Like many people, I have learned to live with palpitations since I was quite young. If you are not used to them, they can be quite scary. Often, they can bring on a sense of panic that makes the symptoms even worse. Most of the time, palpitations are nothing top worry about but that does not mean you need to just accept them.
There are a number of ways to reduce the incidence of palpitations including lifestyle changes as well as certain herbal remedies.
If you suffer from palpitations and would like to find out how you can go about controlling them naturally, then please read on.
What Are Palpitations?
Palpitations or heart palpitations are an uneasy feeling that the heart is beating too fast, pounding too heart or fluttering in your chest. They can be triggered by a number of factors including stress, exercise, certain stimulants like caffeine and medications. More rarely, they can be triggered by an underlying medical condition.
While they can certainly be scary and uncomfortable, palpitations are usually harmless. However, in some rare cases, they may be a sign or symptom of a serious underlying heart condition such as arrhythmia. If you are in any way concerned about your symptoms, please consult a doctor to make sure that your palpitations are not a symptom of a serious condition.
Symptoms of Palpitations
The symptoms of heart palpitations are uncomfortable especially of you are not used to the sensations. They can occur during periods of stress or during exercise but can also happen while feeling relaxed and at rest. Symptoms include the following :
- A feeling that your heart is skipping a beat or jumping
- A fluttering sensation in your heart
- Rapid heart beat
- Pounding in the chest
- Heart palpitations may also be felt in the neck and throat
Causes of Palpitations
Heart palpitations can be triggered by various factors. These include the following :
- anxiety and panic attack
- strenuous exercise
- amphetamines and similar stimulant drugs
- certain medications such as cold medications containing pseudoephadrine
- hormonal changes especially women going through menopause or those who are pregnant
Medical causes of palpitations
Palpitations associated with lifestyle and stress factors are relatively common. Far more rarely, they can be caused by a serious underlying medical issue. Medical conditions that can cause palpitations include :
- arrhythmias – abnormal heart rhythm such as tachycardia
- atrial fibrilation
- heart failure
- thyroid conditions like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
Home Remedies for Palpitations
For most people, palpitations are harmless and will not require a visit to the doctor. There are a number of ways you can relieve your symptoms at home including lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques and even some herbal remedies.
Many people can avoid getting heart palpitations by avoiding or at least reducing their intake of stimulants that can trigger palpitations.
The following products are known to increase the risk of palpitations. If you suffer from palpitations, you would be wise to limit your intake and use.
- caffeinated drinks including coffee, tea or soda
- products containing nicotine including cigarettes, cigars and e-juice
- marijuana or cannabis
- illegal drugs like amphetamines
- drugs to suppress appetite
Certiain medications can also cause palpitations including cough and cold medications that contain pseudoephadrine. Other medications that may trigger palpitations include certain high blood pressure drugs and mental health medications.
You may have noticed that you suffer from palpitations more when your do not drink enough fluids. This is because your heart is forced to work much harder in order to circulate the blood effectively when the body becomes dehydrated. This in turn can cause palpitations.
Make sure that you drink plenty of fresh water throughout your day. opinions on exactly how much you should be drinking vary among experts and it also depends on factors like age, weight and sex. However, the general guidelines recommend drinking around 8 glasses of water or 2 liters a day. You should drink even more than that to replenish your fluids, if you exercise regularly or live in a hot and humid country.
It is important to drink more water if you notice any of the following symptoms :
- palpitations or an increase in your heart rate
- dark urine
- dry mouth
- constant thirst
- feeling dizzy
- dry skin
Try Relaxation Techniques
Stress and anxiety are two of the major triggers for palpitations. Unfortunately, palpitations can cause greater anxiety and panic attacks that make your symptoms even worse. This is a vicious circle that many people fond hard to break.
There are plenty of effective relaxation techniques that can help relieve anxiety and combat your symptoms. Making sure that your mins is relaxed can prevent palpitations and help relieve them fast.
Meditation, yoga and deep breathing exercises can help a great deal. I have found that getting more exercise is also a very effective remedy. If you are not especially for, then start off slowly with some walking, swimming or cycling and try to build up your fitness over time. It goes without saying that exercise is good for your body but it can also be great for your mind.
Diet and Maintaining Electrolyte Balance
Maintaining your body’s balance of electrolytes is very important. These chemicals help conduct electricity through the body and perform a number of important bodily functions. These include regulating proper muscle and nerve function and hydrating the body. They also play a very important role in regulating a person’s heart beat.
You can boost the level of your body’s electrolytes by eating more food that is rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium. Most people already get enough sodium from their diets but modern diets are often lacking in the other electrolytes.
The following food is an excellent source of potassium :
Food rich in calcium includes :
- milk and other dairy products
- leafy green vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage
- soy beans
- sardines and other fish with soft edible bones like pilchards
- bread and other products containing fortified flour
Food rich in magnesium includes :
- Leafy green vegetables
- nuts and seeds
It is also possible to get these minerals in supplementary form but it is always recommended that you try to get them into your system from your daily diet. If you are planning to take supplements, makes sure that you get the go ahead with your doctor beforehand.
