Do you ever feel like you're more aware of your heartbeat after you have had a meal or when you eat certain foods? Are you worried that there is something wrong with your heart and if it’s time to book an appointment with your GP?1
The British heart foundation defines palpitations as the awareness of your heart racing, beating faster than usual, missing a beat, or beating forcefully.1,2 Heart palpitations usually last for a few seconds but can last minutes or even longer and can occur during an activity or at rest.2
- Certain foods
- Low Blood Sugar
- Low blood pressure
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Medicines such as cough and cold remedies that contain pseudoephedrine and asthma medication containing the drug salbutamol
- Being overweight
- High-intensity exercise
- Hormones – hormones of the menstrual cycle and thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism)
- Sleep deprivation
- Recreational drug use
- Strong emotional influences that can cause anxiety and panic attacks
- Structural changes affecting the heart (this rarely occurs)
Tachycardia can present as supraventricular tachycardia, ventricular tachycardia, and atrial fibrillation.5 The first two originate from the lower chambers of the heart the ventricles, while the latter originates from the upper chambers of the heart, the atria.5
Why do you get palpitations after eating? Are the stomach and heart connected? Or is it the type and/or quantity of food we eat that determines if we get palpitations or not? (1) Read on to learn more about palpitations and why you may experience them after eating
What are heart palpitations after eating
Heart palpitations after eating are the awareness of the beating of your heart after meals or after eating certain types of food.6 Heart palpitations after eating usually start soon after a meal and can last from minutes to hours.7
Causes of heart palpitations after eating
Is it then the process of eating or the type and size of meals we consume that triggers heart palpitations after eating? Well, palpitations might have a singular cause or can be multifactorial.7
To explain this further, a recap of what happens when we eat is required. The food we eat has to be digested before it can be used by the body for energy and nutrients. The process of digestion involves many steps which start off in the mouth and continue as food moves along the digestive tract. Absorption of nutrients majorly occurs in the small intestines after which indigestible material and the waste products of digestion are excreted from the body as urine or feces.
From a few minutes to 1-2 hours after a meal, an increase in blood flow to the digestive tract occurs.8 This re-distribution of blood from non-vital organs and reservoirs around the body to the digestive tract is an innate mechanism the body has to aid the process of digestion.7
It is estimated that after a meal, the digestive tract can receive from a 25 to 200% increase in blood flow.8 This redistribution of blood flow appears to be influenced by the size and type of food to be digested. The consumption of larger meals and high-protein, high-fat meals appear to be associated with a higher increase in blood flow to the digestive tract.8
This pooling of blood from non-vital organs and reservoirs around the body, increases the volume of blood the heart has to pump out to keep vital organs and the digestive tract perfused during digestion.8 The heart therefore has to work harder which it does by pumping faster and with more force which can be felt as palpitations.8
Another aspect of the digestive process which can ca9 use palpitations, is the act of swallowing. It appears that the act of swallowing food can activate the sympathetic nervous system a system that controls our “fight or flight” response.Activation of the sympathetic nervous system causes an increase in heart rate which can cause palpitations.9
Habits associated with meal times can also increase your risk of experiencing palpitations after meals. If you smoke, and partake in the consumption of caffeinated beverages or excessive amounts of alcohol before or after meals, this can increase your risk of experiencing palpitations after meals.9
Foods that cause heart palpitations after eating
- Processed sugars
- High carbohydrate or high glycaemic index good
- Foods or food additives that are high in sodium e.g
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is often used in Asian cuisine
- Nitrate-rich foods
- Rich or spicy food
- Excessive amounts of Alcohol
Additionally, food allergies can cause an anaphylactic reaction which can cause palpitations and conditions such as heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which can be triggered by eating foods such as chocolate, can be accompanied by palpitations.6,7,9
Palpitations that occur with GERD appear to be due to the activation of a nerve called the vagus nerve.7 The vagus nerve runs from the base of the skull to the abdomen and regulates the processes of respiration, digestion, vision, and heart rate.7
Signs and symptoms of heart palpitations after eating
Heart palpitations feel like your heart is beating very fast, slower than usual, skipping a beat, having an extra beat of beating more forcefully.6
These palpitations can be felt in the chest, throat, and neck.6 Although some individuals report feeling like their stomach has a pulse, this is more common in slimmer individuals and occurs as a result of the forceful beating of the heart.
