Burping after eating or drinking is perfectly normal and helps release air trapped in the stomach. But sometimes burps smell bad, like rotten eggs or sulfur, because of the foods we eat. Some of the most common foods that can cause sulfur smelling or tasting burps are foods containing organic sulfur compounds, foods high in choline, nitrogen, lecithin and protein in general and high-fiber foods. These include cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic, known bad-smelling foods such as eggs, red meat, seafood, but also soy, legumes such as beans, chickpeas and peanuts, and even some otherwise odorless root vegetables such as chicory or dandelion root. See my list of common foods that cause sulfur burps and find out why they cause burping that is bad smelling.
White and purple or red garlic, but also spring garlic contain organosulfur compounds that are responsible for their particular pungency. Organosulfur compounds are both a source of health benefits, providing antioxidant and free radical-scavenging properties, and a source of side effects, such as bad garlic breath, garlic body smell and even sulfur burps. For those with acid reflux disease or gastritis, eating garlic increases stomach acidity and the likelihood of symptoms such as excessive burping, burping that tastes or feels acidic and smells like rotten eggs, ammonia or sulfur.
2. Onions and leek
Just like garlic, bulb onions of all colors and degrees of pungency, shallots, scallions or green spring onions, chives and leek owe their sharpness to organic sulfur compounds. These same compounds cause not only the dreaded onion breath, but also sulfur breath. The sulfur breath is caused by the organic sulfur compounds occurring naturally in onions. Eating onions of any kind also causes stomach acidity and acid reflux which leads to symptoms such as excessive burping, burping that tastes or feels acidic and smells like rotten eggs, ammonia or sulfur.
3. Egg yolk
Egg yolk is rich in choline (60% of daily needs per 100 g) and an important source of lecithin (1 whole chicken egg is almost 10% lecithin). Gut bacteria produce trimethylamine as they digest choline and lecithin. But if your body doesn’t produce enough of an enzyme called FMO3, required to metabolize trimethylamine, the compound builds up and causes bad body odor, including rotten eggs or sulfur burps. The condition is known as fish odor syndrome.
4. Meat, fish and seafood
Game, beef, veal, pork and other types of red meat, chicken and other types of white meat, fish, crustaceans such as shrimp, bivalves such as oysters, mussels, clams and scallops are important dietary sources of carnitine and choline, while seafood is also rich in lecithin. Bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract produce trimethylamine when they digest carnitine, choline and lecithin, but some people lack the enzyme needed to metabolize it, causing trimethylamine to build up in the body. This, in turn, causes a generalized body odor, including a bad fish or ammonia-like body smell and rotten eggs or sulfur burps and gas. The condition is known as fish odor syndrome.
5. Cold cuts, cured meat
In people with fish odor syndrome, eating cold cuts or cured meat made from red or white meat or fish can cause sulfur smelling burps. Anything from salami, sausages, ham, bacon, pates, prosciutto, jamon, capocollo, guanciale, mortadella, pancetta, bresaola, chorizo and all kinds of cold cuts, cured meat or luncheon meats are high in choline and carnitine, and lecithin in the case of fish-based products. Eating them can cause rotten eggs or sulfur smelling burps as well as bad body odor.
Organ meats such as liver are good for you because they are nutritionally-dense food options. They are particularly rich in nutrients such as carnitine and choline which are known to contribute to fish odor syndrome and cause a bad body odor, including rotten eggs breath. Liver is also heavy on the stomach and more likely to cause acid reflux or worsen an existing gastritis, causing symptoms such as regurgitation of stomach juices, heartburn, excessive burping that won’t stop, burping that tastes and feels acidic, with burps that smell like sulfur or rotten eggs.
7. Milk and dairy
Milk and dairy such as butter, fresh and aged cheeses (cottage cheese, cheddar etc.), yogurt, sour cream are rich in carnitine and some also in choline. When gut bacteria digest carnitine and choline, they produce a compound called trimethylamine. Some people either completely lack or make too little of the enzyme needed to metabolize trimethylamine, which then builds up in the body. Trimethylamine is then released in sweat, exhaled air and urine, causing an ammonia or fish skin odor, smelly urine and bad breath with burps smelling of sulfur.
Asparagus contains the amino acid asparagine and sulfur compounds that cause urine to smell bad. But it also contains small amounts of carnitine and choline which, in certain people, can cause a bad body odor and sulfur burps and gas. Asparagus is also a source of fructans, contributing to mild digestive upset in some people, including bloating, gas and burping, often bad smelling. See the benefits of white asparagus and the benefits of pink asparagus.
Legumes such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, but also peanuts and soybean can cause bad smells for a variety of reasons. First off, the high protein content and nutrients such as choline, and lecithin in soybean, contribute to what is known as fish odor syndrome, causing a bad body odor, but also bad smelling and tasting sulfur burps. Next, the high fiber content of legumes encourages fermentation which results in bad smelling, rotten eggs or sulfur burps and gas.
