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Why does my belly hurt after using my CPAP?

Why does my belly hurt after using my CPAP?

This is a common call to CPAP suppliers and MD’s; after using CPAP for the night the patient wakes up with painful bloating in the stomach & excessive gas. The official medical term for this is Aerophagia.

What is Aerophagia?

Aerophagia comes from the ancient Greek word for “eating air.” This condition can be induced deliberately to stimulate belching, or it can be involuntary habit. Some encounter this condition only during the day or exclusively when using CPAP at night, while others experience both!

Aerophagia Symptoms

  • Pain in the stomach
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Flatulence
  • Decreased appetite

Possible causes of daytime aerophagia

  • Eating too quickly
  • Talking while eating
  • Drinking through a straw
  • Breathing through your mouth
  • Smoking
  • Wearing loose fitting dentures

Aerophagia also shares some of the same symptoms as common digestive disorders like food allergies, bowel blockages and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Make sure to provide your MD with all of your symptoms in order to come up with an effective treatment plan.

Ways to overcome Aerophagia during the day

  • Become conscious of air gulping
  • Practice slow breathing
  • Learn effective ways to deal with stress and anxiety
  • Avoid carbonated beverages & smoking

Aerophagia on CPAP

When you breathe normally, air passes into your upper airway/throat down towards your lungs. Your upper airway then splits in 2 directions, one to the esophagus which leads to your stomach, and the other to your trachea and lungs. Between the split is the “gatekeeper” also referred to as the Upper Esophageal Sphincter. The UES is a bundle of muscles which keeps food from going down the windpipe. Some patients new to CPAP can experience Aerophagia, and in most cases it will gradually go away on its own. Others may require different methods of intervention.

Aerophagia must be addressed on a case by case basis, so speak with your MD about your symptoms to get the specific help that you need. There are a lot of factors to be considered and evaluated, but below is a list of common solutions.

Possible solutions for CPAP induced Aerophagia

  • Drinking carbonated water in the morning to help expel gas
  • Changing from a full face mask to a nasal mask
  • Adding Expiratory Pressure Relief to your machine
  • Verifying that CPAP settings are functioning properly
  • Reevaluating your CPAP pressure - it could be too low or too high
  • Ensuring proper mask seal
  • Avoiding tucking in your chin while you sleep
  • Sleeping at an incline
  • Changing to a BIPAP machine

Leigh Foley, RT

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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