Chicken and egg - gut and arrhythmias

We see many posts about the connection between AF and gut rumblings and the role of the vagus nerve in keeping a watchful eye on things. So many of us report horrible gut activities during episodes of AF - mine were always vastly embarrassing.

In the last 2 days I have been plagued by ectopics, tachycardia and dreadful gut trouble. I blamed a big lapse on my part for the gut trouble - I ate some oven chips. But, after 2 days of this, I’m wondering if I’m wrong and the arrhythmias are behaving like AF - perhaps irritating the vagus nerve and consequently digestion which irritates the heart . . and round and round it goes.

Normally, I can shift ectopics with breathing, meditation and/or exertion but not these current blighters and they are triggering the tachycardia.

Has anyone got a view on this subject please as I’m cheesed off with it - and to cap it all, we are snowed in! 😀

67 Replies

  • Oh poop what a pain. So difficult to know but I know the gut issues can be v embarrassing. The vagaries of the vagus are complex. Think its called the wandering nerve for a reason.

    I wish the mind body connection was easier to get my head round too.

    Do hope a nights sleep or maybe a set of dozes will help.

  • Thank you Bagrat - I slept much better than I had dared to hope last night. Heart is quiet again so fingers crossed.

  • So sorry that you’re having such a rough time Finvola .

    I’ve been convinced for ages that there’s a digestion/heart connection as I get really fast heart rate, and feel really ill as food passes through my large intestine, and my discomfort passes when it passes, if you get my drift!

    My lovely consultant is humouring me and is sending me to Whiteabbey on Friday for a flex-sig and OGD, (in other words a camera downwards and one upwards, hopefully not the same one). I doubt if they will show any connection because it feels more like a message being sent, perhaps through the vagus nerve, rather than a physical problem that can be seen.

    The problem with living in wonderful scenic locations as you and I do, is that we have to pay for it sometimes ; you being snowed in, our house being flooded!

    Hope you feel better soon.

  • Sorry to hear about your weather both. Down yere in Devon it is just extremely wet but up on the moors there is a bit of snow. Too far south I guess.

  • There have been times up here Bob when too far south could be somewhere like Hawai'i - lol.

  • Ah you lovely lady - I guffawed heartily at your cameras - you'll never be quite sure though, will you?

    Had the same as you late last night - it passed when it passed thank goodness. I hope you get the all clear in your investigation, but that will be a double edged thing as it will still leave the discomfort.

    My husband is always referring to our 'living on Benevenagh taxes' - there are prices to pay for such beauty and tranquility and your sea views are wonderful too.

  • A little update on my two camera exercise yesterday.

    I was really nervous, not of the procedures, but of sitting in the passenger seat while my husband drove for an hour and a half to the hospital. I drive everywhere and if he wants to come it’s as a passenger, but not on this occasion.

    Had all the obs done, then donned a gown, tied up the back obviously, and a lovely nurse gave me an enema.

    “Try to hold it for five minutes if possible and when the discomfort and cramps take over, go there”, and she motioned to the ensuite toilet.

    I’ve been competitive all my life, so I was determined to wait for five minutes come hell or high water, and, just as I got to the porcelain receptacle, it did. Waves of cramps and blood pressure sinking ever lower, causing that feeling of impending doom which I always assume is my death knell, no matter how often I experience it.

    I remember feeling sad that I wouldn’t see my children again, glad that their presents were wrapped, and sorry that Christmas would be forever tainted for them.

    I came to momentarily at some stage and was aware of two doctors and four nurses hovering over me, cannula being inserted in my arm and oxygen mask on my face. I found later that they had carried me, naked apart from my untied robe, to a trolley.

    Husband was summoned back to the bedside from the sandwich shop across the road and he arrived, mentally shuffling through my insurance papers. 😎

    After an hour or so of constant blood pressure monitoring and sweet tea I was deemed well enough to make the journey home, but one doctor was doubtful since my BP was in the low 70s, (still a big improvement on the 47 which it had been earlier). I assured him that the journey, with my husband driving, would raise my BP to an acceptable level so off we went.

