Cardiac palpitations are uncomfortable. The heart normally goes unnoticed as it beats between 60-80 times, pumping an average of 5 liters of blood, per minute.
The sensation that this all-important organ is racing, fluttering, pounding, or skipping a beat can be worrisome. If you look online for what to do about it, you will likely be told there’s nothing to worry about and it’s usually not dangerous. What is not said, however, is that this change in heart rhythm is a signal from your body that it needs you to pay attention to it.
Emergency Care for Cardiac Palpitations
There are several potential causes for an abnormal sensation in your chest, throat or neck. Some of them are serious and others are side effects of something you have taken or are thinking. I always tell my patients that it’s important to rule out the “biggest and baddest” reasons first and then work down from there. Reasons for cardiac palpitations that are serious and urgent are:
- You are having a heart attack
- You have had a heart attack in the past
- You are experiencing heart failure
- You have coronary artery disease
- You have a problem with one or more of your heart valves
- You have an electrical (arrythmia) or heart muscle problem
The heart is both electrical and mechanical, so both systems need to be checked over; especially if you are also experiencing dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, perspiration, a severe headache or weakness in any part of your body, slurred speech, or fainting. Call 911 if you are in doubt. There’s no reason to risk your heart muscle dying if you are having a heart attack or permanent damage if you are having a stroke.
I always tell my patients that having a base line EKG on the books is a good idea. That way, if you return to the emergency department in the future, the medical provider will be able to compare that EKG with your baseline and get a better picture of how your heart is doing.
Seeing a cardiologist when you are having frequent palpitations will also allow you to have a stress test, cardiac blood work, and possibly an echocardiogram, chest x-ray and a Holter Monitor on your record. A Holter Monitor is a small, wearable, recording device that you wear at home for 24 to 48 hours so your cardiologist can see how your heart is behaving during your activities of daily life.
Now that you have had all of the big, bad issues ruled out, let’s look and see what other reasons your heart might be irregular and erratic.
Root Causes of Cardiac Palpitations
There are many reasons your heart will begin to palpitate, some of them cardiac related and others non-heart related.
Stimulants like caffeine and alcohol are the most common causes of heart rhythm changes, especially in middle aged women and men. Marijuana, stimulant drugs like cocaine, diet pills, and amphetamines, and energy drinks can also do it.
An iodine deficiency is the most often overlooked cause of heart palpitations I see. It’s so each to test for and even easier to fix. It’s important that you do NOT start taking iodine without testing and even more important that you don’t start taking large amounts of iodine right away. Taking iodine in small, incrementally increasing doses that are monitored with patch testing will help you avoid a thyroid goiter.
Often people will experience palpitations after or during exercise, particularly is there is an underlying medical condition or a stimulant on board. Low blood sugar, anemia and low ferritin, fever, dehydration, thyroid issues, and low blood pressure can all cause your heart to react.
Heart palpitations often occur when you are having a strong emotional reaction such as panic, anxiety, stress, excitement, or fear.
They can be a side effect of high heat, such as sauna therapy. This could be because of the heat or because you are low in electrolytes.
They can also be a result of eating something you are sensitive to or something that contains MSG, nitrates, food coloring, preservatives, sugar, sodium, or high fat.
I find that the vast majority of my patients who report new cardiac palpitations are women who are going through hormonal changes due to peri-menopause, menopause, menstruation, or pregnancy.
Cardiac palpitations can be a side effect of a medication like a steroid, thyroid meds, decongestants, or any cardiac medication or nutritional supplement. I will often get asked, “can this supplement cause _________” and I always say “yes of course”. Anytime you experience a new symptom after starting a new medication or supplement, it is highly probable that the substance that’s new is the culprit.
It’s a good idea to have the following lab work done if the cardiac testing is already on your record:
- An iodine test: An iodine patch test is easy to do and very inexpensive. You can get it here (along with the instructions you need). We use gradually increasing doses of Thyrodine to replace deficient levels of iodine, monitoring as we go. I have to take 5 Thyrodine a day. I will have to do that for the rest of my life as I am chronically low in iodine, as is most of our culture. Fluoride and bromide pollution have caused this deficiency. I get fibrocystic breasts and heart palpitations if I go without my Thyrodine for too long.
- A full thyroid panel: TSH, Free T3 and T4, RT3, and TPO. https://www.drkeesha.com/shop/thyroid-panel/
- Salivary adrenal and hormone testing: https://www.drkeesha.com/shop/adrenal-hormone-saliva-kit/ and blood hormone panel: https://www.drkeesha.com/shop/hormone-panel/
- Food sensitivity testing: https://www.drkeesha.com/shop/food-sensitivity-test-kit/
- A full iron panel: Ferritin, iron, iron saturation, iron binding capacity.
- Hgb A1c: https://www.drkeesha.com/shop/hemoglobin/
- Chem panel and CBC
- Inflammatory markers: Homocysteine, HS CRP, ESR, Rheumatoid Factor, ANA: https://www.drkeesha.com/shop/inflammation-panel/
- Mycotoxins testing: https://www.drkeesha.com/shop/mycotoxins/
- Brain autoantibody testing: https://www.drkeesha.com/shop/neural-zoomer-plus/
- Heavy Metal testing: https://www.drkeesha.com/shop/heavy-metal-testing/
You do not need to do all of these tests at the same time. They are the stones to turn over if your palpitations continue. I have put them in the order I like to look for root causes in.
- Retrain your nervous system: The Stress Busting Tool Kit is the easiest, most efficient, cheapest, and most researched way of retraining your nervous system there is. We have scientific data from as far back as the 1930s showing this method of nervous system retraining being effective in lowering blood pressure, eliminating headaches, and reversing cardiac palpitations.
- Eliminate stimulant substances: Immediately stop drinking energy drinks, caffeine, alcohol of all kinds. Lay off of marijuana and any other stimulant drugs or diet pills. Stop any new supplements and let your practitioner know. Call your medical provider if you have started a new medication and let them know you need to try a different solution. Eliminate sugar, gluten, soy, corn, and dairy from your diet until your food sensitivity results have come back.
- Activate the vagus nerve: One of the ways we used to use in the intensive care unit in the hospital to quickly change a patient’s palpitating heart rhythm was to have them stimulate their vagus nerve. The vagus nerve connects the brain to the heart, and stimulating it can help to calm palpitations. You can quickly stimulate this “wandering nerve” by holding your breath and bearing down as if you are having a bowel movement. Another way is to cough several times.
- Follow your lab data: Connect with me and I will help you by creating a protocol to match your lab data. Individualization is key as there is never only one reason you are having heart palpitations and there is never one solution that works for every person.
Remember that heart palpitations are your body’s way of alerting you that something needs to be paid attention to. Don’t ignore them.