Bloated Stomach And Heart Palpitations: Can Stomach Gas Cause Heart Palpitations?

In this article, we will take a close look at the relationship between stomach gas and heart palpitations. We will dive into various gastrointestinal conditions like acid reflux and gastric distension, and their potential to cause changes in heart rhythm. We will also discuss the nature of heart palpitations and the factors that can cause them.
Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Fifth year medical student at the Medical Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava.

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Can Stomach Gas Cause Heart Palpitations?

Stomach gas itself can not directly cause Heart Palpitations. However, certain conditions related to the digestive tract system have been associated with palpitations or changes in heart rhythm.

One such condition is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) [1]. The mechanism behind this is based on the symptoms of GERD. Chest tightness, which can be how this condition presents, can cause anxiety leading to palpitations [2].

Another condition is gastric distension. It is the stretching of the stomach due to the accumulation of gas or food. Studies have shown that gastric distension leads to temporary abnormal electrical activity [3]. In some cases, severe gastric distension combined with a high abnormal electric activity has been associated with severe bradycardia (slow heart rate) and even shock [4].

Also, gastric volvulus can impact the heartbeat. It is a condition where the stomach twists upon itself. This twisting can lead to cardiac arrhythmias. An example of that is a patient with gastric volvulus experienced supraventricular Tachycardia, which resolved upon the correction of the volvulus [5].

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What are heart palpitations?

Normally a human does not notice the beating heart. However, sometimes you may notice changes in your heartbeat. Those changes are what is referred to as palpitations. The sensation may be normal and predictable, like a racing heart following a run. They become especially alarming when occurring at rest [6]. Worrying heart palpitations are often referred to as sensations that the heart is missing a beat, adding an extra beat, or beating too hard or too fast. This sensation may be felt in the chest, neck, or throat [7]. They are usually described as an unpleasant feeling of the heartbeat. It is perceived as particularly fast, irregular, or intense [8].

Mostly, heart palpitations are harmless and self-resolve without treatment. But in other cases, persistent repetitive heart palpitations are an indication of a serious underlying condition [7].

What can cause heart palpitations?

There are multiple factors which can cause heart palpitations. Among the common cause is an overactive thyroid, known as hyperthyroidism. In this condition, the heart is overstimulated by the high amount of thyroid hormones. As a result, the metabolism and even the proteins within the cardiac cells start changing and rhythm abnormalities can arise. Other medical conditions leading to heart palpitations include anemia, pregnancy. However, often the cause is heart valve diseases or heart disease, like heart failure [1].

The only physiological situations when palpitations can be felt are stress, especially extreme, and physical exercise. Here the hormones and the brain get the heart ready to deliver the best support for the muscles to run, or in stress to run away.

When talking about the brain, it has to be mentioned that it controls the nerves supplying the heart. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the heart stimulation in stress. However, a stimulus for the brain to do so can also come your own thoughts. This happens in psychological conditions like anxiety or panic disorders. In these disorders, heart palpitations can also occur as a result of a pathological stress reaction based on no outside stressor[9].

Additionally, medications and substances, such as Xanax or Ativan can also trigger heart palpitations. The list of substances which can produce palpitations as a side effect is long [9]. Here are a few of them.

Changes in hormonal levels in menstrual cycles and menopause can cause palpitations too. In menopause, hot flashes are often accompanied by palpitations. Also, during pregnancy, hormonal changes can lead to heart rate changes [9].

The most concerning causes of heart palpitations are cardiac problems. An indication for them is cardiovascular disease or a family history of similar symptoms or diseases. Heart palpitations of cardiovascular origin occur at unexpected situations. They can start at work, or before and during sleep [10]. Some of the non-rhythm-related conditions include mitral valve prolapse, pericarditis, and congestive heart failure [11].

In rare cases, palpitations can be caused by seizures. Epilepsy is a differential diagnosis, especially of episodic palpitations [12].

What are gases in the gastrointestinal tract?

Gases in the digestive tract arise in a natural way during the digestion process. They are produced by the metabolic activity of the gut bacteria. Gas production can be particularly high in high-carbohydrate diets [13]. Normally the gases found in the GI tract are composed of a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane [14].

The most prevalent part of the gases is nitrogen. It makes up approximately 65.1% of the total gas composition. With smaller parts, it is followed by oxygen and carbon dioxide. The concentrations sum at 2.3% and 9.9%, respectively. Hydrogen and methane are present in smaller amounts, with concentrations of 2.9% and 14.4% [14]. The accumulated gases in the large intestine are eliminated either through the rectum or via absorption into the bloodstream. Interestingly, only a small part of about 23% of the gas produced is eliminated through the rectum. The rest is absorbed into the blood or metabolized by gas-consuming bacteria [15].

What causes a bloated stomach?

Various factors can cause a bloated stomach. A common cause is eating too quickly or consuming large amounts of food. This leads to discomfort and bloating. Additionally, when food is eaten fast, air is often consumed with it and also fills the stomach [16, 17].

However, a gas-produced intestine distention arises often due to food allergies and intolerances. Among popular allergies are those against lactose, fructose, eggs, wheat, soy, and gluten. [16]. Similarly, certain foods and drinks can increase gas production leading to bloating. These include mostly carbonated beverages, and foods high in fiber like beans and lentils [16].

Gasses can also buildup in the intestines. They often follow gastrointestinal issues or disorders. For example, constipation, where stool stays in the colon longer than it should, leads to obstruction and accumulation of gases. Together the stool and gases lead to painful bloating [17].

Also, certain medical conditions of the GI tract can cause bloating. These include inflammatory bowel disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), gluten intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as parasitic infections [17]. An inflammation of the gastric lining, gastritis, can also cause bloating [18].

How to mind a bloated stomach?

Prevention is always better than treatment. It is practically impossible not to produce any gases, but there are ways how to produce just the right amount. These ways involve a combination of dietary changes and lifestyle changes.

Firstly, hydration is key in the digestive process and supports the smooth passing of the stool. The recommended dose is 11 cups (women) to 15 cups (men) of water (2.7 to 3.7 l) per day [19].

Secondly, regular physical activity helps in proper bowel movement preventing gas build-up. Healthy adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day [20].

The dietary changes include eating more fiber to softer stools [21]. In some cases keeping a food journal can help to identify foods that cause bloating. The identification follows the exclusion of a certain food for a few days. During that time the intestine should be observed to look for any changes. When a certain trigger is identified it is enough to mind it [22].

Eating habits are also important. In the case of a person with a sensitive GI tract eating smaller meals more often throughout the day can limit stress on the digestive organs [23]. A rule applying to all humans is the rule of slow eating and drinking. It is recommended to slow down as it not only improves the mixing of the food with the saliva. The main reason is that it can reduce the amount of air swallowed [20].

In situations when none of the eating habits and lifestyle changes bring any results, special drugs can help. Over-the-counter treatments for excess gas are widely available. Examples of such are simethicone (Gas-X, Mylanta Gas) or Beano [23, 22].

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub is in his fifth year as a medical student at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. He has special interested in cardiology and in patient-centered medicine. His love for heart health isn't just book-smarts; he wants to know how it works, what it means for our feelings, and how key it is for health and happiness. Jakub thinks real good health care comes from always putting the patient at the centre, treating each person as a whole.