    A colonic irrigation on the NHS without the discomfort of the cameras in my orifices. What a result!

    Sorry Finvola , I’ve hijacked your original subject. 😀

  • Just a warning - I recently had the cameras (no, not the same one). The meds given to clear everything out set me into AF. Fluid etc poured out of both exits. I was so dehydrated at 1.30 am when things started to calm down, I looked like a skeleton with skin stretched over it. I still went ahead with the procedures as there was no way I was taking those meds again - ever. I am convinced my AF is vagal and an just as sure that the meds upset the nerve.


  • How strange! I’ve had camera procedures in the past but didn’t have the horrible experience which you had to endure. They have told me that both procedures will be completed in an hour and a half so I sincerely hope that I won’t be there at 1.30 AM.

    Thanks NooNoo14 for the comforting words 😂

  • Sorry, hope it didn't terrify you! I hadn't had an AF event for quite a while so felt sure it was the meds that did it but I suppose it could have been stress triggered. Good luck.

  • Hi Finvola,

    My view, based on my own and personal experience and success .... is to tame the gut first. BUT its no quick fix.

    Don't bother talking to a GP or a Cardiac Consultant, seldom do they understand the gut and how it works, much less the vagal nerve....... just go and consult a Nutritionist ! Don't go to a 'Pop up shop' Nutritionist but go to the BANT website and check out one near where you live.

    If you go down this route before you go start and maintain a food diary, breakfast. lunch and dinner (and anything in between) and highlight those foods which you think trigger a heart or a gastro event and describe the event. You will then develop an invaluable tool for the nutritionist to work with.

    For me I eliminated gluten, wheat and oats ............. chop ! I took a few leads from the FODMAPS diet. Eliminated as much 'added sugar' as was possible. Some vegetables and some fruit. Some dairy produce too .... yoghurt - out! Soft cheeses - out! Hard cheeses like edam, cheddar or gouda - OK.

    That illustrates the level of detail you will end up looking at.

    Gut issues are becoming more and more wide spread and sinister that I have now developed a loathing of modern 'western' farming practices ..... chemical companies and their farmer servants are gradually poisoning us.

    So for me it was calm the gut, calm the vagal nerve and it follows you will calm the heart.

    My last AF event was April 2015.

    There is a more enlightened school of thought, particularly in the US and some EU countries that the gut is the bodies 'second' brain, which through the vagal nerve and its wanderings and meanderings and its superhighway communication skills with the brain and other organs does control significantly our individual health and well being.

    On the weather front I do hope the snow disappears and gives you your freedom back very soon. Down here in the far south of Cornwall we are free of that stuff and several fields of daffodils are now springing into life and splashes of yellow are appearing all over the landscape.


  • Totally agree John, you may be interested in Dr Natasha I tweeted her podcast yesterday, common sense so clearly explained - be patient with the american interviewer and ads and keep listening to the end, I think you will enjoy it.

  • Thank you for the link secondtry - every bit of information helps.

  • Hi secondtry,

    Many thanks for those links. Will settle down later a go through them.

  • John - thank you so much for your interesting reply. I decided after diagnosis four years ago to cut out all 'rubbish' from diet, skin, hair and household and I found that it has worked reasonably well most of the time.

    I follow (normally) a modified version of FODMAPS and the oven chips were a STUPID lapse - I've had several monologues from my husband on the subject! Sugar is something I avoid where possible and I always check food labelling to check for chemicals - a depressing business. Interesting that soft cheese is possibly a problem - I will look at the BANT website and take it from there.

    Like you, I despair of the attitudes in certain areas about the contamination of items which are sold to an unsuspecting public - and the labelling is often 'sanitised' to hide the truth. There are so many poisons freely flung around today - especially in perfumes and household cleaners, hence my blitz on skin, hair and household products.

    Enjoy your daffodils - aren't they really a dash of hope after winter?

  • Just a postscript caveat on 'lapses' - as we all seek to improve our diets with good effect it is important I believe to bear in mind whereas in the old days the body was used to dealing with 'bad stuff' after spoiling it with just 'good stuff' it is likely to react more seriously than previously to a retrograde step however short lived!

