Hunger Pain In Chest: Are You Actually Hungry?

You just ate a meal a while ago, but now you are suddenly feeling a hunger pain in your chest region, of all places. Or maybe you have been delaying your meal for a while and now you are having pain in the chest. We know that can be very baffling.

So why are you having hunger pain in chest?

It can be basically due to gastroesophageal reflux disease, hiatus hernia, or gastric ulcer. Sometimes, it all has its roots in anxiety and depression. The causes can be different for every person.

That probably did not even begin to answer your questions, right. Don’t you worry, because we have gathered all the information you would need? Hop on, folks!

What Is Hunger Pain in Chest?

In a literal sense, hunger pain means severe pain and burning in the stomach when it wants food or is empty for a while.

When we have an empty stomach or become hungry, our brain signals to release a hormone called Ghrelin. This one is also called the food anticipatory hormone.

hunger-pain-in-chest

This Ghrelin then signals the stomach mucosa (innermost wall) to secret stomach acid (hydrochloric acid). The function of this acid is to digest the food we eat.

Now even if you do not eat your meals timely, the acid is still secreted. When it does not get the food to digest, it starts to damage your stomach wall.

And a damaged stomach wall can cause pain in the upper abdomen and chest region. In severe cases, it can also lead to peptic ulcers.

Now, hunger pain does not always literally mean hunger pain. It is also used to describe pain in the upper part of your abdomen, which may or may not surface from your hunger.

If that is the case, then hunger pain might actually originate from some health problems. And those might not be related to hunger at all!

Should The Chest Hurt When Hungry?

When we experience hunger pain, it is mostly confined to the left part of the upper abdomen. It is because our stomach is situated in that part anatomically. 

But sometimes the chest gets involved during hunger pain as mentioned before. And all of the causes are abnormal per se.

So to directly speak, your chest should not be hurting in usual cases when you are hungry. This pain in the chest region might be indicative of some intrinsic problems in your gastrointestinal tract.

Reasons Why Hunger Pain Is Felt in Chest

Hunger pain felt in the chest is a pretty concerning problem to be frank. And more often than not, they all indicate some other serious problems.

The possible reasons why your chest might hurt from feeling hungry is listed below. Go through it and check if any of them might be related to your case.

Diaphragmatic Hernia 

One of the possible causes for hunger pain in your chest could be your stomach is in your chest! Yeah, it does sound quite ridiculous, but for some people, this is a legit reason.

A diaphragmatic hernia is also known as a hiatus hernia. This is a clinical condition where your stomach comes out or herniates through the diaphragm into the chest cavity.

Normally only our esophagus is out in the chest cavity above the diaphragm, while our stomach rests below the line. But sometimes, due to reasons, a part of the stomach pinches out through the esophageal hole in the membrane.

Now since a part of the stomach lies at the chest cavity, the hunger pain due to excessive acid secretion is also felt at the chest level. This is generally an anatomical health concern, rather than a pathologic one.

Although it is seen very rarely, it is an important reason why you might experience hunger pain in your chest, rather than the abdomen.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastro esophageal reflux disease (also known as GERD) is the most common cause of feeling hunger pain in the chest.

It denotes the clinical condition where the stomach contents come up the esophagus spontaneously due to some underlying reasons.

gerd

GERD means that you will have a sharp, burning feeling just below your ribs or the breastbone. It is because the esophagus is in the chest region. 

The chest pain can come with an acidic taste in the mouth, regurgitation of food out of the stomach or a burning sensation in the throat. This pain can sometimes spread to the shoulder, neck or arms.

Cortisol Dysregulation 

Maybe you are struggling with hunger for a long time, or not eating food regularly for a very long time. In that case, your body pumps out a lot of stress hormones or Cortisol. It can eventually lead to dysregulation of the hormone itself.

And when there is an abnormality in the cortisol secretion or regulation, your heart might act up and cause a painful sensation in your chest. So eventually, your hunger leads to chest pain.

