The presence of excess gas/air in the stomach is usually eliminated as a burp from the mouth. Burps typically smell like the food consumed; but occasionally they may smell like rotten eggs. When the latter occurs, then the condition is referred to as sulfur burps. It can be a very distressing, unpleasant, and embarrassing condition, more so if it occurs when others are around you.
The primary cause of the smelly nature of sulfur burps is the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas. People who eat lots of protein-rich sulfur containing foods are more likely to suffer from the smelly elimination of hydrogen sulfide burps. The bacteria present in intestine are the ones which reduce the sulfur, digest the proteins, and produce the gas.
People of all age groups can dispel hydrogen sulfide gas during burps. It is particularly noticeable in pregnant women. The different digestive processes tend to slow down during pregnancy and this may be one of the causes of frequent cases of sulfur burps in pregnant women. When sulfur burps are accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, then patients need to seek immediate medical attention as such symptoms can be an indication of an underlying case of IBS/Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or other gastrointestinal disorders.
Causes of sulfur burps
Some of the common causes of sulfur burps are listed below:
- The most common, and perhaps the most serious, cause of sulfur burps is infection of the gastrointestinal system by Helicobacter pylori bacteria or Giardia, a parasite. The bacterium can cause serious infections of the stomach lining and result in formation of ulcers, while the latter can infect the lower intestine, reproduce, and lead to severe stomach conditions. Both the types of pathogens can pass into the digestive system via poor hygiene, contaminated water, or oral-fecal transfer. The presence of sulfur burps can be an indication of infection by either microorganism.
- Eating certain kinds of foods can also result in sulfur burps. It particularly holds true with regards to sugary and/or protein-abundant diets. Hydrogen sulfide is often the main cause of food-associated sulfur burps. When high protein food remains in the stomach for longer than usual instead of passing down to the intestines, for any reason whatsoever, then such food can result in increased accumulation of acids ultimately causing chemical reactions that produce hydrogen sulfide. This may also be one of the reasons why people experiencing sulfur burps also suffer from bloating. In these instances, sulfur burps usually disappear on their own after the protein remnants and hydrogen sulfide are eliminated from the body.
- Another common cause of sulfur burps is the use of prescription drugs. Sulfa medications often used as antibiotics is a common culprit. Patients may check the prescription label and verify the ingredients. If sulfur is listed as an ingredient, then you may suffer from a bout of smelly burps after consuming the medicine.
- The underlying presence of SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth can also result in nasty putrid burps. The balance of bacteria or flora naturally occurring in the intestines is quite fragile. Occasionally, the intestinal bacterial may overgrow and break this balance. Such situations usually arise in people with Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. Bacterial overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract can eventually result in smelly sulfur burps.
Treatment of sulfur burps
Follow the steps given below to alleviate and prevent sulfur burps:
- Drink lots of water and other fluids to help the digestive system metabolize the proteins.
- Intake of high fiber foods can also help efficient functioning of the digestive processes.
- Avoid consuming foods that are full of sugar. You may also try and avoid or remove sulfur proteins from your daily diet.
- Avoid foods such as onions, garlic, broccoli, tomatoes, peas, whey protein, asparagus, sweet potatoes, soy, beans, and cabbage, etc.
- Canned or ready to cook foods, dairy products, eggs and poultry items, as well as red meat should be avoided.
- Avoid coconuts, bananas, and cashew nuts.
- Drinking herbal tea, especially after meals, can help detox the intestinal tract.
- Avoid carbonated beverages as they only promote the risk to burping. Lessen or avoid the intake of coffee and tea. Decrease or completely abstain from alcohol consumption.
- Mix lemon and honey in a warm glass of water and drink it every morning to reduce the instances of sulfur burps through the day.
In case the above steps do not help resolve sulfur burps, then visit your health care provider.
- If use of current medications is causing sulfur burps, then consult your doctor for alternative medicines without sulfur.
- If tests reveal overgrowth of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, then the physician will prescribe relevant antibiotics.
- If sulfur burps are caused as part of underlying conditions like Crohn’s disease, IBS, or celiac disease, etc., then that condition has to be treated and effectively managed to reduce the instances of foul burps.