Roemheld syndrome is personal to me. I know the condition exists even with the little information out there provided to us.
Why do I believe in it so strongly? Because I suffered from it after my son Abel died and it was hell.
My son Abel had passed away a month before I felt the dreaded symptoms of Roemheld syndrome. My silent reflux had come back in spades from all the stress. All of a sudden no matter what I ate if I ate too much my heart rate would dip, then shoot up to 150+ bpm. My blood pressure would also go sky high. Why is this happening to me? I started to notice some patterns over time. When I drank water and when I burped, I felt better. When I took magnesium or had a bowel movement, I felt better. When I slowed my breathing and ate less, I also felt better. I did not know about Roemheld syndrome at the time, but I went on a restrictive low-FODMAP, low-acid diet. In a few months I lost weight and got my digestion under control, the symptoms disappeared.
Roemheld syndrome is well known in Germany, but not much of the known information is ascertained outside of the country. I hope I can use Fix Your Gut to spread awareness on this cruel, debilitating disease.
What Is Roemheld Syndrome and How Serious Is It?
Roemheld syndrome is also known as gastric-cardia syndrome and was discovered by Ludwig Roemheld in the 1930’s. Simply put it is a condition where poor digestive health leads to cardiac symptoms and issues. Ever felt a very low or very high heart rate during or after eating that was relieved by burping? You probably suffer from Roemheld syndrome.
Most of the following symptoms of Roemheld syndrome seem to occur after eating, especially a large meal. Some people have also reported their symptoms occur after strenuous activity, when excessive pressure is applied to their abdomen, or during sleep.
Here are the proposed symptoms of Roemheld syndrome:
- Sinus bradycardia followed by sinus tachycardia
- Hypotension followed by hypertension
- Abnormal amount of premature ventricular contractions (PVC’s)
- Arrhythmia (heart palpitations)
- Chest pain (angina pectoris)
- GERD and / or silent reflux symptoms
- Sleep disturbance
- Muscle cramps
- Trouble breathing
- Hot flashes
- Facial flushing
- Visual snow
- Atrial fibrillation
- Coughing and throat clearing
- Heart disease
- Sudden cardiac death
The syndrome consists of both mechanical and neurological triggers. Mechanical triggers of the illness occur when pressure is placed on the fundus of the stomach or the esophagus. When the increased epigastric pressure occurs the diaphragm’s position is elevated and puts pressure on the heart and vagus nerve. Hiatal hernia’s are known to be a significant mechanical trigger of Roemheld syndrome.
The neurological conditions of the syndrome occur from increased vagus nerve pressure and misfiring. When the vagus nerve is compressed your heart rate and blood pressure decrease and in doing so the body’s autonomic nervous system is triggered creating a catecholamine dump into the bloodstream. The increased circulating catecholamines cause a massive increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Unless an underlying arrhythmia is triggered, the fluctuation from low to high cardiac pulses and pressure may be undetectable unless you are actively monitored during an attack and can be easily mistaken as anxiety. When an attack occurs, strong coronary reflexes happen, causing a lot of the cardiac symptoms associated with the syndrome and if the heart is stressed enough a heart attack may occur!
Over time the syndrome can lead to a weakening of the heart. It can cause arrhythmias to develop including atrial fibrillation and may cause heart disease and eventually heart failure.
Causes of Roemheld syndrome include:
- Hiatal hernia
- Abdominal hernia
- Abdominal hernia repair (mesh)
- Excessive gas in the abdomen (SIBO, lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance, food intolerance, uppergut infection)
- Gas bloat syndrome (failure to burp)
- Gastric bypass
- Gallbladder issues
- Being overweight
What Can Be Done To Help Recover From Roemheld Syndrome
Here are some tips to try to help reduce the issues from having Roemheld syndrome:
- If your Roemheld syndrome is caused by a hiatal hernia, try to work on reducing it.
- Reduce gas formation in the stomach and intestinal tract. Try to follow a low FODMAP diet throughout the week and a gluten free diet on weekends to see if that helps reduce gas buildup. Treat SIBO or an uppergut infection if you have it. Taking activated charcoal may reduce gas formation in the stomach and intestines. Taking digestive enzymes may help reduce gas formation. Make sure your stomach acid production is optimal.
- Chew your food well and eat slowly. Do not over stuff yourself.
- If you need to burp, make yourself by swallowing a little bit of water and try to burp. Most of the time making yourself burp relieves the symptoms of Roemheld syndrome.
- Exercise regularly to strengthen your heart and supplement with magnesium and maintain proper intake of dietary omega 3 fatty acids to help reduce chances of developing serious heart arrhythmia.
- Try to sleep on your back or side. Some people have fewer symptoms of Roemheld syndrome sleeping on their left or right side. Laying on the right or left side during an attack may provide instant relief. For most people laying on the right side seems to help more, even if that is counterproductive to sleeping recommendations individuals who have GERD.
- Strengthen your diaphragm!
Limited Roemheld Syndrome Resources
Information is limited on Roemheld Syndrome so please if you find any relevant studies or books pertaining to the condition, leave a comment below. Thank you.
- Enders, Giulia, Gut: The Inside Story Of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ, Greystone Books, 2015.
- Superhuman Radio #490 – Roemheld Syndrome