Sulphur burps

Causes of sulphur burps: how to alleviate symptoms

14 May 2024

Sulphur or 'rotten egg' burps might worry you, but they can be easily corrected. However, if you experience eggy burps along with nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, or if they become a regular occurrence, it may indicate a more serious underlying health problem that needs further investigation. In such cases, it's advisable to consult your GP, who can help identify the true cause of your symptoms and arrange appropriate treatment.

We have compiled some information about the causes of sulphurous burps and ways to alleviate the symptoms, which we hope you’ll find useful.

What causes sulphurous burps?

Typically, burps are odourless, but when they come into contact with hydrogen sulphide in your gut, they can produce a strong smell resembling sulphur or rotten eggs.

Hydrogen sulphide is a natural by-product of digesting certain foods, and it is often associated with something you have eaten. It can also be a result of an infection or a long-term gut condition.

Let's explore each of these factors:

1. Food and drink-related sulphur burps

Hydrogen sulphides that cause the smell in burps are particularly associated with the breakdown of certain foods. Some of the main culprits include:

  • Proteins such as red meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, and dairy products.
  • Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale, which are rich in sulphur compounds.
  • Pungent vegetables such as garlic, onions, and leeks.
  • Drinks like coffee, colas, and beer.
  • Cashew nuts and bananas are also known to trigger sulphur burps.

Since everyone's digestive system reacts differently to various foods, keeping a food diary can help you identify the specific triggers. Once you know your trigger foods, you can avoid them to prevent future bouts of eggy burps.

2. Gut infections

Research has shown that infections in the digestive system caused by H. Pylori bacteria and Giardia parasites can lead to sulphur burps. If you have one of these infections, you will likely experience other symptoms such as stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

In such cases, it's best to visit your GP for testing so that appropriate treatment can be arranged if necessary.

>To learn more about maintaining a healthy gut, you can read our article on How to Have a Healthy Gut, written by our in-house nutrition team.

3. Chronic digestive conditions that cause sulphur burps

There are other potential causes to consider, including:

  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which occurs when bacteria from other parts of the gut spread into the small intestine, disrupting the natural balance and quantity of bacteria in this section of the digestive tract. This can result in bloating and burping.
  • Lactose intolerance, which makes it difficult for the body to digest lactose found in milk and dairy products.
  • Crohn's disease, a chronic form of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Coeliac disease (gluten intolerance).
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux.

If you experience these symptoms, you should discuss a referral to a gastroenterologist with your GP to assess your condition.

Treating sulphur burps

The treatment for sulphur burps depends on the underlying cause and may involve eliminating trigger foods from your diet.

The following tips may also be helpful:

  • Drink plenty of water and maintain good gut health to alleviate or prevent many digestive problems and improve overall well-being.
  • Cut down on alcohol and carbonated drinks.
  • Consider digestive supplements and teas like green, peppermint, and chamomile tea, which are believed to have soothing properties for the gut and may help relieve symptoms.

If avoiding trigger foods and making lifestyle changes don't provide relief, medication is available to treat sulphur burps.

If tested positive for H. Pylori, your GP may recommend a course of antibiotics and Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) medication. Commonly prescribed PPIs include Omeprazole, Lansoprazole, and Pantoprazole, which reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces.

If tested positive for Giardia, your GP may prescribe a course of antibiotics.

Please seek advice from your doctor to discuss appropriate treatment for your sulphurous burps and any other symptoms you might experience.

Information provided and reviewed by the team in the AXA Health 24/7 health support line for members. 

Sources and further reading:

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