Swallowing trigger for atrial arrythmia

About 20 years ago I battled atrial ectopic beats and some afib. All the tests were negative so it remained a mystery. The one thing that made me unique was the fact that every time I swallowed, the normal rhythm was disturbed by pauses and ectopic beats. Occasionally this resulted in a bout of afib. Nobody had heard of the swallowing trigger. We found significant reflux on a barium swallow test. I was prescribed a Proton Pump Inhibitor that seems to have worked for the past 20 years. Sadly it came back with a vengeance this past week making it hard to eat. As long as I don't swallow I have no problem. It seems that the vagus nerve is affected by the reflux which then causes the atrial ectopic beats and pauses. I'm not sure what to do next. Up the PPI strength? Apparently they have long term health consequences. Has anybody heard of this issue?

9 Replies

  • I get reflux from time to time and the irritated oesophagus can serve to trigger afib, via the vagus nerve I assume.  A PPI (Omeprazole) did nothing for me but a switch to Ranitidine did and you might ask your GP about that. Good luck. 

  • I used to take Ranitidine, but Iv`e read that it increases the risk of alzheimers because it`s an antihistamine. I don`t get heartburn nearly as much as I used to despite staying of the Ranitidine.

  • Wow I don't know if this is the same thing to you but when I eat my heart beats sometimes goes all over the place 

  • It is hard to know but I suspect it is happening for the same reason. Do you have acid reflux? How long has this been happening for you?

  • During the past 2 weeks I have come to learn some important things. I believe that the heart palpitations are being caused by pressure within the upper GI tract pressing on the vagus nerve. The pressure is due to improper digestion of food. I'm taking digestive enzymes and eating smaller meals that are acid reflux friendly. The good news is that it is working. The pressure has subsided and the heart palps have also stopped - not a coincidence. What got me thinking about this was during an abdominal ultrasound the technician noticed that I had lots of gas in my upper stomach which blocked his ability to see my liver.  I didn't even know I had gas because I wasn't feeling any pressure at the time. It started thinking how much gas I might have when I'm feeling pressure. No wonder the vagus nerve gets irritated causing heart palps. 

    The Internet is full of similar stories so stay tuned. So far so good. 

  • It's like you are telling my story! I have heard all of this from other sources and think it applies to me too. The problem I have is I haven't been back to GP since the tests at the hospital which were negative because my five week run of heart craziness had stopped just before. I've had bouts of it since but because of reading up about the vagus nerve I have sort of diagnosed myself. I have heard that the medics here don't recognise the vagus nerve connection in this country. So my question is, do you live in the UK? If yes, have you spoken to your GP about this and are they supportive of the theory. I'm too scared to mention it to mine as he is prone to get a bit cross with patients consulting the Internet!

  • I live in Canada. The average doctor here is also not too keen to hear all these theories. When you actually experience the problem, it is much easier to understand the connection. It appears that there is more and more discussion on this topic that is encouraging. I found this article while doing some online research:


    Have you notice a swallowing trigger for the palpitations? I came across another story online where a girl had the same thing happening with a conscious swallowing trigger. She was able to demonstrate it repeatedly for some electrophysiologists during an ablation procedure. Apparently they were able to see the ectopic focus in the heart and zap it. I would rather solve it from the source in the GI tract. 

    Take care

  • Sorry, I've not been on here for a while and only just saw this. Thank you for your reply, it is most interesting. I've noticed that swallowing has some sort of affect while I am having an attack but I don't think it actually triggers it. I find myself gulping in an attempt to stop it but it never does! I'm also watching and waiting to see if having my nights disturbed and constantly being woken up in the early hours has an effect as my recent runs have been while away on holiday. This happened twice in three weeks, the first week we had high winds and storms over several nights which created so much noise I couldn't sleep and the second week RAF jets kept flying over early in the morning. My hubby also snores which is the biggest problem! This has been the biggest headache this week so I am waiting to see if anything happens... It really is most odd as it will suddenly return to normal, I'll got to bed with it going crazy then when I wake up, it's fine. I also now restrict my food intake, I've been doing the 5:2 and my stomach can't take anything like the amount it used to so that helps, and nothing after 6pm. And no alcohol!  Maybe I'll get to the bottom of it one day! 

  • Like you I don't get into the web forums too often. It sounds like you are targeting the right ideas. I've continued to do well on my plan. I'm still tapering off the PPI medication I have been on for years to control my reflux. I feel positive about being on the right track. Good luck. 

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