  • Spot on! I haven't eaten any garbage in nearly four years and I figured that my system was 'happy and settled' and so reacted much more than was normal - hope so, anyway.

  • Hi Finvola,

    Oh ! yes, I well know about 'lapses'. Even now, after some 7 years I still fall into the trap of eating something 'nice', and suffer for my stupidity for hours after. Fortunately now, it doesn't trip me into AF.


  • I have been on a no wheat no sugar no gluten goats’ milk not cows’, and no nightshade veg (toms, peppers, aubergines, not many pots) diet since May and am taking supplements recommended by my lovely functional medicine doctor and there is no doubt about it my gut is better. I also try and eat the carbs and veg first and chew them well to allow breakdown to start in the mouth, then the protein followed by the fat last. This gives the stomach acid time to concentrate so as to digest the protein and allows the bile to digest the fat. Cannot say it is a gastronomic experience but I am better for it.

  • I totally agree with you, a cardiologist from york dr supta agrees the vagal nerve can induce AF after eating and mine is a speeding up of heart rate, once I’ve had my meal, and not a big meal either, and not always, fluid depletetion kicks it in to,,,my brother ate something he never eats, why I don’t know, but the stodgy meal triggered a nsr but 112 bpm, lasting several hours, never had that before, when I asked him about how it felt going down he replied like a ball slowing going down,,,

  • so from the sounds of calming the gut you are on a gluten free diet?

  • Yes indeed. Also wheat and oats free.

  • how about dairy? i'm on a vegan diet and trying to do gluten free too

  • Not too bad with dairy. No yoghurt, no soft cheeses but OK with hard cheeses like Edam and cheddar. OK with milk and cream.

  • i use almond milk. just trying to stay away from dairy in general. had some heart things today. did some breathing and and meditation. that helped. if i can't relax that makes it worse

  • Hi Finvola,

    Sorry you’re not feeling good - hope it passes (or has already) 😊

    That ‘horribly embarrassing thing’ happened to me after AF started not long after a bowl of pasta which was a little too salty (silly me). Paramedics were asking what was causing it “erm I really don’t know!” Mortified. I haven’t touched pasta since incidentally out of some kind of warped fear, yet have eaten it with no issues previously so can only assume the salt in the sauce caused an issue. I have gastritis too but actually going vegan has helped my stomach a lot, of course I’m not recommending it for everyone, it took me a while to get the proper balance of nutrition in my diet. However I can eat chilli, garlic and small amounts of onions now without any problems, whereas when I ate dairy I had all kinds of issues. I keep meals smaller and more frequent rather than eat a big meal as I used to. I’m glad you posted on this subject. Learning more about the vagus nerve and how it plays its part. Best wishes, Jules

  • Thank you Jules - it did pass!

    It's amazing what will trigger problems with the gut. It's amazing that you can eat chilli, garlic and onions - 3 definit no-no's for me! There seems to be a lot of evidence on this forum that small meals often is the best way forward. Long may it continue to work for you.

  • I am sure that little and often works for me too

  • Are you sure it's not just the stress of being snowed in that's triggered this ? I'm fine with such things but my wife, who doesn't have AF, gives herself lots of stomach problems by worrying about the snow.

  • Mike - I think this time it was a gut/heart issue but you have an excellent point. Every winter we face the possibility of blocked laneways, frozen steep hills on an untreated road and sometimes deep snowdrifts. My husband thrives on it - loves getting the jeep out through the field and sliding down (sideways sometimes) to town. I detest it - and there is always a little 'what if' at the back of my mind!

  • Hehe - he sounds just like me, and you like my wife :-)

  • Hope you are feeling a bit better. If I was you I would switch all your focus onto your gut, John's reply is absolutely spot on including the sad situation that we are being slowly poisoned by most 'food' producers. It takes along time to change habits and find healthy sources of clean food, we all need urgently to go back to eating simpler food, cooked from scratch and costing 20%+ of our income instead of well under that. Good luck.

