Read below about regurgitation, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your regurgitation from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Burping up food
Reflux

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Regurgitation Symptoms

You've just enjoyed a fabulous meal. You were presented with a magnificent selection of desserts and enjoyed your fair share of each. But then, it happens. You try and stop it but you're powerless. You regurgitate.

Our fictional story puts a lighter spin on the condition, but for those who suffer from it, regurgitation is no laughing matter. Regurgitation is the term used to describe food or liquid moving back up from the stomach and exiting the mouth with minimal effort and nausea [1, 3].

Regurgitation symptoms include:

Regurgitation is embarrassing but more importantly, repeated episodes can cause considerable damage to the delicate tissue in the throat [1, 3]. Finding the cause of your regurgitation symptoms is important for effective treatment.

Regurgitation Causes Overview

In some cases of consistent regurgitation, there is no known cause [1, 3]. However, there are several syndromes and conditions that could be behind the issue. Browse through some of the most common believed causes to see if you can find a link.

Unknown regurgitation causes:

  • Rumination: This is an uncommon condition where regurgitation occurs daily and after every meal. Its cause is unknown. It's more likely in infants and those with developmental disabilities [4].

Dysfunctions that cause regurgitation:

  • Digestive issues: The most common explanation for regurgitation symptoms related to dysfunction is a digestive issue. GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is probably the most common but there are others [2, 5].
  • Anatomy issues: Another common dysfunction is related to the esophageal sphincter [6]. If its tonicity is anything other than normal, regurgitation is a common side effect.

Disorders that cause regurgitation:

  • Multiple sclerosis: There are a variety of disorders and conditions that can lead to regurgitation. Because of a lack of muscle control, multiple sclerosis is one [7].
  • Parkinson's disease: Though not the first symptom of the disease, regurgitation is not unheard of in those diagnosed with Parkinson's disease [8].

It can be difficult to determine the cause behind your regurgitation on your own. Keep track of your symptoms and episodes and make an appointment with your doctor to narrow down potential causes and begin developing a treatment plan.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Regurgitation

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced regurgitation. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Acid Reflux Disease (Gerd)

    Acid reflux disease, also known as GERD, occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach come back up into the esophagus. The most common symptoms are heartburn and regurgitation.

    With proper treatment, symptoms may be relieved within days & at most several weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, sore throat, pain below the ribs, cough with dry or watery sputum, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Rumination Syndrome

    Rumination is described by effortless burping up food or liquids (regurgitation) which hasn't been digested yet. There is no structural underlying cause and rumination is often referred to as being a behavioral disorder. In most cases, people with rumination syndrome do not experience nausea.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    regurgitation, mental disability
    Symptoms that always occur with rumination syndrome:
    regurgitation
    Symptoms that never occur with rumination syndrome:
    retching, vomiting (old) blood or passing tarry stools
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Barrett's Esophagus

    Barrett esophagus is a condition in which the tissue lining the esophagus changes. These changes occur after longstanding gastro-esophageal reflux. Symptoms of gastro-esophageal reflux can be regurgitation, heartburn. Barretts esophagus is associated with a risk of developing malignant esophageal disease.

    This is likely a lifelong condition for which surveillance is necessary.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, regurgitation, heartburn, sore throat, dry cough
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Indigestion (Dyspepsia)

    Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a condition that causes pain or discomfort in the stomach after eating. In some cases, indigestion also causes heartburn, burping, and nausea. Indigestion or dyspepsia is a very common complaint. Every year, about 1 in every 4 people will experience an episode of dyspepsia, of which most cases do not have a serious underlying cause.

    These symptoms are likely to resolve, if they persist you should discuss this with your primary care physician.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, stomach bloating, dyspeptic symptoms, bloating after meals, vomiting
    Symptoms that always occur with indigestion (dyspepsia):
    dyspeptic symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with indigestion (dyspepsia):
    vomiting (old) blood or passing tarry stools, rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, fever
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

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  5. 5.Chronic Gastritis

    Chronic gastritis is longterm inflammation of your stomach. If it doesn't go away, this can become an ulcer. Causes include taking a medication that affects the stomach, an infection by a bug called, "H. Pylori", or your immune system reacting to yourself

    With appropriate treatment, prognosis is very good.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, moderate abdominal pain, mild abdominal pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Functional Dyspepsia / Indigestion

    Indigestion, also known as dyspepsia, is a condition that causes pain or discomfort in the stomach after eating. In some cases, indigestion also causes heartburn, burping, and nausea. Indigestion or dyspepsia is a very common complaint and in most cases there is no serious underlying cause. This is when doctors call it 'functional'.

    Symptoms of indigestion often come and go and may be chronic. Usually treatment includes medicines that neutralize or diminish stomach acid production or medicines that relief nausea.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, nausea, dyspeptic symptoms, bloating after meals, vomiting
    Symptoms that always occur with functional dyspepsia/indigestion:
    dyspeptic symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with functional dyspepsia/indigestion:
    vomiting (old) blood or passing tarry stools, rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Condition Causing Black or Brown Vomit

    Vomiting coffee-ground like materials suggest that there is a slow bleed in the stomach. The blood turns black after some time in the stomach. You should see a doctor immediately!

    MISSING

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    black or brown vomit, severe pelvis pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  8. 8.Acute Gastritis

    Acute gastritis is the sudden onset of nausea, vomiting, and/or upper abdominal pain that's caused by inflammation of your stomach lining. If it doesn't go away, this can become an ulcer. Causes include taking a medication that affects the stomach, an infection by a bug called, "H. Pylori", or your immune system reacting to yourself.

