Last Updated: 14th March 2018
There’s nothing like a good meal after a long day of work, right? You’ve eaten your fill, so it’s time to kick back and relax. Perhaps a bit of TV or that book you’ve been looking forward to all day. Better yet, why not lie down for a short nap?
Ahh, life is good!
But, wait a minute! What’s that pain? It started out as a little irritation, but now it’s like a knife in the gut! Are you going to die? AHHHHHH!!
Other times the pain is different. It burns, and it feels like your chest is on fire. Or it can just feel like a dull pain in the center of your chest, right where your heart is. What’s happening? Is this a heart attack?
Before you freak out and call 911, slow your roll.
You may find that the pain isn’t as serious or life-threatening as it feels. In fact, it may be nothing more than chest pain from gas or heartburn from excess acid.
“Gas?” you may be wondering. “How could a little gas cause that much pain?”
Or how could heartburn cause chest pain?
Below, you’ll find out everything you need to know about the different kinds of pains you get from indigestion, including the causes, risk factors, and symptoms.
But don’t worry, we’ve got the solution to the problem as well! With our list of natural remedies, you can easily deal with these pains.
By the end of this page, you’ll know how to recognize the difference between the different types of gas pains (excess gas in the digestive system vs. Heartburn vs. Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) as well as how to deal with them according to the source of the pain…
Types of Digestive Pain
Before we can figure out what’s causing your pains, you have to take a moment to recognize the type of pain you’re feeling.
There are three basic types of digestive pains:
Bloating Pain. We’ve all felt this pain, which often comes from eating too much of the wrong foods too quickly. Your stomach fills up with gas, which can cause bloating. If you feel pain in your stomach and lower chest but there is no burning or stabbing sensations, it may just be the result of excess gas production–a diet problem that’s easily remedied.
Burning Pain. This is a more serious type of pain, one that you definitely will recognize if/when it occurs. It feels like your chest is on fire, or the lower part of your stomach is burning. This is likely the result of excess acid spilling out of your stomach and into the esophagus.
Sharp Pain. This one you will definitely notice too. It feels like you are being stabbed. Sharp, stabbing pains can be felt in the chest, like you’d imagine a mild heart-attackto feel. Or they can be felt lower, in the gut.
If you notice these types of pains, they could be a variety of things, from occasional heartburn, to chronic acid reflux and GERD, or excess gas.
Now that you know the different types of pains, it’s time to move on to the things that cause the pain in the first place.
The facts may surprise you…
Excess Gas Production
Every time you swallow, a tiny amount of gas is swallowed along with your mucus. This isn’t normally a problem, as the amount is minimal.
However, there are a few times that you swallow more gas than normal, such as when you:
Chew gum. You swallow a lot more often when you chew gum, and there is a higher risk of swallowing air as well as saliva. It’s why you often feel the need to burp more often when you chew gum.
Drink carbonated beverages. Soda, mineral water, and beer are just a few of the carbonated beverages that can cause you to swallow more gas. These drinks can lead to bloating, and they may make you feel like you need to burp/fart. People who drink a lot of carbonated beverages tend to have increased problems with bloating.
Eat. It sounds silly, but it’s true! Every time you swallow food, you swallow a bit of air as well. When added to the gas already in your intestines, it can cause bloating pains.
These things can increase the risk of bloating, but did you know that the biggest problems occur in your digestive tract?
You see, when you eat high-fiber foods, the bacteria in your intestines have to work extra hard to break down the fiber. As the bacteria work on digesting the fiber, their chemical reactions release gas, which can lead to bloating. Sometimes there are foods you may be intolerant to, such as dairy, or gluten. This is different from a food allergy. Food intolerance is caused when you lack an enzyme to break a certain food down, and then the bacteria go to town, and produce gas.
There are many healthy foods that are difficult to digest–cabbage, broccoli, and beans, for example–and difficult to digest foods increase the risk of gas production and bloating.
Food allergies and intolerances can also cause excess gas production, as can ulcerative colitis and IBS.
If your digestive system is out of whack, the digestion process can lead to an increase in gas production. Too much gas produced, and you have the chest, stomach, and intestinal pain or bloating! Gas pains can feel like your stomach is stretched, or they can feel like sharp stabbing pain. But gas pains are generally felt lower, in the stomach and digestive tract.
