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What Are the Main Causes of Palpitations?

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Main Causes of Palpitations

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
  • Quivering
  • 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:

  • Prayer
  • 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.

Next Steps

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


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About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

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As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

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Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

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Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

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We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

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Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

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Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

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We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

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Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.