Heart issues, heartburn, gallstones, and pancreatitis are just a few conditions that might trigger chest pain after fatty or oily foods.
Since greasy foods are hard to digest, they might trigger a wide variety of symptoms.
What are greasy foods?
Greasy foods are foods that are high in fat. These are usually the fairly obvious foods that you think of at first e.g. french fries (fried in hot oil), fried chicken, all forms of sausage, potato chips, pizza.
There are also “healthy” foods that have a high-fat content, like:
Greasy foods are typically foods that you would fry in oil or have been fried in oil at some point in the cooking process.
Why are fatty foods bad for your body?
Fatty foods are bad for your body because they are an actual, physical strain on your digestive system. This is caused by the fact that it is very difficult for your body to digest fat.
Out of anything you can digest, fat always takes the slowest. This means it takes extra enzymes and digestive juices to digest it, which strains your body more than usual, sometimes causing chest pain or stomach pain.
Because of this difficulty, it means that sometimes your food goes to your intestines not wholly digested, which can give you the runs, or produce gas and cause bloating. It also affects your gut bacteria, as well as your fatty acids, which disrupts your overall health.
Overall, your chances of developing heart problems, discomfort in your abdomen, and other related diseases rise the more you eat greasy foods.
Pain after eating fatty foods
Fatty foods can trigger a wide variety of symptoms. While chest and stomach pains are the most common ones, oily or greasy foods can cause pain in other parts of the body and cause other symptoms:
Abdominal pain after eating fatty foods
This is probably the most common. Since fatty foods are hard to digest, they can easily trigger symptoms in the abdomen.
To make it worse, it is very easy to overeat when eating fatty foods. A large plate of french fries and fried chicken, or a big bowl of potato chips might be too much for your digestive system.
The risk is even higher for those, who are suffering from some sort of a digestive problem, like irritable bowel syndrome.
Pain in the back after eating fatty foods
Back pain after greasy foods is usually a referred pain, which means the problem is somewhere else in the body, but the pain is felt in the back.
Common causes are:
- heart issues
- acid reflux, heartburn
- gallbladder, liver problems
- kidney infection
Some of these conditions can trigger a very severe, sharp pain. In such cases, it’s always best to talk to your doctor right away!
Kidney pain and oily foods
Fatty foods are unlikely to cause kidney pain. In such cases, the pain usually radiates to the kidneys, but the root of the problem is somewhere else.
The only exception is when the food is not only high in fat, but also high in protein – like eggs, steak, bacon, or other meat – and you have an existing kidney problem. In this case, you might experience symptoms.
Nauseous and vomiting after eating fatty foods
Quite oftenindigestion causes nausea and vomiting after fatty foods. Eating too much or too fast further increases the risk.
In such cases, nausea should go away with time.
However, certain more serious health problems can also make you feel sick after fatty foods:
Heart pain after eating fatty foods
Eating greasy foods not only makes your digestive system work very hard, but your heart also needs to work harder to support your digestive tract.
Long-term consumption of foods with high saturated fat or trans fat content is blamed for causing heart disease.
Even though this is debated more and more often, the American Heart Association recommends limiting your saturated fat intake:
The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats – which are found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease.(source)
They also found that a heavy meal can increase the risk of heart attack by about four times within two hours after eating.
Another heart-related symptom that could cause chest pain is angina. Angina chest pain happens when the blood in the heart muscles is low in oxygen.
Eating fatty foods is one of the possible reasons that could trigger an angina event.
Besides eating habits, smoking, alcohol, lack of physical exercise, and stress are the common risk factors of angina.
Angina can be a warning of an increased risk of a heart attack.
If you experience heart pain after eating greasy foods with other typical heart attack symptoms, get immediate medical attention!
However, chances are it is not your heart that is causing you chest pain, but some other condition. According to Keck Medicine, 30%-40% of people in the emergency room have chest pain because of acid reflux.
Can greasy food cause heartburn?
Fatty foods increase stomach acid and make acid reflux episodes more likely.
