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GERD, Esophageal Spasms, and Heart palpitations

I have been suffering from episodes of pain and discomfort in the epi-gastric area. It feels like I am going to have a heart attack, it is a pressure/discomfort in upper abdomen and back between shoulder blades with palpitations and difficulty getting a deep breath. It seems to come on as an "attack". I find that it happens most during my walks for exercise, when bending over, before or after meals, and also before bowel movements. I have had several tests run: abdominal ultrasound normal, several EKG's normal, Echocardiogram showing MItral Valve Prolapse, Endoscopy showing gastritis, eosinophilic esophagitis, incompetent LES. I have been taking Achipex in the AM and Zantac in the PM. Plus really watching what I am eating.  It seems to be OK for awhile and then like out of the blue I will get one of these attacks. I'm not sure what else to try, the Dr's haven't been very helpful. The last few episode I went in feeling terrible and left feeling the same way, their only suggestion is to double up the medicines. I really believe that the episodes are been caused by the esophageal spasms, is there any way to treat that other than double up the Gerd medications?
30 Responses
Avatar universal
If you believe you're experiencing esophageal spasms you may want to consider checking out the activity of your esophagus via esophageal manometry.

Esophageal spasms can be treated via anti-spasm meds or if those fail to help, the use of specific calcium-channel blockers or nitroglycerin. It may or may not work, but also understand that these meds have side-effects, too.

As far as the eosiniphilic esophagitis, you need to consider taking a very close look at trying to find out what specific foods may be causing the problem. It's very possible that some of your other symptoms may stem from the presence of this problem. There are at least 2 decent sites that discuss exclusion diets, which can be very helpful with this problem - and they're not typically GERD diet. So consider googling and searching into the 'cause' of EE.