Gastric Ulcer

Gastric ulcer generally arises from a prolonged practice of not eating at the right time. It means the inner lining of your stomach has corroded by the acid produced by itself. In absence of food of course.

Sometimes this gastric pain can be felt in the chest region. Although the occurrence is not as common. 

Gall Stones

Gallstones means the abnormal formation of stones in your gallbladder. These stones can be formed from either excess cholesterol or other bile pigments. 

gallstones

And naturally, if there are stones in your gallbladder, it is bound to cause you some pain. And sometimes, this pain is felt in the chest region. And chances are, you might confuse this with hunger pain.

Anxiety and Depression

Yes, anxiety and depression can be a major cause of chest pain due to hunger. It might sound very irrelevant, but actually, it is not! 

When we go through anxiety attacks and depressive episodes, our metabolism slows down as well. Which might result in loss of appetite eventually. 

But our stomachs take time to get used to this changed food habit of ours. It keeps secreting gastric juice at definite intervals which can cause hunger cramps at the stomach.

And this pain is likely to be felt at the chest region sometimes. Although it is not a very common incident.  

How to Get Rid of It?

Now that we have listed all the reasons why your chest might hurt instead of your stomach due to hunger, it is time to discuss the remedies. Just as there is no one reason for the problem, there is no single panacea for it either. 

A prolonged period of healthy eating practice can do magic to our metabolism and other body systems, to be frank.

Here are the things you can try to do if you are feeling hunger pain in your chest region.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Try maintaining an optimum weight. Being overweight or underweight can cause lots of health problems for you.

So if you are not that much into tracking your BMI, now is a good time to start! Start losing those extra pounds!

Eat a Little, then Sit Up a Little Longer

Limit the amount of food you take in every meal. Eat a less amount every time but increase the number of meals you eat.

Eating a smaller amount of food puts little pressure on your stomach to digest it. So your stomach gets happy too!

And it is advised that you do not lie down immediately after eating. Stay in an upright position, maybe walk a few steps or just sit up scrolling through your phone.

Eat Foods that Help

Like I have said before, there is no one magic food that can help you. But eating healthy can do lot for you.

Try to incorporate low-fat and high-protein food items into your diet. Eat your greens and fibers regularly. Avoiding dietary fat can help you get rid of the symptoms faster than you might think.

Explore Herbal Remedies

You can try using these herbs and try to infuse them into your daily cup of tea. They are proven to be of help to acid reflux patients.

  • Chamomile
  • Licorice
  • Marshmallow
  • Slippery elm
chamomile-tea

Try Relaxation Techniques

You can opt for some yoga and meditation. They never go wrong and help you achieve the desired results.

It relaxes your mind and body and helps alleviate the anxiety and depression you might be suffering from. So give your yoga mat another try!

Chew Gum, It Works

Gums that have bicarbonate in them can help you in reducing the acidity in the esophagus. It may neutralize the acid of your stomach that comes up and give your irritated esophagus a break.

Another thing it does is increasing your saliva production, so your digestive system is also kept in good condition.

Sleep on the Left Side

Sleeping on your left may decrease your acid exposure to almost 70%. It is just mainly anatomy, how your lower esophageal sphincter lies above the stomach when you lie on the left side.

But on the other hand, if you lie on your right, the esophagus is level with the stomach and the stomach juice covers the lower part of the esophageal canal. It increases the likelihood of acid reflux.

Elevate the Head of Your Bed

Some people feel hunger pain in the chest at night time. It is seen in studies that elevating the head of the bed can make you feel better.

It also helps in improving the quality of your sleep.

Eat an Early Dinner 

Try to eat the last meal of your day at least 3 hours prior to going to bed. It gives time to your stomach to digest the food properly and pass it down the small intestine (duodenum). 

Try some light walking and drinking warm milk before bed. This one also helps in reducing your pain.

Don’t try to do these things as well to stay healthy.

Limit Fatty Foods

Limiting fat containing, oily and greasy food goes a long way. Try to avoid junk food items as much as possible, focus on the animal protein and greens.

