Have you ever felt your heart doing the two-step in your chest, leaving you wondering what just happened? Heart palpitations might be common, but that doesn’t make them normal. While doctors often brush them off as harmless, palpitations are the body’s way of trying to get your attention. They are your heart’s way of sending an SOS and ignoring them may lead to more significant problems down the road.
But what causes these abnormal heartbeats? Again, straying from the NHD philosophy: “Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well.” So, buckle up because we’re about to dive deeply into the world of heart palpitations and learn how to keep our hearts beating like a rhythmic drum.
What are heart palpitations?
Have you ever been to a symphony where musicians play in perfect harmony? A healthy heart works similarly—the atria and ventricles beat in sync, guided by the heart’s natural pacemaker, the sinoatrial (SA) node. This maestro sends out electrical signals, keeping the heartbeat steady and ensuring your body gets the right amount of blood and oxygen.
Now, imagine heart palpitations as a musician who occasionally hits an off-key note. With premature atrial contractions (PACs) or premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), it’s like an extra beat sneaking into the heart’s concert, causing a momentary hiccup. PACs make the atria a little too enthusiastic, while PVCs create the same problem in the ventricles. Though the heart usually recovers, palpitations can be unsettling.
Picture a musician missing a note or two—the audience likely wouldn’t notice. But if they keep playing offbeat, it’s clear something’s off. Similarly, frequent palpitations may signal more concerning arrhythmias, like atrial fibrillation.
What do heart palpitations feel like?
Imagine yourself sitting at the symphony, enjoying the harmonious melody when suddenly the drummer accidentally bangs the drum loudly. Heart palpitations can be a lot like that- an unexpected jolt out of your everyday rhythm. While heart palpitations can feel differently for each person, some of the most frequent descriptions include the following:
- Rapid or racing heartbeat
- Fluttering sensation in the chest
- Pounding or thumping feeling
- Skipped or missed beats
- A brief pause followed by a strong heartbeat
- Flip-flopping, like a fish in the chest
- Heartbeats occurring too close together
- Heart “jumping” in the chest
- Fast, forceful heartbeat accompanied by shortness of breath
- An irregular rhythm that feels as if the heart is stumbling or hesitating
Seven leading causes of heart palpitations
You will likely find that many doctors aren’t quite sure why you’re experiencing heart palpitations, often chalking it up to an elusive, idiopathic cause. It’s disheartening that so many healthcare practitioners haven’t been educated on the true reasons behind heart palpitations, which can often be traced back to deviations from the “Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well” philosophy.
The top seven causes of heart palpitations are:
1. Unhealthy eating habits
An unhealthy diet can often trigger heart palpitations. The typical American diet is riddled with processed foods, from sugar and refined carbohydrates to seed oils and artificial additives. Our bodies simply weren’t made to digest these manufactured “foods.” So, as a defense mechanism, the body might respond with heart palpitations.
Furthermore, modern diets tend to lack the essential nutrients our hearts need to function seamlessly. Compromised farming practices and pollution have depleted the soil, making it difficult for our bodies to obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals for optimal health. As a result, electrolyte imbalances, such as insufficient magnesium and potassium, can lead to heart palpitations.
Navigating the sea of “heart-healthy” diets can feel overwhelming, but the answer is surprisingly straightforward. We should embrace the wholesome eating habits of our Paleolithic ancestors. Stick to organic, whole foods in their natural state, like grass-fed meats, seafood, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and nourishing herbs and spices. Additionally, incorporate omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods like fatty fish to support a healthy heart rhythm and minimize the risk of palpitations.
2. Unhappy gut
Our unhealthy diets have an enormous impact on the health of our guts. The human gut is like a bustling metropolis of millions of microbes, ideally coexisting in perfect harmony. However, research indicates that an imbalance of gut bacteria can wreak havoc beyond the stomach, contributing to issues such as dementia, obesity, and depression. Intriguingly, it also seems to have a significant influence on heart palpitations.
Several studies have discovered a link between heart palpitations and an altered gut microbiome. This imbalance paves the way for leaky gut, a condition where unwelcome bacteria and their metabolites seep into the bloodstream, sparking inflammation and potentially impacting the heart’s rhythm. Furthermore, certain beneficial bacteria have been shown to help maintain a stable heartbeat.
Nurturing a healthy gut microbiome is essential for protecting our heart’s symphony. In fact, many people have found relief from heart palpitations by addressing imbalances in their gastrointestinal orchestra. By taking care of your gut, you’re also caring for your heart, ensuring its rhythm remains steady.
3. Excessive stress
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but managing it in a healthy way is imperative in fighting off heart palpitations. Often overlooked by healthcare practitioners, stress profoundly impacts our bodies, particularly our hearts.
