AF Association

AF episode and triggers

Hello everyone. I am new here and have been having a read of a few posts on AF and what things have triggered their epiodes and how they have adapted their lifestyle to cope with the problem.

I had an initial episode of AF about 8 years ago after a night out and a meal in a hotel. I don't recall what I ate or drank that night. I was checked out and found to be fine and although I've had odd bouts of palpitations for about 10 years, nothing more occured until two days ago.

I had quite an extreme bout of AF. I woke on boxing day at 5am and by lunchtime I was in Resus in A&E with Af and Atrial fluttering.

By evening I was back to normal and disharged 2 days later after a period of observation with no ongoing medication required. Everything was normal.

I am now looking at what may have caused it and interested to see what others have experienced with AF.

Firstly, alcohol. With it being Chritmas, I'd had more than usual. I am a fairly frequent drinker and haven't had any problems in the past from enjoying a drink. On the night in question I'd had some red wine and prosecco. I normally stick to beer. I do now however intend to be sensible and stick to more moderate drinking.

Foodwise and other triggers are interesting having seen a few threads about food and histamine and how people feel histamine can be a trigger for them.

Late on in the night in question, in addition to red wine I had quite alot of cheese, biscuits and pickles. It was Christmas and we often over indilge! I note someone mentioned that hestamine was high in red wine, cheese and pickles. I seem to have ticked all those boxes and not in moderation.

I think it's easy to point at the alcohol and I was initially thinking I'd overdone it, but now I can see other things that were much different about that night. I was also very dehydrated and carelessly went to be tired from a long day of stressing over cooking for the whole family etc. I've had plently of drunken night before and never had any issue, but something seems to have been different on that night for me.

I guess for most people it's trial and error to see what keeps you AF free and I intend to do likewise.

I just wonder what other have experienced with food and the like and if antihistamines have been used by people with any success?

13 Replies

Hi, you will find it very hard to work out what caused your AF. All the things you mention are known triggers - alcohol, stress, over eating, dehydration. It could be one of them it could be them all. The more episodes you have the more you will be able to pinpoint a trigger or you maybe best to try and avoid all of the things mentioned. Drinking water is crucial especially if drinking alcohol but if you are continuing alcohol it needs to be in moderation. There are no set foods which trigger me although overeating has been.

Good luck.


Anything that stresses your liver can trigger it--alcohol, fatty food, large amounts of sugar, large meals, medications like ibuprofen. After a while, just having an Afib will lead to another episode. If you have them with more frequency, don't wait--book an appointment with a specialist.

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Thanks. It's good to hear other people's experiences.

I am booked to go back for a home monitor early next year and to see the cardiologist again in three months.

In the meantime I will savour a few beers and stick to sensible limits.

Have any of you associated the severity of an af episode with the level of exposure to a likely trigger?


My worst episode, nearly 5 years ago, led to a trip to A&E after an especially bingy night on red wine. Since then, while I've had the occasional episode, 2 to 3 a year, and they have been mild, and so tolerable, and I just carry on as normal. I used to regularly drink a bottle of red wine a night with no adverse effects, but on this particularly night drank 2 bottles. Cutting right back on my alcohol intake has helped enormously, but I stay away from red wine now. I suspect if I ever had a bingy night again I would pay for it!

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As others have implied, once the damage is done it takes less to bring on an episode. Whereas excessive red wine caused my first diagnosed AF episode, I found that drinking much smaller quantities in the future could now bring them on.

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Triggers are many or none as we are all different. What you have experienced is often called "holiday heart". What is sure is that if you have a pre-disposition to AF then anything or nothing can set it off.

AF is also known to be a progressive condition so may well become more frequent although the time frame on that is varied. Many people find that by changing their life styles especially removing alcohol, reduced reliance on meat products and a switch to more plant based food, loosing weight, removing stress. staying well hydrated, no smoking etc., stopping all the things we know are bad for us, not only improves our health and well being but can also slow down or in some cases eliminate that progress.

