Heart Palpitations After Eating

Some people experience heart palpitations after eating. These palpitations will typically start soon after the meal and may last for minutes or hours depending on the severity of the palpitations and the underlying cause.

In most cases, the heart palpitations themselves are not dangerous. However, if you are experiencing heart palpitations for the first time you should discuss these symptoms with your doctor. If you experience symptoms similar to a heart attack including pain in your arm, a feeling of pain or pressure in your chest, dizziness or trouble breathing, seek immediate medical treatment.


Heart palpitations can be caused by eating too much

Heart palpitations after eating can be caused by consuming large meals. Following the consumption of food, the body directs blood flow to the digestive tract in order to assist with digestion. The amount of blood flow to the abdomen increases based on the size of the meal consumed. This increased blood flow reaches its peak approximately 25 to 40 minutes after eating and can last for 1 to 2 hours following a meal. In order to compensate for this change in blood flow, the heart must work harder. This can lead to a faster heart rate (tachycardia) and heart palpitations.

If you notice that your heart palpitations tend to happen after large meals, try eating smaller meals throughout the day. As a bonus, this may also help with other digestive complaints.


Specific foods act as palpitation triggers

Heart palpitations after meals may also be caused by specific food triggers. Some of these triggers include caffeine or alcohol, which are thankfully easy to track. However, it’s also possible that you have other food sensitivities that you’re not aware of. In this case, keeping a food diary for a few days or weeks can shed light on the issue.

Some foods and additives can cause heart palpitations. Palpitations are known to be triggered by MSG consumption, high sodium meals, and nitrates. These are listed on the nutrition facts label and are common in packaged food. MSG is often listed as “monosodium glutamate.” A quick way to reduce your consumption of these additives is to eat more fresh food rather than canned or processed foods. Some individuals with sensitivity to gluten, a substance found in wheat, report experiencing heart palpitations following meals that contain gluten.


Meals that are high in sugars or “empty calories” can cause palpitations.

Meals that are high in carbohydrates, especially sugars, can also cause heart 
palpitations. This is due to the way in which your body processes sugar. High amounts of sugar cause the pancreas to release a lot of insulin. However, if your pancreas releases too much insulin then blood sugar levels may drop too low. Low blood sugar can trigger the release of adrenaline into your system, which, in turn, can cause heart palpitations. 


The stomach and the vagus nerve

The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that extends all the way from the base of the skull to the abdomen. The vagus nerve carries signals from the brain that help regulate respiration, digestion, vision and heart rate. While these signals originate in the brain, pressure in the abdomen caused by large meals, gas or bloating can cause the vagus nerve to be stimulated. This harmless stimulation can cause a temporary disruption of the heartbeat. Acid reflux can also stimulate the vagus nerve resulting in heart palpitations.


Medications can cause palpitations

Finally, if you take medication with your meals, it may be the medication that is triggering the heart palpitations rather than the meal itself. In this case, you should discuss the situation with your doctor before making any changes to your medication schedule. 


Managing heart palpitations after meals:

Treatment for heart palpitations after eating is typically a simple elimination of problem foods. However, it can be difficult to maintain proper eating habits over time. If your heart palpitations are caused by a particular food, then you should eliminate that from your diet. Palpitations caused by eating large meals or eating too quickly, can be controlled by eating smaller, more frequent meals. Smaller, more frequent meals can also reduce the incidence bloating, gas and acid reflux. 

Although heart palpitations after eating are uncomfortable, they are usually not dangerous and in most cases they can be treated or controlled through lifestyle changes. You can learn much more about heart palpitations in our comprehensive guide.