    Prognosis is great with the appropriate treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea or vomiting, nausea, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, mild abdominal pain
    Symptoms that never occur with acute gastritis:
    fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Regurgitation Treatments and Relief

If left untreated, regurgitation can lead to serious complications. Unless you have an isolated episode, keep track of your episodes to relay accurate information to your doctor.

Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • You're unable to keep any food or liquid down
  • You're experiencing severe stomach pain
  • You believe your regurgitation is related to something serious [1, 9]

But for most, scheduling an appointment with your regular doctor at your earliest convenience is safe.

In the meantime, try these regurgitation treatments to lower the number of episodes you're having.

  • Lose weight: Even if you're just a few pounds overweight, losing anything excessive can reduce abdomen pressure and prevent gastric juices from traveling upwards.
  • Adjust your diet: Avoid certain types of foods, including anything fatty, spicy, or acidic. Coffee and carbonated beverages should also be avoided.
  • Avoid alcohol: Water is best when it comes to fighting regurgitation. Alcohol should be extremely limited or completely avoided.
  • Wear loose clothing: Avoid wearing tight pants or belts. You want the clothing around your stomach to be as loose as possible while still feeling confident in your style [2, 10].

Keep in mind that most of these are related to preventing GERD symptoms, a common cause of regurgitation symptoms. They might not work for all causes.

For some, regurgitation is just an embarrassing part of life that happens on occasion. For others, it seriously affects their day to day activities and makes a normal life almost impossible. While there may not be a treatment plan that fits everyone, there are steps you can take to lessen your chances of experiencing a regurgitation episode.

FAQs About Regurgitation

Here are some frequently asked questions about regurgitation.

What is the difference between regurgitation and vomiting?

While this difference is not often clinically relevant for medical practitioners, it is used frequently for pets and small children [11]. Regurgitation is the returning of food that has not yet reached the stomach to the mouth. Vomiting is the forceful return of stomach contents, including some amount of stomach acid to the mouth.

Can regurgitation cause shortness of breath?

Yes. Regurgitation — if continual and forceful — can cause shortness of breath because it is difficult to breathe while regurgitating. It can be exhausting to forcibly contract the muscles of the diaphragm to cause regurgitation. Shortness of breath that follows regurgitation in the absence of actual regurgitation may be unrelated, and should be monitored by a health professional. Less commonly but more worrisome is the aspiration (inhaling) of regurgitated material into the lungs. Aspiration of stomach contents can block the airways or cause pneumonia.

Why do I regurgitate after I eat?

A common cause of regurgitation or vomiting after eating, especially in children, is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) [2, 5, 10]. It is caused by a loose sphincter at the opening that connects the esophagus and stomach. Stomach contents can move out of the stomach and into the esophagus where they are partially regurgitated.

Why am I regurgitating bile?

Regurgitation of bile may occur along with acid reflux [12]. A yellow-greenish fluid may accompany the vomitus. Bile has little clinical significance as it can occur with both routine vomiting and stomach problems further down the digestive tract. If you are vomiting bile, you may have an infection causing aggressive vomiting, a blockage of your intestines, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

How does regurgitation affect digestive organs?

Regurgitation affects only the esophagus, stomach, and the portion of the small intestine nearest the stomach [5, 10, 13]. The stomach acid from the vomitus can affect cells of the esophagus, causing metaplasia (change in cells), and early changes that may cause cancer later in life. It may also cause scarring of the esophagus and make it more difficult to swallow. The muscle contractions can cause stomach pain or upper abdominal pain as well.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Regurgitation

  • Q.Do you have heartburn?
  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Q.Do your symptoms start or get worse after a meal?
  • Q.Are you burping more than usual?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our regurgitation symptom checker to find out more.

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Regurgitation Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced regurgitation have also experienced:

    • 8% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 8% Vomiting
    • 7% Nausea
  • People who have experienced regurgitation were most often matched with:

    • 40% Barrett's Esophagus
    • 30% Acid Reflux Disease (Gerd)
    • 30% Rumination Syndrome
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Nausea and Vomiting. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated April 30, 2018. MedlinePlus Link.
  2. Definition & Facts for GER & GERD. National Intitute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Published November 2014. NIDDK Link.
  3. Greenberger NJ. Rumination. Merck Manual Professional Version. Updated May 2018. Merck Manual Professional Version Link.
  4. Greenberger NJ. Rumination. Merck Manual Professional Version. Updated May 2018. Merck Manual Professional Version Link.
  5. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link.
  6. Mittal RK. Neuromuscular Anatomy of Esophagus and Lower Esophageal Sphincter. Mittal RK. In: Motor Fucntion of the Pharynx, Esophagus, and its Sphincters. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences; 2011. NCBI Link.
  7. Swallowing Problems. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. National MS Society Link.
  8. Spears C, eds. Constipation & Nausea. Parkinson's Foundation. Parkinson's Foundation Link.
  9. Vomiting Treatments. healthdirect. Updated July 2017. healthdirect Link.
  10. Lynch KL. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Merck Manual Professional Version. Updated April 2018. Merck Manual Professional Version Link.
  11. Kay N. Is My Dog Vomiting or Regurgitating? Pet Health Network. Pubished on October 9, 2014. Pet Health Network Link.
  12. Reflux Acid or Bile: Know the Difference. Gastrointestinal Associates. GI Healthcare Link.
  13. Phillips MM. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated October 23, 2017. MedlinePlus Link.