Why does my heart race after eating?

Monday July 15 2019

Palpitations may happen after a strenuous

Palpitations may happen after a strenuous activity, due to anxiety and stress, high blood pressure or its medication, diabetes medication, thyroid disease and anaemia, among others 

By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

I am 45 years old and quite healthy. However, whenever I eat food or drink something, my heart beats abnormally. Do I have high blood pressure? Ateni

Dear Ateni,
While resting, normally, we are not aware of our heart beating but at some point, we have each felt the heart beating strongly or faster during or after physical exercise or when we get scared.
The so-called palpitations, which may be felt in the chest, throat or neck when they occur out of the blue, can be scary. Although one may not usually get palpitations, after an activity including eating that affects the heart rate, palpitations may happen.
Palpitations following a meal can happen alone or could be associated with shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain or even fainting. In this case, one requires a proper medical examination to rule out a serious cause.
Palpitations may also happen after a strenuous activity, due to anxiety and stress, high blood pressure or its medication, diabetes medication, thyroid disease and anaemia, among others. During or nearing a period or during pregnancy, women can be prone to palpitations which may come on their own or provoked by a certain meal.
Some people have palpitations after meals rich in caffeine, starch, nitrates, salt, sugar, fat or foods flavoured with a lot of monosodium glutamate. Also, reactions to certain foods can cause palpitations. Some people take alcohol, drugs including for asthma or diabetes with food and mistake the food to be the cause of palpitations whereas not.
Palpitations can happen when one stands up after a meal because of a drop in blood pressure (post prandial hypotension). This usually results from most of the blood being pooled in the abdominal organs to aid food digestion and absorption.
Because of this blood pooling, the amount of blood available for general circulation drops, causing blood pressure to fall, especially when standing upright. With the pooling, the body usually compensates by the heart beating faster (which may cause palpitations) apart from the blood vessels of the legs constricting to limit blood pooling in the legs.
While there is no specific treatment to eliminate postprandial hypotension and palpitations, drinking a glass of water before a meal, eating smaller, more frequent meals, avoiding alcohol before a meal and staying seated for 30 to 60 minutes after eating may all help.

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