Are bloating and palpitations related?

Are bloating and palpitations related

Bloating is a sensation of fullness and tightness in the abdomen due to the gas buildup in any part of the gastrointestinal tract. It may be accompanied with the swelling of the abdomen or it may be not.

Palpitation is the feeling of an awkward, abnormal extra beat of the heart, or the feeling of the heart pounding.

Although they may seem unrelated to each other, bloating and palpitations can be related to each other.

Following are some of the most common causes of bloating:

Bloating caused by eating and breathing problems:

1.   Aerophagia- it is the voluntary or involuntary swallowing of air. It can happen in various situations, such as in anxiety situations when people tend to breathe a lot while eating, drinking, mouth breathing etc. Because the amount of air swollen is small, aerophagia is a rare cause of bloating.

2.   Eating- eating foods that create gas when digested causes bloating. Some of this kind of foods are rich fiber foods(cabbage, beans, vegetables etc), carbonated foods, foods rich in sugar, alcohol, some medications such as chemotherapy, ibuprofen, laxatives, antibiotics etc.

Stomach problems

1.   Slow gut motility- certain conditions such as gastroparesis, defects of the smooth muscle cells of the stomach, anorexia nervosa etc, decrease the passage of the food bolus through the stomach, by causing thus bloating.

2.   Dumping syndrome- it is a condition which results mostly from the severe surgical resections of the stomach, but also in Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, metoclopramide etc. It is characterized by the rapid emptying of the stomach content.

Infection with Helicobacter Pylori- the infection from Helicobacter Pylori (it is a bacteria that colonizes the stomach mucosa) can cause certain diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis, peptic ulcer etc. These diseases can cause bloating.

Diseases of the Pancreas or Gallbladder

1. Pancreatic insufficiency- it is a condition in which Pancreas fails to produce enzymes which are needed in the food digestion process. This situation causes indigestion which, on the other hand, causes gas formation within the intestines and, bloating.

2. Biliary stasis- it is a condition in which the bile is prevented from entering in the intestines. Given that bile is necessary for digesting fats, the stasis of the bile causes indigestion which leads to bloating.

Biliary stasis can be caused by numerous diseases such as hepatitis, gallbladder cancer, cholecystectomy(surgical removal of the gallbladder), gallstones, cirrhosis, gallbladder cancer etc.

Intestine problems

1.   Celiac disease- it is a genetic condition in which the intestines are intolerant to gluten, a supplement found in many foods. Eating gluten-foods when having this condition, causes indigestion and bloating.

2.   Food poisoning- it is a disease of the gastrointestinal tract, which results from eating contaminated foods with bacteria, viruses, parasites etc.

3.   Fructose and Sorbitol malabsorption- It is a condition characterized by the inability of the body to digest foods containing fructose and sorbitol. This causes indigestion and bloating.

Colon problems

1.   Constipation- It is a condition characterized by the difficulty of passing the stool through the bowel. Usually, constipation is associated with hard stools and difficult bowel movements.

2. Irritable bowel syndrome- It is a functional disorder of an unknown origin of the bowel affecting bowel movements.

How can bloating cause palpitations? What is the mechanism?

At first sight, bloating and palpitations may seem unrelated to each other. But actually, there is a link between them: the Vagus nerve.

It is a cranial nerve which expands all the way through the brain to the heart and stomach. Also called the “Wandering nerve” due to its length, it serves as a highway transmitting signals from the brain to the heart and stomach and vice versa.

The mechanism how bloating can cause heart palpitations is as following:

1.   Bloating is the buildup of gas in the gastrointestinal tract. The Gas expands the stomach and other organs of this tract, by putting pressure on the Vagus nerve.

Being under pressure, Vagus fails to work properly and is unable to transmit the crucial neurotransmitters that act to lower the heart rate.

2. The pressure on the walls of the organs of gastrointestinal tract due to the gas buildup is mistakenly perceived by the heart as a stimulus to pump more blood in order to digest the eaten foods(only that  there is no food within the organs, but gas). The accelerated heart rhythm is perceived as a palpitation.

How to resolve?

When bloating and palpitations are related to each other, treating bloating also treats palpitations. Following are some easy and effective ways to do ease bloating:

1.   Ginger root capsules- Having 500mg of ginger root capsules three times a day after each meal will help improve the digestive health

2.   Burping- burping eliminates the gas within the stomach and, therefore, reduces the pressure over the Vagus nerve. Simethicone is a drug that can help you burp

3.   Flatulence- flatulence eliminates the gas within your intestines or bowel.

4.   Change position- some positions may take the pressure off your stomach. In order to find which position works best for you, experiment.

5.   Diet- try to consume fewer foods that create gas when digested

6.   Deep breathing- Anxiety might irritate the Vagus nerve. Try breathing therapies in order to calm yourself down when anxious

7.   Keep your bowels moving- if constipated, try magnesium supplement, eating liquid foods, laxatives. These measures will help you keep your bowels moving.

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