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"What causes a sharp pain in my chest after eating?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat causes a sharp pain in my chest after eating?


It has happened several times that after eating my lunch quickly or when I was feeling upset over something that a sudden pain develops in my chest. It feels like it's right under the breastbone. I thought I was having a heart attack the first time it happened and took an aspirin right away and it slowly got better. Is there a connection between this pain developing and my eating my food too fast?


This could be the case, but it depends on the precise timing and other characteristics of the pain, so you should see a doctor in person to discuss your symptoms. If the pain is associated with swallowing, then you could be right. When people eat food quickly, they usually take large bites and do not chew well. The process of swallowing involves mechanically grinding food with the teeth, the tongue pushing food to the back of the mouth, which initiates the swallowing mechanism, then the epiglottis closes off the windpipe and the esophagus (the "food tube") initiates a wave of rhythmic contractions that carry food down towards the stomach, at which point a valve at the top of the stomach opens and the stomach receptively relaxes to allow entry of food into the stomach for digestion. If you swallow too large of a bite of food, it is hard for the esophagus to move the food along its length and get it into the stomach effectively, leading to a sharp pain in the midline at the bottom of the breastbone that rapidly resolves (until the next oversized bite). Sometimes people will also develop upper abdominal or lower chest pain after eating too rapidly, because the stomach does not get enough time to relax properly to receive all the food that was dumped into it, leading to crampy pain. Occasionally sharp pain with swallowing is actually due to a structural or functional medical problem with the esophagus. Pain that comes later, after eating, could be a sign of acid reflux or other stomach problems. What is concerning is that chest pain can always be a sign of heart trouble and, although it would be strange for a heart problem to only flare up after eating too rapidly, the bottom line is that chest pain should never be ignored and should be evaluated by a physician in person as soon as possible, because it could be be due to a medical problem affecting your heart, esophagus, or stomach, and your doctor needs to ask you certain questions and perform a complete examination to rule out a serious problem. An appointment with primary care physician would be a good place to begin and he or she could then refer you to a gastroenterologist or cardiologist if any medical problems in these areas were suspected.

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