnose which of these conditions, if any, is the underlying cause. Doctors and other health professionals will often suggest appropriate treatments that target the specific cause rather than the general recommendation of taking an antacid.