What causes Eggy Burps?

When I have a really bad episode coming the first sign is eggy, sulphurous burps. For me these eggy burps are always followed within minutes or hours (each episode varies) by excruciating upper abdominal pain then sometimes by vomiting and always by diarrhoea. I have mentioned eggy burps to every doctor I’ve seen over the years and never had an explanation of why these occur or how to stop them. Even the more verbose doctors who, quite frankly, loved the sound of their voice were more keen to explain to me the technicalities of bowel innervation than why I was belching pure rotten egg stench. I’ve had various theories and none seemed to fit completely. I have repeatedly searched the Internet – never the most reliable source for symptom analysis – and found various herbal remedies and personal accounts which do little to shed light on the physiological processes involved.

Bacterial infection is the most common cause of eggy burps but the effects are short term, gone after the immune system or antibiotics evict the bad bacteria. Having an extremely high protein diet (bodybuilders beware) is frequently associated with eggy burps. Infection with the Giardia parasite is another increasingly common cause. There are a lot of people that believe these repeated symptoms of eggy burps, stomach pain and diarrhoea are as a result of one initial Giardia infection (giardasis) that somehow recurs or left damage in the digestive system in its wake.

I know the awful egg smell comes from hydrogen sulphide being produced somewhere in the digestive system and bubbling it’s way up and out through your mouth. Hydrogen sulphide (or sulfide) can be produced by the bacterial breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen – anaerobic digestion. So what causes an environment in your gut where anaerobic digestion takes over the usual digestive process?

It seems to me that anaerobic digestion could be encouraged in a stomach that does not empty properly. I have found that my symptoms are worst if I eat food that contains too much fat. In a previous post I discussed how eating fatty foods could cause biliary colic type symptoms due to irregular spasms of the bowel. If these irregular spasms also cause the stomach to have delayed emptying or even completely prevents emptying at times then this could explain the bad smells as well. Fat is difficult to digest and has a slow transit time through your digestive system. If you had a digestive dysfunction (gastroparesis, gastric stasis) where food passes more slowly than usual through your gut then food that passes even slower would effectively get stuck and begin to stagnate. If you have ever collected up your food waste for separate disposal to your other household waste (think green) then you’re aware certain foods begin to smell very strongly quite quickly and others just decompose without much fuss. Imagine this process occurring in your stomach. It’s a big bag we’re pouring food and drink into regularly throughout the day – if that food gets stuck it’s going to start to smell and smell bad. This theory for me explains the ‘delayed reaction’, why if I sneak a bit of my husbands pizza crust one evening after dinner then I don’t get the eggy burps until the following afternoon. The pizza crust is still there along with a rancid soup of partially digested foods. The stomach reacts to evict this noxious concoction as quickly as possible – if it can’t go down then it comes up! If some does make it’s way down into your intestine then in those with an already sensitive, ‘irritable’ bowel it passes out extremely quickly. So slow stomach transit time is followed by extremely rapid exit time!

In a normal functioning digestive system the stomach emptying process begins within about 20-30 minutes of eating a normal meal and the stomach is mostly emptied after about 3 hours. The higher the fat content the longer the emptying time, if the meal is less solid (i.e. soup) then transit time will be faster. So is the solution simply to eat less – or just soup? I’ve found from my experimentations with food that only eating soup does not help as much as would be hoped. A lot of soups you can buy in the shops or restaurants are very high in fats, plus the liquid state does not stimulate the stomach enough to begin emptying. Smoothies also tend to include hard to digest fruit skins and other indigestible fibres plus fruit acids. Small snacks are not large enough to stimulate the stomach to begin emptying. Large fatty meals are too much for the stomach to process efficiently resulting in stinky ‘leftovers’. I’ve also experimented with probiotics in the hope that introducing ‘good’ bacteria’ would prevent the proliferation of ‘bad’ bacteria which could create the environment where hydrogen sulphide is produced. Unfortunately my experiments did not produce definitively positive results for but it may work for others!

The best ways I’ve found to prevent eggy burps are:

  • to eat regular small meals (i.e. risotto)
  • avoid hard to digest foods (e.g. fats, insoluble fibres, fruit skins, any meat except chicken and turkey)
  • try not to eat any later than 4 hours before bedtime
  • exercise regularly to physically assist movement through the bowel

17 thoughts on “What causes Eggy Burps?

