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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?1450022175
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?1297574784
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?1292327150
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.
Avatar universal
I have had the same issue for years but dr.'s never have caught my heart in action. Last night I was laying in bed with my son on my right side and once agin I felt a weird kind of bubble in my chest and then boom full on tachycardia for a minute! Scared me to death and immediately I got tummy cramps and had to have a bowel movement  afterwards I just felt sick and tired and so scared it was going to happen again! I have episodes like this for the last dice years but I can go for months without having one and have no idea what brings them on? I have had an EKG and a holter monitor and they say my heart is fine but there hs to be something causing it? Every time it happens I just think oh my god this is the time I die! So worried
351404 tn?1299489130
There is a definite connection between bearing down for a bowel movement and a change in the heartbeat and in fact, when I have AFib this can often put the heart back into rhythm ie sit on the loo and bear down regardless of necessity.  My cardiologist says this is a good thing to try during arrhythmia.

I would also agree that the way you lie in bed can also effect changes.  I have learnt to lie down slowly and spend at least ten minutes on my back before allowing myself to lie on my side and this has lessened the incidence of skips and jumps at that point.  All these things differ for each of us, but some are harmless to at least try out and see...
1423357 tn?1511085442
When you bear down to make a BM, you are actually performing a manuver referred to as Valsalva.  Doing so abruptly spikes internal pressure, and in doing so can halt arrhythmia, and especially useful for halting supraventricular tachycardias.  I used this technique for 54 years to halt mine.  It can also have a reversal effect and actually commence an SVT event which happened to me on several occasions.

Kristy, my guess is you have some kind of concealed SVT condition; perhaps AVNRT.  An EKG and echo cardiogram will show a completely normal heart.  There is perhaps situations where your heart's electrical "circuit" will fire at just precisely the right moment to put your heart into tachycardia.  24 hour Holters are a waste of time.  You best chance lies in a long term, 30 day monitor which is worn continously except for showering.

If you've had these events before, then most likely they are reasonably harmless SVT's.  I had hundreds of events over my 54 years with it.  While I got use to them happening, they always caused  anxiety when they occured, not because I felt death was imminent, but for fear that I could not halt it and would wind up in the ER.

If you carefully describe the events to your physician, and leave any mention of anxiety out of the conversation, chance are you will receive an accurate diagnosis and be put on a path to a resolution, be it drug or by a medical procedure.
Avatar universal
Hi All -
I'm still here but haven't posted for quite a while. Having 'missing beats' straight after I eat (just had dinner, and every 6 -10 beats and there's the 'thump', Coincides with gas burbles often, and as we've all said before, there's definately a connection between stomach / digestive system and the SVTs and bumps. Just went to the toilet - yes, as soon as the bumps start I have to go. Everytime.  
Been bad lately and I've been having hot flushes all night and day (and I'm an old man). Had a couple of 'turns' when it doesn't feel like SVT (really racing) but just a lot of bumps every 5 or sixth beat, and I feel a pressure in my head and very off balance. BP soars to 220/160 and I shake a lot. Have to 'pee' every 15 minutes for hours, and take Valium and Tenormin with a really big dose of Zantac and wait till it stops. Sometimes (last time last week) it went for about 10 hours. Maddening, and I nearly went to see the doc again, but why bother,,they just don'y know why it happens. Ive been having this crap for 30 years, and the ticker is OK.
It's electrical, and definately connected with digestion and what food I eat.
Be re assured all of you other guys....the ticker won't stop and you have pleanty of company. Main thing is not to panick, and PLEASE CAN SOMEBODY HELP ME? I'M GOING CRAZY WITH IT!. ahhhh, see, I'm calm. cheers
1423357 tn?1511085442
Yo Kev.  I think the need to "go" is a fear or anxiety response.  It may not necessiarly be attributed to cardiac problems.  I've had occasions when that has happened too.  Sitting on the toilet while my heart was pounding away at 250bpm is a wierd sensation.

There is a definite connection with stomach gas, reflux or GERD and arrhythmia and SVT.  Have you ever been examned for a hiatial hernia?  Also of course is the fact that a bloated stomach can displace the diaphram upward towards the heart cavity.

