We all like chocolate, however, some people often experience stomach cramps, a sharp pain in the chest, or excessive burping after eating chocolate. Two of the most common reasons for these are lactose intolerance and acid reflux.
What health problems can chocolate cause?
Eating too much chocolate can increase a person’s calorie intake which can lead to weight gain and obesity which increases their risk of cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, dyslipidemia, or diabetes.
Eating large quantities can result in side effects related to caffeine such as sleeplessness, nervousness, heart palpitations, and increased urination.
Research also says that cocoa in chocolate can trigger migraine headaches, skin reactions, and constipation.
However, the most common symptoms related to eating chocolate are probably related to the digestive system. There are:
- stomach cramps
- chest pain, heartburn
- bloating, excessive gas
Stomach cramps after eating chocolate
A stomach cramp is a sudden, uncontrolled tight feeling in your stomach. Most of us experience occasional stomach cramps, and this can be normal, especially if you ate too much chocolate.
However, regular stomach cramps after eating chocolate are not normal. Chances are there is an underlying medical condition that should be diagnosed and treated.
These are the most common problems that might make chocolate trigger stomach ache:
- food allergy or food intolerance
- gallbladder, pancreas or liver diseases
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Chocolate and stomach pain
If you have eaten too much chocolate and now have dull stomach pain, that can be normal.
However, a sudden, sharp abdominal pain is never a good sign. If it lasts for hours, it could be caused by conditions like gallstones, pancreatitis.
Sharp pain in the right side of the stomach after eating chocolate might indicate gallstones or the inflammation of the gallbladder. Left side pain might be caused by the liver.
Watch out for these symptoms:
- sharp, intense pain
- yellowish skin
These might indicate a serious problem in the digestive system, which might need medical attention right away!
Can chocolate cause chest pain?
Chocolate contains cocoa powder, which can be acidic. Therefore, for those who have GERD, this can cause their symptoms to increase.
The high sugar content of milk chocolate – like all sugary foods – can also trigger symptoms for people who are prone to acid reflux.
Chocolate and heartburn
Acid reflux – also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – is a condition that causes a backward flow of acid into one’s esophagus. These acids thus cause unpleasant heartburn or the esophagus to hurt.
Statistics say that many people experience acid reflux. However, if it happens more than twice a week you may have GERD which can cause serious health complications, if not treated.
Often reflux results from food that one eats and chocolates are among the foods that you probably shouldn’t eat if you have reflux. Many people experience chest pain after eating sugary foods, like chocolate.
Some studies claim that chocolate can cause heartburn, one of the symptoms of acid reflux. A study by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy found that chocolates reduce esophageal sphincter pressure, and this change may make a person vulnerable to heartburn.
Note that intestinal cells relax the esophageal sphincter, however, a high intake of cocoa can cause these cells to release a significant amount of serotonin. Thus, when the sphincter muscle relaxes it causes the gastric contents to rise leading to a burning sensation in your esophagus.
Many diets suggest avoiding chocolate as one way of preventing reflux symptoms.
Heart palpitations after eating chocolate
Chocolate might cause heart palpitations, but only if consumed in large amounts.
Heart palpitations are usually related to the caffeine content of chocolate. Theobromine and other stimulants in chocolate might also be the cause.
Dark chocolates contain more caffeine than milk or white chocolates.
However, unless you excessive amounts of chocolate, it should not cause heart problems.
Chocolate allergy and intolerance
The most common ingredients of chocolate that can cause symptoms are milk and cocoa. However, some chocolates may contain soy, nuts, almond, caffeine, etc., all of these can trigger symptoms.
Common chocolate allergy symptoms are:
- swollen throat, tounges
- stomach cramps
Common chocolate intolerance symptoms are:
- stomach pain
There are two main differences between allergy and intolerance:
- Allergy is the abnormal response of the immune system to certain foods. Intolerance is a problem with the digestive system.
- While some symptoms might look the same, allergy can cause anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical care.
If you have chocolate allergy or intolerance but are not sure which ingredient is the culprit, or not sure if it is allergy or intolerance, you should go to an allergy test to sort it out.
What to do if you cannot eat chocolate?
Chocolate is best when consumed in moderation. However, if it triggers symptoms, it may be best that you avoid completely eating it.
Fortunately, there are many healthy alternatives that’ll help you conquer your chocolate cravings. They include fruits like bananas and pawpaw, yogurts, and nuts.
One can also replicate the chocolate flavor by trying cocoa powder. Add enough quantity of it into milk, yogurt, coffee, shakes, cottage cheese, or smoothies and enjoy the rich chocolatey goodness without extra calories, fat and sugar.
To sum up, chocolate contains a number of ingredients that might cause chest pain after eating:
If you are experiencing symptoms – like stomach cramps, heartburn, excessive burping, chest pain – after eating chocolate, try to limit the amount you eat, maybe try different types of chocolates to see if your symptoms worsen or get better.
Frequently asked questions
Should I avoid both milk and dark chocolates if I have acid reflux?
Milk chocolate tends to contain more fat and sugar, dark chocolate contains more cocoa. Since both fat, sugar and cocoa can cause reflux and everybody reacts a bit differently to the food we eat, all we can say is that you might want to try both and see if they cause you any symptoms.
Can I eat chocolate after a heart attack?
Many research shows that a small amount of chocolate is beneficial for your heart because of its flavonoid content. Just make sure you eat dark chocolate, as it contains more flavonoids.
Can too much chocolate cause stomach pain?
Even if you don’t have reflux, too much chocolate can cause some discomfort. One reason for that might be milk allergy. Too much fat, sugar or corn syrup might also be a problem.
Try to limit the amount of chocolate you eat and if the problem persists you might want to consult with a doctor to find out if it’s food allergy or reflux or some other problem.