Shortness of Breath & Shoulder Pain After Eating

Heart Attack
A man is experiencing chest pain. (Image: digitalskillet/E+/Getty Images)

It’s alarming when you become short of breath but it can be especially frightening if it’s accompanied by shoulder pain. The most common condition thought of with these symptoms is a heart attack, but if the symptoms only develop after eating it can be a sign of a digestive-related condition. Anytime you experience adverse reactions from eating, avoid the foods that trigger your symptoms and call your doctor.

Gallbladder Disease

Shortness of breath and shoulder pain that develops after you eat can be a sign of gallbladder disease. Your gallbladder is a sac that stores bile to help your body digest high-fat content foods. The gallbladder can develop cholesterol deposits that can form into clusters called stones. A gallstone that becomes lodged in the gallbladder duct can lead to inflammation and severe pain in your chest, abdomen and right shoulder, according to MayoClinic.com. Foods that are high in fat, such as cream, cheese and fried foods are most likely to trigger a gallbladder attack.

Allergic Reaction

You can have an allergic reaction to any food. A food allergy occurs when you eat a food that your immune system does not identify as safe. The immune system attempts to rid the body of the proteins in the food by creating immunoglobulin E antibodies. These antibodies trigger your white blood cells to produce histamine, a chemical that protects against infection but causes inflammation in soft tissues. Your lungs are made of soft tissues that can become constricted and swollen from a food allergy. Chest pressure commonly causes referred pain in your back and shoulders. Referred pain is pain that originates in one area of your body and is felt in another.

Allergy-Induced Asthma

After consuming an allergic food, your lungs can swell, restricting your breathing ability. This can lead to shortness of breath, chest pain, tightness, coughing and wheezing. Shoulder pain is possible with this condition, again due to reflected pain. Chest pain commonly can cause reflected pain in your upper back and shoulders. The only way to prevent these symptoms is to identify and avoid all foods that cause an allergic reaction.

Heart Attack

A heart attack can happen at any time. Eating does not increase your risk of having a heart attack, but shortness of breath and shoulder pain are classic symptoms of a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when a blood vessel that goes to your heart is clogged, cutting off the blood supply. This is a serious medical condition that could lead to death.

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