  • You are quite right - but I suspect things will only get worse as we rear generations of people used to 'convenience' food.

    Thank you, things are much better this morning - lesson well learned, I suspect.

  • Hi! I have had gut problems for as long as I can remember. When AF and A Flutter came to the party I was convinced they were connected Like you my EP Consultant sort of humoured me. Anyway I’m now 3 months post A Flutter ablation and for the first time in my life my stomach is normal and so is my heart rythmn. No further Flutter and remarkedbly no Fib. The only other thing I have done differently is I have added magnesium supplements to my diet as I read that a lack of magnesium can cause AF. So maybe try the magnesium and see if it helps. But to answer your question, yes definitely related.

  • Good news for you Lynne - AFlutter ablation has an excellent prognosis and hopefully you are rid of the problems.

    I have read up on magnesium and have tried citrate (gut objected strenuously) and a magnesium spray which I didn't like but will probably go back to or I might try mag taurate which is recommended by Dr Gupta.

    Best wishes

  • Thank you. I’m just taking magnesium oxide - less absorbency I think but it suits me and my gut. Keep thinking about changing to a more ‘efficient’ one like taurate but as the saying goes ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’😃. Hope you sort things out soon.

  • Citrate gave me the runs. Glauconite is not easily absorbed. I take a combination of L-threonate, taurate and gliycinate with vit C but not pure ascorbic acid. It helps absorption. Mine is made by Magtech. Isn’t Dr. Gupta a splendid fellow?

  • I have been reading this forum for a long time now, and have not yet seen any mention of the issue of being 'intolerant' to certain foods. This is similar to 'having an allergy' but is not the same, and can be managed and often overcome, with perseverance. The main problem is to identify the foods which are causing the problem. For more information read one of Patrick Holford's books, such as 'Improve your Digestion'.

    A blood test can be obtained privately from (for a price) to identify the offending foods, though false positives can occur. The key is to eliminate the offending foods or food groups absolutely totally for at least three months, preferably four or more, and then reintroduce them slowly and eat them sparingly in the future. This is hard, but it does work - I've proved it!

    I do wonder if Finvola has a 'hidden allergy' or 'intolerance' for some ingredient of that variety of 'oven chips', which for some reason showed itself very clearly on that occasion.

  • Polski you may well be right about the oven chips. Some types have coatings on them.

    My family grow potatoes for a living. Some time ago a relative went to work in a factory where potatoes were washed and pre-packed. To his horror he discovered that the potatoes were fed through baths of bleach.

    Fast forward to this year when trading links with the USA were discussed. There was apparently going to be a problem with American chicken breasts that had been treated with bleach.

    Do we know what we are eating?

    PS I'm snowed in here in North Wales. It is stressful when you can't do what you were planning. @ Mike 11 is correct.

  • That's pretty awful to think about jennydog but it doesn't surprise me at all. Pre-packed salads are washed in bleach baths too - awful isn't it?

    We only know what we eat if we grow it ourselves - as a child I thought it was totally normal to get a lot of our food from our land or in swaps with neighbours and friends. I can still smell freshly dug spuds and boy - did they taste!

    I have to say I was irritated by being unable to get out but we were well warned by the met office.

  • Good grief. I knew that in the US they use bleach and all sorts of other things but did not realise that here they washed oven chips in it. Not that I eat oven chips but if they do that it is possible that potatoes for crisps have that done to them too. I worry particularly for the children and what their diets are doing to them.

  • Thank you for that good advice, Polski. My husband is adamant that the oven chips were soaked in preservatives (bad news) and coated in rotten oil (worse news) and cannot understand why I ate them. Neither can I if truth be told.

  • Coincidentally, there was a programme on Radio 4 yesterday afternoon hosted by the Scottish lady who does food programmes, her name escapes me, and they reported that carbohydrate heated to high temperatures created poisons which affected the digestive system. The main culprits were crisps and oven chips!

