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It’s common for people to complain about their burps smelling like sulfur. This can have several causes, and not all of them are serious or long-lasting.
Burping or belching is the body’s normal way of releasing excess air that enters the esophagus or stomach. After eating, drinking, and other regular activities like breathing, air can build up and need to be expelled. This causes you to burp.
However, gas can also be produced within your digestive tract, such as when certain foods break down. When this happens, you may experience particularly foul-smelling burps or flatulence.
The cause of sulfur burps is usually hydrogen sulfide, a colorless gas with a strong odor.1 While exposure to high levels of hydrogen sulfide can be dangerous, small amounts in your body are normal. Your body uses it to send signals between cells.2
There are several reasons burps or flatulence may contain hydrogen sulfide.
Sulfur is a normal part of a healthy diet and affects your metabolism. However, there isn’t a recommended daily intake of sulfur.3 You may have a high-sulfur diet, which can cause burps to have that distinctive odor.
Many foods have sulfur-containing compounds. Primary sources of dietary sulfur include:3
Certain foods can cause gas build-up, including:
Your sulfur intake may be high due to consuming many of these foods. If you notice your burps or flatulence tend to be particularly odorous, try reducing or eliminating one or some of these foods. However, all these foods can play a role in a balanced diet, so be careful about maintaining nutrients.
Cruciferous vegetables are a family of related plants that provide an essential dietary source of sulfur. Common examples include:
The sulfur-containing compounds in cruciferous vegetables are good for you and help reduce oxidative stress.4 While these vegetables may sometimes give you unpleasant burps, high consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer.4, 5
Cruciferous vegetables also contain raffinose, a sugar that your body can’t digest on its own. However, raffinose can feed many of your gut bacteria, which produce gas.6, 7 Beans and asparagus also contain raffinose, which can make you gassy.
Vegetables in the Allium family, such as garlic and onions, can also be a good source of sulfur.3 Cruciferous vegetables are associated with good health outcomes, such as lower cancer risk.8
Harmful bacteria and intestinal parasites can cause sulfur burps. However, they generally cause other symptoms as well.
Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria commonly found in the stomach, can produce hydrogen sulfide and other smelly compounds.9 Some strains of H. pylori don’t cause problems and may even be beneficial to your digestive tract.10
However, in some cases, H. pylori can cause gastritis (stomach inflammation). This may result in abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Complications can include stomach bleeding, ulcers, and tumors.
Giardiasis is an illness caused by an intestinal parasite called Giardia. Symptoms vary based on existing gut bacteria. They can be severe and include:11
These symptoms can last several weeks if a person doesn’t receive treatment. Giardiasis may also contribute to lasting gastrointestinal problems or food allergies.11
Sulfur burps can also result from chronic illnesses that affect your digestive tract, such as:
In these cases, like with infections, sulfur burps are unlikely to be the only symptom. If burping is accompanied by abdominal pain, heartburn, diarrhea, or other symptoms, talk to a doctor.
If your sulfur burps result from something you ate, they’re likely to go away after your body and gut bacteria digest the food. They may recur if you eat the same things every day.
Sulfur burps may last longer if they result from an infection or an underlying condition such as IBS or GERD. Talk to your doctor about managing symptoms with these conditions.
Here are some remedies and treatments to help relieve sulfur burps:
Sulfur burps can often be handled with home remedies. These include common dietary and medicinal herbs, over-the-counter (OTC) supplements, and medications.
Several herbs have known anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects, such as:12, 13, 14
Including these herbs in your diet may reduce unwanted burps. Curcumin, the active chemical in turmeric, is available as a supplement in pill form.
Caraway contains a chemical that can neutralize the sulfur aroma of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli.15 Adding caraway to your broccoli or cauliflower may suppress sulfur burps.
To reduce gas and improve digestion, try over-the-counter products such as:
One study found that yogurt containing beneficial bacteria (Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) helped suppress H. pylori in infected people.16
If sulfur burps aren’t the only symptom you’re experiencing, they may be the cause of something more serious. See a doctor for diagnosis and treatment if you’re suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, or abdominal pain.
Depending on the underlying issue, they may prescribe:
Scaling and root planing, a procedure normally performed to treat gum disease, may also be beneficial against H. pylori infection.17
You can help prevent sulfur burps by:
While some foods are high in sulfur, they are still good for you in moderation. For example, eggs, meat, and dairy can contribute to sulfur burps but are also good protein sources.
Vegetables like broccoli, garlic, and onions also offer health benefits in exchange for their strong odors. Ironically, vegetables like broccoli actually contain compounds that help suppress H. pylori.19
Most of the time, sulfur burps are nothing to worry about. Sulfur-smelling burps is a natural side effect of eating certain foods.
Sulfur burps that recur and occur with other symptoms may signal an intestinal infection or chronic health condition. Many people experience these issues and heal with proper treatment.
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