Sit down, because you have never heard this one before.
Your heart palpitations, flutter, and racing heart may be caused by … an apple, probiotic pill, or granola bar!
Ok, let me retrack and explain how the connection works.
Heart palpitations, skipped beats, rushing and racing heart are extremely common. They are so common that they are experienced by most “healthy” Americans, Americans that have nothing wrong with their hearts. Cardiologists are baffled because they can’t explain the cause for the vast majority of heart palpitations, and they can’t find any signs of cardiovascular pathology. So where do the heart irregularities come from?
One day I was sitting in our van pondering gas emission and world climate issues when suddenly I got an apparently irrelevant revelation about a potential cause for heart palpitations – methane poisoning. This one has nothing to do with standing obliviously behind grazing cows or sniffing city sewer, but a lot to do with our own intestinal methane production.
What’s in your fart?
Did you know that not unlike cows, we fart out methane? Not that you can kill someone with a surprise Dutch oven, but your methane-loaded intestines may give your heart palpitations, especially if you have the habit of withholding your gases.
What is methane?
Methane gas isn’t what makes the fart stink. Methane has no odor at all. You can methane-fart your life away and nobody would suspect you do, except for a likely auditory effect. But not everyone makes intestinal methane. If you do, don’t try to play with a lit-up match behind you. Methane is flammable.
Are you farting out methane?
At least 60% of people are methane producers. This percentage goes up substantially with body fat mass. A 2012 study published in Gastroenterology & Hepatology found that there is a very significant link between BMI (body mass index) and methane in one’s fart.[i] The correlation is very strong with obese individuals putting out much more methane than their lean counterparts.
Obesity is linked to cardiovascular diseases
By now everyone knows that excess weight isn’t healthy. It is related to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other life-shortening diseases. What you however may not know is that obesity is also linked to arrythmias and irregular heart rhythms.[ii] What’s interesting is the fact that weight loss reduces heart palpitations as well as curbs the production of gut methane. Ok, but what exactly does methane have to do with the heart?
Methane poisoning causes heart palpitations
Methane isn’t your body’s friend. It is considered poisonous, because it forms carbon monoxide and depletes the body of oxygen. Oxygen is vital to life and without it the body whittles and dies. Low oxygen is responsible for variety of common body symptoms, including abnormally rapid, out of sequence heart beats known as palpitations.
Toxicologists have well established what happened to people poisoned by methane and we know which symptoms to look out for. Among those are:
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath (read: fatigue, difficulty exercising, low stamina, lethargy)
- Nausea (read: lack of appetite, indigestion)
- Dehydration (read: wrinkly skin, fatigue, sleepiness, dizziness, low blood pressure, muscle cramps, feeling faint)
- Mental uneasiness (read: poor cognition, poor memory, poor judgment, confusion, difficulty concentrating and thinking, irritability, blurry vision), and
- Flu-like symptoms
I believe that these are also the symptoms of chronic methane self-poisoning in some individuals. I get very suspicious when I detect a common symptom trio: chronic fatigue, constipation, and brain fog. An occasional heart flutter only adds to the picture. With the above symptoms there is no point to treat the heart. To solve the problem one needs to work on the gut to get rid of the bacteria that makes the methane.
Gut microbiome 101
Methanogens, the bacteria that makes the methane, live in the large colon. They are present in 95.7% of humans,[iii] but in non-methane producing individuals their presence is extremely minimal. That usually happens in healthy colons, which maintain acidic pH (pH 5.5-6.7). Methanogens don’t like acid environment, and thrive in colons with alkaline pH (pH 6.9-7.4),[iv] colons that aren’t 100% healthy. Drugs and diet have a huge impact on the colon pH, and I cannot help but think of our gaseous elderly population that eats SAD diet while being generously supported by the well-meaning (but useless) health teams with multiple heart pills and oxygen tanks.
You may be under the impression that methane, once produced in the colon, aims straight for the exit, but this may not necessarily be so. Colon walls are permeable (that’s why suppositories work) and let methane be absorbed into the bloodstream, which may be concerning if the bowel exit is barricaded by some fecal mater.
How to get rid of heart palpitations
If you suspect that heart palpitations and other symptoms may be related to your gut, you should aim for colon repair and methanogen reduction, before reaching for yet another heart pill.
Everything that lives needs to eat. Methanogens aren’t any exceptions. Thus, besides acidifying the colon, you may want to brush up on methanogen menu. These bacteria love polysaccharides, complex sugars. The American diet is unfortunately based on polysaccharides, which contributes to us getting bloated, constipated, obese, and unwell.
Polysaccharides are “hidden” in your breakfast cereals, probiotic supplements, beans, green leafy vegetables and pasta. A full list of polysaccharides is in this downloadable chart.
But lettuce is healthy, isn’t it?
For some individuals, yes, but not for those with methane problem. Remember that methanogens live in the large colon, not in the small intestines, so digestive strength matters. If your digestion can break down and utilize these lettuce polysaccharides before they are headed for excretion, the methanogens won’t have much to eat. However, if you see bits and pieces of undigested lettuce coming out of your other end, it is a sure sign that your methanogens are fed well.
To reduce methanogen population, you should ensure that polysaccharides don’t end up in the colon. There are two ways to do it:
- Take digestive enzymes to ensure full digestion, or
- Remove polysaccharides from the diet
So what to eat?
You don’t have to commit your life to being a carnivore to reduce the methanogens, but you need at least two weeks of no polysaccharides to see whether you get less bloated, less gassy, and less methane-poisoned. You may feel better in a few days, but just because it sounds good, don’t be tempted to do anything stupid. If you are on meds, or have serious condition, make changes gradually and under the supervision of a knowledgeable physician. You may consider a radical dietary change only when you are sure that it won’t present any danger to your health.
Best anti-methanogen diets
- Full carnivore diet
- Keto diet + digestive enzymes to break down polysaccharides
- Low or ultra-low carbohydrate diet + digestive enzymes
- Carbohydrate specific diet + digestive enzymes
If for some reason you cannot or you don’t want to subject yourself to a drastic dietary shift, there is a gentler solution for you. I have written a cookbook, 69 Pleasures, to help people lose weight, improve microflora of the digestive tract, and reduce cardiovascular risk.
The recipes are ultra-low on grains, beans, and legumes, the biggest North American polysaccharide sources, but is instead full of low carb vegetables + gut-healthy spices. 69 Pleasures may be your gentlest and the most enjoyable way towards better health, so why not?