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Sandwiches and Sodas Cause British Woman to Pass Out

December 19, 2008

British doctors announced details on Friday of a 25 year old woman who frequently passed out after eating sandwiches or a carbonated beverage. These episodes have been happening for the better part of a decade, but medical tests have proven to be fruitless as to why this was happening.

The University Hospital Birmingham team said the patient had a unique swallowing reflex which causes her heart to pause at times. She received a pacemaker in January, which so far has stopped her from passing out.

The problem first occurred at the age of 15 and stayed a mystery, despite frequent hospital visits made between 2001 and 2007.

The fainting happened when she consumed specific kinds of food, like sandwiches and sodas, and she had last passed out when having a sandwich while driving, although thankfully traffic was at a standstill at the time.

She submitted to a series of tests, like thyroid and pituitary gland disorders, but there remained no diagnosis for the problem. When she was feeling dizzy, doctors discovered that she has a total block of the electrical impulse that maintains heartbeat.

They finally diagnosed her with “swallow syncope”, a unique conditions where swallowing sends uncharacteristic information to the heart.

It is connected with oesophageal or gastric disorders, like heart and lung disorders, even though this patient had no history of these occurrences.

Dr Howard Marshall, a cardiologists connected to her case, said that sandwiches triggered these episodes because bread forms lumps that can become difficult to swallow.

“Fizzy drinks were also a problem, because of the bubbles of gas,” he added.

Marshall added that the patient was thrilled that the pacemaker had corrected her condition.

“When she came back for her follow-up appointment, she was pleased we had discovered the cause of her faints and that we had found a treatment,” Marshall said. “But she wasn’t so pleased that she had started to put on weight.”

His colleagues added: “Patients with swallow syncope can languish for years because the diagnosis is little known – although a case report on it was published in The Lancet, 50 years ago.”

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