I’ve suffered heart palpitations since my early twenties. I had a complete heart checkup done twice, once in my mid-20s by an American cardiologist and once in my mid-30s by a Polish cardiologist, and was given a clean bill of health both times. Only now in my early 40s have I come to understand the condition and—through trial and error—discovered natural remedies that make it only a trivial problem in my life.
Palpitations are a common heart phenomenon that affects your heart’s rhythm. For me, it presents as a missing beat followed by two quick beats (a heavy beat and then a normal one). If I were to be monitoring my pulse when it happens, I would be expecting a heartbeat but there is none. Did my heart stop? Is this the end? The left ventricle of my heart becomes completely filled with blood, and so a delayed thump finally arrives, a hard beat to eject the overflow of blood in the ventricle, and then immediately a second normal beat. This pattern is disconcerting because I can feel it while sitting, standing, or lying (but not walking), and until I educated myself that it’s not life-threatening, I feared that I would die. My absolute worst episode was going a couple of hours with a big thump every other beat.
I researched my condition and conducted some experiments to find out what was going on. It turns out that my heart palpitations stem from two main causes: magnesium deficiency and improper digestion. Once I fixed those two problems, the palpitations became practically non-existent unless I lift weights (I’ll share why later). Here are seven things I did to mostly eliminate this problem.
1. Take magnesium supplements
Fruits, vegetables, and animal meats have far fewer nutrients than in the past because our soils are depleted and farm animals are fed a diet of GMO soy. In some cases, we’re essentially eating cardboard filler slathered with toxic seed oils and wondering why we have all sorts of health problems. Magnesium is an essential ingredient to promote proper electrical activity of the heart, and if you lack magnesium, you will have palpitations. Potassium is also important and I suspect calcium as well.
The supplement that has worked best for me is the Naturelo Bone Health mix, which is interesting since it’s not promoted for heart health. The label advises taking four pills a day, a dose you can start with. I usually take two a day at lunch when I’m not exercising and four on the days I exercise. The reason weight lifting exacerbates my palpitations, I believe, is because the strain stimulates the vagus nerve, which innervates your heart and digestive system. If this nerve is irritated, it can manifest in heart issues.
I also discovered that magnesium allows me to sleep more soundly, so before going to bed, I take another dose of magnesium. The best formulation I’ve found is Marine Based Magnesium. You may only need this supplement alone instead of the more expensive Bone Health formulation.
2. Eat smaller meals, chew food properly, and eat slow
It turns out that my palpitations were linked to heartburn-like digestive problems. When my digestion was poor, my palpitations acted up. This gastro-cardiac link was noticed a century ago and labeled Roemheld syndrome, but since pharmaceutical companies couldn’t make money off it, they never explored the link. I can affirm that this link is very real. Let me share an example.
If I eat a full meal then crouch over, thereby squeezing my full stomach against my heart (and perhaps the vagus nerve), I can immediately induce palpitations. Then when I stand up, the palpitations stop. If I lean back over, it starts again. The digestive link became obvious to me on weekend dinners when I usually stuffed myself: my palpitations were awful. They were a direct consequence of gluttony, of eating more food than my body needed.
So what does chewing have to do with it? When you don’t chew your food, your stomach has to work harder to break down the larger chunks of ingested food, which means producing more acid and letting that acid churn in your stomach for a longer time. This extra work, I believe, induces palpitations. For most of my life, I was a bad chewer. I had to recently teach myself to chew food until there was nothing left to chew, and then swallow.
Another problem I had was that I ate too fast because it was more pleasurable, but that leads to palpitations. Not only do I now eat slower, which is easier when you chew food properly, but I also count 120 seconds between items on my plate to slow myself down even further. What ends up happening is that I start to feel full while still eating, not after eating like in the past, and I eat much less, sometimes half as much, and yet feel satisfied enough not to eat further. The result is that my palpitations are noticeably reduced.
3. Take 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a quarter cup of water before every meal
While I didn’t have the classic heartburn symptom of chest pain, I knew something was going on because I was so burpy and gassy after meals, and I also felt bloated for too long (not helped by overeating). Heartburn is caused when your stomach produces more acid than it can contain, to the point that it starts to rise into the esophagus. The doctors say to eat less acid, but your stomach is a vat of acid much stronger than the tomato sauce or orange juice they tell you to avoid.
I suspect that when you start your meal with an acidic liquid, you signal to the stomach not to overproduce acid. It’s as if the stomach is saying to itself, “Hey look, we already got some acidic vinegar in here—we don’t have to produce so much of our own acid that it starts to creep into the esophagus, especially since he’s properly chewing the food into mulch.” Another possibility is that the acid from the vinegar digests food on its own, thereby lessening the overall digestion time, which is especially important if you eat raw vegetables (salads), which is the hardest food for your non-bovine stomach to digest.
Before eating a meal, I gulp down one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in about a quarter cup of water, and then eat. That improved my digestion and also causes less unprocessed food to end up in my large intestine, which anaerobic bacteria pounce on to produce gas. I’m far less gassy than I was before.
