Chest & stomach pain after eating popcorn

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Plain popcorn is unlikely to cause chest pain after eating. However, the toppings might include large quantities of fat, sugar, or salt, which might trigger symptoms like chest discomfort.

Popcorn is high in insoluble fiber, which might cause stomach pain, bloating, and distension if you have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

It is usually safe to eat popcorn with healthy toppings. The mains reasons to stay away from it are IBS, and corn allergy.

Popcorn

Types of popcorn flavors

Popcorn is a product of corn and one of the most popular snacks in the world. It is full of nutrients and provides you plenty of health benefits.

Unfortunately, there are some flavors of popcorn that make use of ingredients that can drive overeating and are not considered healthy. These are some of the most popular popcorn flavors:

  • classic butter and salt
  • white cheddar
  • caramel corn
  • kettle corn
  • regular cheddar
  • garlic
  • turtle popcorn: covered with chocolate
  • plain popcorn
  • red velvet
  • zebra popcorn

These flavors are all made differently and have different kinds of additives in their composition. People prefer different kinds of popcorn flavors, and what you choose will depend on your personal preferences.

Why does popcorn cause chest pain after eating?

There might be a few reasons why popcorn causes chest discomfort, but more often than not the culprit is not the popcorn itself, but either the toppings used or the amount you eat.

Some of the common causes why popcorn might trigger chest or stomach pain:

  • acid reflux, heartburn
  • inflammation in the stomach, gastroenteritis
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • corn allergy

While plain popcorn is unlikely to cause digestion or other problems, it’s very easy to eat too much salted or sweetened popcorns.

Is popcorn good or bad for acid reflux and heartburn?

Acid reflux is caused when food and acid from the stomach move backward into the esophagus. It can cause heartburn and other symptoms like a sore throat, cough and phlegm, sour taste in the mouth, and a burning sensation in the breastbone.

Popcorn contains a lot of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps digestion, foods pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines. This is good news, if you have acid reflux, as slow digestion is what tends to trigger symptoms like heartburn.

However, the composition of the popcorn also determines whether it is good or bad for acid reflux. When it has high-fat content, it will stay longer in the stomach, which causes an increase in the stomach acid levels and might lead to chest pain.

Vast amounts of popcorn will also cause a backflow of acid into the esophagus hence causing acid reflux.

Can popcorn cause stomach pain?

While acid reflux caused by the toppings on the popcorn is probably the most common reason for experiencing chest pain after eating popcorn, there might be a few other symptoms that usually refer to some other conditions.

These symptoms might be a sign of a stomach problem, like gastroenteritis or IBS:

While plain popcorn is considered to be good for the stomach, it might worsen symptoms of already existing abdominal problems.

Can you eat popcorn if you have IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a fairly common disorder of the digestive system.

The exact causes are not known, and there is no cure for it. With the proper diet and medicines, it is possible to manage IBS symptoms.

IBS has several triggers, like stress or drugs, but probably the most common triggers are certain foods.

Foods with high insoluble fiber content seem to trigger IBS symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, or bloating. Since popcorn contains mostly insoluble fiber, it can trigger IBS symptoms.

If you still want to eat popcorn with IBS, we recommend eating only small amounts and see how your body reacts.

Corn allergy

People usually experience different kinds of food allergies. Some are allergic to corn in its raw or cooked form and will develop from mild to very severe reactions to its presence or after ingesting it.

However, corn allergy is not as common as allergies to other types of food. Reactions from people that are allergic to corn include:

  • nausea
  • skin rash
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • asthma
  • anaphylaxis

These reactions are always immediate, and most of the time, they are usually severe. It is safer to stay as far away from corn as possible when you have a corn allergy. You can also take an antihistamine for mild symptoms and keep epinephrine handy when you develop a bad reaction to the corn.

Be careful whenever you are at parties and picnics where you don’t know what is in the food. You can also carry your food when you are not sure of what is being served.

Beware that some products have corn, such as corn oil, baking powder, vegetable oil, corn syrup, and corn bran. You should use alternatives for these foods to avoid these incidences of corn intolerance.

Popcorn alternatives in case of corn allergy

Yes, corn-free popcorn sounds like an oxymoron, but there are some other foods that can be popped.

Amaranth, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, and sorghum can all be popped and might be a good alternative.

Talk to your allergologist about the possible substitutes you can eat instead of popcorn.

A word of warning on microwave popcorns

While microwave popcorns are really convenient, there are two problems with them:

Toppings

These popcorns usually contain too many unhealthy toppings, like salt, sugar, or fat.

Such ingredients are not only bad for your health, but they make it easy to overeat, making the problem worse.

Packaging

Several studies pointed out that microwave popcorn bags contain compounds like perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

These are linked to cancer, lung damage, low birth rate, thyroid problems, etc. (Please check out the studies linked above!)

Final thoughts

While popcorn is considered to be a healthy snack, most of the popcorns you can buy are not that healthy.

This is because a lot of unhealthy ingredients are added to them in large amounts: salt, sugar, far are all detrimental to your health and can trigger chest and stomach problems.

However, homemade popcorn with healthy toppings, like olive oil, almond, or vanilla, can be a healthy and gut-friendly snack.

Frequently asked questions

Can I eat popcorn with acid reflux?

You can, just avoid adding too much sugar and fat, use salt sparingly.

Most types of popcorn you can buy in food stores are not recommended for people with reflux. Make sure you check the list of ingredients before buying them (and read the studies linked above about the packaging).

What causes vomiting after eating popcorn?

It’s quite possible that you simply ate too much popcorn. This is especially common for children.

However, it could be a sign of allergy or stomach pain. If vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms, like nausea, dizziness, breathing problems you should contact your doctor.

Otherwise, you need to limit the amount of popcorn you eat and see if a smaller amount triggers symptoms or not.