  1. […] found out so much more about what could be causing my symptoms (fat intolerance, eggy burps) over the last year. I’ve had a few theories, tried out a few different experiments – […]

  2. Lisa says:

    Very helpful. I’ve had eggy burps for YEARS and its hideous… Metronidazole antibiotics WORK (take one as soon as it starts it may take a couple of hours but it WILL go). Have tried everything, from long heavy doses of antibiotics, prebiotics even all herbal teas/supplements – i’ve lost count! 2 years of wheat free and cutting out all and sundry at different times (as convinced it was caused by one food or another) has not helped. I’ve had tests at the hospital (barium tests etc) with no results. I am genuinely finding eggs a problem, avoiding them like the plague but as previously said, not a prob in cakes. It hasn’t stopped disgusting burps but they arn’t as frequent. Am convinced it a mechanical problem, on a naturally delicate easily upset tummy…

    • i get mine roughly about every three months and generally last for a few days, ive been to my doctors and he just palms me off with tablets for wind that do nothing at all to help, i did`nt know what to do and the article above has really triggered what kind of foods are causing this and for me my trigger seems to be lamb, fresh cream and eating before i go to bed, so thanks for the info, just a pitty my doctor could`nt have explained this to me.

    • suzymacd says:

      Hi Lisa, thanks for your comment. I haven’t tried antibiotics to help with my symptoms as I’m quite wary of them to be honest, I’m glad and interested to hear they’ve worked for you. How regularly do you take the antibiotics and usually how long for?

    • Lydia says:

      My daughter (ten years old at the time) suffered from the same symptoms and became very sick twice. When she gave the first sulphuric burp a couple of months ago, I gave her a tablespoon of the following: pour white spirit vinegar into a jug and add white sugar till it is half the volume. Dissolve the sugar. This sollution can be kept in the fridge. After almost two hours I gave her another tablespoon full, and the burping stopped completely. Maybe this can help you too?

    • Anonymous says:

      this is true I had antibiotics and it is not a problem anymore

  3. Anonymous says:

    Read this at 2.30am because i couldn’t sleep due to this issue, it’s the second time in my life i’ve had it and it’s horrible. i blame that lasagne i ate circa 9pm, my own fault it seems. thanks for the read though.

  4. jessica says:

    Sounds like you need to find a good doctor. Reading your story was like I was explaining my own experience. It always starts with rotten egg burps and then shortly followed by cramping, bloading, vomiting and diarrhea. It’s painful and most of all annoying. I found a great doctor how did an upper endoscopy and diagnosed me with Gastroperesis. Partial paralysis of the stomach causing slow emptying. In my case the burps are caused by undigested food that is basically rotting and fermenting in my stomach. Not only are all your symptoms the same but all the things that have given you relief fit the description of things that help to manage Gastroparesis.

  5. JTinx says:

    I have suffered ‘eggy burps’ since I was a child – but there were never any other symptoms with it until I was about 16. At a time of great stress I was ill almost every night for about 2 months. Eggy burps during the day then would wake up in the night with a fever – suffer diarrhea & vomiting, sometimes being so bad I would faint on the bathroom floor. As though my body just wanted rid of everything in my digestive system. At the time the doctor tested me for gluten intolerance, and then half-arsedly put it down to my menstrual cycle & gave me no treatment for it. As though finding out that it was sparked by menstruation (which I very much doubt it is) meant it didn’t need looking into any more. It occurs every now and again if I eat a lot of fatty glucose-heavy foods (biscuits are my Kryptonite, and yet I never learn).

    I’m 21 now and fear that this is only going to get worse as I get older. This explanation makes sense – think it’s about time I cut out the biscuits.

  6. melissa says:

    Contact me I am going thru the same exact thing with my 11 year old…right now I am writing as he has come to my bathroom to sit for 2 to 3 hours With egg burps followed by vomiting and diarrhea ..He ain’t many hours before bed..I think he may have gastrointestinal paresis

  7. Stephanie Palmer says:

    My daughter and I both have exactly the same symptoms as you describe in the article. It’s so horrible and I have only just stopped being ill today at 1:30pm, I started being ill at 2:30am. Needless to say I have had all the tests, eventually a surgeon even took out my gall bladder but it made no difference. After 2 years of symptoms and losing 4 stone in weight (and in complete despair) I did an exclusion diet myself and found several foods made me ill. Spicy, fatty, meaty!!! Oh and bread, although I am not coeliac. Last night Hubby bought me a steak and I thought, as long as I eat it early, before 6, and chew it carefully I could be ok. How wrong I was, its so not worth it. My daughter, who’s 12 cant eat sausages or any meat and dairy really. One thing I have noticed is I am worse when menstruating. This is because hormones make things more lax during this time, so peristalsis is not so strong.
    A good tip is to try not to drink a lot of fluids when eating, just sips of water. Otherwise you can dilute the digestive acids in the stomach and delay digestion more. My Doctor thinks my family have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which can affect the collagen in your body, which is also worth a thought, although there’s no cure.
    My heart goes out to everyone with these symptoms, whatever the cause. It’s horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Christina says:

