Heart Palpitations: Causes and Natural Solutions

Heart palpitations are a type of abnormal heart rhythm, called ‘arrhythmia’, that occurs when an electrical signal in the heart fires from the wrong place at the wrong time, causing the heart to beat out of rhythm. Palpitations can feel like the heart is beating too fast, flip-flopping, fluttering rapidly, pounding, or skipping beats. They can be felt in the neck or chest and can occur during activity or rest.

Although heart palpitations can be frightening, most of the time they are not life-threatening. In fact, minor irregular heartbeats are common even in healthy people, and often go unnoticed. That said, regular prolonged and/or intense palpitations should be evaluated by a physician, as more serious arrythmias such as atrial fibrillation and supraventricular tachycardias often need to be treated.

There are many causes of persistent heart palpitations. Stimulants including caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, and OTC cold medications containing pseudoephedrine can all cause palpitations. Hormone changes associated with menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause also frequently induce palpitations. Both estrogen and progesterone affect ion channels that regulate cardiac electrical activity as well as ANS activity in the brain (which helps regulate heartbeat).

Nutrient deficiencies commonly lead to heart palpitations. Low electrolytes from dehydration and strenuous exercise, including potassium, calcium and magnesium, may induce heart arrhythmias–which if severe can even lead to cardiac arrest.  Potassium assists in nerve function controlling heart rhythm, and calcium and magnesium regulate contraction of the heart muscle. Lack of sleep also commonly causes palpitations, and dehydration could be why; a 2022 study of nearly 20,000 adults revealed that people who slept only six hours per night had significantly higher rates of dehydration than people who slept eight hours. Fever depletes the body of calcium which is heavily used by the immune system during infection and will often cause heart palpitations. Depletion of B vitamins affects smooth muscle, decreasing cardiac tone and sometimes leading to palpitations.

Finally, frequent stress, anxiety, or panic attacks strongly affect heart rhythm through thyroid and adrenal function. Hyperthyroidism, or Graves Disease, is a serious condition of overactive thyroid predominately stress- and/or autoimmune-induced, that can cause severe heart palpitations. Two “fight or flight” hormones called cortisol and adrenaline are secreted by the adrenals during stress. Cortisol spikes blood sugar, which over time damages blood vessels and nerves that control the heart. Excess adrenaline can cause heart arrythmias by narrowing the arteries that supply the heart with blood. 

At Vital Health, we take the time through careful intake and testing to identify specific nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances or lifestyle factors that may be contributing to chronic heart palpitations. We then use targeted nutritional supplements, dietary changes, lifestyle counseling, and acupuncture to correct the cause of the arrhythmia. Why acupuncture? Acupuncture has been well documented to improve cardiovascular function. A 2008 review of eight studies found that eighty-seven to one hundred percent of participants converted to normal heart rhythm after acupuncture! If you suffer from persistent heart palpitations, know that you can restore your heart function naturally.

©2022 Darcy Greenwald, M.S.O.M., L.Ac. and Vital Health

Darcy Greenwald

Darcy Greenwald

Darcy Greenwald holds a Master’s degree in Oriental Medicine, is a Licensed Acupuncturist, is certified in Western Herbalism and has extensive training in nutritional therapy. She has over 20 years of experience in natural medicine. Darcy is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Darcy is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements at Vital Health in Coeur d’Alene.

Medical/Health Disclaimer:

The information provided in this article should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this article. Readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The information and opinions provided here are believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the author, but readers who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries.

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