Acid Reflux, Heartburn, and GERD
This is the more serious of the two problems, and the one you should be more concerned about. To understand why these problems cause chest pain, it’s important to understand what’s really going on in your digestive system…
Your stomach produces acid that helps break down food into smaller particles that can be absorbed by your intestines. Normally, your stomach acid level remains low, and is confined to the stomach, which is protected by a thick mucus layer. There is no pain.
However, there are things that can cause an increase in your stomach acids, such as eating high acidic foods, such as chocolate, tomatoes, spicy foods, and citrus fruits, or taking certain medications. Fatty foods take much longer to digest, so they also increase the acid production in your stomach.
Thankfully, your stomach has a thick lining that is resistant to acid. Excess acid production ALONE won’t cause the chest pains. The sphincter muscle at the top of your stomach keep the acid from coming back up your esophagus or leaking into your intestines. This muscle is called the “cardiac sphincter”, not because it is part of the heart, but because it is so close to it. (see where we are going with this “heartburn” thing.
But what happens when those sphincter muscles are weakened? They are no longer able to keep the acid in your stomach, and thus the acid leaks out.
Most of the time, the cardiac sphincter is the one to suffer damage, meaning the acid washes back up the esophagus.
There is no lining to protect your esophagus, so the acid burns into the flesh. That’s the burning chest pain that accompanies the gas, and it’s known as “heartburn” or acid reflux.
There are a surprising number of things that can cause heartburn:
- Excess body weight places extra strain on the stomach until the sphincter can no longer resist the pressure and the acid washes back up your esophagus.
- Nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter, weakening the muscle and allowing acid to reflux.
- Some medications relax the muscles, causing the sphincter to open enough for acid to wash back up.
- Excess gas.When there is a buildup of gas in your stomach, it can place pressure on the sphincter muscles. But every time you burp, a bit of acid will come back up.
- Excess food intake. When you eat too much food, you over-fill your stomach. The level of acid rises to the point where your stomach can no longer contain it, and the acid comes back up.
- The baby growing in your womb will place pressure on your stomach, pushing its contents back UP toward your esophagus. Even early in pregnancy, the hormone progesterone can relax the cardiac sphincter and cause heartburn. Acid reflux/heartburn is a very common side effect of pregnancy.
- Hiatal hernia. This is a chronic defect when part of the stomach is pushed up above the diaphragm, which puts extra strain on the cardiac sphincter.
Combine the extra acidity in your stomach with a weakened or over-pressurized sphincter muscle, and you have a recipe for acid reflux. That burning gas pain in your chest is caused by the combination of the above factors.
GERD is the simple name of “Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease”, and it’s sort of the next (worse) step for acid reflux. After suffering from the acid reflux for a while, the soft tissue of your esophagus has been seriously damaged. Along with heartburn and gas pains in chest, you may have a dry cough, struggle to swallow, and may feel a permanent sore throat or hoarseness. Or you may feel nothing at all, until you lay down and acid washes high into your esophagus and even into your lungs.
Scary stuff, right? It can be serious. Chronic GERD can lead to a condition called “Barrett’s esophagus”, which often leads to cancer. And chest pains are a symptom of heart-attack. These are not conditions to be taken lightly. Once you and your doctor have eliminated these possibilities, it’s not too difficult to deal with pains in chest that are caused by acids or gas. All it takes is a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle habits…
We also recommend tablets for relief of acid indigestion.
How to Deal With Heartburn
Want to know how to reduce heartburn? It’s not as hard as you might think! Here are a few suggestions:
Eat less. Easier said than done, right? Eating smaller meals throughout the day won’t affect your energy levels, but it will prevent your stomach from filling up. Less food in your stomach means lower acid levels, so less chance of acid reflux. Many of us have been trained to “clean our plate” to avoid waste. Stop. Eating it is a waste if you don’t need it!
Watch what you eat. If you’re eating a lot of high-fiber foods that cause excess gas production, it may cause problems. Try to eat foods with a bit less fiber, or that don’t cause as much gas to be produced. Keep a journal of what you ate that caused heartburn, and see if the same foods keep showing up on that list.
