Beer is probably the most popular alcoholic beverage. While most people can drink moderate amounts without any problem, drinking beer might trigger symptoms like chest pain for some.
Let’s take a closer look at the possible causes of experiencing chest pain after drinking beer!
Why does your chest hurt when you drink beer?
These are the most common causes of chest pain after drinking beer:
- heart problems (e.g. angina)
- acid reflux
- gas pain
- allergy or intolerance
As you can see from the list above, you don’t need to be a long-term heavy drinker to have chest symptoms after having a beer.
However, if you are drinking regularly and start to experience chest pain or other symptoms after alcohol intake, make sure to consult with your doctor. You should also stop drinking, you can even go to a rehab center if you need help with that.
Chest pain after 1 beer
Experiencing a stabbing pain around the center of the chest after drinking just one beer? These are the most common possible causes:
- Heartburn: Beer is a common heartburn trigger. When stomach acids seep up into the esophagus and irritate the lining of the food pipe, it feels like a sharp pain in the center of the chest.
- Esophageal spasms: Drinking very cold beer might cause the esophagus to go into spasms.
- Food allergy: Albeit not a typical symptom, food allergies might also cause chest pain. Swollen throat, lips, or tongue are typical allergy symptoms. Stop drinking beer and make sure to get yourself tested if you think food allergy is the culprit.
- Too much gas: Those who suffer from certain digestive disorders (e.g. IBS) might produce too much gas even after drinking just one beer. The pressure caused by the extra gas might trigger chest pain.
Spasms and allergy symptoms usually occur immediately after drinking, while heartburn and gas pain needs a bit more time to develop.
In most cases, chest pain after one beer is not a serious condition and the pain usually goes away with time. However, when in doubt, you should always consult with a doctor!
Dehydration and beer
Alcohol is a diuretic, therefore dehydration is a common cause of chest pain after drinking alcohol.
Many studies have found that mostly stronger alcohols, like wine or spirits, have a measurable diuretic effect. Beverages with low alcohol content don’t seem to dehydrate the body.
This study suggests that beers higher in alcoholic content (4%+) might have a diuretic effect.
Since many beers have higher alcoholic content than 4%, it might be the reason for feeling dehydrated after binge drinking beer.
Dehydration does not only mean losing water, but also important electrolytes, that contain elements like potassium, sodium, etc. All of these are needed by the nerves and muscles to function properly. Losing too much water electrolytes might result in headaches and muscle cramps, including chest pain.
When it comes to alcohol and heart health, moderation is the key. According to Harvard Health, one beer (12 ounces) a day might increase the level of good cholesterol (HDL), which is beneficial for the heart.
However, binge drinking or long-term alcohol abuse can lead to various serious heart issues.
Binge drinking can increase heart rate, which can be dangerous for people with existing heart problems.
Long-term heavy drinkers can develop a wide variety of serious diseases, such as cardiomyopathy, stroke, heart attack. Other organs might also be affected, e.g. chronic pancreatitis is a typical problem of heavy drinkers.
The typical symptom of heart-related problems is left side chest pain, which might radiate into the left shoulder, arm, neck, jaw. Shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating are also common symptoms.
If you think your chest pain after beer consumption is heart-related, you should contact your doctor right away!
Beer induced acid reflux
Acid reflux happens when stomach acids can seep into the esophagus.
The typical symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, a burning sensation around the center of the chest, caused by digestive fluids irritating the lining of the esophagus.
There is a muscle between the stomach and the food pipe, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When this muscle is tight, nothing from the stomach can back up into the esophagus.
The problem with beer is that it can compromise the LES in several ways:
- Alcohol: The alcohol content of beer relaxes the LES, increases gastric acid secretion, and reduces gastric emptying. All of these are risk factors for acid reflux. Even though beer doesn’t contain too much alcohol, it looks like even small quantities of alcohol can induce acid reflux.
- Carbonated: Beer is naturally carbonated, but most large companies add extra carbon dioxide. It’s quite obvious that carbonated drinks can increase stomach pressure, which might make the backflow (reflux) of stomach acids more likely.
- Cold: Cold foods and drinks are also known to trigger acid reflux. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: “very hot or very cold food can increase reflux”.
Acid reflux and its chronic form, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease – more than 2 acid reflux episodes per week) is a fairly common condition, about 20% of US people seem to be affected.
Experiencing chest pain after drinking a small or moderate amount of beer might easily be caused by acid reflux.
A gas build-up in the stomach after drinking beer can happen for a variety of reasons:
- As mentioned above, beers naturally contain some gas, and more often than not some extra gas is also added. Some beers contain more gas than others.
- Alcohol might be a trigger for irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS & IBD). Gas and bloating are possible symptoms of both conditions.
- Too much alcohol consumption can cause alcohol gastritis. Excess gas production and bloating are common symptoms of this condition.
Carrbonated drinks can trigger chest pain. Too much gas in the stomach often causes abdominal pain, stomach cramps.
Allergy and intolerance
True allergy to alcohol is very rare. However, allergic reactions to one or more components of the beer are quite possible.
Those who are allergic to wheat, barley, and rye (gluten) can experience symptoms after drinking beer.
Some beers contain corn or sulfites, which might also trigger symptoms.
Common food allergy symptoms:
- hives, itching, wheezing
- swelling of different body parts (mostly the throat, lips, tongue)
- abdominal pain
Unlike allergy (which is triggered by the immune system), alcohol intolerance is a digestive disorder. The body cannot process alcohol the way it should, which can cause various symptoms.
Common food intolerance symptoms are:
- nausea, vomiting
- rapid heartbeat
Chest pain is not a typical symptom of allergy or intolerance. However, if you are experiencing one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms, you might be allergic or intolerant to beer or one of its components.
Many conditions can trigger chest pain after drinking beer. Causes range from simple dehydration to serious heart problems.
For long-term, heavy drinkers chest pain after drinking can indicate serious medical problems, and talking to a doctor is highly recommended.
However, if you are healthy and was not binge drinking, it is unlikely to have serious health issues. after drinking beer.