By Theresa Silveira
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or quivering that occurs when the upper part of the heart beats faster than the rest of the heart.
AFib is the most common form of arrhythmia. The irregular heartbeat originates in the upper heart chamber (atria) of the heart, and the heart’s electrical system causes a quiver or fibrillation. This quivering disturbs the normal rhythm between the atria and the ventricles (the lower chambers) of the heart, and can impact the heart’s ability to pump blood. This will deprive the body of oxygen and nutrients. (Cardiac Rhythm Center, 2017). The body can feel an often uncomfortable flutter in the heart muscle, or there may not be any symptoms at all. It is sometimes described as feeling like the heart will jump out of the chest. (Ryan, 2005). This condition can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related issues. Around 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib. (“What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)?” 2016)
Common Signs and Symptoms (Bauman, Ph.D. & Friedlander, TN, 2015)
- Most common: Quivering, fluttering heartbeat
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat
- Fluttering or “thumping” in the chest
- Shortness of breath, anxiety
- Faintness when exercising
- Chest pain or pressure (emergency! Call 911)
Key Nutrients Supporting the Heart with Atrial Fibrillation
A clinical study on Atherosclerosis shows that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are associated with reduction of coronary heart disease, including prevention of arrhythmias, (Harris et al., 2007). Recommended amount from food: Four 3 oz servings of cold water fish per week, and add 2 TBS of flaxseeds, chia seeds or walnuts daily. For supplementation: 1,000 mg of fish oil containing both DHA and EPA, and up to 4,000 mg daily if heart disease is present. (Bauman, Ph.D. & Friedlander, NC, 2015).
Food sources of omega-3 fats: wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, flax seeds, chia seeds hemp seeds and walnuts.
A randomized controlled trial of magnesium added to other care concluded that magnesium can help enhance the conversion of a patient to proper sinus rhythm after an incident of arrhythmia, (Davey and Teubner, 2004). Recommended amount of magnesium is up to 500 mg daily. (Bauman, Ph.D. & Friedlander, TN, 2015)
Food sources of magnesium: Dark leafy greens, kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, walnuts, flaxseeds, brewers yeast, and buckwheat. (Bauman, Ph.D. & Friedlander, TN, 2015), (Murray, Pizzorno, & Pizzorno, 2005).
Potassium is extremely important for cardiovascular health. Several websites discussing AFib recommend additional supplementation, suggesting that deficiencies in potassium can contribute to an AFib incident. It was proposed that potassium helps prevent AFib by prolonging the refractory period (resting state between beats). Adequate amounts may need to be obtained from the diet, because potassium supplements are limited to 99 mg. by law. (Bauman, 2014). Higher doses must be by prescription from your doctor.
Food sources of potassium: White beans, dark leafy greens, avocado, asparagus, carrot, baked potato (with skin), sweet potato (with skin), apricots, tomato, banana, and flounder, (Murray, Pizzorno, & Pizzorno, 2005).
Synergistic foods, herbs and supplements
L-Arginine is a nitric oxide precursor, which helps restore sinus rhythm. Nitric oxide is considered one of the most important chemicals for cardiovascular health. (Sinatra, 2017). Arginine works best in combination with taurine. (Bauman, Ph.D. & Friedlander, TN, 2015).
Taurine can calm the sympathetic nervous system. Research by Eby and Halcomb suggests that AFib could be caused by deficiencies in taurine and l-arginine. (Eby & Halcomb, 2006).
Hawthorne is anti-arrhythmic, and a vasodilator – which enhances the release of nitric oxide. It is tonifying and has no side effects in recommended doses.
Coenzyme Q10 is part of the energy production system of the body where it aids in production of cellular energy. When there is a deficiency, it can cripple the heart and is often recommended by physicians for cardiovascular problems.
Vitamin D (D3) should be maintained at optimal levels in the serum (50-80 ng/mL), as deficiencies are associated with many forms of cardiovascular disease. D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred form of vitamin D.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory. There is evidence linking inflammation to AFib. (Guo, Lip, & Apostolakis, 2012).
Cardiac Rhythm Center. (2017). Johnmuirhealth.com. Retrieved 6 February 2017, from https://www.johnmuirhealth.com/services/cardiovascular-services/cardiac-rhythm-center.html?cid=pdsrch:G_Search_Afib_Beta
Ryan, PhD, S. (2005). Overview of Atrial Fibrillation. Atrial Fibrillation: Resources for Patients. Retrieved 30 January 2017, from http://a-fib.com/2-overview-of-atrial-fibrillation/#whatisafib
What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib or AF)? (2016). Heart.org. Retrieved 30 January 2017, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/AboutArrhythmia/What-is-Atrial-Fibrillation-AFib-or-AF_UCM_423748_Article.jsp#.WI7bl1MrLIV
Harris, W., Miller, M., Tighe, A., Davidson, M. and Schaefer, E. (2007). Omega-3 fatty acids and coronary heart disease risk: Clinical and mechanistic perspectives. [online] ScienceDirect. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021915007007344 [Accessed 13 Sep. 2017].
Davey, M. and Teubner, D. (2004). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Magnesium Sulfate, in Addition to Usual Care, for Rate Control in Atrial Fibrillation. [online] ScienceDirect. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0196064404014313 [Accessed 13 Sep. 2017].
Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2015). Therapeutic Nutrition, Part 2. Berkeley, CA: Bauman College.
Bauman, E. (2014). Cardiovascular Health Lecture Nutritional Programs: Foods, Botanicals, Nutrients, Lifestyle. Presentation, Retrieved from Bauman College: http:// dashboard.baumancollege.org.
Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York: Atria Books.
Ryan, PhD, S. (2015). Atrial Fibrillation Resource for Patients. A-fib.com. Retrieved 10 February 2017, from http://a-fib.com/treatments-for-atrial-fibrillation/mineral-deficiencies/
Sinatra, D. (2017). Nitric Oxide Benefits Cardiovascular Health. Dr. Stephen Sinatra. Retrieved 8 February 2017, from http://www.drsinatra.com/nitric-oxide-benefits-cardiovascular-health/
Eby, G. & Halcomb, W. (2006). Elimination of cardiac arrhythmias using oral taurine with L-arginine with case histories: Hypothesis for nitric oxide stabilization of the sinus node (PDF Download Available). ResearchGate. Retrieved 8 February 2017, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6986356_Elimination_of_cardiac_arrhythmias_using_oral_taurine_with_Larginine_with_case_histories_Hypothesis_for_nitric_oxide_stabilization_of_the_sinus_node
Guo, Y., Lip, G., & Apostolakis, S. (2012). Inflammation in Atrial Fibrillation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Weil, MD, D. (2002). Anti-Inflammatory Herbs – Dr. Andrew Weil. DrWeil.com. Retrieved 8 February 2017, from http://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/herbs/can-herbs-combat-inflammation/