A person is diagnosed with tachycardia when the heart rate is more than 100 beats per minute (BPM). The normal resting heart rate for adults is about 60 to 100 BPM and for infants, it is about 110 BPM. Tachycardia after eating is an uncommon disorder and for the people who experience it, it can create anxiety and stress. Experiencing slightly higher heart rate after having snacks or meals is quite normal, because increased flow of blood is required to digest the food. But, if your heart starts beating rigorously after meals, then it could be a symptom of tachycardia. There is no need to panic as people who experience it can lead a normal life.
Types of Tachycardia
Tachycardia can be either sinus (originating from the sinus node or heart's natural pacemaker) or non-sinus tachycardia. Appropriate and inappropriate are the two types of sinus tachycardia. Causes of appropriate sinus tachycardia are intensive exercise, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, dehydration, weak muscles, blood loss or loss of body fluids, hyperthyroidism, electrolyte abnormalities and certain other conditions.
Non-sinus tachycardia are further divided into supraventricular (coming from the upper chambers of the heart) and ventricular (coming from the lower chambers of the heart, which occur due to a rapid depolarization of the ventricles and are more serious in nature).
Causes of High Heart Rate after Meals
The causes and symptoms of increased heart rate after consumption of food may vary from person to person. Some people may get awakened at night due to rapidly beating heart. Some may experience an increase in the heart rate only after eating sugar, while some may experience it only when processed food is present in their diet. Sudden rise and fall in blood sugar levels after meals can cause tachycardia.
Heavy meals such as pizza and lasagna are high in sodium and saturated fat. If you do not drink enough water, your blood becomes thicker and it compels your heart to work harder. Similarly, cholesterol levels can shoot up right after a meal high in saturated fat leading to overworking of heart during the process of digestion. Tachycardia can also occur due to an existing heart or lung disease or problem in blood circulation.
It has been observed that people with poor digestion usually experience fast beating of heart after eating, especially if the meal is heavy, rich in carbohydrates, sugar or fat. Processed food or food high in oil or food rich in MSG, nitrates and sodium can make your heart beat faster. Some people experience tachycardia after consumption of food or drink that contains caffeine or other stimulants. According to some, high heart rate is associated with the dysfunction of the vagus nerve which is shared by both, the heart and the stomach. Heavy meals increase the pressure in the stomach and the pressure on the vagus nerve, the nerve that controls the beating of your heart. So, the person may experience breathing difficulty. If heartburn or severe acid reflux disease (GERD) is the cause of pounding heart and chest tightness, taking an antacid usually helps relieve the symptoms.
Other tachycardia causes include endocrine or digestive system problems or a side effect from an antibiotic or any other medication. High heart rate may be a sign of food sensitivity with respect to certain foods. The amount of sugar consumed may influence the intensity and duration of pounding you get. Obesity may worsen the symptoms of food-induced tachycardia.
Some causes of tachycardia are not related to heart problem at all. Night sweats, anxiety attacks at night, hiatus hernia can also raise your heart rate. In certain rare cases, tachycardia after intake of food can be a symptom of liver or kidney damage.
The episodes of rapid heartbeat usually begin within 30 to 60 minutes after a meal. The heart rate may go up to 120 beats per minute or even more. Sometimes, it lasts up to 6 hours. An adrenaline rush may be experienced by the person. There can be difficulty in resting, sleeping, or breathing. The person may suffer from bloating and indigestion. If your heart starts beating irregularly or very rapidly after eating, you could have cardiac arrhythmia.
To prevent food-induced tachycardia, you should eat several small meals and avoid large meals in one sitting. In this way, you can avoid pressure on the vagus nerve and severe fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
You should sleep, eat and exercise at the same fixed time, every day. Avoid drugs, tobacco and alcohol. While eating, don't drink beverages like tea, coffee or soda. Avoid smoking, caffeine, aspirin, phenacetin and amphetamines. Keep a record of the food consumed and find out which type of food raises your heart rate and how long does tachycardia last whenever you eat that particular food. Keep a record of the amount eaten too. Reduce the amount of food or avoid the food that triggers tachycardia. To have stable blood sugar levels, you should avoid simple carbs and should incorporate more complex carbs in your diet.
Wear clothes that are loose at the chest and the waist. Do not increase the pressure on your abdomen and diaphragm. Loosen the belt if any. At least for one hour after meals, you should not lie down in bed. Sit in a comfortable position. If the pain worsens or starts suddenly, don't take any new or over-the-counter medicine, just go to a doctor or the emergency room, as soon as possible.
It has been noticed that Pantoprazole (Protonix), a medicine for indigestion, helps alleviate heart palpitations symptoms to some extent. Green tea works great for pounding heart, while for some, drinking lots of water helps stabilize the heart. Consultation with a physician and prompt diagnosis (detection of the exact underlying cause of rapid heart rate after consumption of a drink or food) helps design the treatment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.