A heart palpitation is when it feels like your heart skipped a beat or had an extra beat. It may also feel like a fluttering or pounding in the chest or neck and can accompany a sudden increase in your heart rate.

You may experience heart palpitations after eating. This can be due to a variety of factors, from the contents of your last meal to dietary supplements you may be taking.

Heart palpitations are common and can be harmless. However, they can be indicators of serious underlying conditions.

In this article, we detail why you may get heart palpitations after eating, what you can do to treat them, and when to see a doctor.

You may experience heart palpitations after eating for several reasons.

Diet

Your overall diet can play a role when it comes to heart palpitations after eating.

The following are some diet-related triggers and risk factors:

  • Low potassium levels and dehydration can trigger heart palpitations.
  • If you have hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, you may be at higher risk for having heart palpitations due to your diet. High carbohydrate foods and processed sugars can cause palpitations if you have issues with low blood sugar.
  • Alcohol can also play a role. Researchers in a 2016 review of studies found a link between alcohol consumption and atrial fibrillation, which can lead to palpitations.
  • You could have palpitations due to a food allergy or sensitivity. Eating spicy or rich foods can also trigger heart palpitations.
  • High sodium foods can also cause palpitations. Many common foods, especially canned or processed foods, contain sodium as a preservative.

Meal experience

Heart palpitations after eating may be related to the meal experience rather than the food.

Palpitations can occur due to the act of swallowing. You may sometimes feel palpitations when standing up after being seated for a meal.

Emotions can also trigger palpitations, especially if your mealtimes cause anxiety or stress.

Caffeine

Doctors may recommend you cut down on caffeine if you’re experiencing heart palpitations.

Caffeine is in many popular foods and drinks, such as:

  • coffee
  • tea
  • soda
  • energy drinks
  • chocolate

However, research into the link between caffeine consumption and palpitations has provided mixed results.

A 2017 review of energy drink use in the United States reported that out of 496 college students who consumed energy drinks in the last month, 19 percent experienced heart palpitations. However, because there are a range of ingredients in these drinks, researchers were unable to draw definite links between caffeine and palpitations.

A 2016 study suggested that caffeine likely does not cause palpitations. In fact, the researchers proposed that some types of caffeine can improve your heart health. A further 2018 study similarly found no basis for linking caffeine intake and irregular heart rhythms.

The most helpful treatment options for heart palpitations will depend on what’s causing them.

Your doctor may conclude that your heart palpitations are not a serious threat to your health. In this case, you’ll likely benefit from lifestyle changes.

For example, if you experience palpitations after eating, you may benefit from recording your food habits and looking for triggers. Avoiding these in the future may help resolve symptoms.

Other lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, can also help.

If your palpitations are a serious issue, your doctor will likely prescribe a beta-blocker or calcium channel blocker. These are antiarrhythmic drugs. They keep your heart rate even and regular by improving blood flow throughout your body.

These medications often help your condition within a few hours. However, they usually take several months to several years to correct conditions related to arrhythmia.

If your palpitations are life threatening, your doctor may use a defibrillator or a pacemaker to help get your heart back into a normal rhythm. These treatments will give you immediate results.

Your doctor may monitor you over a few days or even a few years to continue treating your heart palpitations.

if you consistently experience symptoms of heart palpitations at home you should visit a medical professional for assessment.

What to expect at the doctor’s office

Your doctor will likely begin with a physical exam. If they suspect a heart problem, you may need to see a cardiologist. Diagnostic testing may include:

Your doctor may also recommend a Holter monitor test. For this test, you’ll carry a portable heart rate monitor with you for 1 to 2 days or longer so your doctor can analyze your heart rate over a longer period.

Exercise can make you prone to having heart palpitations. Some mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders can also increase your likelihood of experiencing heart palpitations.

Drugs

Other causes include:

Hormonal changes

Significant changes in your hormones can cause palpitations, too. Going through a menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause affects your hormone levels, and these changes can have a noticeable effect on your heart rate.

Hot flashes during menopause are notable for causing palpitations. These usually disappear when the hot flash is over.

Heart palpitations usually stop after a few seconds once your heart rate returns to normal. In some cases, your heart might continue to beat erratically for minutes or more. You might feel pain in your chest and even pass out.

Heart palpitations can be a symptom of a medical condition, including:

  • anemia
  • dehydration
  • blood loss
  • low blood sugar levels
  • shock
  • infection

Treating these underlying causes can help prevent further palpitations.

If you’re under a lot of stress, therapies such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing techniques can help alleviate heart palpitations. Making sure you drink plenty of fluids can also help.

Learn more ways to stop and prevent heart palpitations.

You may be more likely to experience heart palpitations if you have:

  • low carbon dioxide levels in the blood
  • low oxygen levels in the blood
  • low potassium levels
  • an overactive thyroid

Some conditions can increase your risk of heart palpitations. These conditions include:

If you have heart palpitations, talk with a doctor about getting tested for heart conditions, especially if you have other conditions that can affect your heart’s health.

Talk with a doctor about your heart palpitations and getting evaluated for heart conditions. If tests show your palpitations are not due to an underlying medical condition, you may not need medical treatment. If you have palpitations often, try to figure out what foods or activities trigger them.

Keep a food diary to see if you can identify specific foods that give you palpitations. In some cases, a single ingredient in your food may be causing them. If you can identify triggers, avoid them and see if the palpitations stop.

Taking other preventative measures to reduce stress or anxiety may also help.

No matter what’s causing your palpitations, many treatments are available to help keep your heart rate and rhythm in check.