Elizabeth’s story of living with AF and the Roemheld syndrome (Gastrocardiac syndrome)

I am 73 years old and have had A-fib and ectopic heart rhythms since 2016. The first paroxysmal A-fib event happened while I was bending over and twisting my neck in my garden. But since then, I have noticed that any straining of my neck may irritate it and later I will have an A-fib event. Also, I now notice that if I eat a big meal, or have indigestion, or bloating, my heart rhythm changes. It seems to me that the connection is the vagus nerve, which runs from the head to the heart and then the GI tract, all my problem areas. And I do know there is such a thing as vagally induced A-fib.

Just recently I went to be fitted for hearing aids. While being fitted I started having palpitations. I later found out that the outer ear canal is innervated by the Arnold nerve, a branch of the vagus nerve.

I think that if I am more active after eating, instead of sitting down, the events are less likely to occur. When the events happen, sometimes I cough and it may stop them. I sometimes take a half of a Valium and if I wait, it stops them acting as a beta-blocker.

There is also a way of tapping on acupressure points that sometimes stops them, especially tapping on your chest. As I was writing this, I started having an irregular heart beat which I think was going into A-fib because my pulse was so fast. I took a half of a Valium and started doing your breathing exercise. After a few minutes, I burped three times and my heart beat normalized.

Thank you for listening to the stories we rarely get to tell other medical professionals. The options for treating A-fib and other irregular heartbeats are limited and have serious side effects themselves. Regards,

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  1. V Wilson 11th October 2019 at 8:48 am - Reply

    This could have been written about me!

  2. Gail lambert 1st September 2021 at 7:32 am - Reply

    Yes I have found too if I keep busy for a while after my dinner ,I’m less likely to get AFib .

  3. Denise Crossley 5th September 2021 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    This may sound silly to some but here goes, I have ectopic beats and heart block that resulted in me having a pacemaker fitted in 2020, but recently I have bouts of A,Fib. But this generally occurs when I am a passenger in a car, as though the motion starts it off , I must add when I am driving this never happens. Recently it happened as we were arriving home and continued while I walked over the road to my house , then it stopped. Deep breathing helps to stop it, but does anyone else have AFib that starts through motion. ???

  4. Chris, York 14th September 2021 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    So many familiar symptoms.
    I get a couple of ecotpic beats first thing on a morning. Generally when I’m up and about I feel fine. The evening is the problem, after food. A full tummy and then when I sit down they start. Ecotpic beats which generates anxiety, the anxiety often brings feelings of panic. Lying down can often ease symptoms. I have being prescribed propanalol and being taking it for 2 or 3 years. The symptoms originally stsrted with the odd ectopic beat but more increased heart rate. Lately the ectopic beats have become worse,. I also have a hiatus hernia and regularly have acid tummy, and burping. I use alcohol to reduce the anxiety, which causes insomnia, but the alcohol causes acid tummy which completes the cycle. Trying to get it sorted via cardiologist but he wants to do all the heart checks before investigating the stomach link…

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