Try to Avoid Mint 

Spearmint and peppermint are common ingredients of herbal tea and many other food products. 

But for some people, mint can trigger the possibility of heartburn. So figure out what it does for you and refrain from taking it if you feel like it is worsening your condition.

Say No to Citrus Juice

That includes lemons, oranges, and grapefruits. Sometimes these citrus juices can trigger hunger pain in the chest. 

They have a high acid content and can irritate the lining of your esophagus.

Limit the Carbonated Beverages

These fizzy drinks make you burp a lot, right. The burping makes you prone to acid release in the esophagus from the stomach. Hence your condition might worsen.

Cut Off on the Coffee 

If you are a coffeeholic person, maybe it is time for you ro reign your horses a bit. Tea and coffee worsen the hunger pain feeling in the chest and also in the abdomen.

So maybe keep it at one or two cups per day if you absolutely have to. And try to take the decaffeinated coffee if you must.

Limit the Alcohol Intake

Alcohol increases the stomach acid and makes the esophageal sphincter weak. As a result, your condition will worsen a lot if you take alcohol in a heavy amount.

Avoid Tight Clothing

Tight clothes should not be a worry to anyone unless you are a patient of hunger chest pains.

The tight bottoms and belt put extra pressure on your abdomen which can force the food up the esophagus and cause acid reflux for you. Also, it makes the pain in your stomach worse, by putting pressure there. So you better loosen it up, my friend!

Quit Smoking

In case you were in need of another reason to quit smoking, here it is! Smoking can deteriorate your chest pain due to hunger and GERD.

quit-smoking

Smoking can damage the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which is responsible for preventing food from coming back up the esophagus. A damaged sphincter can not do its job right that is why the symptoms get worse for you.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s say no to that cancer stick once and for all!

Avoid Certain Food Items

There are some trigger food items that might make your acid reflux way worse than it was. Keep an eye on what you are including in your diet. These are the food items you should look out for

  • Tomato-based food, including tomato sauce
  • Fast food products, greasy and oily food
  • Fried food
  • Citrus fruit and juices
  • Soda
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Garlic 
  • Onions 
  • Mint 

When to Consult The Physician

Hunger pain in the chest is not a common health problem and arises from abnormal health conditions. So if you think these homemade remedies are not doing the work for you, you should consider contacting your doctor.

The underlying problems are all pretty serious to be frank, so you need to be on the right medications at the same time as trying these remedies. 

So go consult your health care provider and find a solution that works for you and will help you regain sound health in the shortest time possible.

FAQ’s

Why does my heart hurt while starving?

Answer: Due to changes in the heart muscle structure. When it doesn’t get the fuel it needs, the heart muscle shrinks and weakens to some extent. This can cause deficit in function and cause pain.

Why do I feel hungry after eating?

Answer: It might be due to a lack of adequate protein or fiber in the diet. Or not eating enough high-volume food or hormone issues like leptin resistance.

What does trapped gas in the chest feel like?

Answer: Trapped gas can feel like a stabbing chest or the abdomen. The pain can be sharp enough to send you to the emergency room, thinking this might be a heart attack, or appendicitis or the gallbladder. But producing and passing gases is a normal part of digestion.

Parting Words

Sometimes very rarely, you might feel the hunger pain in your chest rather than your abdomen. Although rare, it is not very uncommon. If you follow the dos and don’ts list we have provided, you are basically good to go.

But do talk to your physician if you feel like things are getting serious or out of hand.

Sajia Sharmin

Sajia Sharmin

Hi, I'm Sajia, currently studying in Chittagong Medical College and pursuing my MBBS degree. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is something I prioritize in my daily life. Hence I read a lot of medical articles and blogs to keep up to date. And writing is something I'm very passionate about so I love helping people with the knowledge I've gained throughout my academic and blog-reading journey. I binge watch TV series and K-Dramas in my free time and absolutely love listening to K-Pop, jazz and R&B music.

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