Management and treatment for heart palpitations after eating
Heart palpitations after eating are usually considered harmless. After the necessary tests and exams have been carried out to rule out other serious causes of palpitations, management usually involves limiting or complete avoidance of the foods that trigger palpitations in addition to lifestyle changes that support general wellness.9
Keeping a food diary can help narrow down the food(s) that cause palpitations so you can eliminate them from your diet or reduce their consumption. If you notice that you get palpitations after eating large meals, try eating smaller meals frequently.7
- Limiting the consumption of caffeine and other stimulants such as nicotine (found in cigarettes), pseudoephedrine found in cough and cold remedies, and the use of recreational drugs.
- If you're an anxious person or lead a stressful life, try practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and breathing exercises to reduce stress and help you cope with your anxiety
- Limiting or abstaining from alcohol consumption
- Get enough sleep (A healthy adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep per night)
- If you smoke, you should consider quitting (If you’re in the UK, the NHS Quit Smoking App may help you track your progress, if you need additional help to quit, ask your local pharmacy for their smoking cessation service)
How common are heart palpitations after eating
Although heart palpitations after eating are common, statistics on the prevalence are not available.
How are heart palpitations after eating diagnosed
Preliminary diagnosis of palpitations involves your GP using a medical device called a stethoscope to listen to your heart sounds. Your GP will ask you questions regarding your symptoms and your medical history to aid in coming up with a diagnosis.2
Your GP may run tests such as full blood count (FBC), to check your blood sugar, thyroid function, and markers of infection.2,10 This is because conditions such as anaemia, low blood sugar, low or high thyroid hormones, and infection can cause palpitations.2,3
- Blood Pressure check
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Chest X-ray
- Exercise stress test
- Ambulatory cardiac (Holter) monitoring – where you are fitted with a device that will monitor changes in your heart rate over 24 to 48 hours
In addition, your GP may ask you to keep a food diary to help narrow down the most likely food(s) causing your palpitations.
How can I prevent heart palpitations after eating
By avoiding or limiting the food(s) that trigger palpitations and by eating smaller portions of food frequently instead of larger meals once or twice a day.
When should I see my doctor about heart palpitations after eating
- Your palpitations last over a long time and if they get worse
- You have other heart conditions or a family history of heart disease
- Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
- Fainting or blacking out without any notice
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Excessive sweating
Palpitations experienced after meals are rarely associated with more serious heart conditions such as arrhythmias, heart attacks or heart failure unless they are accompanied by the danger symptoms listed above.
Keeping a food diary will help you narrow down which food(s) are triggers. This will help guide dietary and lifestyle changes that will provide relief.
If you're concerned about your palpitations or observe that they are getting worse please book to see your GP. If your palpitations come with the danger signs listed above, please call your emergency numbers immediately.
- British Heart Foundation. Palpitations [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Jan 30]. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/conditions/palpitations
- Mayo Clinic. Heart palpitations [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Jan 31]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-palpitations/symptoms-causes/syc-20373196
- NHSinform. Heart palpitations [Internet]. 2023 [cited 2023 Jan 31]. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/heart-and-blood-vessels/conditions/heart-palpitations
- Healthdirect. Heart palpitations [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/heart-palpitations
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. When to Evaluate Heart Palpitations [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 31]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/when-to-evaluate-heart-palpitations
- Peconic Bay Medical Centre. Why Your Heart Pounds Fast after Eating [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from: https://www.pbmchealth.org/news-events/blog/why-your-heart-pounds-fast-after-eating
- Vital Biologics. Heart Palpitations After Eating [Internet]. Available from: https://vitalbiologics.com/pages/heart-palpitations-after-eating
- Kvietys PR. Postprandial Hyperemia. In: The Gastrointestinal Circulation [Internet]. San Rafael (CA): Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences; 2010. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53094/
- NorthWest Cardiovascular. Why You Have Heart Palpitations After Eating (And How To Fix It) [Internet]. [cited 2023 Feb 2]. Available from: https://www.nwcardiovascularclinic.com/why-you-have-heart-palpitations-after-eating-and-how-to-fix-it/
- Watson NF, Badr MS, Belenky G, Bliwise DL, Buxton OM, Buysse D, Dinges DF, Gangwisch J, Grandner MA, Kushida C, Malhotra RK, Martin JL, Patel SR, Quan SF, Tasali E. Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep. 2015 Jun 1;38(6):843-4. doi 10.5665/sleep.4716. PMID: 26039963; PMCID: PMC4434546.
- Cleveland Clinic. Heart Palpitations After Eating [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Jan 30]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22416-heart-palpitations-after-eating#:~:text=What causes heart palpitations after, have an underlying health problem.