Can GERD (Acid Reflux) Cause Heart Palpitations?

GERD (acid reflux) can cause a burning feeling in the chest

Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD, is a condition that impacts the stomach and the esophagus.

The stomach is full of acidic fluid that helps break down food contents. Sometimes the acidic fluid in the stomach refluxes, or moves back up into the esophagus. This can cause burning and irritation in the esophagus, a pain very similar to when you get a hot liquid on your skin and it burns.

The burning sensation with GERD is commonly also known as heartburn since the irritation in the esophagus can cause a burning discomfort in the chest. The term "heartburn" is a bit exaggerated since the heart is not actually impacted at all by GERD. However, the heart and the esophagus sit next to each other in the chest, and it can feel as though the heart is involved when it is truly just the esophagus. 

Causes of Heart Palpitations

Verywell / Jessica Olah

In most cases, the pain from GERD  is most noticeable after a meal. This is because after you eat, the stomach begins to churn and to release acids that work to break down the food you just ate. Certain treatments and medications can help reduce symptoms of GERD and provide relief. 

This article discusses GERD and the sensation of heart palpitations in more detail.

GERD and Heart Palpitations

GERD can often feel like chest tightness or a burning sensation in the chest. Sometimes the burning sensation stops and then restarts, which can be uncomfortable.

The sudden restarting of GERD can feel similar to a heart palpitation, but GERD is not commonly a cause of palpitations.

A heart palpitation occurs when there is a disturbance in the electrical rhythm of the heart. Palpitations can feel like a fluttering in the chest, similar to a feeling that the heart has skipped a beat and rushes to catch up.

Heart Palpitations Are Not Linked to Eating

In contrast to GERD symptoms, palpitations are not usually linked to eating and can happen at any time of day. 

Sometimes the pain from GERD can be interpreted as chest pain. The feeling from GERD can be very similar to the pain that is felt with a heart attack. The pain from a heart attack is not usually triggered by food, though.

Seek Help If You Suspect a Heart Attack

A heart attack is a medical emergency. If you are ever in doubt about whether you are experiencing GERD vs. a heart attack, do not hesitate to seek medical advice right away, including calling 911.

Causes of Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations are disruptions in the rhythm of the heartbeat. Heart palpitations can be caused by a variety of conditions. Causes can include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use
  • Caffeine

Often these are brief periods of palpitations, however, if you experience extended periods of time in which you feel palpitations, then you may need to have an evaluation of your heart.

Certain disruptions in the rhythm of the heart called arrhythmias can lead to feelings of palpitations. Heart arrhythmias are disorders of the electrical conduction of the heart and require evaluation by a healthcare professional to diagnose and treat.

Risk Factors for GERD

GERD can be linked to risk factors such as:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • Diets that are rich in acidic foods, carbonated beverages, and spicy foods

How Heart Palpitations Are Diagnosed

Heart palpitations are diagnosed using a device called an electrocardiogram.

An electrocardiogram is used to measure the electrical system of the heart and can provide insight into palpitations. Sometimes a wearable device is used to record your heart rhythm for several days to better understand your heart’s conduction system.

Your primary care doctor or a doctor who specializes in heart disease (a cardiologist) can evaluate you if you have significant heart palpitations. 

Treating GERD

There are many treatment options for GERD available over the counter at your local pharmacy.

Antacids are a common treatment to help reduce the acidity of the stomach. Several other types of medications and supplements are available over the counter at most pharmacies, as well.

Consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment. If you are taking other medications or are being seen for other medical disorders, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new medications.

A Word From Verywell

Some palpitations, like premature ventricular contractions (extra heartbeats starting in your heart's lower chambers), are completely normal. However, if you ever feel a large number of palpitations or you become light-headed or dizzy during episodes, contact your doctor for an evaluation. Under a doctor's care, dietary changes and the right medication may make your GERD symptoms go away.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get rid of GERD

GERD is a very common health problem that can impact anyone. It may not be completely avoided, but it can be managed and treated with antacid medications. In addition, dietary changes can help reduce the number of GERD episodes you may experience. If your GERD is very severe, then surgery may be needed.

How can I treat GERD at home?

Treating GERD at home mainly involves avoiding triggers, such as foods and beverages that are linked to acid reflux. Try to avoid lying down after eating when you have GERD as this can cause more acid to return to the esophagus. For some people, reducing the size of meals and breaking three larger meals into five smaller ones spaced throughout the day can help. If these don't completely fix your GERD, then you can also try antacid medications.

Which foods shouldn’t you eat with GERD?

Some foods and drinks are known to trigger GERD. Avoid acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus, carbonated sodas, and spicy foods. Also, limit your intake of alcoholic beverages and avoid smoking to reduce GERD. 

Eating foods high in fiber—like leafy greens (spinach, kale, and lettuce), whole grains, and root vegetables (carrots, beets, and potatoes)—may help improve GERD symptoms. 

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease.

  2. American Heart Association. Heartburn or heart attack?

  3. Richter JE, Rubenstein JH. Presentation and epidemiology of gastroesophageal reflux diseaseGastroenterology. 2018;154(2):267-276. doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2017.07.045

  4. MedlinePlus. Taking antacids.

By Kevin James Cyr
Kevin is a physician-in-training at Stanford University School of Medicine with a focus in cardiovascular disease and bioengineering. His publications have earned international awards, and his work has been featured in major media outlets such as NBC News.