A pizza made with healthy ingredients is unlikely to cause chest or stomach pain.
However, most pizzas you can buy in supermarkets are full of sodium, fat, and refined carbs. All of these can cause not only chest and stomach pain, but also indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.
What health problems can pizza cause?
Many people don’t think of pizza as a healthy food. However, not many of us know how unhealthy this food really is, especially when eaten often.
Some of the many long-term health risks frequent pizza eaters have to face:
- A pizza is packed with high calories and fat which can make you overweight, resulting in obesity, which causes other chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension.
- People with high blood pressure might also want to avoid pizza, because of the high sodium content or look for a low-sodium pizza recipe.
- Pizza also contains sugar, although not too much. And sugar can cause weight gain, increased triglycerides, tooth decay, and increases one’s risk of heart diseases.
- Additionally, a pizza is usually made from refined flour that has no value to our health, instead, it increases belly fat.
- Pizza usually contains a lot of cheese, which can raise levels of bad cholesterol in our bodies, putting us at risk of heart diseases. However, some studies debate that.
Pizza might also cause symptoms in the short term:
- chest pain
- stomach pain
- heart issues
- nausea, vomiting
Besides the high amounts of fat, calories, and sodium pizza contains, it is also very easy to eat way more pizza than ideal, which further increases the risk of both short and long-term health problems.
How does pizza cause chest and stomach pain?
Pizza usually contains a wide variety of ingredients that are known for triggering both chest and stomach pain:
- a lot of cheese
- refined flour
- fat (more info: chest pain after eating greasy food)
- salt (more info: salty food and heartburn)
- sugar (more info: chest pain after sugary food)
- spices (more info: chest pain after spicy foods)
Certain toppings can increase the risk of experiencing symptoms, e.g.:
- different kinds of meat
Most of these ingredients are either hard to digest or prone to cause acidity or both.
Therefore pizza can put a lot of pressure on your digestive system. More often than not our bodies can handle this, but sometimes pizza might cause both chest and stomach pain to most of us.
Occasional, light stomach or chest problems can be perfectly normal, especially after eating too much pizza. However, if pizza is causing you regular discomfort, chances are there is an underlying condition that should be diagnosed.
What conditions cause chest and stomach pain after pizza?
These are the most common health problems that can trigger chest or stomach pain after eating pizza:
- Acid reflux, heartburn: Tomato, cheese, or red meat are some of the common heartburn triggers most pizzas contain.
- Gallbladder disease: Fatty foods, like cheese or meat, can trigger problems if the gallbladder is not healthy. Right side chest, shoulder, or stomach pain are the typical symptoms.
- Heart issues: Highly processed pizzas contain a lot of ingredients (salt, refined flour, fat) that may cause cardiovascular problems.
- Pancreatitis: The pancreatic enzymes play an important role in the digestion of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Pizzas contain a lot of these components, which might trigger issues for people with an inflamed pancreas.
- Allergic reactions: Pizza contains a wide variety of ingredients. Being allergic to any of them can trigger symptoms like itching, sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath, etc.
- Overeating: Simply eating too much is the most common and least harmful condition that can trigger both stomach and chest pain after eating pizza.
Indigestion after eating pizza
The hard-to-digest ingredients in pizza can cause indigestion (also called upset stomach or dyspepsia).
Indigestion is not a specific disease, but a set of symptoms, that include:
- upper abdominal pain – discomfort or burning
- feeling full after eating very little food
- nausea, vomiting
Overeating, greasy and spicy foods are common causes of indigestion. Drinking too many carbonated beverages while eating pizza can make symptoms worse.
Can pizza cause heartburn?
Pizza contains cheese, refined flour, meat, and sauce, all of which affect the stomach and cause acidity. In fact, people with acid reflux or GERD are often advised to stay away from pizza.
Eating too much, especially when the food contains too much fat, can slow down your digestion and the content of your stomach might flow back to the esophagus. This is called heartburn, which is a common symptom of acid reflux.
If you suffer from acid reflux, don’t replace your lunch or dinner with pizza, have it as a snack and not a meal.
If you experience chest pain after eating pizza, you should consult with a doctor. But in the meantime, you should chew thoroughly and slowly to make it easier for the food to be digested. Also, eat less pizza and go for vegetable ones.
Spicy ingredients and especially tomatoes are also prone to cause stomach problems.
Is pizza bad for your heart?
The short answer is it depends, but probably yes. Most types of pizzas are full of ingredients that are not at all heart-friendly.
