• Controlling Atrial Fibrillation Without Drugs

    Posted February 17, 2013: by Bill Sardi

    OK, you knew you were light-headed from time to time, your thinking a bit slow and you were a bit fatigued. But you didn’t discover that the top chambers of your heart flutter periodically or constantly till your doctor discovered this problem during an examination. Some people with atrial fibrillation experience no symptoms.

    The moment this condition is detected patients are placed on a laundry list of medications as if this condition is caused by a drug deficiency. No effort is made to determine the cause of this condition or to prevent it. Its detection is an opportunity to prescribe problematic drugs.

    Your life and your health will be headed downhill if you follow your doctor’s directions from this point forward. You will be placed on drugs that induce serious and even life-threatening side effects, induce nutrient deficiencies and even worsen your condition.

    The medical literature points to elevated blood sugar levels as the primary cause of atrial fibrillation. Low carbohydrate diets (no bread, no pasta, no rice, no refined or fruit sugars) should be mandatory the moment atrial fibrillation is diagnosed. But doctors don’t see themselves as dieticians, they are drug prescribers and they are financially rewarded for prescribing drugs, not dietary supplements that may help control or even reverse this condition.

    The primary objective of conventional treatment for atrial fibrillation is to prescribe blood thinners to prevent blood clots that can cause strokes. These blood thinners (Warfarin-Coumadin, or the newer generation blood thinners (example: Pradaxa) all block an essential vitamin – vitamin K. The new generation blood thinners are not safer. They were developed and introduced to maintain profitability for pharmaceutical companies whose patents on prescription blood thinners have expired.

    Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting. A grave problem is that a lack of vitamin K results in calcification and stiffening of blood vessels and the patient’s condition worsens.

    According to a recent study, diabetics are at a 40% increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation compared to healthy adults.

    An estimated 2.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and the risk for this heart rhythm abnormality rises 3% for each additional year that a patient is diabetic.

    Patients with poorly controlled diabetes (high hemoglobin A1c levels) incur double the risk for atrial fibrillation compared to non-diabetics.

    A mainstay of treatment for atrial fibrillation is electro-cardioversion. Diabetics are 4.6 times more likely to experience recurrence of atrial fibrillation after successful cardioversion.

    Nutrients and atrial fibrillation

    Elevated levels of an inflammatory protein – homocysteine – are linked with atrial fibrillation. Homocysteine rises with a shortage of B vitamins – namely vitamin B6.

    Fish oil is known to reduce irritability of heart muscle. Fish oil has two components known as EPA and DHA. In a laboratory experiment involving dogs, intentionally induced atrial fibrillation was significantly reduced (from 3% to 0%) when pure DHA fraction of fish oil was provided to these dogs whereas EPA fraction of fish oil had no effect.

    There are, however, mixed results reported among fish oil studies for atrial fibrillation. These largely can be explained by the need for DHA-rich fish oil over EPA-rich fish oil.

    EPA is actually considered a precipitating factor for atrial fibrillation. So pure DHA fish oil may be appropriate for atrial fibrillation.

    Antioxidants (vitamins C and E) may be helpful in addition to fish oil among older adults with atrial fibrillation.

    However, because there are heart benefits from both EPA and DHA, atrial fibrillation patients may prefer fish oil supplements designed to be rich in DHA with a lesser amount of EPA rather than DHA alone.

    Magnesium and atrial fibrillation

    Most of the published studies involving magnesium and atrial fibrillation involved post-surgical use of this mineral as administered intravenously (magnesium sulfate).

    Certainly magnesium is at the center of atrial fibrillation for a shortage of this mineral not only induces heart rhythm changes but also impairs glucose tolerance.

    Be aware that an erratic response to warfarin may be explained by up and down dietary intake of vitamin K. A daily vitamin K supplement may help stabilize blood-clotting factors when taking blood thinners.

    Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is another marker of inflammation in the body. Elevated TNF levels are associated with atrial fibrillation. Modern medicine does have a TNF-inhibiting drug (Enbrel- etanercept), but it requires repeated injection. TNF-inhibiting nutrients should be employed (vitamin D, resveratrol, quercetin, rice bran IP6, others).

    High blood sugar worsens atrial fibrosis. Excessive atrial scarring (fibrosis) increases the severity of atrial fibrillation. Fibrosis may be minimized by consumption of oral hyaluronic acid.

    Low blood levels of carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with increased risk for atrial fibrillation.

    Excessive but not modest alcohol consumption may lead to abnormal heart rhythms that includes atrial fibrillation.

    Contrary to popular belief, coffee and caffeine appear to slightly reduce risk for atrial fibrillation. One study reveals the more cups of coffee consumed the lower the risk for atrial fibrillation.

    Consumption of green tea extract (EGCG) has been recently demonstrated to be of benefit among atrial fibrillation patients.

    There is a modest association between prolonged sleep and atrial fibrillation. Shorter duration of sleep is associated with greater risk for atrial fibrillation among individuals with sleep apnea.

    Summary

    The estimated lifetime risk for atrial fibrillation is around 1 in 4.

    The atrial fibrillation epidemic is fueled by the increasing longevity of the American population that has largely adopted a high-carbohydrate/high refined sugar diet. Modern medicine has complicated the challenge of treating atrial fibrillation by never examining its underlying nutritional factors and treating this malady as if it were a drug deficiency. A typical patient with atrial fibrillation is going to be diabetic, overweight (to the point of being obese), have accompanying high blood pressure, and take a litany of prescription drugs that never address the true causes of this heart rhythm disorder. For atrial fibrillation alone a patient may be taking a blood thinner (Warfarin), a beta blocker to slow the heart rate, a calcium channel blocker, digoxin (which is in question now that it has been shown to increase mortality among a-fib patients), and a heart rhythm drug, not to mention drugs to help control diabetes (metformin) and hypertension (ACE inhibitor, diuretic), and a statin cholesterol-lowering drug, and at least one other drug to handle the side effects such as an acid-blocker to address heartburn.