When I’m eating at other people’s homes and don’t take ACV before eating, digestion feels rougher and more palpitations occur. ACV is purported to have a lot of health benefits. My opinion is that they all stem from better digestion where you’re actually absorbing the already low nutrients in your food and not causing digestive distress.
Another helper for digestion is kefir. After ACV, I sometimes drink a quarter cup of kefir. These two in combination make digestion a breeze. A substitute for ACV is a peeled orange. Eat the orange first, since it’s acidic, and then eat your meal.
4. Walk for at least 30 minutes after eating
There is not much space in your torso. If you look at an anatomical diagram, everything is squished together. It’s more squished when you’re sitting, and squishiest yet if you’re sitting after eating. If you choose to sit after eating a large meal, I promise you that your body hates you. You’re scrunching your organs, even your heart, and you give your stomach little room for the acid to work on the food you just ate. The result is that your stomach has to hold onto the food for longer, and be forced to secrete more acid while doing so, and your vagus nerve will be more irritated, and your heart will act out.
I walk for about 45-60 minutes after eating each day (I eat two main meals a day). After that time, I don’t feel pressure in my stomach. There is no bloating, burping, discomfort, and most importantly, rarely any palpitations. I also don’t get the usual post-meal fatigue. Now I understand why during my trips to the Mediterranean, especially in Italy, I saw so many old people walking at night: they were allowing digestion to take place!
If you’re an Orthodox Christian, there’s another benefit to the walks: you can pray. I take my prayer rope along and say the Jesus Prayer for much of my walk. Better digestion, no heart problems, and communion with God—what a lovely habit that walking after eating has become for me.
If you can’t walk after eating then at least stand for thirty minutes (perhaps by doing the dishes or cleaning). It is also a good idea in general to correct any slouch you may have while standing, because slouching squishes your organs. Another tip is not to lay down for at least two hours after eating so that acid does not easily creep into the esophagus.
5. Don’t drink any liquids during meals and for 60-90 minutes after
Let’s say you eat a big meal. Your stomach is churning the food with acid, and then you decide to drink a big glass of water or have a pint of beer. Where does that liquid go? Into the stomach with the food and acid. What happens to the stomach’s contents? The acid is diluted! So now you have a big bag of food, diluted acid, and water, and your stomach puts acidic production into overdrive while trying to get rid of the water, which is a slow process because there’s so much food. Drop by drop, the water eventually leaves the stomach. In the meanwhile, the stomach produces more acid and keeps on churning, prolonging digestion.
For small meals, I wait an hour after I finish eating before drinking anything, even if I’m thirsty. For big meals I wait at least ninety minutes. I want to give my stomach a chance to digest the food, and then when it’s empty, I can drink. Understand that your stomach does not absorb water, only your small and large intestines, so if your stomach is already full of food, you’re causing it to work harder by ruining its acidity with neutral pH beverages. I also don’t drink during meals unless it’s a small sip of water to take a supplement.
I know it’s customary for people to drink with their meals, but they will have to pay the price with more laborious digestion. If I’m thirsty before eating, I’ll drink a glass of water and wait a couple of minutes for that water to drain from my stomach. Then I’ll drink my ACV and begin eating.
6. No caffeine… ever
From my personal experience, I can firmly claim that caffeine is toxic to the heart. It disturbs my heart’s electrical activity, directly causes palpitations, and also induces tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), not to mention the jitters. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and an unhealthy enabler of poor sleep habits.
The only caffeine in my diet is from rare treats of dark chocolate. I’ve become so sensitive to caffeine that if I take only ten grams of dark chocolate before bed (two small pieces), I will be wired and unable to sleep. A dark chocolate brownie is like a cup of coffee to me. I can only have it around lunch, not dinner.
7. Take cold showers
I debated whether to put this on the list because I’m not absolutely sure it’s effective, but I suspect that hot showers were making my heart palpitations worse, perhaps by stimulating the vagus nerve in some way. You can experiment with this.
It’s possible that your heart palpitations are due to a structural heart problem that needs medical care, but if you try all the items on this list and are getting relief, chances are there’s nothing wrong with your heart. Instead, it’s the Western way of life that is causing you harm in the form of bad nutrition and eating habits that are all wrong. I cannot stress that everything I knew about eating a simple meal was wrong. The stereotypical movie scene of someone eating a huge meal and then sitting down on a chair with a big glass of beer is the worst thing you can do to promote healthy digestion that doesn’t aggravate your heart.
Sadly, beyond popping pharmaceutical pills, most Americans will not begin to make a lifestyle change to improve their health, because that will mean less time experiencing pleasure or comfort. For heart palpitations, they’ll take prescription beta-blockers, which does not solve the root cause of the problem, and for heartburn they’ll take Prilosec, which also doesn’t address the root cause. Drugs only mask the symptoms (while adding new ones), keeping your body in a state of unwellness. Even if you don’t have health problems, improving your digestion will allow more nutrients and vitamins to be naturally absorbed, yielding better health that can then be used to serve our God-given mission with more strength and vigor.
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