WHat really got rid of my PVC's after my ablation was going ultra low carb.  When I eliminated carbs from my diet, the skips went away.
Exactly its our animalistic instict kicking in for flight or fight.  Your body for whayever reason thinks iys in a nad situation so if you were an animal in the woods and a bear was going to attack you the animal would become scated and deficate itself in orser to keep the bear from attacking.  Weird how our body works isnt it.
Avatar universal
I too have had the same problems for 5 years or so now. I am a 38 year old female and have had every test know to man with the exact same answer "we just don't know" or "it happens to everyone" and my personal favorite "what does it matter your not going to die from it". I too get the pressure in my head with accelerated BP. I can go days with no problems or like yesterday it was skipped beat after skipped beat with that scary hard thump as the beat comes back. Anyone feel free to email me with any possible solutions or anything that may have helped them ease it or deal with it better.
6710733 tn?1384008028
I had this problem for about 10 years now. Mine started as a reaction to lactose intolerance which eventually led to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Oh yes, I panicked when my heart started racing which eventually led to full blown panic attacks and loss of employment. 10 years later, I have had quite the roller coaster ride and I finally prayed for understanding instead of healing. My prayers were led to this site where their are informative people willing to share their experiences to help others. I thank God for you guys because I have now put the final piece to my puzzle in place. I couldn't figure out how a healthy 39 year old (10 years ago) could experience these episodes of tachycardia for no reason other than having to go. And, on occasion, if I was really backed up, I would get dizzy, light headed, nauseous, and tight chested. Of course, I thought it was a heart attack. But, in the last 10 years, I've been hospitalized for an infection, had all types of tests done on my heart, go for a physical every year, and nothing has ever come up. I've concluded that there is definitely a relationship between my digestive system and my heart rhythm. And, occasionally there is a vaso-vagal issue.  
Avatar universal
I have had two of these episodes, BM/heart rate abnormal combination,
in the last month.
I am on BP meds but otherwise have a healthy heart.
My guess is it could be dehydration.
Avatar universal
I too have the same thing and I have had it for years. I am 42 male now but in my 30's it was worse. In the last few months it has returned. That's why I'm up looking at this now. I just had one. It certainly feels like a panic attack in every way. I get them while I sleep. I will be fast asleep and wake up with the heart racing and then that turns into panic. However it usually goes away after I use the bathroom.
I too have had tests and spoke to doctors and they are unaware of a connection but this has been going on with me for so many years that I know there must be a correlation between the two. As scary as it is I do try to calm myself down because it has happened many time before. I hope we all feel better.
1423357 tn?1511085442
If you don't know the difference already, read up on sinus tachycardia vs. Supraventricular Tachycardia.  To understand the difference is to know if you're having possibly an anxiety issue, or an actual cardiac issue.
Avatar universal
I have suffered many ( and just suffered another really bad one-which is why I am visiting this site today) episodes where when  I  need to have a bowl movement,  my heart starts palpitating. My heart then slows down for what seems like an eternity( but it is usually only for about 10-20 seconds), speeds up and then goes back to its normal pace. I usually feel the need to lie down after the episode. I tend to get light-headed and have a headache after. Due to this, I have had many procedures to check out my digestive system, and the finding came back that I have Celiacs Disease and they cannot determine if it is related to my episodes. Great information on this site. It does make me feel better knowing that its not just me, however even after having a lot of these episodes, it still scares the heck out of me.
Avatar universal
I too have just had another incident which prompted me to find this site.  My problems started in 2009 when, without warning and otherwise feeling fine, I turned beet red, broke out in a hot sweat, felt like my head was going to explode from the pressure, lost my vision and passed out.  When I came to, I had to immediately have a large bowel movement.  Happened again in 2010, and now occurs intermittently but with less intensity (i don't pass out).  Have been on anti-anxiety and heart rhythm medication ever since.  Don't believe I have ever had a problem with anxiety, but noticed an immediate difference on my vagus nerve thanks to the medication.  Still get palpatations which can occur at any time and any duration, but are usually short.  When I get them so bad that my heart is just beating erratically, feels like it is loose in my chest, speeding up, then slowing down to the point I cannot even ascertain a pulse, it means a bowel movement is imminent.  I have never been diagnosed with a bowel disease, have occasional heartburn and noisy bowels, but 30 day heart monitor found many PVCs, most of which I was not even aware of.  Just wanted to give my experience and hope that BrokenHeartedBella or KristyEithier and others might be reassured that it is scary but probably not life threatening.  The search for a solution continues.
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