You just finish eating your favorite meal and you develop intense pain in your chest 1. It may feel like you’re having a heart attack, but it is most likely the result of a digestive condition. Chest pain that develops in the middle of your chest after eating is most likely related to gallbladder disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease or an ulcer 1. Your condition needs to be evaluated by your medical doctor to determine the cause of your pain. Do not attempt to treat your symptoms using over-the-counter medications, unless directed by a doctor.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Gallbladder disease occurs whenever there are complications with your gallbladder. Common complications include inflammation and the formation of gallstones. The gallbladder is a sac that is located by your liver and stores extra bile in the event that you ingest a large amount of fat. Bile helps the digestive system break down fat, allowing it to be absorbed into the body. If the pain in the center of your chest develops after eating fatty foods, you may have gallbladder disease 14. Other symptoms may include pain in the right side of your abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center 4.
- Gallbladder disease occurs whenever there are complications with your gallbladder.
- The gallbladder is a sac that is located by your liver and stores extra bile in the event that you ingest a large amount of fat.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Pain Under the Ribs After Eating
More commonly known as GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive disease that causes chronic heartburn. Occasional discomfort or a burning sensation is common after eating greasy foods or foods that are high in spices or after overeating. If you notice that you develop heartburn after every meal, you may have GERD. If you experience heartburn more than twice in one week, your doctor may run tests to diagnose your condition. GERD is commonly treated by making lifestyle changes to your diet, increasing liquid intake, and avoiding spicy and acid foods.
- More commonly known as GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive disease that causes chronic heartburn.
- If you experience heartburn more than twice in one week, your doctor may run tests to diagnose your condition.
Ulcers that develop in your esophagus or stomach can cause pain in the center of your chest while you’re eating or shortly thereafter 1. An ulcer is an open wound that forms in the lining of your digestive tract, typically from a bacterial infection, notes FamilyDoctor.org 3. The protective lining of your digestive system erodes, exposing the soft tissue underneath. While eating, the food may aggravate and irritate the sores, increasing pain. Ulcers may be treated with triple therapy, which is a combination of two antibiotics and bismuth subsalicylate.
- Ulcers that develop in your esophagus or stomach can cause pain in the center of your chest while you’re eating or shortly thereafter 1.
- While eating, the food may aggravate and irritate the sores, increasing pain.
Pain in the Left Shoulder After Eating
Gas pains can also cause pain to develop in the middle of your chest after eating 1. Gas develops when undigested carbohydrates enter the colon. Because the carbohydrates are indigestible, they ferment, releasing various gases that can build up in your digestive system, leading to pain.
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- MedlinePlus: Chest Pain
- MayoClinic.com: GERD
- FamilyDoctor.org: Ulcers
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Gallbladder Disease
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (n.d.). Gallstones. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/gallstones
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2018). Gallstones and gallbladder disease. https://www.umms.org/ummc/patients-visitors/health-library/in-depth-patient-education-reports/articles/gallstones-and-gallbladder-disease
- Njeze GE. Gallstones. Niger J Surg. 2013;19(2):49-55. doi:10.4103/1117-6806.119236
- Maurer KJ, Carey MC, Fox JG. Roles of infection, inflammation, and the immune system in cholesterol gallstone formation. Gastroenterology. 2009;136(2):425-40. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2008.12.031
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- Balmadrid B. Recent advances in management of acalculous cholecystitis. F1000Res. 2018;7: F1000 Faculty Rev-1660. doi:10.12688/f1000research.14886.1
- Ahmed M. Acute cholangitis - an update. World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2018;9(1):1-7. doi:10.4291/wjgp.v9.i1.1
- Derici H, Kara C, Bozdag AD, Nazli O, Tansug T, Akca E. Diagnosis and treatment of gallbladder perforation. World J Gastroenterol. 2006;12(48):7832-6. doi:10.3748/wjg.v12.i48.7832
- Toouli J. Biliary Dyskinesia. Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol. 2002;5(4):285-291.
- Ahmed M, Diggory R. Acalculous gallbladder disease: the outcomes of treatment by laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2011;93(3):209-12. doi:10.1308/003588411X563402
- Shaffer EA. Gallbladder cancer: the basics. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2008;4(10):737-41.
- Wang JK, Foster SM, Wolff BG. Incidental gallstones. Perm J. 2009;13(2):50-4.
- Bree RL. Further observations on the usefulness of the sonographic Murphy sign in the evaluation of suspected acute cholecystitis. J Clin Ultrasound. 1995;23(3):169-72.
- Robinson P, Perkins JC. Approach to Patients with Epigastric Pain. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2016;34(2):191-210. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2015.12.012
- Pejić MA, Milić DJ. [Surgical treatment of polypoid lesions of gallbladder]. Srp Arh Celok Lek. 2003;131(7-8):319-24.
- Genc V, Sulaimanov M, Cipe G, et al. What necessitates the conversion to open cholecystectomy? A retrospective analysis of 5164 consecutive laparoscopic operations. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2011;66(3):417-20. doi:10.1590/S1807-59322011000300009
- Katzarov AK, Dunkov ZI, Popadiin I, Katzarov KS. How to measure quality in endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). Ann Transl Med. 2018;6(13):265. doi:10.21037/atm.2018.05.01
- Catalano MF, Thosani NC. (2016). Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of sphincter of Oddi dysfunction. Howell DA (ed). UpToDate, Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc.
- Lee JY, Keane MG, Pereira S. Diagnosis and treatment of gallstone disease. Practitioner. 2015 Jun;259(1783):15-9,2.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (n.d.). Gallstones.
- University of Maryland Medical Center. (2018). Gallstones and gallbladder disease.
Diane Marks started her writing career in 2010 and has been in health care administration for more than 30 years. She holds a registered nurse license from Citizens General Hospital School of Nursing, a Bachelor of Arts in health care education from California University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in health administration from the University of Pittsburgh.