How Supplements Affect Heart Palpitations

Don’t self-medicate with vitamin supplements without consulting a doctor first
Older person experiencing heart palpitations, with hands on thier chest.

Your heartbeat is a carefully timed phenomenon. Electricity moves in precise choreography to signal contractions from one part of your heart to the next, creating the rhythmic lub-dub-lub-dub that keeps your blood flowing through your body. 

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When even one of those beats fires off off cycle, you can feel heart palpitations. The sensations can feel like your heart pounding, fluttering, racing or missing a beat. 

You probably don’t spend much time thinking about how your heart beats or why it beats the way it does — or at least you didn’t until that odd sensation caught you off guard. And now it’s suddenly top of mind.  

And you’re wondering, what’s causing your palpitations? Do you need a supplement to boost your body’s functioning? At least that’s what the vitamin companies might have you believe. 

We talked with cardiologist Tamanna Singh, MD, to understand the role certain vitamins and minerals have in controlling your heart’s rhythm and how you can get back in balance.  

What causes palpitation? 

Heart palpitations are very common. And there’s a wide range of reasons you may have them.  

Often, an occasional off-beat heartbeat isn’t much to worry about, especially if it doesn’t come with other symptoms. If you’re having palpitations and feeling “off” (nauseous, faint or otherwise unwell), you should take it seriously and seek emergency treatment.  

Common causes of palpitations include: 

  • Alcohol use. 
  • Caffeine. 
  • Dehydration. 
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Strong emotions, like nervousness, fear and stress. 

Additionally, Dr. Singh says some people will experience palpitations if their system is lacking certain nutrients.

Electrolytes and heart palpitations 

The word “electrolyte” may have you thinking of sports drinks. But electrolytes do more than quench your thirst.

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Your body uses electrolytes to conduct electrical charges. Those charges are what allow your muscles — including your heart muscle — to contract.   

“Electrolytes are critical to allowing your heart to contract and rest at the right times, which is what keeps your heart beating steadily,” Dr. Singh explains. “If you have an electrolyte deficiency, it can delay the electrical signal as it moves through your heart, causing an irregular beat, a skipped beat or a quick thud.” (Aka, a palpitation).  

The three electrolytes most commonly associated with heart palpitations are: 

  • Magnesium. 
  • Calcium. 
  • Potassium. 

Having inadequate levels of any or all these electrolytes can set the stage for heart palpitations. 

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D isn’t an electrolyte itself, but the so-called “sun vitamin” can affect your electrolyte levels, too. 

“Vitamin D is directly related to electrolytes,” Dr. Singh says. “It helps your body absorb calcium, and it transports magnesium across the body. So, a vitamin D deficiency can keep your body from getting the electrolytes it needs.” 

In addition to palpitations, vitamin D deficiencies are commonly associated with symptoms like:  

  • Bone pain. 
  • Fatigue. 
  • Muscle weakness, muscle aches or muscle cramps. 
  • Mood changes and mental health conditions like depression

Vitamin D deficiencies are common, particularly for people who don’t get enough exposure to sunlight. Researchers say that more than 1 billion people around the world aren’t getting enough vitamin D. 

Vitamin D can be found in some foods, like fatty fish, egg yolks and mushrooms and certain fortified cereals. But exposure to sunlight (while wearing your sunscreen!) is the most natural way for your body to get enough vitamin D. If you have low levels of vitamin D, your healthcare provider may recommend a supplement. 

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Iron is important for producing red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body. Too little iron can mean you don’t have enough red blood cells, a condition called iron-deficiency anemia.  

An iron deficiency can make you feel tired and short of breath. It can be a cause of heart palpitations. That’s because your heart may beat extra hard or fast to try to move red blood cells through your body. 

Should I take supplements to stop palpitations? 

A quick look online or a walk through the supplements section at your local store and you’ll find plenty of products that claim to stop palpitations and restore your heart’s natural rhythm.  

But just because those products are available doesn’t mean they’re the right solution for you. 

Dr. Singh strongly discourages people from attempting to self-medicate their heart palpitations. 

“If you are concerned and think you may be having palpitations because of some nutritional deficiency, talk with a doctor,” she advises. “They can rule out other causes and get a quick blood test to see if that’s really what’s causing your palpitations.” 

Two reasons you shouldn’t attempt to diagnose or treat yourself: 

  1. Palpitations can sometimes be a sign of a more serious heart issue. So, it’s important for a doctor to get to the root of the issue.  
  2. It’s really easy to overdo it with supplements and harm yourself in other ways. (“More is not better,” Dr. Singh says.) 

A steady heartbeat is easy to take for granted. After all, it happens about 100,000 times every day, and we barely ever notice it. So, when it goes off track, it’s only natural to want to get those beats back on beat. Talk with a healthcare provider about your palpitations. They can help you to understand any deficiencies you may have and how to get more of what your body needs.  

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