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Burps: our body's way of blowing its top.

Do you know how a burp works? To better understand what goes on in your body before your throat and mouth erupt into a blaring, boisterous burp, try this experiment.

The Experiment

(Only try this with adult supervision.)

Take an empty plastic soda pop bottle and fill it with half a cup of vinegar. Then place two tablespoons of baking soda in the middle of a sheet of paper towel or tissue. Roll the paper towel into a tube shape, twisting both ends to prevent the baking soda from falling out. Slide the paper towel into the bottle. Hold your hand over the top of the bottle, place the bottle in the sink, shake lightly, remove your hand and watch it blow!

Gas bubbles in the bottle

What will happen is the chemical combination of a base (baking soda) and an acid (vinegar) will produce a fizzy, bubbly mixture. The bubbles that form are full of carbon dioxide. These gas bubbles will create pressure, and before you know it, gas bubbles will shoot up and out. This is exactly what happens when you burp.

Gas bubbles in your stomach

When you eat or drink, you also ingest air or gas, which makes its way down into your stomach. Remember -- the air we breathe contains gases, such as nitrogen and oxygen. This air or gas builds up in your stomach creating pressure. As the pressure increases, the air pushes its way up into your esophagus -- the food tube that connects the back of your throat to your stomach -- and out through your mouth. Burping is your body's way of releasing that excess air.

Burp-producing foods

Carbonated drinks, such as soda pop, which contain thousands of carbon dioxide bubbles, are a particularly efficient burp-producing food. Other culprits include beans, broccoli, cabbage onions, artichokes, asparagus, and fruits such as pears and apples, which produce a lot of gas as they are digested. Sometimes eating or drinking too fast can bring on a burp. That's because when you gulp your food, you're also gulping extra air into your stomach. The same thing happens when you drink through a straw.

Embarrassing burps

Burps are a natural, harmless bodily function, although at times they can be quite embarrassing. While some can be quite small, others can sound like foghorns. Just remember to cover your mouth with your hand when you feel one coming on, and make sure your burps are always followed with a polite "excuse me."

Burping trivia

* The loudest burp in the world was registered in April 2000 at 118.1 dB, (that's the same volume as a pneumatic drill!), by Paul Hunn of London, England. In August 2002, Mr. Hunn attempted to beat his own record. However the exercise left him a little short-winded, as he only managed to reach 110.5 dB.

* In some parts of the world, a burp after a meal is a compliment to the cook.

* The medical word for burping is "eructation", though few people use the word or know what it means.

* When you lie on your back, the opening from your stomach into your esophagus is blocked by the liquid in your stomach. The air can't get out, so you can't burp.
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Article Details
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Author:Anne Renaud
Publication:Kidsworld Magazine
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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