Heart palpitations refer to a condition characterised by irregular heartbeats and fluttering or pounding of the heart, which can occur sporadically or frequently. Heart palpitations feel that the heart is beating too fast in comparison to its regular rate. They usually are harmless and often go away on their own. Most of the time, they are caused by stress and anxiety or because of excess caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol intake.
Apart from above mentioned direct causes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or, the long-term and frequent occurrence of acid reflux, can also be one of the causes.
Gastroesophageal disease, or GERD, is a chronic disorder affecting the upper gastrointestinal tract. It occurs when stomach acid or bile seeps into the food pipe and irritates the lining. Acid reflux and heartburn more than twice a week are indicative of GERD. One of the common signs and symptoms is burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after eating and worsens when lying down.
GERD and acid reflux are not the same things. GERD is a digestive system disease that involves chronic symptoms of acid reflux.
GERD and heart palpitations are two conditions that cross paths in various clinical practices. According to a recent study (ref. link), people with GERD possess a high possibility of developing heart-related problems. Although the mechanism is yet unknown, there is some evidence through limited observational studies (ref. link) that report that acid reflux can be one of the heart palpitations causes. Acid reflux causes irritations to the oesophagal mucosa, which leads to inflammation, and plays an essential role in the mechanism pathway that would result in heart palpitations. Acid stimulation of the oesophagus increases vagal afferent traffic and plays a role in the onset of heart palpitations (ref. link), even in the absence of heart disease
GERD can be linked to the following risk factors:
Managing your acid reflux symptoms requires a combination of appropriate medication and lifestyle changes. Following a holistic approach can control your GERD and symptoms and prevent the condition from snowballing into heart palpitations.
By eating smaller meals, your stomach will be partially full and hence, will produce far less stomach acid. This, in turn, reduces gastric pressure. A large meal size combined with a high-calorie intake is tacitly linked to increased oesophagal acid levels and abdominal distention in people with GERD. A very full stomach also puts pressure on the valve between your stomach and the lower oesophagal sphincter (LES) (ref. link). This allows more gastric acid to flow from the stomach into the oesophagus. Take six small meals rather than the usual three meals a day.
When you eat, chemical messengers in the stomach (ref. link) signal the brain that food is there. When the stomach is full, the brain responds with sensations of fullness. However, those signals can take a few minutes to reach the brain. By eating quickly, you overeat and overfill the stomach before the messenger signals reach the brain. Eat slowly so that your brain can catch up with your stomach and tell you when it is full.
Avoid late-night snacking if you have GERD. When you lie flat soon after eating, gravity forces the food inside your stomach closer to the LES (ref. link). If you overeat, the pressure against the LES increases even further. Avoid eating or drinking at least two hours before your bedtime. If you have severe GERD symptoms, stop four hours beforehand.
There are foods that can directly impact the lining of the oesophagus, such as spicy foods, citrus fruits, coffee, and juices. Alcohol not only increases the production of stomach acids but also relaxes the LES, allowing acid to seep into the oesophagus (ref. link).
Antacids and proton-pump inhibitors are medications taken to reduce stomach acidity. Antacids counteract the acid in your stomach and relieve acute heartburn. With that said, taking antacids whenever you have the slightest hint of acidity and heartburn can lead to more harm than good. The overuse of antacids (ref. link) can cause constipation, diarrhoea, change in stool colour, and stomach cramps. Certain antacids contain calcium and can cause kidney stones (ref. link).
In addition, antacids can interact with the activity of other drugs (ref. link), including HIV medications, NSAIDs, thyroid hormones, and blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin). An antacid should be taken two to four hours before or after certain drugs to avoid interactions.
Stress does not directly “cause” GERD but can intensify the perception of symptoms. Stress leads to increased release of acid in the stomach, aggravating GERD. Avoid overthinking, take a few deep breaths, and relax, and you can ease the anxiety that often accompanies acute GERD episodes and experience a more rapid easing of symptoms.
At the same time, daily stress management activities like yoga, meditation and walking may serve as a “preventive” therapy by reducing stress levels daily.
GERD is a common digestive disorder that causes the stomach contents, especially acid, to flow into the oesophagus. It can affect people of all ages and genders and can be rather complicated to treat. Unfortunately, GERD has the potential to trigger heart palpitations. Often, the factors that lead to GERD can contribute to the development of heart palpitations. If you experience fluttering and a racing heartbeat, contact your health provider as soon as possible.
It is important to take charge of your health by living a healthy lifestyle, practising preventive medicine, following a nutrition plan, and regularly exercising. Understanding your symptoms and signs and being aware of health conditions helps you lead a healthy and happy life.
One way you can be assured of your heart health is by using a heart monitoring device. Check out the Frontier X2 and its continuous ECG tracking feature which will help you monitor any possible heart palpitations.
Although palpitations have many direct causes like gastroesophageal reflux disease (ref. link) (GERD), long-term and regular acid reflux is unlikely to be one of them.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or chronic acid reflux can often exhibit feelings of chest tightness or palpitations (ref. link). At times the burning sense fades and then continues, which can cause pain.
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can trap air in your oesophagus, which can lead to anxiety, and then a short burst of heart palpitations.
Heartburn generally begins as burning in the top part of the stomach that drives up into the chest while a heart attack usually induces pressure, tightness, or pain in the chest that may proceed to the arms, neck, jaw, or back.
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