Having the sensation of heart palpitations is not uncommon with people with digestive problems and frequent heartburn. However, in most cases it may only seem like heart palpitations and hopefully nothing actually serious to worry about.
A concerned reader posted a question to our Expert Panel asking about the association between heartburn and sensations of heart skipping beats. Here’s what the experts have to say:
Name: Bobbie Miller
Question: Every time I have heartburn, my heart rate increases and times it can feel like my heartbeat pounds hard or skips a beat…what do you suggest?
Neither GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) nor occasional heartburn will lead directly to heart palpitations. If you feel anxious about the chest pain that accompanies heartburn, however, and are worried that it is actually a heart-related problem, your anxiety could bring on palpitations. Heartburn can also lead to chest pain that may feel like heart palpitations but is actually due to muscle spasms in and around the esophagus. Making sure you are well hydrated with clean, pure water can help. Drinking calming teas such as Buddha’s Herbs Organic Chamomile and St. John Wart’s teas can help ease common tensions and nervous unrest by supporting emotional health.
Tanya Reid, Certified Holistic Health Practitioner
Tanya Reid is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Idaho Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Smoking Cessation Facilitator with the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society.
Exactly what you should know about heartburn:
Heartburn, also known as pyrosis, cardialgia, or acid indigestion is a burning sensation in the chest, just behind the breastbone or in the epigastrium, the upper central abdomen. The pain often rises in the chest and can spread to the neck, throat, or angle of the jaw.
It is usually associated with regurgitation of gastric acid (gastric reflux) which is the major symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The terms dyspepsia and indigestion are basically heartburn, though some sources specify a distinction. Dyspepsia is defined as a combination of epigastric pain and heartburn. Heartburn is commonly used interchangeably with gastroesophageal reflux disease rather than just to describe a symptom of burning in one’s chest.
Early indicators you should be wary of:
GERD is a condition in which heartburn is a symptom. Stomach acid refluxes up into esophagus and causes pain. This pain can be felt as a burning sensation behind the sternum or breastbone, either as a spasm or a sharp pain. Many times the pain of acid reflux can be mistaken for the pain of a heart attack.
The pain of acid reflux (heartburn) can remain in the lower chest or it can spread to the back of the throat and be associated with waterbrash, a sour taste in the back of the throat. If there is acid reflux near the larynx (voicebox) in the throat, it may cause coughing and hoarseness.
The following infographic will clear out any ambiguities for you, behind the causes of heartburn and when the situation is serious enough to make a visit to the doctor:
Reflux over prolonged periods of time can be severe enough that acid wears away the enamel on teeth and cause decay.
Symptoms are often worsened after heavy meals, leaning forward, or lying flat. Those affected can often awaken from sleep with heartburn.
How you can be sure and clearly identify the scale of seriousness behind your heartburn:
The diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical examination. In many cases that provides enough information for the health care professional to begin a treatment plan. In some cases, further testing could be required:
X-ray: The patient may be asked to swallow barium or Gastrografin (two types of contrast materials) while a radiologist, using an X-ray or fluoroscopy machine, watches the contrast material travel down the esophagus and enter into the stomach. Aside from looking for irregularities or inflammation within the esophagus and of the esophageal walls, this test can determine if the esophagus muscles are working properly in a rhythmic fashion to push the contrast material into the stomach.
Endoscopy: In this test a gastroenterologist uses a flexible scope and with a fiberoptic camera to look at the lining of the esophagus and stomach. Inflammation and ulcers can be identified.
Manometry and pH testing: Less commonly, when conventional therapy has failed to confirm the diagnosis, or when symptoms are atypical, use of pressure monitors and acid measurements from within the esophagus may be helpful in making the diagnosis.
Hopefully, now you are equipped with all the handy information you need to know about heartburn and sensations of palpitations. To conclude, below is a valuable chart that illustrates advice to reduce heartburn: