Chest pain after eating bread

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The ingredients of bread

The main ingredient of bread is flour. Bread also contains water, yeast, salt, sugar, milk, egg, and oil or fat.

Flour typically contains gluten, which is a protein composite found in foods that have been processed from wheat and other grains. Gluten might cause various symptoms, in this article we are going to focus on that.

There are a wide variety of gluten-free bread recipes and most supermarkets offer all kinds of gluten-free breads. Wheat is usually substituted with flour made from amaranth, almond, coconut, oat, etc.

Why do you have chest pain after eating bread?

Gluten is a compound that is very hard for the human body to digest. It usually requires a powerful acid for it to be digested, and when you have a meal that mainly contains wheat, digestion can take a very long time.

Bread that contains a lot of gluten is hard to digest and will usually take hours before your stomach can fully digest it.

Whenever you eat something hard to digest, it makes your digestive system work harder than normal. This is usually not a problem for most of us, however, if you already have digestive problems, eating bread might cause you symptoms like:

  • chest pain
  • heartburn
  • stomach pain
  • bloating
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

These are the most common health conditions that can cause chest or stomach pain after eating bread:

  • eating too much
  • acid reflux
  • gallbladder disease
  • pancreatitis
  • celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten sensitivity

Eating too much

Eating too much food is very common in the developed world. Chest pain after eating too much affects most of us at least a few times during our lives.

If you had a large meal and experience chest pain after it, the reason might be overeating. As long as the chest or stomach pain is very occasional and happens after large meals, you might not need to do anything but trying to limit the amount you eat.

However, regular eating-related chest or stomach pains might indicate more serious health problems.

How can bread cause acid reflux?

The gluten in the bread usually requires a strong kind of acid to be digested.

As such, the bread will stay longer in the stomach, and it will also trigger the secretion of more acids by your digestive system. The bread stays about 3 hours in the stomach before moving into the small intestines. (As a comparison, most fruits and vegetables stay about 40 minutes in the stomach, while red meat needs 3-5 hours.)

Since bread spends so much time in the stomach, the chances of being able to seep into the esophagus are higher. When the highly acidic content of the stomach irritates the lining of the esophagus, you feel a burning sensation in the chest, called heartburn.

Diets that are high in carbohydrates have been known to aggravate the symptoms of acid reflux. This study found that both total reflux time and the number of long reflux periods are significantly more after meals that have high carbohydrate content.

Some people have trouble digesting certain types of bread since they contain a lot of gluten. The wrong choice of bread can cause the digestive system to get overworked owing to the gluten content.

Bread and gallbladder or pancreas problems

The gallbladder is a small organ located under your liver in the upper right part of the abdomen. It stores the bile produced by the liver and pushes it into the small intestines to help digestion.

The pancreas is located in the upper left part of the abdomen. The pancreas produces enzymes that are required for properly digesting food. These are also released into the small intestines when needed for digestion.

Whenever you eat hard-to-digest foods and have gallbladder diseases – like inflammation or gallstones -, or problems with your pancreas – like pancreatitis -, the release of bile or enzymes might be a painful process. The most common symptom is a very sharp pain in the upper part of the stomach, which can radiate into the back.

Other symptoms are:

  • heartburn, chest pain
  • vomiting
  • nausea
  • fever
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • tea-colored urine and light-colored stools

If your symptoms last for a few hours, you need to get medical attention.

Celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten sensitivity

In many cases, chest or stomach pain after eating bread might be an allergic reaction or a symptom of intolerance to gluten.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is the abnormal reaction of the immune system when eating foods that contain gluten. It is not only wheat but barley and rye that can also trigger symptoms.

The most common symptoms are stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, nausea. Some people might also have symptoms not related to the digestive system.

If left untreated, celiac disease can cause serious health problems in the long term.

There is no known cure for celiac disease, the only way to avoid both short-term symptoms and long-term health issues is to maintain a gluten-free diet.

Wheat allergy

Allergic reactions are abnormal responses from the immune system to certain foods. In this case, it is the protein in the wheat that triggers symptoms.

Symptoms can be as mild as sniffing, runny nose, itchy eyes. More serious symptoms are stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Severe symptoms are breathing difficulties, swelling of the throat and airways. This is called anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical help.

In case of allergic reactions, symptoms usually appear a few minutes after eating bread.

Gluten sensitivity

Also called non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance. The exact mechanism of gluten sensitivity is not fully understood, but many people who are tested negatively for celiac disease, still produce symptoms when eating foods that contain gluten.

Common symptoms are gas, bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.

Unlike celiac disease, gluten sensitivity does not seem to cause small intestine damage.

Final thoughts

Eating bread can trigger various symptoms for some people. Such symptoms might be diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, chest pain. Sometimes eating bread can even trigger back pain (which is usually a radiated pain).

There are several health issues that could cause such symptoms. The most common are acid reflux, allergy, and intolerance. Sometimes other parts of the digestive system, like the gallbladder or the pancreas, might be the culprit.

If bread causes chest pain after eating, the best thing you can do is to reduce or completely eliminate bread from your diet. Some experts recommend doing that even if you have no symptoms at all, however, most experts don’t see any evidence that going gluten-free is beneficial in such cases.

Frequently asked questions

Can I get chest pain after eating moldy bread?

Accidentally eating moldy bread can cause all kinds of problems. From vomiting, and diarrhea to more serious food poisoning.

Depending on the strength of your immune system, you might be able to digest a small amount of mold, but if you are experiencing any symptoms after eating moldy bread, you should call your doctor right away!

How much bread is too much?

More than 2 slices per meal are not recommended. However, even this might be way too much if you are on a low-calorie diet.

For example, if you are on a 2,000 calorie diet, WebMD recommends one bagel per day.

It is also important to eat whole grain instead of white bread.

Can bread make you fat?

Eating too much bread (or too much of anything, for that matter) can make you gain weight.

The high fiber content of whole grain breads make you feel full sooner, so it is hard to eat too much of them. This is one more reason to choose whole grain over white bread.