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Why do we burp?

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You're sitting at the dinner table. Maybe it's a special occasion. The whole family is talking, laughing and then all of a sudden – BURP!!! Everyone's looking at you and you lock eyes with your mother. Was she always able to shoot death rays out of her eyes? Or is that a new thing? 

Different cultures consider burping impolite or a sign of appreciation. But why do we burp? Every time we eat or drink, we swallow air. Burping (and farting!) is our body's way of getting rid of that air. Imagine what would happen if all that air stayed inside you. You would feel uncomfortable, to say the least!

When you burp, air is forced out of your esophagus, the tube connecting your stomach to your throat. The air builds up behind the upper esophageal sphincter (a muscle that acts as a valve, located at the back of the throat). When the pressure gets too great the sphincter pops open and B U R P!!!

Who burps? All humans burp. At the time of this post in March 2022, Neville Sharp holds the Guinness World Record for loudest burp. In 2021, his burp was registered at 112.4 decibels. That's louder than your average electric drill!

Who else burps? Many animals burp. Cows are big burpers. Most mammals can burp, but not horses... at least not the way we do. Their cardiac sphincter (the valve between the stomach and the esophagus) opens only one way. Therefore, food and air can only travel down to the stomach – nothing can come back up.  

So there you have it – uh oh, B U R P!!!!! Excuse me, I just burped. Is my mother around? 


 

Image source: "Boris Burping while taking pictures of him" by FilipSzy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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