    These drugs induce nutrient deficiencies. The patient will never get well. Blood thinners deplete vitamin K and result in calcification and stiffening of arteries. Beta blockers deplete coenzyme Q10 and induce fatigue and breathing problems. All anti-hypertensive drugs raise blood sugar. All anti-diabetic drugs except metformin induce weight gain. The combined side effects of all of these drugs most certainly outweigh any of the proposed benefits. The quality of life for patients on these drugs is very poor.

    NUTRIENT DEPLETION BY DRUGS

    • Coenzyme Q10: beta blockers, statin drugs
    • Zinc: lisinopril (ACE inhibitor)
    • Vitamin C: aspirin
    • Vitamin K: blood thinners (Coumadin/Warfarin)
    • Vitamin B12: metformin
    • Vitamin B1: Digoxin (lanoxin); B1 shortage induces heart failure

    Nutritional therapy has been ignored by modern medicine because there are no financial incentives like there are for prescription drugs. Physicians received an extra drug consultation fee when they prescribe Rx drugs, but nothing for recommending a nutritional supplement.

    Atrial fibrillation patients will need to embark on their own unguided quest to rectify this sometimes frightening heart problem via use of dietary supplements.

    In order of importance, atrial fibrillation patients should:

    • Adhere to a very low carbohydrate/low refined sugar diet (no bread, no pasta, no rice, no refined or fruit sugars).
    • Supplement the diet with:
      1. DHA-rich fish oil
      2. Magnesium (not mag oxide due to limited bioavailability; 200-400 mg/day)
      3. Vitamin B6 to reduce homocysteine (25-50 mg)
      4. Atrial fibrillation occurs more frequently following heart surgery. It has been found that the zinc-copper ratio is disturbed immediately following surgery. Both after surgery and on a daily basis, zinc should be supplemented (10-25 mg).
      5. Polyphenols like green tea extract (EGCG) or resveratrol
      6. Natural TNF-inhibitors such as vitamin D3, resveratrol, quercetin, IP6 rice bran, can be consumed.
      7. Lutein and zeaxanthin (10-15 mg)
      8. Limited amount of alcohol (dark red wine) 1 glass/day
      9. Replenishment of nutrients depending upon which drugs are used. See chart.
      10. Vitamin K2 (80-200 mcg) to stabilize blood thinning induced by Coumadin/Warfarin or other designed blood thinners.
      11. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, E (preferably with tocopherols and tocotrienols)
      12. Natural anti-clotting agents such as fish oil, magnesium, garlic, nattokinase, resveratrol.
      13. Smoking is a risk factor for atrial fibrillation. Tobacco depletes vitamin C.
      14. The formation of blood clots can be safely inhibited with the use of dietary supplements such as fish oil, magnesium, garlic and resveratrol and in modest doses can be taken safely with blood-thinning drugs. Resveratrol in modest doses offers a unique property of protecting the brain from damage caused by a stroke should a stroke occur.
      15. Occurrence of atrial fibrillation after heart operations is a scourge. In one study the use of a beta blocker drug after coronary artery bypass surgery reduced the occurrence of postoperative atrial fibrillation to 25% and vitamin C plus a beta blocker to 4%. Another study shows that the reoccurrence of atrial fibrillation was 36.3% in non-treated patients and only 4.5% in vitamin C-treated patients.
      16. Digoxin (Lanoxin), long a mainstay in the treatment of atrial fibrillation, has been found to increase mortality and should no longer be prescribed for this condition.

    © 2013 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.

    Addendum To Atrial Fibrillation Report

    Further investigation into the causes and therapies for stubborn recurring atrial fibrillation points to a particular type of free radical – not an oxygen free radical but a nitrogen free radical.  Free radicals are atoms with unpaired electrons that can damage living tissues.  NADPH oxidase is the particular nitrogen-dependent free radical protein that has been identified in atrial fibrillation.

    NADPH oxidase (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate-oxidase) is a cluster of proteins that donate an electron from NADPH to molecular oxygen (O2) to produce the superoxide radical.  Mega doses of folic acid and phycocyanobilin derived from spirulina have been identified as specific NADPH oxidase inhibitors and are available as dietary supplements.

    Sudden episodes of atrial fibrillation have been linked with mental stress.  One survey showed the most common triggering factor was mental stress (54%), physical exertion (42%), tiredness (41%), coffee (22%) and infections (22%).  Alcohol also served as a triggering factor.  Common symptoms included palpitations (88%), reduced physical ability (87%), palpitations at rest (86%), shortage of breath during exertion (70%) and anxiety (59%).  Women with atrial fibrillation were more likely to experience episodes that were accompanied by swollen legs, nausea and anxiety than men.

    Life stress scores are higher among individuals with atrial fibrillation and stressed individuals are more likely to spontaneously convert back to a normal heart rhythm (63% of patients in one survey).

    While one survey showed no relationship between coffee drinking and atrial fibrillation, consumption of very strong coffee (expresso) has been associated with atrial fibrillation.

    While electric cardioversion is a new method of converting to a normal heart rhythm, spontaneous conversion to a normal rhythm occurs in almost 70% of patients presenting with atrial fibrillation within 72-hours of the first episode.  So cardioversion should be delayed to see if the heart returns to a normal rhythm on its own.

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