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When your heart flutters it can be a scary experience. If any other organ has a glitch, we don’t worry near as much as when it is the heart. While not all heart flutters are serious, it’s important to know if it is the serious kind or not.


First, we need to define the types of fluttering. Heart palpitations and AFib are the primary two needing differentiation. Palpitations can bring on AFib. When it feels like your heart is fluttering, pounding, flip-flopping, skipping a beat, throbbing or you can hear or feel your heart it is usually a heart palpitation.  If it is accompanied by feeling faint, difficulty breathing, lightheadedness, fatigue, racing, a drop in blood pressure or chest pain, it could be a more serious condition referred to as AFib. In the latter case, it is best to get a medical evaluation to be sure, as it could be serious. Typically, palpitations are very short-lived, while AFib seems to go on for a while. If serious enough, measures have to be taken to get the heart back into rhythm.


AFib is estimated to affect about five million people in the U.S. While the majority are over the age of 60, we are seeing both AFib and palpitations in younger populations.


Understanding the situation surrounding it is important. If you are under a lot of stress or anxious, it’s probably palpitations. Anxiety commonly causes palpitations. If you are relaxing or doing a pretty benign activity or it happens at times inconsistent with activity or anxiety, it could be AFib. If your heart rhythm is chaotic and it lasts long, it’s likely AFib. If your heart races, then slows, it’s probably palpitations.


The main question is “WHY is it happening?” We know that nutrition plays a role. Inadequate minerals, primarily those associated with dehydration (calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and certain phosphates and sulfates), and iron, manganese, molybdenum, copper, iodine, and sulfur all have key functions and the heart needs them.


Essential fatty acids, like fish oils, have been recommended by the American Heart Association for rhythms disorders. There are also cautions if taking certain medications such as blood thinners.


Vitamins B, C, D and E are critical to heart function, especially B. Be careful not to take synthetic vitamins. There are also some herbs that can be good, but some will actually trigger palpitations. Check your medications as many have side effects.


Consuming stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, herbs such as ephedra, and smoking, and health conditions such as hyperthyroidism, anemia, dehydration or low blood sugar can cause heart irregularities.

Several studies, some published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, show the benefits of acupuncture in normalizing heart rhythm, both without or after cardioversion (a medical procedure that resets the heart’s rhythm). Several studies revealed improvement in 87-100% of the participants.


If your heart has gone a-fluttering, there are actions you can take to bring it back to rhythm. As both conditions can be scary, pay attention and get medical evaluation.


© 2018 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.




When Your Heart Goes A-Fluttering

Doctor of Oriental Medicine

Licensed Acupuncturist

Doctor of Naturopathy

Clinical Nutritionist

Master Herbologist



Dr. Holly A. Carling

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Dr. Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience.  Dr. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Dr. Carling considers herself a “professional student” – she has attended more than 600 post-secondary education courses related to health and healing. Dr. Carling gives lectures here in the U.S. and internationally and has been noted as the “Doctor’s Doctor”. When other healthcare practitioners hit a roadblock when treating their patients nutritionally, Dr. Carling is who they call. Dr. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’ Alene clinic.  Visit Dr. Carling’s website at to learn more about Dr. Carling, join our e-mail list and read other informative articles.  Dr. Carling can be reached at 208-765-1994 or and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.