  • For me Polski, neither me, my heart or my gut differentiate between intolerance, allergy ( hidden or blatant) or anything else. If I eat something which causes me to bloat, or gurgle, or burp or have diahorrea (but not all together) or when my chest becomes 'heavy' or when my abdomen becomes 'heavy' I then do the soul searching as to a food or foods I've eaten and I know I'm on the slippery slope. When my chest is 'light' or my abdomen is 'light' and there are no digestive issues happening, then I know I am well (the wellness being consistent with age :-)

  • Good morning

    This subject is very close to my heart right now (please excuse the pun).

    I have now been AF free since April and after it developed into Tachycardia which lasted until August I had a further ablation.

    This all adds up to me having been as normal as whatever normal should be for more time than I can remember.

    However, one niggle still remains and has got progressively worse and that is severe nausea a lot of the time and more predominantly during and after eating. It can be so bad that I have to stop eating. These bouts of nausea give me the feelings I used to have when I was about to go into AF and are worse when I am having a greater amount of ectopic extras and misses.

    I saw my EP last week for my 3 month follow up from my last ablation and obviously he is pleased with my progress albeit he said that I still have very bad conductivity between my upper and lower chambers and that although in NSR at present the ECG was a bit unusual. He could not pinpoint exactly what was going on but he is going to monitor me closely.

    On mentioning that my ectopics and the nausea he said that maybe I had it the wrong way round and that it was not my heart and ectopics that were causing the nausea but that the interaction of the vagus system and my gut were potentially the cause of my nausea. This possibly leading to the ectopics.

    He mentioned that there is now more pioneering work where the nerves in the heart are being specifically targeted but that as they had carried out so many ablations on my heart he thinks there is a possibility that he and my former EPs might have ablated these by default.

    He has suggested I reduce my Flecainide from 150 x 2 per day to 100 x 2 per day after Christmas and then a couple of months later he will reduce it again to 50mg x 2 per day.

    He said that if I get AF and cannot right it myself I should go to the hospital and they would give me a cardioversion. This gives me comfort as in the past there were times when I felt a burdon on they system bearing in mind how many cardiversions I have had.

    The trouble with thinking that there is something going on in my stomach is how to deal with it. I think my diet is pretty good and I do not eat to excess and have what my wife tells me is a healthy diet. I need to do some more reading.

    I hope you are not snowed in for too long. I live in the temperate South sheltered by the Isle of Wight and we have had about 3 snowflakes during this cold spell. I tried to take a photo but they were too quick for me. Still very cold however.

    I do hope you feel better soon as I am only to aware of how it feels to be getting many ectopics, being in and out of Tachycardia and having problems 'down there' feel like.

    Take care


  • Hello Pete - thank you for your very helpful reply. First off, it's great that you continue to be in NSR but the nausea is a misery to have to deal with.

    How interesting that your EP homed in on the vagus nerve and its interaction with heart and stomach. Did he elaborate on what he meant by the pioneering work targetting the nerves - by ablation I assume? I remember reading that Dr Sabine Ernst is trialling ablations which target specific ganglia and a couple of our members took part in the trial.

    Never feel that you are any sort of burden on the system - you have health needs and the means are there to help you. Your EP obviously agrees, so that's good news too.

    Very best wishes with reducing Flecainide and chase those snowflakes.

  • I think he was referring to Dr Sabine Ernst’s work.

    In my view there has to be a connection to the vagus system.

    Trouble is it sometimes is too much to take in but as we all know not only is the human body a complex entity we also all are different.

    Thanks for the kind words.


  • Very interested in your Flecainide reduction plan. Purely a personal viewpoint but when I discuss the same with my cardiologist in 2018, I will make the suggestion that we go down in smaller steps; currently on 100mgsx2 next step with pill cutter 75mgsx2 for 3 months, then second step. My reasoning being I need time to get my head (i.e. the Vagus Nerve) around losing a valuable crutch and secondly if Flecainide is strong enough to stop AF, without it the reverse is also possible.

    My family think I'm too cautious and the ironic thing is the longer you go without an episode the more cautious you become on disturbing the stars quo. Hope all goes well.

  • Yes it is good to reduce slowly.

