Gas pain in the chest can result from food intolerances, indigestion, or other health conditions. But some symptoms, such as shortness of breath, may indicate a more serious condition.
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.
Gas pain in the chest can feel like jabbing pains or a general tightness in the chest area. Other symptoms may include:
- voluntary or involuntary passing of excess gas, which may relieve pain
- loss of appetite
- pain that shifts to different parts of the abdomen
It can be difficult to tell whether you’re experiencing gas chest pain, other conditions like acid reflux, or something even more serious like a heart attack. Read below for more about identifying the symptoms of a heart attack.
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 people. If you have a sensitivity or allergy to certain foods, they can also cause gas pain.
Food sensitivity and intolerances
Sometimes, food intolerances are to blame for gas pain in the chest. Eating dairy if you have lactose intolerance can cause a buildup of excess gas, causing chest pain. Similarly, if you have celiac disease or another gluten-related disorder, eating food that contains even a trace amount of wheat can cause similar symptoms.
Gluten contamination can also cause inflammation in the intestines that can take up to 6 months to fully heal, negatively affecting digestion long-term.
Food poisoning can cause sudden gas pain in the chest if you’ve never experienced it before. It’s caused by eating food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Other symptoms, which can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, often include:
- abdominal pain
- watery or bloody diarrhea
Inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease — 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:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common, noninflammatory condition that causes gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms tend to be triggered by stress and can worsen after meals. IBS can cause gas pain that may occur in the chest, as well as:
- abdominal pain
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:
- pale or clay-colored stools
At times, it can be hard to tell the difference between pain caused by your heart and pain coming from your chest area. Before you read any further, you should know that if you’re having any type of severe or stabbing chest pains, you should seek emergency medical assistance right away. If your pain feels like a tightness or discomfort in your chest, it’s far less likely that you’re in the midst of a health emergency.
Heart pain may
Gas pain in your chest is typically accompanied by other symptoms, such as those mentioned above. If your pain is accompanied by abdominal pain, flatulence, heartburn, or acid reflux, it is most likely related to gas in your chest.
Identifying the signs of a heart attack
If you experience any of the following symptoms along with chest pain, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room, 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
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.
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 electrocardiogram (ECG or 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
- 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
- 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 2 hours later
- abdominal ultrasound to evaluate organs like the stomach and gallbladder
If you’re experiencing gas pains in the chest, the first thing you should do is to drink plenty of noncarbonated 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 antiflatulent effects.
You don’t just have to limit yourself to ginger tea — all forms of ginger may act as a
If possible, getting some exercise — even in small amounts — can help improve digestion and move the gas through the body. Walking around or even lying on your back and scissor kicking your legs can improve circulation and give your digestive system a boost.
What to avoid
Avoid carbonated beverages or caffeinated beverages as well, which can actively cause gas. If you have lactose intolerance, stay away from dairy.
If your gas pain is caused by conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), IBS, or Crohn’s, a 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 that 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, gallstones are recurring, or there seem to be other gallbladder problems, your doctor may want to remove your gallbladder entirely.
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 3 days
- signs of dehydration
- a high fever
- any neurological symptoms like blurred vision or tingling
You should get emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of gallbladder complications like:
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- high fever
- severe abdominal pain
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.
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 2 hours. Not all people experience the same symptoms of a heart attack like chest or arm pain, so if your symptoms last more than 2 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 1 week, or is difficult to resolve with any type of treatment, make an appointment to see a doctor. They can run tests to make sure there aren’t any underlying health conditions causing your gas pain.