Eating-related discomfort in the right side of the chest is often related to gastrointestinal causes. Cardiovascular problems are usually felt on the left side of the chest.
What causes right chest pain after eating?
Some medical conditions usually trigger pain on the right side of the chest after eating, while some others can cause problems on both sides or either the left or right side.
The following health issues typically cause pain on the right:
- gallbladder issues, like inflammation or gallstones
- liver problems
These health conditions can cause pain on either or both sides of the chest:
- acid reflux
- heart issues
- food allergies
Upper right chest pain after eating
Gallstones and gallbladder inflammation are the most common causes of upper right chest pain, especially after eating fatty foods.
This is because an inflamed gallbladder might irritate the right phrenic nerve, which goes up to the neck. This irritation often translates as upper right chest pain or right shoulder pain.
Some people with gallstones experience upper right pain even without having symptoms in their abdomen.
Right side lower chest pain and back pain
This might indicate gallbladder, liver, or kidney problems.
When the right kidney is inflamed or has stones, it can trigger symptoms on the right side, mostly in the back. However, the pain might radiate into the chest.
Kidney stones usually cause severe pain, while pain triggered by the inflammation of the kidneys is usually mild.
Sharp pain, fever, dark urine are all symptoms that might indicate a more serious condition and might need immediate medical attention!
Pain in right side after eating
Pain in the right shoulder, arm, back, neck usually indicates gallbladder or liver problems. Symptoms are caused by the irritation of the phrenic nerve, as mentioned above.
Another possible cause is acid reflux. In this case pain in the esophagus radiates to the right part of the body. Back and shoulder pains occur more often than arm pain.
Now let’s take a closer look at some of the medical conditions that might trigger right side pain:
Acid reflux or GERD
In case of an acid reflux attack, the highly acidic content of the stomach flows back into the food pipe and irritates the lining of the esophagus. This might cause a burning sensation around the middle of the chest, called heartburn.
Sometimes people feel this discomfort on the right side of the chest.
Depending on your condition, the pain might not be too severe, but sometimes it is so sharp, that people tend to think it’s a heart attack.
The pain might radiate into the back and the shoulders.
If your pain gets worse when lying down or bending over, it’s probably caused by acid reflux. However, if you also experience arm or shoulder pain, pain in the jaw, shortness of breath, or dizziness, call medical help immediately.
Heart attack, angina
Heart attack and angina typically cause left side chest pain. However, in some cases, you might feel it on the right side.
If tightness or pressure in right side of chest after eating occurs together with other typical heart attack symptoms, call medical help immediately.
The most common trigger foods are fatty, fried, and sugary foods.
Since the gallbladder is on the right side of the body, gallbladder problems, like inflammation or gallstones, usually cause pain on the right side.
The typical symptom of gallbladder problems is right-side abdominal pain, however, the pain can sometimes radiate to the right part of the chest.
Gallbladder problems can be quite serious. If you feel a sharp pain in the right stomach or chest and other common gallbladder disease symptoms – like nausea, dark urine, fever, vomiting, call medical help right away!
Since the gallbladder helps in the digestion of fat, the typical trigger food of gallbladder problems is fatty, e.g. red meat.
A large part of the liver is located on the right side of the body, above the gallbladder and stomach.
Just like gallbladder problems, liver problems are also more likely to cause pain in the upper right part of the stomach, however, sometimes you might also feel pain in the right chest area.
Alcohol and fatty foods are the two typical trigger foods in this case.
An inflamed pancreas can also cause pain in the right side of the body, albeit left side pain is more common.
The wide end of the pancreas – called the head – is located below the stomach, on the right side. Since it is below the stomach, abdominal pain on the right is more likely, if you have pancreatitis. However, sometimes the pain can radiate into the right chest.
Pancreatitis usually triggers symptoms while eating, or right after having a meal. The typical trigger foods are red meat, french fries, potato chips, full-fat milk, and sugary drinks.
The pain can be very sharp, accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse.
When the lining of the stomach is damaged, stomach ulcers might develop.
Certain foods, like spicy foods, might irritate the ulcer and might cause symptoms.
The most common symptom of stomach ulcers is stomach pain. However, in some cases, the pain might radiate into the right side of the chest.
Sometimes the pain is so severe that one might think it’s a heart attack or angina.
Food allergy or intolerance
Both food allergy and intolerance might cause right side chest pain after eating. However, chest pain is not a typical symptom of these conditions.
Runny nose, itching, hiver are the typical mild symptoms of food allergy. Anaphylaxis is a severe symptom that requires immediate help.
Food intolerance usually causes abdominal pain, which might radiate into the chest.
You can be allergic or intolerant to a wide variety of foods. If you think you have either a food allergy or intolerance, you should visit an allergologist.
Prevention of right chest pain after eating
Dietary and lifestyle changes can go a long way in preventing or at least mitigating chest pain after eating.
Knowing what foods trigger symptoms is essential. While there are some common culprits, like greasy, fried, or sugary foods, our bodies react differently to the same kinds of food. The very same food might trigger symptoms for somebody and might relieve symptoms for someone else.
Therefore, it is recommended to have a food diary, where you keep track of the foods you eat and the possible symptoms. If all goes well, within a few weeks you’ll start to see a pattern and will be able to identify the most likely foods or food combinations that cause you chest pain.
Eliminating such trigger foods from your diet should provide instant relief.
Some other tips that usually help to avoid the pain:
- eat less but more frequently
- chew your food well
- if you can, take a short walk after eating, it might help digestion
- probiotics, like buttermilk or yogurt, can also help digestion
- honey might provide instant relief if acid reflux is causing the symptoms
Treatment of right side chest pain after eating
If you are experiencing pain regularly, the pain persists, or the pain is very sharp, you might need to talk to a doctor.
Diagnosing the cause of right side chest pain after eating is not easy. Your best bet is to start with a gastroenterologist.
If the pain is caused by an inflammation in your body or cardiovascular problems, your doctor might prescribe medications.
Right side chest pain after eating is usually not a very serious medical condition. However, if the pain is very severe, doesn’t go away, or is accompanied by other symptoms, like fever, nausea, etc., you might need immediate help.
Since there are several conditions that could cause right side chest pain after having a meal, you should talk to your doctor to diagnose the root cause.
Once you know what causes the chest discomfort, you can do a lot to relieve the pain. Dietary and lifestyle changes might be enough, in more severe cases you might need to take medications.
Frequently asked questions
Sudden and rapidly intensifying right side pain is a typical symptom of gallstones. You might also experience nausea.
Such acute reactions can be serious, call your doctor if the pain is very severe, you have a high fever, or your skin and the whites of your eyes look yellowish.
Eating too much can trigger a wide variety of symptoms, including right side pain.
Those who have a medical condition in their digestive tract are more likely to experience symptoms after eating too much.
Greasy and fried foods are likely to cause right side pain for those, who have gallbladder or liver problems.