Does this sound like Atrial Fibrillation or IBS?

For the past 3 months I have experienced heart palpitations almost weekly. These last a few seconds at a time and are felt in my neck or ear. I've always ignored this until the other day I was doing yoga (relaxing) and was resting when suddenly I felt extremely nauseous, breathless and my heart was racing, my chest was rising and falling rapidly. I felt dizzy and started to panic about my body's reaction, looking down at my frantic chest/tummy area. I rushed to the cold tap to spray water on my wrists and face and then needed to go the toilet to pass a stool and I felt better. I've been experiencing nauseous/light headed/dizzy/off-balance and fast heart beat now every time before I need the toilet for the past year. I also get out of breath easily when doing exercise so no longer do vigorous exercise because in scared of my heart racing unnaturally. I cannot work out if I have developed IBS or whether this is indicative of a heart condition like paroxsymal AF? I would appreciate any comments or advice or similar experiences and what they were diagnosed with or what they think this could be. I am planning on going to my doctors tomorrow either way to get checked.

Im a 24 year old, 62 kg female with a height of 5'2, non smoker, non heavy drinker.

21 Replies

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  • Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia and presents as an irregular irregular pulse. That is there is no repeatable rhythm just chaotic writhing of the atrium and a similar feel on your wrist. Try checking your pulse when it happens. I have never heard of it causing rapid bowel movement although it can be connected to a need to urinate frequently due to the body's reaction to an enzyme released by the distressed heart.

    It is generally a condition of older people and in one so young would be whilst not unknown quite unusual. It is also quite unusual in such short time frames. I have no experience of IBS.

  • Hi Bob, Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to me, you have reassured me and made me think perhaps its not AF. However, I will definitely check my wrist/pulse when I am next having extreme racing heart beat and breathlessness. I don't notice myself urinating frequently afterwards but I do drink lots of water probably more than the average person (at least 2 litres and a half a day). I worry its AF because I understand that can cause sudden death syndrome which really frightens me.

  • Sudden death syndrome is rare in AF which isn't considered a life threatening condition, although it can feel like it and is certainly life changing! There are indicators such as long QT syndrome which show on an ECG which can be a precursor so if monitored regularly and treated appropriately, it really isn't a concern for the vast majority of people with AF.

    Well that's my understanding and I know that is something my EP checks for.

  • Hi CDreamer thank you for your response. I feel comforted knowing its not life-threatening and generally palpitations are not serious by the sounds of it? That reassures me! I have had an ECG in the past (3/4 years ago- doctor wrongly prescribed me a drug (glyceryl trinitrate) that caused me to collapse due to low blood pressure) but nothing abnormal showed up then! But it would be interesting if that incident has messed up the electrical rhythm of my heart.

  • Hi, I have IBS and I went through a bad spell where I had stomach upsets related to palpitations. I don't know which came first though! I am wondering why you drink so much water? You need about one and a half litres of fluid a day and some of that might come from food. Drinking too much could make you bloated, or you could be diabetic if you actually feel that thirsty. In any case you should consult a doctor about your symptoms.

  • Forgot to say, AF is not fatal unless you have another serious heart condition and does not lead to fatal arrhythmias either.

  • Hey , it sounds like you May actually be going into AF off and on , symptoms described seem to fit . I went into AF 4 years ago after initially being misdiagnosed by 2 GPs . Before my heart issue I knew nothing about this condition , but that's changed .

    MOST IMPORTANTLY,,, Don't panic , if your hearts races and heart beat jumping everywhere this can cause a blood clot and stretch / enlarge the heart , keep calm and go to the Dr , if he says it's nothing , ask for a chest X-ray to start , and also a scan of the heart , your symptoms were very much the same as mine , I went into a panic when admitted after a chest X-ray I insisted on showed something was up, as I said I panicked , which caused my heart to race more and then I was permanent AF. Today I'm actually pretty good , I recovered for all intensive purposes , still on MEDS but heart is normal size and using a product called TAMBOCOR100, . Initially your ecg may show normal rate at the Dr , but again , insist on alll the tests . Hospitals are actually pretty crappy of giving you all the info , so research and stay calm , I wish someone had of told me that

  • Really? Did you suddenly need the toilet as well after having an episode? Did they last 10-30 seconds and chest was rapidly rising and falling like tachycardia? My doctor said I need tests but she didn't seem concerned at all 'given my age'. I had an ECG 3/4 years ago but nothing abnormal showed up then. What age did you develop AF? Also, when i'm having an episode I find it hard to stay calm because I start panicking because I think i'm going to die/have a heart attack. :( To calm myself down I splash water on my face and on my wrists whilst by mind is literally whirling/everything is moving very fast.

  • Gut problems are linked to lots of other issues, including heart. If I were you I would be looking at autonomic dysfunctions as a possible causal link. The ANS causes gut motility Dysfunction along with arrythmias.

  • What does ANS stand for sorry? Thank you for your suggestion. I just hope its something easily treatable and not serious. There is to the best of my knowledge noone in my family with heart problems. My mum and dad (fingers crossed) are fine. My dad had a vascular aortic aneurysm though.