10. Foods high in protein
In people with fish odor syndrome, a high protein intake from common foods such as meat, eggs, legumes, fish and seafood can cause a generalized bad body odor, with bad smelling skin, breath, burps and gas. Normal people increasing their protein intake can also experience bad smells like this, although to a lesser extent. Foods high in protein usually also take longer to digest; a longer digestion time is more likely to result in acid reflux and associated symptoms, including regurgitation of stomach acid and excessive burping that won’t stop as well as burping that feels acidic, tastes metallic or vinegary or smells like sulfur. The bad taste and acidic feel of burps is a result of the low pH of the regurgitated stomach juices. The cause behind the bad smelling burps is hydrogen sulfide, a particularly odoriferous byproduct of digestion. High-protein foods are also high in nitrogen, and in people with fish odor syndrome, they cause a generalized bad body odor.
11. Cabbage family vegetables
White, green and red or purple cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radishes, mustard, horseradish and more cabbage family vegetables are rich in organic sulfur compounds, certain fibers and other compounds that contribute to bad body odor. Organic sulfur compounds in cabbage and related vegetables can cause sulfur smelling burps and gas. Dietary fiber known as raffinose, found in cabbage, broccoli and related vegetables, cannot be digested and is instead just fermented, resulting in bloating and gas, but also bad smelling gas and burps in most people. Cooked cabbage and several other related vegetables are a source of hydrogen sulfide and even more likely to cause bad body odor.
12. Pickled foods
By their very nature, pickles are a fermented, acidic food with both probiotic and prebiotic properties. They not only add to good gut bacteria populations, but also feed them, and cause bloating, gas and burping. Furthermore, because they are acidic, pickles also cause acid reflux and bad smelling and tasting burps that smell like sulfur or rotten eggs or taste acidic or metallic.
13. High-fiber foods
High fiber foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables can also cause sulfur burps. A too high a intake of fiber upsets the stomach and can cause acid reflux, triggering symptoms such as bloating, gas and burping that won’t stop. The regurgitation of stomach juices makes burps feel acidic and taste metallic. Hydrogen sulfide, a byproduct of normal human metabolism, makes burps smell like sulfur or rotten eggs.
14. Wheat and other grains
Instances of food intolerance or food sensitivities commonly cause bad smelling burps and gas. For example, gluten intolerance, sensitivity or allergy can result in bloating, excessive gas and burping that won’t stop, even foul smelling diarrhea, gas that smells like rotten eggs and burps that smell like sulfur. Different proteins in wheat, rye, barley and other grains may pose similar problems. Wheat, rye, barley are also a source of fructans and, if eaten in large amounts, can cause limited digestive upset with bloating, gas and burping, often bad-smelling.
15. Foods high in fructans
Garlic, onions, leek, asparagus, rye, barley, wheat, artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama and agave are sources of fructans, essentially carbohydrates that cause digestive upset in some people, with bloating, gas and burping. Burps may smell bad, like sulfur or rotten eggs, either as a result of normal metabolism which sees the production of foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide, or as a result of other foul-smelling compounds in the foods (sulfur compounds in garlic, onions and asparagus, asparagine in asparagus, high amounts of certain fibers such as inulin in artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes etc.).
16. Foods high in inulin
Inulin is a dietary fiber, a fructose-based carbohydrate known as a fructan. Foods high in inulin cause bloating, cramps, burping and flatulence in some people, with the potential for bad smelling gas and burps. Inulin is not broken down during digestion, but fermented instead, which accounts for the digestive upset it causes some people. Chicory root, agave, artichoke and Jerusalem artichoke, jicama or Mexican turnip, cassava, garlic, onions, leek, dandelion root, burdock root, bananas, plantains, Elecampane root, arnica, mountain arnica or wolf’s bane are all important dietary sources of inulin. Also see the benefits of arnica or wolf’s bane.
17. Coffee substitutes
For those sensitive to the effects of caffeine, that is, those experiencing insomnia, palpitations, high blood pressure or extrasystoles after drinking coffee, no-caffeine coffee substitutes are the best solution. Common coffee substitutes include: roasted chicory root, dandelion root, barley, soybean, corn, chickpeas, peas, lupine, rye, wheat bran and even potato peels, acorns or almonds. Chicory root is high in inulin, a dietary fiber that can cause bloating and bad smelling burps and gas. Dandelion root is also high in inulin, with similar effects as chicory root.
Another coffee substitute, roasted barley, is a whole grain, a source of gluten and soluble fiber which can cause bloating, and bad smelling gas and burps. Rye contains gluten, glutenin and other gluten-like proteins which trigger wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease and cause digestive upset with symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, and bad smelling burps and gas. Soybean is rich in choline and contains lecithin as well, both of which cause bad body odor in people with fish odor syndrome.