A little knowledge: I've been mentioning to... - AF Association

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A little knowledge


I've been mentioning to my cardiologist for ages that my digestive system seems to be linked to my af/heart failure as I get periods, two or three times a week, when I feel dreadful, but an hour later, having been to the loo, I'm fine again, so it's almost as if there's an obstruction or large blood vessel in my bowel, and once waste matter gets past that point I'm fine.

Since I've realised this, these episodes aren't as scary, but I have an appointment with a gastroenterologist this morning to check it out.

I've heard of vagal af, but on reading about this further, it only occurs when there is no actual heart muscle problem, and I have heart failure.

I'm going to get my money's worth, figuratively, this morning as I also have upper back pain when swallowing, as though the food hasn't been chewed, so be prepared for a long sit mr/Mrs gastroenterologist !

13 Replies

Again, I'm going to sing the praises of magnesium.

Magnesium supplements will make your digestive tract move much better and you won't feel obstructed.

That's if you get the dose right. No point in taking small doses.

As we age we can actually see our skin losing its elasticity and firmness but what we can't see Inside us does the same.

(Vaginal walls), Intestines and rectums all become laxer allowing waste product more room to build up and even harden causing constipation. Magnesium will shift that.



Have you tried playing around with your diet? I went Gluten Free, wheat free, oats free, cut out a range of other food including fruit and veg. If I ate according to the good health mantra of 5 to 7 fruit and vegetables a day I'd occupy the loo for hours. It is vagal nerve. My experience is, if you calm the vagal nerve you calm the heart! regardless of what a GP, Cardiologist or Gasteroenterologist says. Do suggest ( if you haven't already done it) googling vagal nerve and researching it. Since I have controlled my diet I have had no AF event since April 2015.


Terim in reply to carneuny

What foods do you eat ???

carneuny in reply to Terim

OK, so anything with gluten, wheat and oats - is out. Runner beans, baked beans and peas are out, most other veg is OK. Pork is out, raspberries out strawberries OK, generally white meat is fine and steaks, alcohol is OK but not English real ales. Lettuce is out and I can only have limited tomatoes. Gravy must be gluten free and watery, not thick gravy. Sausages are out. Tea and coffee are OK. Soft cheeses like Brie are out, hard cheeses like cheddar or Edam are OK.

Amazingly, Mcdonalds and KFC do not present a problem.

In more recent years I have also gone added sugar free too.

I am on warfarin and bisoprolol for AF but I still eat broad leaf green veggies and they do not seem to impact on my INR blood count. Occasionally I have plums and grapes.

Occasionally I get caught out and eat something which upsets me so I just make a note and avoid it in future.

Also I eat small helpings and do not eat late.


carneuny , thanks so much for all your information and advice. I must say that I was delighted with your insights, but dismayed at the type of food to be avoided. Your list contains all the staples of my diet; porridge, berries, vegetables of all sorts, any bread with grains . . .

My husband suffers from ulcerative colitis and has to eat all the foodstuffs which I dislike such as white bread, rice puddings, custard, and looks enviously as I munch my way through the day, consuming nuts, berries, grains, soft cheeses and very little else.

I'll have to rethink my diet and follow your teachings and example. Small price to pay to be af free!

Thanks again

Nay. Nay! Fear not.... diets are horses for courses really. My precise one works for me, but, may not be for everyone. I stuck to basic philosophy but experimented in the detail... or rather my gut did. It complained, I took notice and changed my diet accordingly. End result though, I calmed my vagal nerve and my heart responded .April 2015 was my last AF event. Best wishes you.


A teaspoonful of flaxseeds each day eg with cereal in the morning (not expensive in the UK) may help, and you can very the amount to find out what suits you best and when. Also decreasing the amount of wheat you eat, and replacing some of it with oats, may help. It is possible to buy, or mix your own, wheat-free muesli. If you find it too dry, pour hot water on it and let it stand for five minutes or so before eating.

Although my AF is controlled by Flecainide, any gut problem will normally trigger ectopics. Last week I picked cooking gooseberries and scoffed quite a few during the day. The next day was awful with racing heart and six hours of ectopics, until I went to the loo, after which peace reigned! Unhappy gut, unhappy heart - and I agree with John, the vagus nerve gets upset and triggers all sorts of miseries.

CDreamer recommended a booklet called 'Heal your vagus nerve'. I found it very useful - downloaded it from Amazon.

Best wishes with the gastroenterologist - give him the third degree.

I'm very interested to hear your report. I am quite sure an unhappy gut has a connection with AF etc but which is chicken.......

Well, I met with the consultant who told me in no uncertain terms that there was no correlation between my heart problems and my digestive system.

He explained that he is only involved because my cardiologist isn't convinced that they have found the source of the infection which caused my sepsis and endocarditis, so has asked him to check that it didn't come from my digestive system.

He is going to use a very small camera to go upwards and downwards, (hopefully two different cameras!), and these have to be smaller than the norm as with my "unstable heart condition", (Cheerful Charley's words, not mine), I can't have anything very intrusive.

I explained that I had had a TOE camera which was massive and enquired if the person who had carried out that procedure would have noticed anything on their way down my oesophagus en route to my aortic valve, (yes, that's the route they took, don't ask!), and he said, "They are cardiologists, what do they know?" 😎

He asked if I wished to have these procedures, given the risk (?!), and I queried if he would have them done, in the same circumstances, but he couldn't/wouldn't answer that, so fair enough.

I'm a bit bemused by how negatively doctors speak of my condition. Up until now I always expected the medical profession to "tread gently", but not so recently. Which reminds me, I must pay my taxes since that's the other sure thing in life 😂

I told him to go ahead and arrange it anyway. It's free and I might as well get a full MOT while they're offering. I'll be the healthiest person in the graveyard!

Thanks for listening. Keep well!

Discussing my demise with my husband, he asked if I would keep him my "nylons" as he could use them to strain paint. I haven't heard that term since my mother told me stories about the war and the Yanks bringing nylons and other treats. Last week he pointed to my notebook and asked if he could have a page of my "jotter". He worries me 😩

In a sense it really isn't the digestive system that is the problem - its the vagal nerve causing the digestive system to perform in a dysfunctional way and because of this vagal nerve issue it is impacting on both heart AND digestive system. That is the problem with this nerve. If you 'Google' Vagal Nerve diagrams you will come across schematic style drawings of just where the vagal nerve is in the body. Vagal means in effect - wandering. So if you calm this nerve, stop it from being inflamed or stressed or dysfunctional then you will calm your heart - but its not a 5 minute fix and I would rather try diet first than have some camera feed into my gut.

As an aside - for this process - I didn't consult either a cardiologist or a gasterenterologist. For heavens sake what would they know about food ???? I consulted a Nutritionist !!!

Good luck.


Oh, my - Cheerful Charlie indeed. It sounds like he doesn't like cardiologists very much! Of course, the other side of the coin is that gasteroenterologists maybe know nothing about hearts. 🙂

Your cardiologist sounds like a really thorough physician and hopefully Charlie will be able to pinpoint something - or nothing at all.

Your husband sounds like mine - always practical in approach! Bit like the very hard-working farmer who died and his wife made his ashes into an egg timer. When asked why she had done such a terrible thing, she answered 'He shall work, he shall work, he shall work'.

Keep cheerful, put plenty of holes in those nylons and keep well. xx

This scenario always reminds me of the electrician/plumber/builder who sucks his teeth, shakes his head and asks 'Who did that? I wouldn't leave it like that if I were you.....' All technicians are the same!

Good luck with the teeny cameras, I look forward to the day when you can just swallow a camera in a pill 😷

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