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ANONYMOUS’ PERSONAL STORY

My GERD /ARRHYTHMIA STORY
I had abnormal heart rhythms for over 10 years. As it would come and go it was difficult to capture the abnormality on a monitor. My heart would race, thump, stop, race, thump, stop in a very erratic manner. This would go on for 1-8 hours leaving me exhausted as if my heart ran a marathon without me, One episode I drove myself to ER and the arrhythmia was captured on a monitor. I was told I had paroxysmal supra-ventricular tachycardia. I met with a cardiologist who prescribed beta blockers however that did not help reduce the occurrence. I mentioned to the cardiologist that I would burp during these episodes and if I could burp deeply it would often stop the erratic beating and return to normal.
Some episodes were more intense than others causing jaw pain and light headedness with the feeling I was fainting while I was seated. On two occasions I fainted from a standing position straight back onto the floor. Interestingly, getting the wind knocked out of me stopped the arrhythmia. I began reading about vagus nerve stimulation and concluded my vagus nerve was inflamed from untreated GERD. From my research I learned that the vagus nerve vibrates when irritated from stomach acid and because it runs alongside the heart, the vibration of that nerve causes the heart to vibrate out of rhythm.
I had clues that acid reflux was the cause of my arrhythmia. One day on my way to the beach I ate a tangerine. Within minutes I was having a severe episode to the point I could not walk back to the car and had to stay on the beach for two hours until it passed. It was escalating to the point I began to worry about fainting when shopping so did not frequent stores without seating available.
I spoke to my doctor who prescribed Zantac 600mg daily. My arrhythmia stopped immediately. I took the medication for 3 months then switched to 300mg. When Zantac (simethicone) was taken off the market I switched to over the counter Pepcid (famotidine) every day for a year and have weaned myself off to as needed basis. If I feel any acid reflux, indigestion, throat burning, or burping, I take acid reducers for a week to reduce irritation to my vagus nerve. I have also made dietary changes. I do not eat foods known to cause GERD such as: tomatoes, citrus, spicy or greasy food and never eat after 8pm.
All this to say, my cardiologist believed the arrhythmia caused the stomach issues but it was the exact opposite, My digestive issues caused my cardiac arrhythmia. In 2018 I found an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that prompted me to ask my doctor for prescription medication for GERD. The research article concluded that GERD CAUSES ARRHYTHMIA IN A SUBSET OF PEOPLE. I told the cardiologist about this and he was taken aback and said he would share it with his colleagues. I have to wonder if I would not have put the puzzle together if I would have ended up with heart ablations or possibly a stroke not because of a cardiac issue but because of an undiagnosed stomach issue. In hind sight I should have been referred to a gastroenterologist not a cardiologist.
I am saddened to think of all the stories I have read about people having heart palpitations and burping and their doctors/cardiologists treating it as a heart issue when it’s more likely a digestive issue that can be cured with proton pump inhibitors.

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