If you have a problem with acid reflux, watch out for high-acidity foods like chocolate, heavily-spiced meals, tomatoes, chili peppers, and citrus fruits. Dairy products also increase acidity in your stomach, and may be causing the acid reflux problem. Fatty foods take much longer to digest, and this also causes heartburn.
Change your sleep position. In most cases, your acid reflux only kicks in when you lay down after a heavy meal. Your sleep position (head level with the rest of your body) allows the acid and food to wash back up. Instead, sleep with your head elevated, and turned onto your left side. This will help to send the food DOWNWARD, toward your intestines, rather than back up the esophagus. You may put your bed on a slant by putting a few books under the front wheels of your bedframe.
Walk around. After a heavy meal, spend 30 to 45 minutes walking around. It can be a slow, calm walk, but even just a bit of exercise will help to prevent acid reflux. Walking aids in digestion, making it faster for the food to be broken down and passed on to your intestines.
Have a cup of tea. Caffeinated tea will raise the acidity in your stomach, so DEFINITELY avoid anything with caffeine (black, green, rooibos, white, and oolong teas, for example). Chamomile tea can help to soothe your stomach and reduce acidity. Lemon tea can also help to prevent acid reflux.
Avoid late meals. It takes several hours for food to move from the stomach into the intestines. Give your stomach time to do its job. The earlier you eat your dinner, the more time you have to digest before lying down and letting all that acid slosh into your esophagus.
Hot beverages can help to move the gas in your stomach through your intestines, where it can be released in a harmless fart.
Take charcoal capsules or antacids. Activated charcoal is a beautifully effective remedy, as it neutralizes stomach acid. They can also help to reduce bloating and the gas chest pains. Antacids can combat acid production.
For those who have problems with acid reflux, it’s always good to have antacids handy! Other over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors are also effective for chronic heartburn.
Try a few new ingredients. Want to prevent acid reflux from being a problem? Try the following remedies:
- Apple cider vinegar, which aids in digestion and makes it easier for your stomach to pass the food to your intestines.
- Ginger, which can reduce bloating, prevent excess acidity and deal with heartburn.
- Baking soda, which neutralizes the acid and reduces heartburn.
- Fennel seed, which you can chew to reduce the amount of gas trapped in your digestive tract.
- The truth is that heartburn doesn’t have to stop you from living a happy, healthy life!
A few simple changes to your eating habits, diet, exercise, and lifestyle can essentially eliminate acid reflux, heartburn, GERD, and bloating once and for all.
There are common ingredients found in your very own kitchen that help alleviate flatulence. Mustard, cardamom, cumin and turmeric are some these easy to find homemade remedies for relieving gas pains.
Say goodbye to heartburn!
How To Deal With Gas Pain
Gas pain is different, and must be distinguished from heartburn. Gas pains are felt lower in the stomach and gut, and are sharp, not burning. Here are a few ways you can reduce and prevent gas pains
Stop chewing gum. That way, you’ll swallow less gas, and your risk of bloating will decrease.
Drink fewer carbonated beverages. That means cutting back on beer, soda, mineral water, champagne, and pretty much anything else with carbonation. It will help to reduce the acidity in your stomach and will prevent gas buildup from causing acid reflux.
Walk around. Just like it helps with heartburn, walking around can help reduce gas pains.
Record what you eat. Keep a journal of what you ate that caused your digestive problems, and see if the same foods keep showing up on that list.
Be careful with any foods that may cause intolerances or allergies, as they could be the cause of your pains. The journal will help you narrow these intolerances down, to help you figure out the specific foods you cannot digest. Dairy foods and Gluten may be the problem.
Over-the-counter medication. Products like “Beano”, “Gas-X”, Simethicone, activated charcoal, and Lactase supplements can help relieve gas pain.
In summary, if you are suffering from pain after eating, you need to figure out what it is. Before you dismiss it entirely, see your doctor. Chest pain should not be taken lightly, but once you have figured out that it is food-related, you need to narrow it down to heartburn, gas, or food allergies or intolerances.
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