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Avatar universal

heart palpitation and bowel movements

I am a 35yo female that has suffered from heart palpitations for the last several years. I have had every test that you can think of.  They all come back as normal.  My cardiologist says that some people suffer from palpitations for no reason.  It just seems like when I have palpitations that I automaticlly need to have a bowel movement.  Does anyone else suffer from that? I have been told that is not a sign of any heart problem.  The palpitation bother me to the point that I am afraid that I will have a heart attack.
44 Responses
612551 tn?1450025775
While there are no absolute guarantees in this life, it sounds like you've been check-out sufficiently to make a heart attack unlikely.

Have you had any emotional analysis, i.e., panic/anxiety/depression.. whatever?  Emotions can cause rhythm problems, and likely bowel problems too.  I am not aware of any other connection between the two physical conditions.
Avatar universal
Could this be anything to do with the vagus nerve? When I get my palpatations and irregular heartbeat it is preceded by stomach activity, a bit like a spasm in the gut. The docs I've mentioned this to say there is no connection between what's going on with my heart and the vagus nerve, but I am far from convinced.
Avatar universal
What you are experiencing is not uncommon and has been mentioned many times on this board in other postings -- you might find it interesting to do a search and read those threads.

Palpitations, isolated PVCs/PACS, short runs of tachycardia, bradycardia, and even vaso-vagal syncope, have all been noted in research, and by medical practitioners working directly with patients, to, at times, be precipitated and/or accompanied by activity in the digestive system including passing gas, having heartburn, feeling the urge for and having a bowel movement, and episodes of nausea. Many questionaires given to patients undergoing evaluation by well recognized hospitals specializing in cardiac arrhythmia include specific questions about palpitations, arrhythmia and syncopal problems in relation to digestive events because they are aware that there does seem to be a connection for some patients at some times.

There is some speculation that the arrhythmia in these cases may result from vaso-vagal stimulation, while a couple of studies seem to suggest it may be the result of irritation or temporary disruption of the complex electrical circuitry in the heart by small changes in the position of, or pressure on, the heart caused by the digestive process.

As far as I can ascertain, as long as your heart is structurally sound and you have had your arrhythmia appropriately evaluated by a specialist and no serious abnormalities have been found, these episodes do not seem to cause any problems -- other than being uncomfortable and possibly a bit embarrassing for some. In a cardiac rehab program I once met a woman who was so frightened of her digestive system related palpitations that she would not lock the door on the bathroom when she used it for fear that if something happened to her, no one would be able to get in to provide emergency care. Leaving door unlocked eased her anxiety considerably and certainly encouraged her friends and family to consistently knock before opening...
Avatar universal
Thanks for the information.  
Avatar universal
Yeah, I found that useful too ptadvoc8, thanks. I was particularly interested in this bit....There is some speculation that the arrhythmia in these cases may result from vaso-vagal stimulation, while a couple of studies seem to suggest it may be the result of irritation or temporary disruption of the complex electrical circuitry in the heart by small changes in the position of, or pressure on, the heart caused by the digestive process.

Because sometimes when I lie on my left side when getting into bed, the arrhythmias start off, but if I lie on the right they don't. However, what I find difficult to get my head round is the apparent benign definitions given to heart irregularities. Surely you can have a heart as strong and healthy of that of a lion, but if there is dispruption to the electrical circuit, there is every chance it might decide to stop one day. What prevents this?
Avatar universal
From what I understand, the unique physiological structure of the heart actually seems to make it "want" to keep beating -- so much so that if you dissect a recently deceased cadaver heart and slice or tweeze out a few random heart muscle cells then drop them into a solution of sodium and sugar water in a petri dish, they will often try to start to beat, and once they do start beating, they will then try to organize among themselves to try and beat "rhythmically". I find this absolutely fascinating. Despite all the things that seem to go "wrong" with our hearts, our hearts really just want to keep beating!