  • Hi all, interesting I am not a doctor, but it sounds like the bowel movement could be due to the bodies stress response fight or flight. I think it is logical as whenever I felt tense or notice an inset of an issue the whole physiology of my body changes, i.e. if I think I am going into AF then it's like my whole body tenses with the expectation, the mind kicks in etc..... So gut brain brain gut, etc personally I think everything is interlinked. Acceptance and staying calm helps but easier said than done, that's why groups like this are great. Wish u best.

  • Yes I am so pleased I have found this forum. It has made me feel less alone and a lot more calm and reassured. Its wierd because my symptoms don't seem to fit any one single category. There seems to be overlap with panic attacks, IBS and AF. It would be good to know definitely which it is for a peace of mind! I will g to thw doctors asa and requests for tests. Thing is im now registered with a university doctor and I dont know how good/pro-active they are.

  • I can’t say if the two are linked In absolute honesty as I am new to all of this.

    But I have had these symptoms when needing to empty my Bowels on and off for the last few months. Feel suddenly really unwell heart races cold sweats and have to run to the toilet. Instantly feel better after it happens.

    I had never heard of anyone else having these symptoms to be honest.

    I have recently been diagnosed with SVT and paroxysmal AF but hadn’t ever made a link between the two.

  • That is interesting! I hope you feel better now knowing whats causing the strange heart and gut sensations. My doctor listened to my heart the other day and she said it sounded normal and took my blood pressure and that was also normal. Is this the same for you? Im worried an ECG will not pick up anything because it is very occasional when I experience these symptoms but it is every week at least once. I've just read that it is difficult to diagnose SVT and reading SCT it does sound similar. My resting heart rate was 106 once but I was extremely stressed/anxious about upcoming exams.

    Thank you for taking the time to reply to me.

  • I went to the Drs on and off for a good few months and nothing ever showed up.

    I even spent the night in hospital on telemetry and nothing but ectopic beats showed up. My blood pressure is always normal never any concerns from the Doctors.

    My cardiologist advised I buy a Kardia personal ecg monitor for my phone so I could try and capture these intermittent episodes I’d never heard of these before and thought it sounded like a bit of a con to be honest!.

    The following week I felt it coming on and managed to record my heart at 160bpm at rest. I was diagnosed the very next day with SVT and began medication to control the symptoms.

    106 although fast could be anxiety and stress as you say, fingers crossed that’s all it is, even though those two things are also not nice at all to be coping with.

    Do you drink a lot of caffeine or take any herbal supplements? These can bring about episodes like this especially with the bowels.

  • Hey Reebe thanks so much again for your detailed reply. That did take a long time for you to get diagnosed! 160 must have felt extremely uncomfortable as I remember feeling very nauseous and extremely wide eyed at 106. I may invest in a Kardia (but this might scare me if I see readings above 100 and start trying to explain it) then I have proven evidence to show the doctor- im assuming you need to manually write down the readings or our they auto stored? When I had the episode on the yoga mat calmly sitting after doing 3 positions I felt like my bpm could have been way over 100. It did stop abruptly though after lying down on the bed trying to compose myself. I drink like 2 cups of strong tea a day, have an occasional coffee and drink several cups of herbal (hops/camomile/nettle) drink before bed. Im a vegetarian so I have lots of fibre generally and don't eat much carbohydrates like pasta or bread. Thanks again for your help.

  • I suspect your bowels are triggering a reaction in the heart, but most likely runs of bigeminy or ectopics. You need to wear a Holter monitor for 2 weeks to find out, which your doctor should be able to arrange.

  • Hi there , sorry to here your getting these things happening. I would go to see a cardiologist and get a 48 hour monitor put on or even 1 week monitor. I started with the same symptoms as you in my early 20s and was told by doctors it was just anxiety disorder. Now at 45 I have just found out I had SVT. It sounds like you are having runs of it , exercise can bring it on as stress and anxiety . It's also normal with anxiety to need to go to the loo as your body copes in different ways. I really wish my cardiologist would have taken me more seriously years ago as I now have PAF as well . Your only young so I would get checked out as I lost so much quality of life because I wasn't more pushy with my doctor. My heart used to skip beats then go into a burst of a fast pace for a couple of seconds then stop , then it could happen again 4 years later. If you have SVT don't panic as it is curable with an ablation procedure . or beater blocker to try keep your heart palpitations under control. Please get checked out by a good cardiologist or EP as it will bring you a lot of anxiety when it can be treated. I am not a doctor but am going by my own experience with my symptoms and yours .

    Good luck 💗

    Sam X

  • Or could it be that you are having panic attacks through worrying? Hence the need for the loo. Trust your Doctor.

  • I have had panic attacks before. But they come on at night, I wake up with an extremely fast heart beat and can't breath properly. But on the yoga mat in the afternoon, I should theoretically have been relaxed and calm as I was trying to meditate and focus on myself. I may have been subconsciously worrying. I did wonder if it was a panic attack- but this felt different- purely physiological- I wasn't shaking/trembling and had no teeth chattering like when I usually get a panic attack. I remember looking down at my chest thinking 'why am I acting like this? I was relaxing on the mat for goodness sake!'.

  • I am not qualified to tell you anything but from experience panic attacks can happen at any time, especially when happily going about ones business but talk to your doctor and get comfort from what they tell you.

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