Gas pain in your chest: Is it a heart attack?

You had a wonderful dinner with family and friends. While relaxing after the meal, a bit of gas prompts you to excuse yourself from the room. Then it hits you: a sharp, jabbing pain. The feeling rises up to your chest, and you have a sour taste in your mouth. Is it just gas pain in your chest? Can gas cause chest pain? Is it a heart attack? Do you take an antacid, or do you call 911?

Know the difference between gas, heartburn and heart attack signs.


While it can be embarrassing or annoying, it’s natural to pass gas 10 to 20 times a day. Signs of gas can be:

  • Passing gas through your mouth as burps or back side as flatulence
  • Sharp pains or cramps in your stomach or abdomen. Pain can move around your, and just as fast as the pain starts, it ends.
  • Feeling like your stomach is in knots
  • Bloating


Heartburn is mild discomfort or pain caused by stomach acid moving up through the esophagus (the tube that connects your stomach to your throat):

  • It can be a burning sensation in your stomach that moves up into the chest.
  • It can happen soon after eating, while lying down or when you bend over.
  • It may awaken you from sleep, especially if you have eaten within two hours of going to bed.
  • You may get a sour taste in your mouth — more often when lying down.
  • You may get the taste of something you recently ate in your mouth — not as dramatic as throwing up, but you may feel some food or acid in your mouth.
  • Taking antacids usually stops the heartburn.

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Heart attack signs

  • Chest discomfort with heaviness, pressure, aching, burning, fullness or squeezing pain
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, left shoulder, neck, back, throat, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Sudden fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness or lightheadedness
  • Cold sweat or perspiration
  • Unexplained anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased heart rate

Heart attack signs in men and women can vary. According to the American Heart Association, chest pain or discomfort is the most common sign for men and women. However, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, vomiting or nausea, and back or jaw pain.

What if you can’t tell?

If you aren’t sure, always seek medical attention. While some heart attacks are intense and very quick, many start slowly with mild pain or aches. It’s important that you listen to your body and think about what feels normal to you.

“If you belch or pass gas and the pain goes away, you could just be experiencing stomach pain or heartburn,” said Joseph Lash, M.D., cardiologist with Norton Heart and Vascular Institute. “If the pain persists and you have shortness of breath or nausea, it could be a heart-related issue.”

If you have any doubt, call 911.

“Acting quickly when you feel symptoms is extremely important,” Dr. Lash said. “There’s no need to be embarrassed if it’s just stomach pain. It’s better to get care than to wait until it’s too late.”

— Update: 26-03-2023 — found an additional article Feeling gassy — is it ever a cause for concern? from the website for the keyword causes of gas stroke.

Everyone does it, but no one talks about it. No, not that topic — the fact that we pass gas every day. In fact, the average person produces between 1/2 and 1 liter of gas daily and passes gas about 10 to 20 times. Annoying? Well, sometimes. Embarrassing? Possibly. But is excess gas ever a cause for concern?

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A healthy digestive system

Intestinal gas is a normal part of digestion. “While people may not like it when they do it, especially at inappropriate times, it’s just a sign of a regular, healthy digestive system at work,” says Dr. Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Gas is produced when bacteria in the digestive system break down food. Intestinal gas contains mostly hydrogen and methane, with small amounts of other gases like hydrogen sulfide, which give gas a bad odor. Yet most components of intestinal gas are odor-free.

But can you ever be too gassy — and is frequent gas ever a problem?

Which foods you eat — and how you digest them — can increase gas production. For instance, as people age, they often have trouble digesting foods that contain short-chain carbohydrates called FODMAPs, a term that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.

“These foods are either not digested or incompletely digested, which causes increased fermentation by gut bacteria and ultimately creates more gas,” says Dr. Staller.

Foods with gas-producing FODMAPs

Common foods with gas-producing FODMAPs include broccoli, beans and lentils, wheat, garlic, onions, apples, and some fruit juices. But FODMAPs are also present in some surprising foods, like avocadoes and cherries.

People sometimes turn to sugar-free foods as a means to manage their weight, and many of those contain sorbitol or other sugar alcohols, FODMAPs that are also readily fermented in the gut. Lactose — the sugar in milk and dairy products — is a FODMAP as well, and gas is a common consequence of lactose intolerance.

“This range of foods is why someone distressed by excess gas might consider speaking with a nutritionist to help identify possible problem ones, and then design a strategy to either decrease the portion sizes or to completely eliminate them and replace them with other foods,” says Dr. Staller.

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In many cases, a person may tolerate smaller amounts of a gas-producing food, but a heavy dose creates excessive gas. For instance, you may have trouble digesting a glass of milk or a bowl of ice cream, but be fine with cream in your coffee.

If you need extra help controlling excess gas, you can try an over-the-counter product like Beano or Gas-X before eating. These help reduce excess gas, pressure, and bloating. “There’s no harm in using them, but be mindful that they don’t work for everyone, and you should stop taking them if you don’t feel noticeably better after six weeks,” says Dr. Staller.

Does gas increase as we age?

While it may seem like you produce more gas with age, that is not true, says Dr. Staller. “Older people often just have an increased awareness of their gas, so it feels like they produce more.” He adds that it’s common for sphincter muscles to weaken with age, so people lose some ability to hold gas in, making it more noticeable, especially in social situations.

Is excess gas ever cause for concern?

While gas is normal, there are times when it could be a red flag for a serious health issue. If gas occurs more frequently than usual, or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms, like abdominal pain, weight loss, fever, or bloody stools, you should speak with your doctor.

“These symptoms could be signs of a digestive disorder, such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease,” says Dr. Staller.

Otherwise, realize that gas is a small reminder that your digestion is working as it should.


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About the Author: Tung Chi