So, while you might think all of these arrhythmias, PVCs/PACs, bradycardias and tachycardias would lead to more serious complications, the heart seems to be surprisingly strong and adaptable to electrical fluctuations -- as long as the hearts structural and vascular components are in good shape. That is not to say that these electrical problems aren't serious in some cases and don't warrant evaluation and treatment. There are a certain number of deaths every year from SCA so concerns about that are very real, but overall, even when you are experiencing episodes of arrhythmia, it can help to remind yourself that there is probably much more that is "right" with your heart than is wrong with it...but only after you've had a good, thorough evaluation by a specialist!

Years ago people just lived with "tricky" hearts -- and the majority of them lived well into old age. My Great Grandmother was famous for her "tricky heart" and she lived to be 87. Her heart did all kinds of strange things, but it still kept beating well enough to keep her alive, happy and generally healthy. As medicine and technology have "advanced" these days, we view and treat the whole arrhythmia scene differently and often with excellent results, but I think it's helpful to remember that throughout the ages people have lived long and happy lives with "tricky hearts".

Incidentally, lying on one side or another is also commonly associated with an increase (or decrease) in arrhythmia symptoms and physicians (and patients!) are well aware of this phenomena. One of the theories put forth is that the "pressure" on the valves or other areas of the heart makes it "irritable"...
Avatar universal
I also have had this uncomfotable feeling during a palpitation and it always happens just before a bowel movement or gas.  I have this issue mostly in the morning and rarely at night.  I have had a few panic attacks in the past which the doc said is was a vagal maneuver.  I never passed out but I was close and it really scared me.  The feeling I get some mornings when I am stressed out and have to use the bathroom are very similar to when I had a bad panic attack.  I did some reading on the vagal nerve and found that it has to do with the contractions of the digestive system.

After reading some of the posts, I feel better to know that I am not alone, but none the less it is scary when it happens.  For me there is a direct correlation between stress and the palpitations, if money is rolling in this week for my business I am fine, if not, I deal with the early morning aniexty until it passes.

When this happens to me and I am getting overwhemed, I just lay flat on the floor and it usually passes in 15 minutes or so, and I go about my day.  I often worry about my heart and fear that something worse will happen, but I am working out again and in just 30 days back to the gym I push as much weight around I did in my 20's and I am 45 now.  I feel if there is a problem with me physically it would show up during a workout.  I have had to deal with aniexty most of my life and I am sure it contributes my situation.  I have been to the doctors and they have tested me and everything comes back fine.  The only time I have really felt good, was when I am in good shape and working out, unfortunately I like to eat and lounge around when I can.

Thx George

I am definately sure that there is link between gas or a bowel movement and PAC's that is just being overlooked.  I worry that the sympons will get worse as I age, so my solutions at this moment is to get back in good shape and lose about 40lbs to see if this minimizes the PAC's to an occasional incident.
1182699 tn?1297578384
Great information and explaination!  Thanks!!
Avatar universal
hi, i get palpatations when i need the loo, i have anxiety too, but it started when i had my second child and i was scared of tearing then when i needed the loo i got the same feeling, if i read something to take my mind of it im fine but i'll get the odd skipped beat
1533915 tn?1292330750
Hi, thank you so much for sharing the information.

Even though we all may have the same type of disease or disorder (in my case GERD) it can manifest itself almost completely different in each of us.  So that’s really key – that we all share our experiences and find comfort that way.

I have the EXACT same thing with the bowel movements by the way.
I call them episodes.  Just this morning actually.  Between 6am-7am I went to the bathroom (#1 and #2….sorry if it’s TMI) :) every 20 minutes (almost to the minute!!) THEN I felt much better, empty, the "funny" feeling in my chest due to the palpitation(s) was gone.

So it's definitely something to do with the digestive tract.  I’m going to research the vagus nerve.  
I also can’t fly in planes without taking a Nexium – otherwise my heart feels like it’s going to explode out of my chest.  No, believe me, it’s not a panic or anxiety attack.  I’m not scared of flying, never have been and I don’t have stress at work, happy marriage, no children.  The only thing that caused me panic was that my heart was pounding like mad against the inside of my chest and my arms felt like they were filled with led.  I thought maybe the oxygen levels dropped, but everyone else was calm, reading, sleeping etc.   Some people even said I should go to counseling. :)  So, now that I take Nexium – that has never happened again.  It’s like I’ve got my life back.

