Regurgitation occurs as a symptom of some ailments that affect the digestive system. It causes newly consumed food to back up into your throat before it is digested. When it happens, you may feel like acid is moving up from your stomach into your throat or mouth. The problem can cause a bitter or sour taste in your mouth.

This action is often linked to issues like acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Treating the problem usually starts with finding the underlying condition that triggers this symptom. Relief can often be found with drugs, lifestyle changes, and surgery.

This article describes regurgitation's causes and characteristics. It also discusses ways to prevent this problem and keep food down.

When to Seek Emergency Care for Regurgitation

Regurgitation usually doesn't indicate a medical emergency. However, symptoms of acid reflux can be similar to symptoms of a heart attack (an interruption of blood flow to your heart). You should seek emergency medical care if any of the following symptoms accompany regurgitation:

  • A feeling of pressure or constriction rather than burning
  • Chest discomfort brought on by exercise
  • Severe, pressing, or squeezing discomfort in your chest

What Could Cause Regurgitation?

Regurgitation typically occurs as a symptom of a disease that interferes with the normal digestive process. In healthy people, food moves from the mouth through the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects your stomach with the back of your pharynx (throat).

The esophagus is a hollow tube that starts at the bottom of your throat and passes through your diaphragm to your stomach. The upper esophageal sphincter is a muscle at the top of your esophagus that helps prevent food and liquid from going down your windpipe or returning from the esophagus. 

When food reaches the end of your esophagus, a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes so chewed food can pass into your stomach. It also prevents food from coming up out of the stomach and back into your esophagus.

Regurgitation often involves problems with either the upper or lower esophageal sphincter. Finding the problem preventing the normal digestive process and causing regurgitation can be difficult since these disorders have overlapping symptoms.

Regurgitation is most commonly linked with one of the following conditions:

Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER)

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER), also referred to as acid reflux, occurs when the contents of your stomach back up into your esophagus. These contents can include stomach acid or bile (a yellowish-green digestive fluid).

GER is often related to a malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter that fails to close properly to prevent food particles from returning to the esophagus. Occasional GER is considered normal.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a chronic (long-lasting) form of GER. With GERD, symptoms are frequent. Episodes of acid reflux become common enough to cause problems with your daily life. This can include trouble sleeping or damage to your esophagus.

Approximately 80% of GERD patients experience regurgitation with varying degrees of severity. In addition to regurgitation, almost all people with GERD experience heartburn (a burning sensation in the middle of your chest), and at least 50% of people with GERD have dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).

Rumination Disorder

Rumination disorder is a relatively rare eating disorder that involves the uncontrollable and frequent regurgitation of food lasting at least one month. People with this behavioral disorder rechew, swallow, or spit out the contents. Rumination disorder most often affects infants, young children, and people with intellectual disabilities, but it can also occur in adolescents and adults.

Rumination disorder occurs as a reflex without effort. It usually starts with a belch or burp after a meal and occurs before the food has mixed with stomach acids and is digested.

Other Conditions

Regurgitation can also result from the following conditions:

Learn More: The Most Common Gastrointestinal Diseases

Regurgitation Characteristics

Regurgitation characteristics can vary by person. They can also differ in severity based on the cause of your regurgitation. Regurgitation characteristics can include the following:

  • A feeling of acid or food coming back up your throat after eating
  • Burping up undigested food that may taste the same as when it was first consumed
  • A sour or bitter taste in your mouth from the regurgitated contents mixed with bile
  • A feeling of throwing up in your mouth
  • A sense of fluid moving up and down in your chest

Since regurgitation occurs as a symptom of GERD, the following common symptoms of this condition may also occur with regurgitation:

  • Heartburn
  • Problems or pain when swallowing
  • Nausea (the feeling of wanting to vomit)
  • Chronic dry cough (a persistent cough that does not produce mucus)
  • Bad breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Tooth decay
  • Asthma (a chronic lung disease)
  • Laryngitis (temporary loss of your voice due to inflammation of your voice box)

Regurgitation vs. Vomiting

Regurgitation and vomiting can both cause the involuntary expulsion of swallowed food. While regurgitation is often regarded as vomiting, these are two distinct symptoms that differ in the following ways:


  • Involves the ejection of the contents of the esophagus before they get to your stomach
  • Includes undigested foods that may resemble recently chewed food since it has not yet been broken down in your stomach
  • Occurs without retching, spasms, or sickness


  • Involves the forceful ejection of food from the stomach and upper intestine that stomach acids have broken down
  • Doesn't resemble recently chewed food because stomach acids have transformed it
  • Often accompanied by retching and/or nausea

How to Prevent Regurgitation

Preventing regurgitation typically involves one or more of the following strategies:

Lifestyle Changes

  • Elevate the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches.
  • Don't eat too fast.
  • Establish and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Decrease the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing.
  • Relieve stress.
  • Limit your meal size and avoid heavy evening meals.
  • Do not lie down within two to three hours of eating.
  • Decrease your caffeine intake.
  • Avoid Theo-24 (theophylline) (a drug used to treat asthma).
  • Learn diaphragmatic breathing (a technique for deep breathing that may help with GERD symptoms).

Dietary Changes

Follow a GERD diet, which includes avoiding the following foods that can cause heartburn:

  • Carbonated drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits or juices
  • Fried or fatty foods
  • Peppermint
  • Coffee (including decaf)
  • Ketchup and mustard
  • Vinegar
  • Tomato sauce

Consume drinks that help reduce acid and relieve regurgitation, which include the following:

  • Nonacidic drinks
  • Water
  • Herbal teas
  • Milk


Over-the-counter antacids include:

Over-the-counter histamine-2 antagonists include:

Over-the-counter and prescription proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) include:

  • Prilosec (omeprazole) (over-the-counter)
  • Dexilant (dexlansoprazole) (prescription)
  • Nexium (esomeprazole) (prescription)
  • Protonix (pantoprazole) (prescription)

Antireflux Surgery

Surgery can involve either of the following:

  • Fundoplication: Fundoplication is the most common procedure for GERD, during which the uppermost part of the stomach lining is folded and sewn around the esophageal sphincter to improve function and reduce the potential for reflux.
  • Magnetic sphincter augmentation: This involves wrapping a magnetic device around the lower esophageal sphincter to hold it tight.


Regurgitation is the involuntary return of consumed food up your throat into your mouth. This occurs before the food is digested.

The problem can feel like acid is moving up from your stomach into your throat or mouth. It can cause a sour or bitter taste in your mouth. This can lead to bad breath and tooth decay.

This issue is a symptom of several types of gastrointestinal problems. It can also occur from a rare eating disorder or a physical problem. Many of these problems have similar symptoms so getting the right diagnosis can be a challenge.

Chronic regurgitation can decrease your quality of life. Treatment that includes lifestyle changes, proper breathing, and drugs can often provide relief. For more severe cases, surgery that repairs the lower esophageal sphincter can often reduce symptoms.

2023-06-08T19:12:50Z dg43tfdfdgfd