But not all pizzas are created equal and the type of pizza you eat can make a difference:
This is the kind of pizza most supermarkets and some restaurants sell.
Such pizzas are full of ingredients like sodium, saturated fat, refined carbs. All of these can increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which are risk factors for heart problems.
Many studies have found a correlation between such ultra-processed foods and the risks of cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular diseases.
Traditional Italian pizza made with healthy, fresh ingredients might actually be heart-healthy.
Some studies (mostly done by Italian scientists) have found that pizza can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems:
Some of the ingredients of pizza have been shown to have a favourable influence on the risk of cardiovascular disease.(source)
A study about Pizza Napoletana marinara found:
An indicator of food preparation’s potential benefits is the antioxidant activity of food compounds and their possible synergistic interactions. The antioxidant potential of food is linked to phenolic compounds, carotenoids, and vitamins (C and E).(source)
Looks like whether pizza is good or bad for the heart depends on the ingredients and the way the pizza is made. Home-made pizza with healthy ingredients might be good for the heart, however, frozen pizzas in supermarkets are probably not.
What other symptoms can pizza cause?
Foods containing too many unhealthy ingredients – like processed pizzas – can not only cause chest and stomach pain but several other problems too:
Diarrhea after eating pizza
Food intolerance or simply eating too fast often causes diarrhea and other digestive issues.
Pizza contains gluten (flour) and lactose (cheese). Many people have trouble digesting these ingredients and might experience diarrhea.
Diarrhea induced by food intolerance can be accompanied by stomach pain, stomach cramps, and other digestive problems.
However, if you also experience fever, or really bad diarrhea after eating pizza that doesn’t go away, you should talk to your doctor, as the cause might be some other health problem.
Does pizza cause gas?
Yes, pizza might cause gas. Food intolerance or eating too fast are the usual culprits, just like in the case of diarrhea.
If you feel gassy after eating pizza, you might try probiotics to see if they relieve your symptoms.
Shortness of breath after eating pizza
Shortness of breath is another symptom that pizza might trigger.
Simply eating too much is the most common issue, as digestion requires a lot of energy, it might make you feel you are out of breath. The symptom might be worse if you suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
However, shortness of breath immediately after eating pizza might be a sign of an allergic reaction. This should be taken seriously, as allergic reactiona sometimes need immediate medical help.
If shortness of breath is accompanied by symptoms like itching, hives, swollen body parts (lips, tongue, or throat), it is likely an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the pizza.
Nausea after eating pizza
Nausea or vomiting after eating pizza is another common symptom. The most common cause is eating too much and/or too fast.
Stomach and chest pain might also occur, especially when throwing up.
As long as the symptoms are mild and go away with time, there is probably nothing to worry about.
However, if the symptoms are severe, especially when experiencing other issues, like shortness of breath or fever, you should contact a doctor as you might have a more severe underlying condition that triggers nausea.
How to relieve chest and stomach pain after eating pizza?
In most cases, symptoms are caused by indigestion, are not severe, and should go away with time.
However, there are a few things you can do to relieve the symptoms and help the digestion process:
- Mild physical activities, like walking, can speed up digestion.
- Your symptoms might get worse when lying down (which makes acid reflux the likely cause).
- Probiotics can also help your digestion. You can take them in their natural forms – like yogurt, or buttermilk – or try probiotics tablets.
Pizzas usually contain a lot of ingredients that make your digestion system work very hard. This can be a problem for some people, as they are regularly experiencing chest or stomach pain after eating pizzas.
If you are one of such people and don’t know why pizza is causing you regular chest pains, you should ask for a diagnosis from your doctor. You might be asked to visit a gastroenterologist.
There are many healthy pizza recipes, that are low in fat, sugar, salt, contain mostly easy-to-digest ingredients. If eating pizza makes your chest or stomach hurt, you might one to give them a try.
Frequently asked questions
Try to reduce the greasy, sugary, and spicy ingredients. Choose ones with little or low-fat meat and cheese, whole-grain crust, also no or very little tomato.
Also remember to only eat a slice or two, eating too much can increase your reflux symptoms.
There are a lot of anti-acid pizza recipes out there (like this one or this one, this is a list of reflux-riendly pizzas), try some of them and see which one you like best.
Most pizzas that you can buy in the supermarket can make you fat as they contain many calories.
However, pizzas made with healthier ingredients, like whole grain, vegetables, are not only less likely to make you gain weight, but they are also easier to digest.
The very same types of pizzas that make you fat can increase cholesterol levels.
Whole grain pizzas with vegetables have low fat and high fiber content, which should be safe even for people with high cholesterol levels.