Gas Pain
June 30, 2005 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Twice in the last few years I have experienced a very painful pressure in my upper chest while eating curry with cola. It feels like I have swallowed wrong but the pressure builds and builds. It is a lot more pressure than when I need to belch after drinking a carbonated beverage yet I can't actually belch to release it. It actually feels like something is going to rupture. I am not sure what I did to make it go away either time. What is this and how can I make it go away and/or avoid it?
posted by srboisvert to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)
Angina? See a doctor?
posted by Rothko at 6:29 AM on June 30, 2005

I don't think that is it. It is completely tied to food consumption and the pain completely goes away once the pressure is somehow relieved. I am sure it is some sort of gas issue triggered by the carbonation in the cola and something about how i eat (or devour) curry.

There is no mistaking this pressure for squeezing or indigestion. It feels more like there is a baloon or bubble in my upper chest pushing out...
posted by srboisvert at 6:36 AM on June 30, 2005

How long does the sensation last? I've had this or something similar happen when I've swallowed a liquid wrong. I've surmised that what's happening is that the liquid is going down in such a way as to create a strong vacuum above it. I don't know if that's possible, but that's the way it feels--as if a slowly descending portion of the esophagus is being pulled out of shape. Then the sensation gets to a certain depth and stops altogether. All told, we're only talking about maybe 20 seconds, but the first couple of times it happens it's pretty scary. Does that sound like the same thing?
posted by kimota at 6:43 AM on June 30, 2005

Could this be a type of heartburn? Have you tried taking a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda dissolved in a small glass?
posted by Morrigan at 6:46 AM on June 30, 2005

I've had this happen to me too on the odd occasion, and I'm pretty sure it's just heartburn. This link has more details and remedies.
posted by Blue Buddha at 6:47 AM on June 30, 2005

To me it sounds like a form of heartburn. The lovely heartburn can come in many shapes and sizes and colors. If you are concerned, maybe see if you can contact a consulting nurse by phone at your health care provider's organization, short of seeing an actual doctor. In the short term, try eating a tums or two before you take your curry-and-soda and see if it makes a difference.
posted by matildaben at 6:50 AM on June 30, 2005

I don't understand the tentative suggestions and qualification - that sounds like plain old heartburn to me. I don't get heartburn much, but I have had it when eating spicy foods too quickly around the time of my period. There are lots of over the counter aids, but the best answer is to watch what you eat, and also give yourself time to digest.
posted by mdn at 7:11 AM on June 30, 2005

I think I know the sensation you mean, and it's not quite like my usual heartburn - it feels more like a big ball of air is stuck in my esophogus. I did it yesterday while drinking 7-up, in fact. I find it passes in a few minutes. Breathing deeply and swallowing nothing seems to help make it go away faster.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:23 AM on June 30, 2005

kimota and jacquilynne's descriptions match what I have experienced. This really isn't heartburn (the symptoms don't match)...and yes it is quite scary - quite close to choking.
posted by srboisvert at 7:37 AM on June 30, 2005

Once I swallowed a potato chip wrong and it got stuck right at the opening of my stomach; for about two weeks afterward it hurt bad, and I had some heartburn, but scariest of all was the pressure symptoms that you describe. It sounds so me like your top sphincter of your stomach has some trouble with pressure in that situation; my guess is that the cola's carbonation adds to the air you're swallowing while gulping the curry, and gives you some bad pain.

To test this theory, guzzle a couple of beers fast and see what happens. If you have similar pain, that's your issue.
posted by norm at 7:43 AM on June 30, 2005

Sounds exactly like Acid Reflux. Caffeine, spices, acidic foods (tomatoes, etc) will make it flare up. When mine was diagnosed I went to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack. Try taking some Tagament (or the generic equivalent) next time it hits. Good luck.
posted by terrapin at 7:45 AM on June 30, 2005

No, if I'm right about which sensation he means, it's nothing at all like acid reflux. I suffer from quite severe reflux and other than being located in approximately the same place in your body, the two sensations are completely different.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:24 AM on June 30, 2005

guzzle a couple of beers fast and see what happens

I do that regularly - no problems (other than cognitive impariment) - i also drink alot of pop and have no problems.

The sporadic nature of this - 2 times in a couple of years - makes think it is just a coincidental confluence of events - something like a mouthful of sticky rice & curry on the way down while a belch of gas or even multiples are on the way up.

