The mechanism that controls venting of gas from the stomach into the oesophagus was studied manometrically in 14 healthy subjects. The stomach was distended abruptly with one litre of carbon dioxide. Gas reflux was characterised by an abrupt increase in basal oesophageal body pressure to intragastric pressure. Reflux of gas from the stomach into the oesophagus occurred during transient lower oesophageal sphincter relaxations that generally had a pattern distinctly different from swallow-induced lower oesophageal sphincter relaxation. Thus, at the onset of an episode of gas reflux lower oesophageal sphincter pressure had relaxed to 3 mmHg, or less, in 96% of instances. After gas loading of the stomach the prevalence of gas reflux was significantly less when the subjects were supine (1.2/10 min) than when they were sitting (6.8/10 min) (p<0.001). The lower oesophageal sphincter relaxations associated with most episodes of gas reflux had a distinctive pattern that resembled those of the lower oesophageal sphincter relaxations associated with acid gastro-oesophageal reflux.