You have a choice and I would suggest that you look upon AF as a chance to change your life for the better. A speaker at conference a year or two back stated that rather than limiting life. having AF tended in many case to enhance it entirely due to the changes in life style people made.



when I was diagnosed in November I looked up all the possible triggers and eliminated them from my life and diet and even my irregular heart beat disappeared, for about 6 weeks but a week before Xmas it returned and I had a symptomatic AF episode starting boxing day lasted 48 hrs at which it peaked and by the time I got to A&E it had gone!!! I now feel better but still irregular beat.

I haven't been a drinker for years but three times in the last 5 years I have gone out, reunions, birthdays, and had 5 pints of beer that lead to short AF episodes ( 4 hrs) and a couple of times a glass of wine that didn't give me AF but did give me palpitations the next day.

The longer episodes I've had didn't seem to have triggers but others around me at those times have had cold or flu symptoms which may have triggered an immune response, who knows?

I use to do high intensity exercises but they gave me dizzy spells similar to but not AF, I've dropped that for light aerobic exercise, also given up caffeine and eat more oily fish.

I feel better for the changes but my AF hasn't been eliminated.

hope this helps, good luck.

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Triggers for me have been quite easy to identify and include meals after 8pm, alcohol at special social occasions, cold fizzy drinks. I would say your experience is classic AF territory. I would take early action to reduce exposure on all these areas e.g. if socialising reduce/cut out the alcohol and eat very light in the evening. A pain I know but a lot better than increasing amounts of AF.

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I have always known what sets it off afterwards , its just not always obvious at the time.

MSG is probably my worst offender followed by some Soy type sauces ( Hoison in Mongolian lamb is 100% reliable to kick it off )

Should mention I used to grow soya bean and got badly affected with a fungus that grew on them.

Other than those two its an unknown ingredient in some pesticides thats sets off palpitations, probably once again due to my high exposure to them through farming.

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Thank you for your experiences.

I am a little apprehensive now about waking up to a fast pulse. It's a bit daunting but I can only see how it goes.

My first experience with it was 9 years ago having checked my dates, so I am surprised I haven't had anything in between.

I will cutting out the red wine for sure but I hope I can still enjoy a few sensible beers.

I am off to tenerife with the family on new years day, so I will certainly be taking it easy whilst away.

I have informed my travel insurance of my recent episode and until I go back and see the cardiologist in 3 months time, they won't cover me for any af episodes. That's sufficient incentive to be good!


I found red wine is not a trigger unless it is a high tannin ie. oak.

I drink non wooded reds with no trouble .

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I knew when I had my first attack I was also trying to do too much at once. 15 for Xmas dinner. Full time working etc etc. Alcohol. Poor sleep and too late eating all triggers.

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G'day focaltucker,

My AF journey is simple - carrying my cell phone in my shirt pocket when at work for some 12 to 18 months (Electromagnetic hypersensitivity ????) - leading to massive palpitations for another 12 to 18 months - then being diagnosed with AF - then some 4 months after diagnosis finding that the onset of an AF event corresponded to food I'd eaten. I then consulted a Nutritionist who put me on a course of probiotics to stabilise my gut flora, then went on a gluten free, wheat free, oats free and sugar free diet, and combined it with some aspects of the FODMAPS DIET. All the time staying on my prescribed medication.

I reviewed family history and found a history of strokes on the paternal side, but, no heart disease. I have AF, my 2nd cousin (again on the paternal side) has AF and my daughter has had AF as a result of two pregnancies. Since then - no pregnancies = no AF !! Instead she indulges in Thai Kick boxing to stay fit. so, one could argue that part of my family seem to have a genetic predisposition to AF.

I now control my food intake and have had no AF event since April 2015. Coffee, tea and alcohol do not affect me at all.

Problem is AF is all things to all people, causes are all things to all people, triggers are all things to all people .... and this needs a word of caution - causes of AF and triggers for AF are - in my humble and non medical opinion - quite two different and separate things - so what do you treat first - the cause or the trigger ! And - how quickly do you diagnose and treat it. In my case I was diagnosed and treatment started within 9 hours of onset. This speed is critical in my opinion to how severe my AF has been. I have had no surgical intervention.

9 hours, some people can't get a diagnosis in 9 months !!


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