Why Do I Get Heart Palpitations After I Eat?
Heart palpitations occur when the heart starts to beat faster, and they feel like a fluttering in the chest, neck, or throat. Palpitations can make people feel short of breath and anxious.
If people experience heart palpitations after eating, the foods or beverages they have consumed recently may be responsible. Something in the diet might also cause a person to have heart palpitations after lying down, although this could also occur due to an underlying medical condition.
Below we explain why a person may experience heart palpitations after eating and also consider other causes.
What causes heart palpitations after eating?
The foods and beverages that a person consumes can lead to heart palpitations. Some possible causes include:
Alcohol is a common cause of a racing heart or heart rhythm changes.
Researchers from the University of California San Francisco found that alcohol was likely to trigger heart palpitations in people with cardiac arrhythmia.
In particular, it was a common trigger for people with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes the top part of the heart, comprising the atria, to quiver out of rhythm with the ventricles, or lower part of the heart.
Doctors are not sure exactly why alcohol affects the heart in this way, but they do know that some people are more vulnerable to its effects than others.
Caffeine is another food that many researchers believe may cause heart palpitations. Caffeine occurs in:
- espresso-based drinks
- some energy drinks
However, a 2016 study that the Journal of the American Heart Association published found no correlation between caffeine consumption and irregular heart rhythms.
People can also have individual reactions to specific foods or beverages, which may result in various symptoms. These could include heart palpitations.
A doctor will often recommend that anyone noticing symptoms after consuming certain products keeps a journal to monitor what they eat and drink and when they experience symptoms.
This might help them to link their symptoms to specific elements in their diet.
Medications for asthma, diabetes, and other conditions
People should also consider any medications that they take with meals. Some cold, allergy, and asthma medicines contain phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine, which can raise the heart rate.
People with diabetes may use insulin to lower their blood sugar. If their blood sugar gets too low after eating due to excess insulin, they may experience heart palpitations.
Some people take dietary supplements before or after eating, which could affect their heart rate. Examples of nutritional supplements that can affect the heart rate include:
- bitter orange
Some people may smoke a cigarette before or after they eat, which can also cause heart palpitations.
Causes of heart palpitations after lying down
Common causes of heart palpitations that do not relate to specific foods and beverages include:
- low blood pressure
- low blood sugar levels
- thyroid disease
People can also experience heart palpitations due to underlying heart diseases, such as heart failure, cardiomyopathy, or valve disorders.
It can be common for pregnant people to have heart palpitations when they are lying down on their backs.
This is because the fetus can press on major blood vessels, which causes the heart to pump faster and harder to keep up with blood flow demands.
As a pregnancy advances, it may be more comfortable to lie down on the left side, as this puts less pressure on the blood vessels.
Treatment and prevention
A doctor will begin to diagnose possible causes of heart palpitations by taking a person's medical history.
If the doctor identifies a particular food or beverage that causes heart palpitations, they are likely to recommend excluding it from the diet where possible.
Other methods to reduce heart palpitations include:
- quitting smoking
- drinking plenty of fluids
- maintaining a healthy blood sugar level
- taking steps to reduce stress and anxiety, such as exercising or participating in meditation or yoga
People should not stop using medications that cause heart palpitations unless a doctor instructs them to do so. They should also let their doctor know if they are taking non-prescription medications, including dietary supplements and herbs.
Doctors rarely recommend medical treatments to reduce the incidence of heart palpitations.
However, they may suggest medications called beta-blockers or a procedure called a heart ablation.
A heart ablation involves burning, or ablating, the areas of the heart that are sending irregular electrical signals and causing the heart palpitations.
When to see a doctor
People should not ignore heart palpitations, including those that occur after eating, and should visit a doctor if they regularly experience them.
It is best to seek emergency medical attention for the following symptoms:
- pain or tightness in the chest
- difficulty breathing
- feeling faint
Heart palpitations can be an uncomfortable and concerning symptom.
There are several dietary causes of heart palpitations. Other causes can include anxiety, smoking, and certain medications.
If people often experience palpitations after eating or lying down, they should visit their doctor to ensure that the symptoms are not due to an underlying condition.