My guess is that the rice & curry bolus is dense enough to block the gas temporarily while perhaps other more solid or liquid foods would let the gas escape. Then pressure builds as peristalis moves the bolus down and possibly more gas rises. But I am not a doctor so I don't really know.

I've tried researching this on the web but I just don't present the symptoms for any of the acid reflux problems..
posted by srboisvert at 9:01 AM on June 30, 2005

It happens to me without food, but only with carbonated drinks. It's not acid reflux cuz there's nothing coming up, only going down. It feels like I have swallowed something that is much too large for my esophagus, like I have swallowed a giant lump. Hurts like hell, but short-lived, thank God. I wouldn't worry too much about it. I think it's normal and not uncommon, but I'm no expert.
posted by wsg at 9:21 AM on June 30, 2005

My dim recall from an anatomy class in 88 includes my professor mentioning that a muscle sprain/strain takes many forms and some of the ones in the chest related to eating can be pulled and recover in seconds. The one you're most familiar with is one in your throat and it's a pain that appears and subsides in under 5 seconds. Perhaps the gas in particular in this case doesn't build and hold but strains an esophogeal muscle and what you feel is really the strain.

The above, in case you couldn't tell, is wild speculation and shouldn't be relied upon for anything, including mild amusement.
posted by phearlez at 9:26 AM on June 30, 2005

I'm positive this is the exact feeling I used to get when eating Mcdonald's hamburgers as I kid. I loved them and rarely got to eat them, so I would practically inhale them. It felt like the entire hamburger was literally stuck in my chest, right in the middle of my breastbone. But eating very slowly didn't solve the problem. Other hamburgers and other fast foods never had the same effect. I quit eating them (and all red meat for unrelated reasons) and I've never had the problem since.
posted by peep at 9:45 AM on June 30, 2005

Another mild speculation... a hiatal hernia. I had bad acid reflux that kept getting worse (to the point of making my back ache) and, long story short, found out I had a small hiatal hernia at the top of the stomach. (They are much different from the hernias in the lower abdomen, thankfully)

You might try a Pepcid Complete about half an hour, or so, before your next curry and cola and see if that lessens the effect.
posted by Jase at 9:49 AM on June 30, 2005

I've had the same problem occur when eating too much bready stuff, like pizza (or McDonald's hamburgers). It's definitely not heartburn, but more like a pocket of air that somehow expands while it's in the esophagus. I feel as if I'll either explode or the bolus will shoot out of my mouth at high velocity, but it always manages to go down.

Rice might help trigger the same reaction, especially when a carbonated drink is involved. Did you eat the curry with rice?
posted by malaprohibita at 12:47 PM on June 30, 2005

never mind.... just saw the rice bit.
posted by malaprohibita at 12:49 PM on June 30, 2005

Enlarged heart? (Do you exercise a lot?)

Stomach ulcer? (Stress level high? Pain when not eating?)

Constocontritus? (An imflammation of the cartilidge between the ribs and the sternum -- ibuprofin for a few days often cures this.)
posted by catkins at 1:10 PM on June 30, 2005

Its a GERD plus hiatal hernia. Welcome to the world of 1/4 of Americans.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:45 PM on June 30, 2005

Sounds like one of two things. One, I get when eating peanut butter sandwiches too fast: the esophagus gets into a spasm because the peanut butter gets stuck. Ouch! Horrible half-hickups occur, each painful, 'til I get something down to unstick the peanutbutter.

The other thing it sounds like I can't give a clear explanation for. I suffered horribly from it, mostly because it hit me shortly after watching my partner die of a heart attack. It feels like a heart problem for me. I get dizzy, pains in my left arm, chest pain, etc. Then maybe I burp or fart, and it all goes away. When it first hit, it was combined with a panic attack, and this repeated for years.
posted by Goofyy at 1:55 AM on July 1, 2005

Goofy, you've got the GERD too, you all need some Prevacid or Nexium.

Seriously, being diagnosed and treated really changed my life. I don't even have allergies anymore since taking a proton-pump inhibitor (no more aspirated stomach acid in my sinus cavities as I sleep). I had all the same symptoms that you all have listed, including the peanut butter hiccups!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:56 AM on July 5, 2005

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