    I was only given an increase of dosage to 150 x 2 in January and was on 100x2 before so I think for me 150-100-50 will be fine, especially as I completely forgot to take any tablets on Saturday evening without any consequences I hope to be OK.

    In addition he has assured me that if all goes wrong he will cardovert me.


  • One of my family kindly gave me 'GUT' by Giulia Ender's, 'The inside story of our body's most underrated organ'. This is a fascinating book and I heartily recommend it. There is only one chapter specifically dealing with the vagus nerve but it confirms that signals from the gut affect the brain and visa versa.

  • Thank you Buffafly - I'll follow your advice and have a look on Amazon. Knowledge is strength.

  • Supposed to be 'gut' not 'but', luckily predictive text chose not to add an extra 't' 😀

  • I started by improving my diet (as well as taking the usual AF supplements) and then a herbalist recommended Slippery Elm which calms the gut without having an anti-acid effect. This has made a remarkable difference in my case with no side effects except for a very gentle laxative action. Hence the 'slippery' I suppose.

  • I had an aunt who was devoted to Slippery Elm - I will have a look at the possibilities of it. Thank you.

  • Interesting you posted that handybe2, I’ve been on slippery elm. You’ve reminded me I haven’t taken it for a while - thank you! Its worth trying Finvola. It’s a kind of plaster for the stomach, or at least I’d put it that way 😊 Aside from a “not really sure about aspirin.” unsubstantiated comment I had, the only issue with meds I can think of is taking it a good hour or so before any tablets as it can interfere with absorption. Glad you’re getting on well with it handybe2 (*puts reminder in phone), best wishes, Jules

  • Thanks for Finvola suggestion, Jules. I will look into that. Also your useful comment about keeping Finvola/SE separate from other pills and potions - I hadn't thought of that effect. Will discuss with herbalist.

  • That was my appalling grammar skills today sorry - Fibro Fog... Finvola was the other member who posted on here 😊 One of those days! But, yes, slippery elm is best taken a while before meds. I have a powder I mix with water. I forgot how pleasant it was to take incidentally 😉!

  • Aw, never mind - I had looked up SLippery Elm and worked out what you meant.

  • I have had “gut” problems since forever. WO/boring details I have seen many dr. So, in the last three years I had had three episodes of AF after eating out. Dr. Said no relationship. Just getting old. Fast forward. AF is triggered when my gut is disturbed. Not in any one way, but overeating, drinking caffeine, not being regular...So the first time I had a colonoscopy after I had my AF episodes my question was answered. It was months before I had another episode. Clean gut, careful AF! Of course this is my experience. My HEART IS NOT THE PROBLEM. THE AF IS TRIGGERED BY A PROBLEM affecting my heart through the relationship with my Vagus opinion. This other problems that affect your heart might also be the culprit. I am Not a dr. I just know my experience.

  • Just getting old - I often wonder how many medics think that, without coming out and saying it to our faces. Grrrrr.

    Drs Gupta and Mandrola certainly agree with your statement that AF is triggered by another problem and describe it as ‘the company which AF keeps’. Sad gut is definitely one for me too.

  • I have very troubled guts, have had every test under the sun , so know I have diverticulitis but I think the pills do irritate the stomach . May be AF and This problem do go together?

  • I always take my drugs with loads of water - as much as I can manage and I know other posters have some issues with tablets causing irritation.

    Diverticulitis flare ups must be difficult to deal with when you also have AF - are you able to take anything to ease the symptoms?

  • If I have a flare upI have to take anti bios. Now on Zantac, it does not help. Would try anything.

  • Try It has helped my sister no end - she is slowly improving.

  • I found an excellent website with instructions on 'healing your gut' which I'll try to find again. It does require a lot of willpower as it involves clear fluids only for a while followed by low residue etc. My friend told me to eat loads of high fibre food regardless, worst advice apparently! 😬

  • i'm not sure where you live but it's snowing here too. i find i have gut troubles too. feels like there's a gas bubble stuck and after a while it usually come up. and i've made the connection with the heart palpitations. i do meditation and yoga too the breathing and meditation usually works but if i have people around me it's hard to concentrate i find stress triggers mine big time

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