If you’re wondering why your new-onset burping might be caused by a heart problem, you’d be smart to see a cardiologist; it’s possible for angina to cause only one symptom: burping.
“Yes, gastrointestinal symptoms are often common in heart attack presentation,” says Dr. Lowell Steen, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at Loyola University Medical Center, Director of the Interventional Cardiology Fellowship Training Program, and Medical Advisor to 120/Life, a functional beverage with a blend of six natural ingredients that promote normal blood pressure.
“The heart has no direct pain fibers, so the pain is referred. That is why patients can have arm, jaw or chest discomfort. Burping, nausea and vomiting may be presenting symptoms of a heart attack.”
“Typical angina” is chest pain caused by clogged coronary arteries. Sometimes this condition is accompanied by other symptoms: shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea.
But it’s entirely possible for typical angina to present with only symptoms that seem related to the digestive tract, such as burping.
The Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal (Dec. 2007) reports the case of a man, 62, who’d apparently been healthy all his life.
However, for the two months prior to his presentation to a doctor he’d been suffering from unexplained burping. This was his only complaint.
One Symptom: Burping – Diagnosis?
He was diagnosed with angina pectoris, even though he did not report any chest pain, shortness of breath or other symptoms.
He had to undergo surgery to treat his severe heart disease. The SQUM Journal states: “It is concluded that belching can be a presenting symptom of angina.”
And of course, angina is a heart problem – sometimes requiring coronary bypass surgery, depending on the extent of arterial blockage.
“Belching or painful swallowing are suggestive of esophageal disease,” says the Journal, “although belching and indigestion may be seen with myocardial ischaemia.”
Myocardial ischaemia (or ischemia) is a fancy way of saying shortage of oxygen to the heart muscle.
How Rare Is Burping As an Only Symptom of a Heart Problem?
There is no quantitative data. “Belching as an isolated symptom of angina without chest pain, have not been reported before,” states the Journal, “and was not included as a common presenting symptom of angina pectoris in the standard textbooks of medicine and cardiology.”
Bear in mind that this study comes out of the nation of Oman, which has a significantly smaller population than the United States.
We can only imagine how many people in the U.S. or another heavily populated and industrialized nation have suffered from burping as their only symptom of heart disease – and were never properly diagnosed – and eventually died of a heart attack.
This is why new-onset, unexplained belching needs medical attention: See a cardiologist before you see a gastroenterologist.
A digestive issue such as acid reflux can wait. A heart problem can’t.
A Closer Look at the Man Whose Only Symptom of Dangerously Clogged Heart Arteries Was Burping
• Patient reported burping episodes after feeling gassy in his stomach for two months.
• The gas and belching occurred only during physical activity such as using a staircase and even walking, plus also emotional stress.
Interjection: That second bullet point makes a heart problem highly suspect in the case of burping as an only symptom! PAY ATTENTION to events preceding worrisome symptoms – and document them!
• Needless to say, the patient reported no connection between his symptoms and eating, and they did not occur at rest, either.
• He was not on medications; never had surgery.
• Pulse, blood pressure and blood tests were normal.
• A resting ECG was normal.
• An echocardiogram stress test—during which he belched – showed angina pectoris.
Belching Caused by Blocked Heart Arteries
• An angiogram revealed 50 percent narrowing of two major coronary arteries.
• A third major artery and its branch had 98 percent blockage.
• Treatment was bypass surgery, statins and aspirin.
• The burping disappeared after this treatment.
“The only explanation for the cause of belching in this patient was angina pectoris,” notes the Journal.
The paper points out that the symptoms of belching and gas were related only to physical activity and emotional stress – a strong suggestion of a heart problem.
Though it’s not difficult to locate medical literature describing the symptom pairing of burping AND chest pain originating from a cardiac disease, the literature on burping as the ONLY symptom of heart disease is very scant.
Why would heart disease cause burping at all?
The paper’s author speculates involvement of the vagus nerve, which passes through the chest.
A marked vagal stimulation, that is associated with a shortage of oxygen to the heart, can cause gastric upset – leading to formation of gas – making one burp.