Certain herbs may help reduce stress and anxiety and may also help reduce palpitations. While there is not a great deal of evidence to date, passion flower and hawthorn are potentially beneficial herbs when it comes to treating palpitations naturally.
Passion flower, known scientifically as Passiflora incarnata, is commonly used as a remedy for emotional disorders like stress and anxiety and for sleep troubles like insomnia. There is also some evidence that the herb can help treat palpitations.
One study, published in 2010, looked at the effects of the herb on menopausal women. The researchers found that treatment with passion flower extract and another herb called Hypericum Perforatum, resulted in a reduction of symptoms including palpitations anxiety, depression and anger. (1)
Hawthorn, known scientifically as Crataegus monogyna, has a wide range of potential medical benefits including a number related to heart health.
Studies suggest that hawthorn is effective at relieving feelings of stress and anxiety that can cause palpitations. (2) Other studies have found that treatment with the herb could help reduce blood pressure, prevent arrhythmia and help treat congestive heart failure. (3) (4)
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
One effective way of relieving palpitations is to stimulate the vagus nerve. If you have never heard of it, the vagus nerve connects your brain to the heart and performs a number of highly important functions. Stimulating the vagus nerve by performing one of the following vagal maneuvers can help relieve palpitations and calm down the heart.
The following are some of the best ways to stimulate the vagus nerve and regulate your heartbeat :
- Splash icy cold water or apply an ice pack to the face for 30 seconds or so. The shock produced by the cold water can stimulate the vagus nerve. Similarly, stepping under an ice cold shower can have the same effect.
- Coughing and gagging.
- Hold the breath while pushing down to simulate a bowel movement.
- Chanting ‘Om’ is effective for some people.
Make sure that you consult your doctor before trying any of these maneuvers to ensure you are performing them effectively and safely.
Take Regular Exercise
We have already mentioned that exercise is one of the best natural remedies for stress and anxiety, but it is worth elaborating on. Stress and anxiety are common triggers for palpitations so it follows that relieving your stress through exercise can help reduce the risk of palpitations.
There are also clear, physical benefits on your cardiovascular system from getting more exercise. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, start off slow. Simply walking the dog or taking a stroll for 30 minutes a day can have a very positive effect.
It is not important how vigorous your exercise routine is. the most important thing is to get active. Try following a realistic exercise program based on your current level of fitness. Swimming, brisk walking and cycling are a great way to get started. If you make sure you get a little exercise each day, your stress levels will start to fall and your cardiovascular health will improve.
However, exercising can also trigger palpitations. Make sure that you do not push yourself too hard especially if you have not been active for a long time. Speak to your doctor, who can advise you on a beneficial exercise routine.
Alcohol and Palpitations
If you suffer from frequent palpitations and you drink alcohol on a regular basis, there may be some correlation. Despite being a depressant, it is a known trigger for palpitations in some people. Drinking in moderation is likely not to cause the issue but recent research suggests that even a few drinks a day can increase the risk of atrial fibrilation. (5)
The researchers in Sweden found studied over 79,000 adults over a 12 year period to look at the effects of drinking alcohol. They found that people who drank even a moderate amount of wine or liquor had an increased risk of atrial fibrulation while drinking beer did not have the same effect.
Atrial fibrulation is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm. As well as palpitations, symptoms include chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath and reduced energy levels.
The excessive use of alcohol can also cause stress and anxiety which can lead in turn to palpitations.
When to See the Doctor
For most people, palpitations do not last long and are infrequent and require no medical intervention. However, if you feel that they are getting worse and occurring more often, then you should get yourself checked by a doctor. People with a heart disease history should also speak to their doctor if they are suffering from palpitations.
You should also seek medical help as soon as possible if your palpitations have any of the following accompanying symptoms :
- chest pain or chest discomfort
- shortness of breath
Potential Complications of Palpitations
As we have already stated, the risk of further complications from palpitations are rare. However, palpitations can be caused by an underlying heart condition. When this is the case, potential complications include the following :
- Fainting : When the heart beats too fast, it can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure causing a person top faint.
- Cardiac arrest : In rare cases, palpitations are caused by irregular heart rhythms, known medically as arrhythmias. These can cause a person’s heart to stop functioning effectively.
- Heart failure : Heart failure can result from a prolonged period of arrhythmia which causes the heart to pump ineffectively.
- Stroke : When palpitations are caused by an atrial fibrilation, the upper chambers of the heart quiver rather than beat properly. This can cause the blood to pool and result in the formation of clots. When a clot breaks free, it can cause brain arteries to be blocked resulting in a stroke.
Palpitations are common and more often than not, they are nothing to be concerned about. Identifying the triggers is important since confronting the triggers is easier than treating the palpitations themselves. Stopping palpitations could be as simple as quitting coffee or getting a little more exercise.
It is also important to stay well-hydrated and to get plenty of electrolytes into the system. While there is little evidence that they are effective, certain herbal remedies may work for you but make sure that you speak with a doctor to weigh up the potential risk to benefit.
In some cases, palpitations may be a symptom of a more serious underlying heart condition. If you are in any way concerned, make sure that you consult your doctor as soon as possible.