Research reveals chronic stress ignites inflammation throughout the body, exacerbating heart palpitations. In addition, negative emotions cause the release of cortisol and other stress hormones that directly impact the heart. To put it plainly, stress has the power to kill.
Discovering ways to mitigate stress, manage emotions like anger, and pursue happiness is crucial. Meditation and yoga are both outstanding stress-relief techniques. In fact, studies have demonstrated that practicing either can help prevent heart palpitations and potentially reverse their effects. Other methods to alleviate stress include:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Physical activity
- Spending time in nature
- Surrounding yourself with positive, uplifting people
4. Lack of sunshine
Have you ever noticed that you feel better when the sun is shining? Our ancestors basked in the sun daily; today, we spend approximately 93% of our time indoors. And, because Big Business has convinced most people to cover themselves in toxic sunscreens, the time we spend outside is irrelevant for most people. As a result, society has a widespread vitamin D deficiency and a subsequent health crisis.
Sunlight boosts vitamin D and increases nitric oxide, a vasodilator essential for smooth blood flow. Both vitamin D and nitric oxide are crucial in maintaining overall health. A lack of vitamin D can increase the risk of health conditions linked to heart disease, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
Interestingly, heart palpitations tend to increase during the dark winter months. Studies have directly connected vitamin D deficiency with heart palpitations, underscoring the importance of sunlight for maintaining a steady, healthy heartbeat.
5. Mold toxicity
How your body responds to an environmental stressor is the key to optimal health. In our fast-paced modern lives, we are constantly exposed to various toxins, from the air we breathe to the water we drink, and even the fabrics we wear.
When toxins infiltrate our bodies, they heighten inflammation and contribute to a myriad of health problems. Mold exposure, for instance, can directly affect our heart’s rhythm. In addition, mold spores, hidden in our food and surroundings, can invade our system and increase the risk of heart palpitations.
To safeguard your health and support a steady heartbeat, it’s crucial to eliminate potential toxins in your environment. Start by improving the air quality in your home, testing for mold exposure, drinking clean water, and avoiding harmful chemicals.
Keep in mind that food, such as contaminated coffee, nuts, dried foods, and grains, are significant sources of mold. Creating a cleaner, healthier living space can lower inflammation, promote better heart function, and keep those palpitations at bay.
6. Poor sleep
Humans followed the sun’s natural cycle for centuries, going to bed at sunset and waking at sunrise. However, modern life has disrupted these healthy sleep patterns with artificial light, exposure to screens, and an acceptance of constant exhaustion. This sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on our health.
Artificial light reduces melatonin production, increases inflammation, and heightens the risk of heart problems. During sleep, our body repairs itself, including our blood vessels, which is essential for maintaining heart health. Research indicates that sleep deprivation activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing a chain reaction that can lead to heart palpitations.
To safeguard your heart health, aim for 8-9 hours of uninterrupted, quality sleep each night. Minimize artificial light in your bedroom, keep electronics at bay, and align your sleep schedule with the sun’s natural rhythms.
7. Imbalanced nervous systems
Chiropractic adjustments offer a multitude of health benefits beyond soothing a sore back. Keeping your spine properly aligned is crucial for maintaining the overall health of your entire body, as the central nervous system connects every organ, including the heart. This intricate network of nerves, originating in the brain and extending along the spine, transmits essential messages throughout the body.
Specific nerves regulate the heart’s pacemaker and are responsible for maintaining a normal heart rhythm. When these nerves experience pressure or compression, the flow of messages becomes disrupted, potentially leading to symptoms such as heart palpitations or high blood pressure.
Chiropractic care has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, balance the nervous system, and alleviate oxidative stress. By establishing a relationship with a trusted chiropractor and seeking regular adjustments, you can help support your heart health and reduce the occurrence of heart palpitations.
Much like the harmonious symphony representing a healthy, well-functioning heart, various aspects of our lives must be in sync to prevent heart palpitations. From diet and gut health to stress management, sleep, and even chiropractic care, each plays a crucial role in maintaining the seamless rhythm of our hearts.
If you’ve been experiencing heart palpitations, don’t let them be dismissed as “normal” by your doctor. Keep in mind that even though something may be widespread, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a normal part of our health.
Instead, take charge of your health and consider scheduling a free virtual consult with a health coach at Natural Heart Doctor. Your health coach may advise that you begin the Palpitation Complete Support Protocol, which has been shown to support optimal heart rate and rhythm.
By addressing the underlying causes and orchestrating the right lifestyle changes, you can restore the beautiful symphony that keeps your heart beating strong and steady.
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jack Wolfson