I digress :)  So, what I also noticed, is that I get these episodes because I ate after going to bed - specifically after 6pm.  Even though I was diagnosed with GERD, I thought if I practically sit up in bed it would be fine....but it's not just the angle of how you sleep, or what you eat - it's got everything to do with WHEN you eat too, regardless.  I normally don't, but didn't have enough during the day yesterday and woke up at 1am starving! So I had 1/2 piece of toast and 3 spoon fulls of lentil soup. Mistake!

On another note.  Last Sunday I had a HUGE episode.  I woke up at 3am, breathing shallow.  I was thirsty, and if I didn't get water felt like I couldn't get air.  I went to the bathroom every 20 minutes between 5am-9am (#1 and #2)  After 9am it was only #1, but still continued until about 11am.
I know that when I stop going to the bathroom every 20 minutes, that the episode is pretty much over.

I've been to many doctors, cardiologists - I'm 36, and am told I'm in perfect health. Except for a slight Vitamin D deficiency. (34 is normal, I had a 32) I don't have any children, exercise regularly and try to eat right.  GERD and these symptoms are an adjustment for sure - no coffee, no chocolate, no alcohol.  I eat and drink, but in moderation and only if I go for more than 4 weeks without an episode.

I take Nexium, but try to only when needed. Probably 1 every 8-10 days normally.  After the HUGE eposide 2 Sundays ago I'm taking it every day for 2 weeks and then getting back off of it.

I'm going to research the vagus nerve more - but it's so good to know that the heart wants to keep beating.
I went to a concert this past Sunday and the rhythm or beat of the base felt like it was throwing my heart off a little...like it was causing tiny palpitations or something?  I had to concentrate not to get too nervous about it and tell myself that surely nobody ever died of irregular heart-beat due to the base. LOL

Again, the scariest thing about all of this is that everyone has different symptoms and just as many different remedies and we’ve all got to figure out what works best for us. I wish it was just a broken arm that will heal - rather than this evolving mystery disease.  Just when you fix or get used to what you have, another strange symptom starts.  Then you have to figure out are all these symptoms related or is this just part of getting older? LOL

It helps to read other people's experience, because other than my doctors telling me "you're fin"....or better yet, "it's all in your head" (those are the BEST!) :)  This type of sharing is so very comforting, please continue to post.   I look forward to reading them.  Thank you.
I cannot handle G-force, so the same thing happens to me on a plane take off when we go up like a rocket!  lol
Avatar universal
Seems there is a common theme of people getting stressed about heart palpitations just before/after bowel movements. It's vitally important to make time in the day for relaxing to get rid of our waste. If you want me to spell the obvious then we are what we eat. There are many factors to address but it would be wise to look no further than our diet, exercise levels and bowel regularity when things like this come around. Why not try to breathe in slowly but deeply through your nose then exhale it gently out your mouth, do this until you feel relaxed and in control of your heart beats.
A few points
1. Examine your diet (is it high in yeast, sugar, fats, caffeine? or low in fibre?) If so then address this.
2. Do you walk briskly for 20 mins a day? No well get those trainers on :)
3. Do you feel relaxed whilst having a bowel movement?  No? ask yourself why not.
4. Do you work in an office and sit down all day. If so then get out at lunchtime for a walk and then find a toilet where you can relax even if you think you don't feel like a bowel movement.
5. Do you drink enough water?
6. Are you getting enough quality sleep?
Calling war on a sluggish bowel can mean a change of lifestyle but the benefits are many.
And lastly be patient - it takes times to heal the body but it will happen.
Avatar universal
I've had a problem lately if I eat junk foods my heart rate goes up and beats so hard that it shakes my stomach. I noticed after a bowel movement my heart chills out a little bit. Maybe a colon check would be a good idea? I'm 23 6'3 240. I'm sure weight loss would help but I know a bad digestive system doesn't help your heart aswell.
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