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The Significance of Heart Palpitations After a Snack or Meal

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 9/28/2010

Experiencing heart palpitations after eating? Find out some of the causes and when it can be serious.

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    Causes

    There are several reasons why a person may experience heart palpitations after eating. One of those reasons is a sudden increase in blood sugar levels. This can occur when it has been a long time between meals or if what has been consumed is relatively high glycemic index food.

    Another reason for heart palpitations following eating a meal is the consumption of caffeine in or with what was eaten. Energy drinks, colas, coffee, some teas and chocolate are the most common foods and beverages consumed that contain caffeine, though they are not the only ones. Some weight loss pills or supplements also contain caffeine and may be taken prior to the meal, thus causing heart palpitations following or during the meal.

    Dumping syndrome is yet another cause of the palpitations that occur following meals. Dumping syndrome is the name for a condition in which a patient has had part of the stomach removed or ‘stapled’ and then the stomach contents ‘dump’ into the small intestine too quickly. This is most commonly found in patients who have undergone weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass. Other symptoms include sweating, nausea and abdominal cramping.

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    When Palpitations are Serious

    Heart palpitations may also be called arrhythmia. How serious this condition is depends upon what is causing it. If the cause is unknown, a physician should be consulted quickly.

    If the cause of the palpitations is dietary, such as due to caffeine, the simple remedy is to stop consuming caffeine or at the very least, to limit the intake of it. A physician should be consulted to ascertain if there has been any damage or if there are other conditions at play.

    If it is a blood sugar issue causing the palpitations, a physician should be consulted. A special eating plan may be called for that use low glycemic index foods or that requires the patient to eat more frequent small meals in order to keep blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day. Testing for conditions such as hypoglycemia may be ordered by the physician.

    When the cause of palpitations following eating is dumping syndrome, the entire spectrum of dumping syndrome will likely be addressed. This can include alterations to eating, medications and surgery. A patient who has dumping syndrome should consult his or her physician about it. If left untreated, dumping syndrome can result in malnutrition.

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    Summary

    If heart palpitations after eating occur only once or infrequently, it may not indicate as serious a problem as when occur more frequently. However, any time heart problems of any type occur it is wise to consult with a physician.

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    References

    Arrhythmia: Heart Palpitations. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/electric/palpitations.aspx

    Dumping Syndrome. Mayo Clinic Staff. April 3, 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dumping-syndrome/DS00715