I'm not sure about the PPI you're taking, but some PPIs are known to cause electrical conduction changes in the heart which can contribute to the palpitations.
Avatar universal
I have very similar problems to you. Mine also often make me breathless like asthma and can last for a couple of minutes to hours. Sometimes for days on end with 'breaks' in between. I have had it for years; some nights I can't sleep because of all the activity in my innards and palpitations. I try sleeping sitting up - its worse when i lay on my left side. I have tried everything including natural therapies like SLIPPRY ELM POWDER to try to relax things - works a bit sometimes. Also take fizzy soda water with SWEDISH BITTERS in it (just about a spoonful) and that helps a lot. Try your health store for that. The only drugs that work are Xantac (sometimes) and I take effervescent tablets which dissolve and work instantly. Other than that a small dose of Valium usually gives me relief and calms things down for a few hours, I don't take it regularly or often. Things are always a lot worse during periods of prolonged stress which upsets my stomach and so on.
I feel OK for a while and then out of the blue it starts up and can last intermittantly for days or even weeks, slowly improving and kind of stops and starts during each day.
This probably won't help much but try the things I take - there's nothing to lose. Please let me know if you get 'puffy / asthma' like feelings when you are feeling bad. You are not alone, and we can only do our best. I've had all the tests too, and the doctors can't help much. They kind of give up if their first prescription doesn't work. We have to try to sort it out ourselves once we know what the tests show.
Good luck - please drop me a note. Kev
Avatar universal
Thank you for your comments and suggestions, it is frustrating when Dr.'s won't look further into symptoms. I don't really believe that the PPI's work for me but I am taking them so they can't say I didn't give it a try.
I am in the midst of doing some food allergy testing, I am hoping that this may be a big contributor to the stomach problems. I had pretty bad asthma as a child which I thought I outgrew, but with the test results showing the eosinophilic cells I believe that allergies probably factor in to all of this.
My Dr. did not recommend further testing for the esophageal spasms so I wasn't aware of any test they could do for that. My Dr.'s just say "yes, the spasms are painful and they can feel just like a heart attack". I find those comments very helpful!
Avatar universal
Hello, just wanted to say that I too have been suffering with esophagul spasms which bring on heart palpitations, breathlessness and even twitching.. plus constant discomfort in my chest on my left side about where my ribs are... Ive been trying to figure out for some time what's causing this and I think i got it down to parasites causing my stomach to spit food back up. So i started on a parasite cleanse, and it seemed to really help. Then I stopped taking the parasite cleanse and it flared right back up again like a storm. I also found that taking probiotics, especially ones like bio-k which can be bought in health food stores (for a price) or acidophilus pills (kept in fridges at health food places) help a lot too. Of course, probiotics simply are the enemy to bad bacteria that infest the stomach and make these problems worse. Whenever I take things that are anti-bacterial ie. garlic, ginger, chamomile tea, cayenne pepper... things seem to get better, then they go back. Truth be told though I get really strict with my diet, like eating only whole foods and nothing refined ie. white sugar or breads (which actually contribute to yeast overgrowth and feed other possible bad bacteria)... but thing is i never stay strict long enough to totally cure myself. My goal now is to do a strict and full parasite cleanse with no giving up, as hard as it can be (you have to give up a lot of things for it to work like alcohol, sugars, etc etc) and see how that goes. But I can honestly say that this suffering im sure is more common than even most doctors realize, and in the end the only real cure I believe is to get to the root of the problem: a little thing called bacteria which feeds of your nutrition, destroys your intestinal good bacteria, and in the end your stomach can no longer digest food properly so it spits it back up and you get esophagul spasms, which are SOOOOO discomforting, not to mention always feelin like theres something wrong with your heart and a host of other problems. I discovered too that continuous esophagul spasms can eventually lead to vagus nerve damage, and this nerve is connected to every part of your body including your heart... so that would explain why when this starts happening all kinds of things start to go wrong. I felt really good before all of these symptoms came on me. But, yea, Ive realy found relief from probiotics, anti-bacterial agents like the stuff thats in parasite cleanse, and even taking digestive enymes to take some of the load of my poor stomach. I wish anyone who has this the best, and my heart goes out to you, cause these symptoms are nothing anyone should have to live with, and hopefully not for ones whole life. If anyones reading this and has time to do so, please check out other sources on google or whatever for parasites and your stomach... you may be surprised as to the information you find. Good luck!
Avatar universal
You may want to ask your doctor to do stool tests for parasites, etc. and also a colonoscopy with biopsies.  I found out after 4 years that I had microscopic colitis.  This can only be found by examing the tissue under a microscope.  Just a suggestion...  After I started taking Entecort EC (a non-absorbable steroid) the bloating and diarrhea calmed down.  Before the diagnoses, some of my symptoms also included the pains in the upper abdomen and heart palpitations.  Cardio tests all showed normal other than a slight click.  I would not rely on any herbal products or second-guess anything if it's causing breathing problems, tightness in the chest area, rapid heartbeat or any serious cramping, etc.  You can also have your parathyroid and calcium levels checked.  If your blood calcium or PTH are high or out of balance, a variety of other issues can occur and even lead to stroke.  (see www.parathyroid.com)  
Avatar universal
i have been searching these sights for almost two years trying to find someone who has the same symptoms i do. i am having a flare up as i sit here writing this tonight. for over 10 years i have been "suffering" alone and not much hope or help from the medical community. upon initial test 10 years ago, i was diagnosed with pvc's and gerd. taking heart meds and nexium did absolutely nothing for them except a few extra trips to the hospital every year.
i have discovered along the way that i have the flare of symptoms mostly when i am sick to my stomach. i will have esoph spasms and palps for a bit of time before i start with diarhhea and vomitting. i have also noticed that when i have increased my water intake and eat a more healthy diet i have less episodes.i have incorporated fresh fruits and/or veggies with every meal and i drink an average of 3 to 4 qts of water daily. i also have eliminated all sodas and caffeinated drinks.  i have cut my flares to about two a year and no hospitals in almost a year now.i have also stopped all prescription meds and no longer require the service of my cardiologist. i do take magnesium and potassium with a multi vitamin to help the heart muscle remain strong and beating regularly. i went from hopeless and depressed to having an active and hopeful every day. i pray this may be of help to someone and thank you for posting. this can all be very uncomfortable and i am not in the clear, but have made it very manageable. i still pray to get through it when it happens, but i also know that i am praying about it a lot less than before. God bless  
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