Acid reflux happens when the pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is reduced. When this muscle is tight, digestive juices cannot flow back (reflux) into the food pipe, however, a relaxed LES might not close properly and stomach acids can seep up into the esophagus.
While you are digesting fat, the contents of your stomach might flow back up into the esophagus.
Here stomach acids will irritate the lining of the esophagus, and you’ll feel a burning sensation around the middle of your chest. This is called heartburn.
Greasy foods can food heartburn for the following reasons:
This means fatty foods stay longer in the stomach, therefore increasing acid secretion and relaxing the LES, which increases the risk of stomach acids entering the esophagus.
On top of that, people tend to eat too much fatty food. Overeating increases the pressure in the stomach, which again contributes to a higher risk of heartburn.
Sometimes the chest pain caused by heartburn is so severe, that people might think they have a heart attack. One important difference is that heartburn gets worse when you lie down. However, when in doubt and not sure what causes you chest pain, always ask for medical help.
Greasy foods and sore throat
Sore throat after eating greasy or oily foods is usually caused by silent reflux (also called laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR).
As mentioned above, after eating fatty foods, stomach acids might seep back into the food pipe. However, in some cases the acids might go even higher, entering the voice box (larynx) and throat (pharynx). This condition is called laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR.
The typical symptoms of LPR are:
- sore throat, throat irritation
- phlegm in throat
- difficulty of swallowing
- sour taste in the mouth.
Besides fatty foods, deep-fried foods are also a common cause of LPR.
Upset stomach after eating greasy food
Several health conditions can cause stomach pain after eating greasy food, especially after eating too much greasy food.
The reason might be simple indigestion, that should go away in a few hours, however, sometimes there can be a more serious underlying condition, like gallbladder, pancreas, or liver problems.
Since fatty foods are hard to digest, if any of the organs of the digestive system is not in a good condition, you might experience stomach pain.
Typical health issues that trigger stomach pain after oily or greasy foods are:
- gallstones, inflammation of the gallbladder
- pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- liver disease
- kidney problems
Depending on which organ is the culprit, you might feel pain in the abdomen on the left (often caused by the pancreas), right (often caused by the gallbladder), or both sides.
If the stomach pain is very sharp or doesn’t go away in a few hours, you might need immediate medical help!
How to get greasy food out of your system?
Sharp chest or stomach pains might require immediate medical attention.
- Chew slowly and thoroughly, the more you chew, the easier it is for your food to be digested.
- A few small sips of lukewarm water might help, but don’t drink too much.
- If acid reflux is causing you the symptoms, honey might also provide instant relief.
- Take a short walk, it might make digestion easier.
- Probiotics improve digestive help and ensure your gut flora is healthy. Consuming buttermilk or yogurt after eating greasy foods can help digestion.
- Avoid cold foods and drinks, as they slow down digestion.
- Don’t lie down right after eating. If reflux is your problem, lying down makes it easier for the stomach acid to flow back to the food pipe.
- Avoid any sudden movement, especially bending over.
Everyone needs fat in their diets, however, you should get it from healthy sources, like certain fruits and vegetables.
Frequently asked questions
While it is not likely, you can have a heart attack after eating greasy food.
Eating too much and existing heart problems increase the chance of an after eating heart attack. It is more likely that you have heartburn, caused by acid reflux.
This article can help you distinguish heart attack from heartburn. When in doubt, you should always ask for immediate medical help!
Can one fatty meal cause a heart attack?
It is not likely to get a heart attack after one fatty meal.
However, a study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that even a single high-fat meal can increase blood pressure. This might trigger symptoms, especially in people with existing heart conditions.
Left side chest pain can be a symptom of heart problems – like a heart attack, or angina -, or acid reflux.
This article can help you distinguish a heart attack from heartburn. When in doubt, you should always ask for immediate medical help!
Vomiting after eating greasy food usually happens if you eat too much and/or too fast.
If you have other symptoms, vomiting might indicate gallbladder problems. Check the other common symptoms here!
If vomiting happens right after eating some food, it might be an allergic reaction.