Gas Pain in Chest: Causes, Treatment, and More

Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD on October 27, 2017Written by Ana Gotter on October 27, 2017

Overview

Gas pain is most often felt in the abdomen, but it can also occur in the chest.

Though gas is uncomfortable, it typically isn’t a huge cause for concern on its own when experienced on occasion. Gas pain in the chest, however, is slightly less common so it’s important to pay attention to it. If it doesn’t pass after a short while, it could indicate other serious conditions.

Symptoms

Gas pain in the chest can feel like jabbing pains or a general tightness in the chest area. Other symptoms may include:

  • belching
  • indigestion
  • voluntary or involuntary passing of excess gas, which may relieve the pain
  • loss of appetite
  • bloating
  • pain that shifts to different parts of the abdomen

It can be difficult for many people to tell whether they’re experiencing gas chest pain, other conditions like acid reflux, or something even more serious like a heart attack.

If you experience any of the following symptoms along with chest pain, seek emergency medical attention as it may indicate a heart attack:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest discomfort that may feel like pressure or pain, which may come and go
  • discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, stomach, or jaw
  • breaking out in a cold sweat
  • nausea
  • lightheadedness

Heart attacks manifest differently in men and women. Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain than men. They’re also less likely to experience arm pain.

Causes

Gas pain is often felt in the lower chest and may be caused by something as simple as a poor reaction to certain foods or substances. Carbonated beverages and sugar-containing alcohols, for example, can cause an excess of gas in some individuals. In others, foods that you may be sensitive or allergic to can cause gas pain.

Food sensitivity and intolerances

Sometimes food intolerances are to blame for gas pain in the chest. Eating dairy if you’re lactose intolerant can cause a buildup of excess gas, causing chest pain. Similarly, if you’re sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease, eating food contaminated with even a trace amount of wheat can cause similar symptoms. Gluten contamination can also cause inflammation in the intestines that can take up to six months to fully heal, negatively affecting digestion long term.

Food poisoning

Food poisoning can cause sudden gas pain in the chest if you’ve never experienced it before. It’s caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Other symptoms, which can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, often include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • abdominal pain
  • watery or bloody diarrhea

Inflammatory conditions

Inflammatory conditions like IBD or Crohn’s — which can cause severe inflammation in the intestines and affect digestion — may also cause gas pain in the chest. Other symptoms include recurring bouts of:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • rectal bleeding
  • constipation
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • night sweats

Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, non-inflammatory condition that causes gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms tend to be triggered by stress and can worsen after meals. IBS can cause gas pain, which may occur in the chest, as well as:

  • abdominal pain
  • cramps
  • constipation
  • diarrhea

Gallbladder diseases

Gallbladder diseases and gallstones can cause gas pain in the chest, especially if some condition is causing your gallbladder not to empty completely. Gallbladder diseases can often cause excess gas and chest pain. Other symptoms may include:

  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • chills
  • pale or clay-colored stools

Diagnosis

It can be difficult for doctors to diagnose gas pain in the chest based on a preliminary physical examination alone, so they’ll likely order follow-up tests to be sure of what it is. This may include an EKG to make sure that your heart isn’t the cause of the discomfort.

Other tests they may order include:

  • Blood tests to search for infections and markers of celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
  • An endoscopy, where a lighted camera is attached to the end of the probe and lowered down the mouth and throat into the stomach, to evaluate esophageal health.
  • A stool test, to search for parasites and symptoms of bleeding that may be associated with Crohn’s or IBS.
  • Lactose intolerance tests, the most common of which will require you to drink a lactose-filled drink before getting a blood test two hours later. If your glucose doesn’t rise, you may be lactose intolerant.
  • An abdominal ultrasound to evaluate organs like the stomach and gallbladder.

Natural remedies

If you’re experiencing gas pains in the chest, the first thing you should do is to drink plenty of non-carbonated fluids. It can improve digestion and resolve constipation, causing the gas to move through the system. Water is always a good choice, and hot decaf teas like ginger or peppermint tea can have anti-flatulent effects.

You don’t just have to limit yourself to ginger tea — all forms of ginger can actually help relieve flatulence and other digestive issues like nausea or vomiting. Whether you’re using fresh ginger, powdered ginger, or ginger tea, keep some on hand to use for future gas or digestive problems.

Avoid carbonated beverages or caffeinated beverages as well, which can actively cause gas. If you’re lactose intolerant, stay away from dairy.

If possible, getting some exercise — even in small amounts — can help improve digestion and move the gas through the body. Walking around, or even laying on your back and scissor kicking your legs can improve circulation and give your digestive system a boost.

Other treatments

Over the counter medications like Gas-X can offer fast relief from gas pain. Antacids can help reduce heartburn associated with it.

If your gas pain is caused by conditions like GERD, IBS, or Crohn’s, your doctor may prescribe medications to treat the underlying condition. This may include acid-reducing medications like Pepcid, and anti-inflammatory medications like 5-ASA drugs which reduce inflammation in the intestines to keep the digestive system working properly.

Gas pain caused by food poisoning will often be treated with antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, you may need to be admitted to the emergency room or hospital for intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

Gallstones may be treated with medications to dissolve the stones. If these medications don’t work or gallstones are recurring — or there seem to be other gallbladder problems — the gallbladder may be removed entirely.

Complications

Gas pain in the chest should resolve on its own and with home treatment. There are several complications that can occur with gas pain as a side effect, however.

Mild cases of food poisoning may pass within 24 hours, but severe cases of food poisoning can be life-threatening. Food poisoning can also cause arthritis, rash, and joint pain that can take months to resolve. If you’re experiencing any of the following, seek emergency medical attention:

  • struggling to keep liquids down
  • bloody stools or vomit
  • diarrhea for more than three days
  • signs of dehydration
  • a high fever
  • any neurological symptoms like blurred vision or tingling

Gallstones can cause inflammation of the gallbladder, and cause blockages of the bile duct or pancreatic ducts. Pancreatitis typically requires hospitalization and both can impair digestion. You should also get emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of gallbladder complications like:

  • yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • high fever
  • chills
  • severe abdominal pain

Prevention

The best way to prevent gas pain in the chest is to reduce foods that cause gas buildup in the body. These include:

  • high fiber foods
  • caffeinated drinks
  • carbonated drinks
  • foods that you know your body doesn’t digest well

Exercising regularly will also help to keep your digestive system working properly. Try to walk after every large meal for at least 30 minutes.

Practicing good food hygiene can prevent food poisoning that can cause severe gas pain. Wash food carefully and throw out anything that you worry may be contaminated or spoiled. Only eat poultry, meat, and seafood if you know it’s been cooked thoroughly.

Takeaway

Gas pain in the chest should resolve relatively quickly. After starting natural remedies, it should start to recede within 30 to 45 minutes.

There’s no need to worry unless you experience emergency symptoms associated with heart attacks or your symptoms seem to last longer than a couple of hours. Not all people experience the same symptoms of a heart attack like chest or arm pain, so if your symptoms last more than a couple of hours, you should seek medical attention.

If you’re experiencing gas pain in the chest that seems to be frequently occurring, persists for more than one week, or is difficult to resolve with any type of treatment, make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor can run tests to make sure there aren’t any underlying health conditions causing your gas pain.

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