Firstly let me tell you that I've been thoroughly checked out by a cardiologist, and my ectopic heart beats are apparently benign. She had no recommendations about how I could avoid them.
It's been happening for about 3 years, and I really thought since going Paleo last Feb that I had it sorted. However, over the last few months the frequency of the irregular heart beats is increasing again. Individual ectopics aren't too troublesome, but if I get a run of four or five in a row then I get lightheaded and a bit nauseated. It's painless,and I don't get breathless. I associate the ectopic beats with a kind of tight feeling across my diaphragm area, which makes me think this is more of a mechanical issue, but I'm not at all sure.
My thoughts were that it was a vagal nerve issue, exacerbated by IBS, and that seemed to be borne out by the reduction in symptoms as my IBS resolved. Now that it's back, I can't track this problem to food, or exertion - but I might be missing some kind of pattern.
I eat fairly strict Paleo, to keep control of the IBS. I take magnesium citrate at night (natural calm), a thyroid support supplement with copper, zinc, and selenium.
Has anyone had any success treating this problem? Or have any bright ideas about what I might try to resolve it?
Edited to add that I've asked this just as I'm going to bed in NZ, so please excuse my absence - I'll check back in the morning!
Green tea, red wine and dark chocolate can all cause this. Cut these out of your diet for a few days and see if the symptoms stop. Worked for me! I still occasionally indulge. But now I know to expect the flutters within 24 hours.
Okay, I answered a question similar to this with my experiences, sound a little bit different than yours but the issue I had occurs on a continuum from "very occasionally, not much of a problem" to "sometimes, little lightheaded" to "major ordeal, cause fainting/panic/emergency room visit". Those all sound wildly different, but they are all from one, tiny, misfiring nerve, and depending on the frequency and location it could be anything along those lines. Even after getting checked by a cardiologist, my arrhythmia was never recorded until induced in surgery. You essentially cannot eliminate the possibility of it being a little nerve issue without a surgery, and if it is not disturbing events in your life etc then there is no reason to have the surgery. There is a genetic component in some cases- my dad has an arrhythmia (along w/a physical defect), but his doesn't bother him enough to go through with the surgery. Mine, on the other hand, did. Here is my answer from before, copied and pasted (little long, I know!):
"I have had two heart surgeries for an atria-ventricular nodal re-entry tachycardia, and for years mine was a just a random few bursts of arrhythmia, starting at about the age of 3 until I was 17. It usually happened when I was on the couch or resting. When I was 17, it changed- I started getting them every week or so, and a really debilitating can't-breathe-pass-out-emergency-room ones about once a month. But, even when they were happening that frequently, they still didn't show up on any monitors or stress tests. The first time they caught it on a monitor was when it was induced during my first heart surgery. This was after about 20 24-hour monitors and 4 7-day monitors, as well as maybe 12+ trips to emergency, and 24+ trips to clinics. So, needless to say, it is not unusual that you don't see anything on a monitor.
Some typical triggers I was told to look for when they were first investigating (even though they ended up not applying to my tachycardia) was caffeine, exercise, alcohol, blood pressure changes, and lack of sleep. One thing I tried with my cardiologists support, was I had a week-long monitor on and just tried to do every possible trigger during that time I had the monitor on- he called this the "real life stress test", and said it was much more effective at recording irregular rhythms than any one they could perform in the office. I went to live sports events (hello blood pressure rising), went out clubbing (drinking and lack of sleep and physical activity), drank coffee w/booze (two in one!), did sprint-rows on no sleep (tired and vigorous exercise), and just generally had a fun/tiring weekend. My cardiologist said that you won't find a lot of doctors who will tell you to go ahead and do this, but if you can get something on the monitor it could settle things for you in the long run.
My advice would be to talk to your cardiologist again, and see if your doctor might want to monitor what mine called the "real life stress test". If you and/or your doctor are not down, it probably won't change anything to get a second opinion. Just be attentive, track all the occurrences in a calender. If you can notice any common events that happened around the time you got your arrhythmia's (days where you were tired, where you had some wine the night before, etc), that could be helpful if you wish to investigate further. This will also help identify any changes in frequency.
As my cardiologist said to me, so many people have these funny little arrhythmia's, and for the most part they don't mean anything- it's just a little nerve firing, and even though it feels big to us, it can be the heart equivalent of a twitch in your foot. However, if it is disrupting your life (as mine was in a big way), it is a pretty easy fix- usually just one closed heart surgery, where they either freeze or burn the nerve pathway that is causing the disruption."
For more Paleo hacks: http://paleohacks.com/questions/94556/hack-my-occasional-arrhythmia#ixzz1oG2VIHOY
I've had this off and on for years and due to the fact that I got kinda sloppy with my magnesium supplementation, it's come back strongly recently. I think most of the triggers that people observe are only relevant in the context of magnesium deficiency. The problem for me here is that our water has less than 2 ppm magnesium, so the more water I drink, the more urinary magnesium loss I experience. Those of us who have this affliction are probably genetically predisposed toward magnesium excretion for whatever reason.
I have seen some accounts online of people totally eliminating ectopic beats with a chelated copper supplement, but I haven't really seen improvement with copper bisglycinate every day for a couple weeks, so I think mine is purely related to magnesium.
Regarding IBS, there's certainly the potential for that to interfere with absorption of magnesium, however I have seen a bunch of accounts online of people whose IBS was cured with magnesium supplementation, so it may be a chicken or egg kinda thing. The key is to find a form of magnesium that you can tolerate in heavy doses and take a lot of it every day until this improves. For me, the amount of magnesium in citrate form needed for repletion far exceeds bowel tolerance, so I've found that a magnesium glycinate or malate are the better forms, and that capsules are probably better absorbed compared to tablets.
In my experience, a diet high in potassium and low in sodium and calcium (standard diet for most wild humans) makes it much less severe, probably due to reduced magnesium excretion/increased absorption. If someone is borderline magnesium deficient and starts to supplement with vitamin D, I think it actually exacerbates the magnesium deficiency unless concurrent supplementation is undertaken.
It'll likely take a while at a fairly high dose to fully replete your magnesium levels if you have things like your drinking water working against you and it may be necessary to continue supplementing forever to keep it from coming back.
I have mine mostly beat. I have to avoid all chocolate and coconut. Make sure you are getting magnesium. You may need even more. Go 1:1 with calcium (don't overdue the calcium and dont supplement). You also need potasium and low sodium. You may need to avoid all food additives like MSG etc...
Does yours happen during the day or night or both?
Go over to affibers.org and grab a paper called "The Protocol" written by Jackie.
My husband has IBS also. The last time I had to rush him to the ER with irregular heart beat. They kept him overnight. The cardiologist discovered that he was low on potassium. He now takes a potassium supplement along with the Natural Calm he was already taking. The potassium supplement has completely stopped the heart rhythm problem. The absorption of minerals seems to be less than desirable when there is IBS. Have you had your mineral levels checked? It might be a good idea.
I get the "extra" beats when I am under stress. I may go months without noticing anything at all, get into some stressful weeks (emotional stress, not physical), and they'll be back. Stress resolves, they are gone again. Might not be that way for you, but I thought I'd toss it out there to think about.
I've had this many times off and on. The one who nailed the problem immediately was my GP--she said I was sleep deprived and told me to throw away my alarm clock. She said if I wasn't well enough rested to wake up without an alarm I was sleep deprived.
That was 30 years ago and getting enough sleep reduced the problem to mild, intermittent flare-ups. Excessive stress can cause a reappearance but since I gave up wheat those are very rare.