The feeling of a very fast heart beating after a meal is what we call heart palpitations. A fluttering heart can alarm a person, especially when a person is unaware of an underlying heart condition. Somehow, there is increased heart rate and is considered normal after a big meal but tends to become a nuisance as it turns out to be persistent and discomforting. Heart palpitations felt after a big meal is a common feeling. It is more common to people who have weight problems and the recovering anorexic people.
The usual question after experiencing heart palpitations is if this is considered normal. Normally, after eating a meal our heart’s function is initiated by pumping sufficient blood to the stomach in order to complete the digestion process. The process entails increased blood flow and circulation towards the stomach to help speed up digestion. This function of the heart is normal, however, to some or other people, they experience palpitations as the heart compensates as necessary by compensating for the demand thus giving out irregular, increased heart beats.
Heart palpitations after a meal have accompanying symptoms which are alarming in some way and these are:
- Some patients complain of feelings of nausea and dizziness
- Heart palpitations can complicate with chest tightness and shortness of breath
- Increased sweating and feelings of restlessness are manifested
- Stomach palpitations may develop, accompanied by some degree of discomfort in the abdominal area
- Alteration in the sleeping pattern as patients tend have a hard time going to sleep peacefully during the night
- Excessive yawning is a manifestation that less blood supply is pumped towards the brain because blood circulation shall be more focused towards the stomach to facilitate digestion
Causes for Heart Palpitations After Eating
Heart palpitations after eating a meal have a variety of sources. The following are the said causes of heart palpitations after meals:
- Underlying heart disease. Palpitations are a common manifestation to people suffering from a heart disease. Conditions such as atrial fibrillation, paroxysmal tachycardia, and etc. are just some of the causes of heart palpitations.
- Sudden intake of food after starving for a long time. Sudden binge eating after a long time without food intake can result to a surge of blood sugar release. Usually, those who suffer from anorexia nervosa are seen with this cause. The sudden increase of blood sugar level can lead to cardiac arrhythmias because of compensatory release of insulin. Insulin lowers the blood sugar levels but can also induce heart palpitations as secretion of adrenaline follows.
- Stress. This is a common cause of heart palpitations, in general. Stress, accompanied by anxiety can lead to a variety of symptoms such as chest and abdominal pain.
- Hormonal imbalance. This primarily occurs in young women. If a person is suffering from hyperthyroidism, one is placed at risk from suffering palpitations. When there is excessive thyroid hormone production, increase in most vital signs is a manifestation. This is due to the increased release of adrenaline which results to increased heart rate.
- Hiatal hernia. The condition manifests heart palpitations after eating because of its association with GERD or gastroesophageal reflux. Hiatal hernia is a digestive disorder that results to stomach protrusion into the thoracic area through the diaphragm. Someone suffering from hiatal hernia is prone to reflux of stomach food contents which triggers chest discomfort and eventually increasing a person’s heart rate.
- Increased weight/obesity. This cause is also associated with the type of food one eats. Most obese people have high intake of sugar and caffeine, leading to increased heart rates. In relation to increased weight, the cardiovascular system tends to put much more effort in pumping blood. Because of this compensatory mechanism, heart palpitations result and lead to discomfort such as chest pain among obese patients.
- Severe anemia. Anemia can result to heart palpitations because of ineffective oxygenated blood supply to the heart. Low hemoglobin levels can lead to increased heart rate as the cardiovascular system compensates from the low blood oxygenation.
A normal heart rate of a person is 60 to 90 beats per minute. A woman usually has a higher heart rate compared to men, but in general, the average heart rate of a person is 70 bpm. In order to identify that one is suffering from heart palpitations, collecting the patient’s medical history is necessary. An athletic patient is expected to have lower heart rate compared to people who are inactive or do not exercise regularly.
It is necessary to note that heart palpitations are not common to the patient in order to rule out this problem. An ECG can confirm for underlying heart problems. This test will record the electrical activity of the heart. Another test is called the Holter monitor. This shall involve the use of a portable device that monitors heart activity for 24 hours. The test shall also involve a 24-hour jotting down of activities to see what activity initiates the heart palpitations.
Treatment for Heart Palpitations After Eating
This treatment portion is for information purposes only. The need to call for a doctor when symptoms occur is highly recommended. Self treatment must be avoided in order not to worsen the situation.
Treatment for heart palpitations aims to reduce discomfort. The following are interventions for heart palpitations:
- In order to avoid further episodes of heart palpitations after a meal, one should have small frequent feedings instead of having three meals in a day. Frequent feedings which are in small portions can reduce heart activity during digestion. Skipping meals is a big no as this can result to heart palpitations.
- Regular check-up for anemia and hormonal problems must be done, most especially for women. With this intervention, one can avoid the occurrence of palpitations and can also help identify presence of hyperthyroidism which is a causative disease of heart palpitations.
- Fewer intakes of caffeinated drinks should be practiced. One should cut down intake of sugar and follow a healthy lifestyle such as doing regular exercise to avoid weight gain. A nutritious diet should be followed such as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid eating foods rich in trans-fat and cholesterol, such as foods in fast food chains. Foods that should be avoided are dairy products, fried foods and most especially processed foods which are high in salt.
- When condition becomes persistent, asking for a cardiologist’s advice is necessary. One should consider that a possible heart condition is causing the symptom.