Could An Electrolyte Imbalance Be Causing Your Heart Palpitations?

A blog by Thomas Boto, co-founder of Natural Rhythm

[Note: This post is part of a larger series about the The Best Cures and Remedies for Heart Palpitations]

I think one of the first things that my doctor asked me about when I started having heart palpitations (you can read my story HERE) was if I had been running a lot or felt dehydrated in any way. The reason was because having an electrolyte imbalance is a very common cause of heart palpitations. It’s generally the first thing listed in articles online about the causes of palpitations.

 

What are the electrolytes?

When I hear the word electrolytes I think of sports drinks like Gatorade that supposedly replenish electrolytes for athletes. I also assumed that if a person was low on electrolytes that it generally meant that they needed more potassium or sodium (just eat a banana, right?). I didn’t realize that it also includes elements like chloride, calcium, sulfate, phosphate, bicarbonate, and magnesium. These electrically charged ions are critical to muscle function (including the heart). The electrical impulse they create help contract the heart and keep it pumping at a normal rate and speed, so If there is an issue with the body’s electrical system then it can cause slower beats, skipped beat, fast beats, etc.

What are the symptoms of Electrolyte imbalance? As mentioned above, one symptom can be heart palpitations, but other things to look out for are muscle twitches, muscle spasms, headaches, anxiety, and restlessness. It can look different for everyone, so I would suggest checking out a full list of possible electrolyte imbalance symptoms if you are worried that you have an imbalance.

 

So How do you find the right balance of electrolytes?

As mentioned above, one symptom can be heart palpitations, but other things to look out for are muscle twitches, muscle spasms, headaches, anxiety, and restlessness. It can look different for everyone, so I would suggest checking out a full list of possible electrolyte imbalance symptoms if you are worried that you have an imbalance.

So How do you find the right balance of electrolytes?

I think then best place to start is your diet. Everything needs to be in moderation, especially products that are high in sodium. It’s shocking how much sodium can be in foods. If you are worried that you have heart palpitations caused by an electrolyte imbalance you should let your doctor/cardiologist know and it may be good to get blood work/urine sample done and see exactly where your levels are at.

I personally think that even small imbalances in electrolytes can keep your heart palpitating. So something like anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, or dehydration can knock your heart off rhythm, but small imbalances in your body’s electrical system can keep the skipped beats coming. That is one reason why our diet is so important in fighting heart palpitations. A good diet can lower stress, help you sleep better, keep you hydrated, and balance your electrolytes. During the worst days of my constant heart palpitations, I kept a food journal and it was incredibly helpful (I used myfitnesspal and highly recommend it). Honestly, my diet has never been the same since. I learned a ton about what I was putting in my body and I think it went a long way to helping reduce my heart palpitations and get back to a sense of normalcy.

What about Supplements for Electrolytes?

There are definitely supplements that can help with an electrolyte deficiency. I’ve tried a few (some good ones seem to be LyteShow, Ultima Replenisher), and I wrote about the importance of magnesium before HERE. There are benefits to taking them if you feel like you need them. But I would still start with your diet first. The last thing you want to do is take too much of a particular supplement and swing the imbalance of electrotypes from one element to another, especially potassium which can be very detrimental to heart rhythm if taken in excess. So be sure to talk to your doctor and make sure you establish a plan that is right for you and your particular situation.

It’s also a good idea to stay hydrated when you are out in the heat or exercising. I love to run and cycle, but down here in the Southwest it is easy to get dehydrated quickly. I occasionally drink the regular sports drinks, but there is so much sugar in them that I try to find other alternatives like Vitamin water or coconut water (with added sodium), and nuun tablets.

So what about you? Do you think an electrolyte imbalance has caused your heart palpitations? What do you do to keep things in balance?