    It happens to me when I eat lamb. Instant sulfur burps and diarrhea. Its happening today, though I didn’t eat lamb, its msot likely due to eating too much yesterday (protein, fat, dairy) and then today eating a fried meat cake (too much protein and fat I’m guessing, which I don’t do on a regular basis).

    Anyhow, a while back I bought a DVD on natural cures and learned that what works (almost magically) to get rid of this awful malady are clove pills. Just go to your natural food store, buy a bag of large empty capsules, then stroll on over to the spice isle and get yourself a small jar of clove powder (organic is best). Compact as much clove as possible into your capsules, and drink two with some water. Two is usually enough. If you feel better, but the sensation starts coming back take 2 more. Clove helps kill putrefactive bacteria. Also works when you’ve eaten bacteria contaminated food. Living in Mexico, I’ve recommended this remedy to many a family member, and they have always been shocked by how fast it works. That said, you shouldn’t take it regularly. Keep a food diary of what you eat, and write down when you feel bad (time and date). You will probably start to notice a pattern.

  9. Ang says:

    Also reading this at 04.52hrs after googling subject. I am nearly certain mine are linked to my gall bladder problems. And some of u sound like u have symptoms of gall bladder problems.

    What I have found was sent for ultra sound by GP they found gall stones. I was sent to hospital doctor and he talked to me about treatment – then had really bad attack – very very bad pains, cramps, sweating, hotness, etc. few mionths later went for another scan and they found stones had gone. This is sort of were they lost a bit of intrest, although I still had same symptoms.

    Doing a bit of on line research I found details of what could be described as gall bladder problems.

    Thought about pushing for op to get it out but have a few people I know who have done this and they still get symptoms.

    Taliking to people I have found diff things set their gall bladder symptoms off most people it is fatty foods, for me over eating! This may have occurred yesterday!! Lol

    Anyway since I have started juicing I have had hardly any issues. I watched film / documentary on Netflix ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ it’s about juicing. Followed what guy in film did for about 6 weeks – felt great – changed my eating patterns – but your bad ways are easy to fall back into and sometimes I slip up – cause you feel great no gall bladder issues and u think things are okay but they are not – no more over eating for a while for me I think.

  10. Lizzy Loo says:

    always good to read that I’m not the only one. Issues with this since a teen and coming up to 45, here is what I’ve learnt: for me, when in the middle of an attack, the only thing that works is a hot water bottle. Not only does it feel good but the heat, I believe, speeds up the digestion process. For me, the only thing that truly helps are anti biotics but the eggy indigestion begins once I’ve finished a course so this isn’t ideal. But, the main thing is to say that you’re right about the fat digestion and have you been tested for pancreatic insufficiency? They take a poo sample and check for enzymes. When they checked mine – in desperation for a cause – they found I had very few pancreatic enzymes to aid with digestion of fats. So, the more I eat fats, the less i can digest them. I’m now prescribed Creon / enzymes and initially it was like a miracle. It’s no longer so successful but I really do think that this eggy experience is as much linked to the pancreas as the stomach. hope something here is of help to others and good luck!

  11. Anonymous says:

    I only have the same it leaves a flour taste in my mouth then it does not stop until I vomit I have also noticed when I have pizza I end up in these burps any idea why.

  12. Nick says:

    I have eggy burps, some of you are partly right, it’s a great shame that you have had such bad experiences with doctors, eggy burps are caused by the body’s inability to digest fat, in large quantitys, now what’s large for me might be small for another,that being another issue, it can also be caused by having a bacterial infection, and also by having a hiatus hernia, but the symptoms are the same, so only a good doctor who is genuinely interested in you would through specific tests be able to diagnose which it is.
    Mine is caused by a condition called exocrine pancreatic insufficiency meaning I cannot deal with too much fat in one go, 5-6 small well balanced meals per day and I have no problem, so the large Indian take away that I ate last night is the reason I am able to join you all here, why did I eat it, the time the friends always pushing at my barriers, if I knew I wouldn’t do it.

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