Sulfur Burps: Causes and Treatments


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Burps are a fairly normal part of everyday life, caused by increased gas in the digestive system. Most people burp several times a day, and the result is a harmless release of odorless air.

Occasionally, the gas will have a stronger smell of sulfur, or rotting eggs.

The occasional, infrequent sulfur burp is rarely anything to worry about. This is often the result of eating something high in sulfur, and it should fade quickly.

However, regular recurring sulfur burps might be the result of a more serious underlying problem.

Frequent sulfur burps may indicate that a change in diet is necessary, or that you’re suffering from a gastrointestinal issue.

In this guide we cover what you need to know about sulfur burps, what may be causing them, and what you can do to treat them.

What Are Sulfur Burps?

A burp is the result of too much gas in the stomach. This can be caused by eating and drinking too fast, chewing gum, carbonated beverages, and the natural breakdown of food.

The average person passes gas between 14 and 23 times a day, so burping after a meal is completely normal. If you think you burp more often than that, it may be that you simply need to slow down as you eat.

Sulfur burps are a different issue. These smell like rotten eggs, and they’re caused by hydrogen sulfide gas. 

This gas is a byproduct of digestion, and for the most part isn’t anything to worry about. However, recurring sulfur burps might be the result of something more serious. 

Sulfur burps also aren’t very pleasant, which is why many people are interested in finding a treatment.

What Causes Sulfur Burps?

There are a few different causes for sulfur burps. The frequency of sulfur burps, and other issues they may occur alongside, can help you to understand the cause of your gas. 

Some of the most common causes for sulfur burps are:

  • Food: What you’re eating may be what’s leading to these foul-smelling burps. Foods and drinks such as beer, cabbage, onions, eggs, cheese, and whole milk can cause sulfur burps. High-protein foods may also be the issue.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be contributing to sulfur burps. IBS is a gastrointestinal disorder that often causes abdominal pain and abnormal bowel movements, either constipation, diarrhea or a mix of both. With GERD, partially digested food or liquid rises from the stomach, causing acid reflux. This can be very painful.
  • Infection: Infections such as H. pylori and Giardia may be the cause of sulfur burps. These conditions will often be accompanied by other symptoms, like abdominal pain or diarrhea. If you think you have either of these infections, consult a doctor immediately.
  • Medications: Recent medication changes can cause a disturbance in the stomach. If you’ve developed sulfur burps after a new prescription, or change in medication, this may be the reason.
  • Stress or anxiety: Stressful situations may lead to stomach upset, which can cause sulfur burps.  

Sulfur burps, and gas in general, tend to happen because an excess of air has been swallowed. Although this wouldn’t necessarily lead to sulfur burps, you may find you produce more gas if you:

  • Eat and drink quickly
  • Talk as you eat
  • Smoke
  • Chew gum
  • Drink carbonated beverages
  • Drink through a straw
  • Suck hard candy

How to Get Rid of Sulfur Burps

The first step to treating a sulfur burp is understanding the underlying cause. If your sulfur burps only occur infrequently, then it may be because of something you eat or drink.

Take note of what foods and drinks you’ve consumed, to see if there are patterns.

If sulfur burps are happening frequently, there may be a more serious underlying cause, or you may need to change your dietary or eating habits. 

Here are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to treat sulfur burps:

  • Drink herbal teas: Green tea, peppermint tea, and chamomile tea are all enjoyed as an aid to digestion. Peppermint tea is also good at alleviating bad breath. Drinking herbal tea after a heavy meal may help to treat occasional sulfur burps. Be sure to sip slowly.
  • Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated is important for overall health, but it can also have a beneficial effect on sulfur burps. A glass of water after a meal may help with digestion, reducing the build up of gas. Drinking water can also improve bad breath, and is beneficial for conditions such as IBS.
  • Eliminate certain foods: If you’ve noticed sulfur burps only occur after certain meals, then you should consider eliminating that food from your diet. If you aren’t sure what foods are causing the sulfur burps, then consult with your doctor about starting an elimination diet.
  • Change your eating habits: Eating quickly, talking as you eat, and eating big meals can all be causes of sulfur burps. Try eating slowly without talking, to avoid introducing excess air into the stomach. Big meals are harder to digest, particularly if they’re fat or protein heavy. Either eat smaller portions, or eat big meals slowly.
  • Avoid certain drinks: Carbonated beverages and regular alcohol consumption can both lead to, or exacerbate, sulfur burps.
  • Manuka honey: The medicinal properties of manuka honey are documented, and a spoonful can help to kill bacteria, and protect the digestive tract. 
  • Apple cider vinegar: The medicinal properties of apple cider vinegar are still being investigated, but anecdotal evidence points to ACV helping to soothe stomach issues. Mixing a spoonful into a glass of water, or ingesting ACV capsules, could help reduce the frequency of sulfur burps.
  • Eliminate certain habits: Smoking, chewing gum, drinking through a straw, and sucking hard candy are all habits which introduce excess gas into the stomach. This could be the reason behind frequent smelly burps.
  • Take medications: Over the counter medications may be able to ease digestion issues, and eliminate sulfur burps. Discuss with your doctor or pharmacist what may be helpful for you.

With these changes, the unpleasant experience of sulfur burps should be lessened. However, home remedies may not always be the best solution.

When To See A Doctor About Sulfur Burps

If sulfur burps only occur infrequently, they’re likely to be an unpleasant annoyance rather than a serious issue. 

However, there are some occasions when sulfur burps necessitate a trip to the doctors to look at potential underlying digestive issues:

  • If you aren’t sure what changes to make. Eliminating food from your diet can be a tricky process, and speaking with a doctor can help simplify the experience. Discuss what eliminations work with your lifestyle and overall health, and how best to start the process.
  • If changing diets hasn’t helped. If you’ve tried home remedies and sulfur burps are still causing issues, then speak to a doctor about the next steps to take. 

It’s also important to see a doctor if sulfur burps are accompanied by other symptoms. These more serious symptoms of sulfur burps are:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating or constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Fever

If you experience these symptoms alongside sulfur burps, it may be a sign of a more serious condition.

There’s a myth out there about sulfur burps being a symptom of stomach or colon cancer. In reality, there’s no relationship between these smelly burps and cancer.

Conclusion

Sulfur burps are an unpleasant, but largely natural, part of life. Home remedies and change in habit can help them occur less frequently, or even eliminate them altogether.

If sulfur burps occur alongside other medical issues, then consult a doctor for advice.

For more on sulfur burps and gas, check out these articles: