Naturopathic Approach to Managing Atrial Fibrillation

Naturopathic Approach to Managing Atrial Fibrillation

By Cynthia Thaik, M.D., FACC

Why consider natural remedies for Afib? One of the common questions from our patients is, “I don’t want to take drugs. What are my alternatives?” We also receive similar questions from caregivers and spouses of Afib patients. As a holistic cardiology practice, we are happy to address the options and questions, for both conventional and natural treatment options.

What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillation, also known as Afib, is a common cardiac arrhythmia that increases the risk of forming clots and subsequent stroke. In AFib patients, the normal beating in the upper chambers of the heart is irregular, and blood doesn’t flow as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart. It is estimated that between 2.7 million and 6.1 million people in the United States have AFib. AFib may happen in brief episodes, or it may be a permanent condition.

Conventional Afib Treatments

In order to effectively prevent stroke, the primary goals of conventional treatment are to prevent or lower the risk of clot formation with blood thinning medication, decrease the rate at which the heart is beating and convert the rhythm of the heart to avoid damage to the heart muscle. This is typically accomplished with a number of medications and/or surgery. Your doctor may prescribe the following:

  • Medication to control the heart’s rhythm
  • Medication to slow down your heart rate
  • Blood-thinning medicine to prevent blood clots
  • Catheter ablation surgery

However, under the supervision of a doctor who is knowledgeable in both conventional and alternative treatments for Afib, you may be able to accomplish the same goals as pharmaceuticals with more natural means.

Natural Remedies for Afib

The following supplements have been researched and have been shown to support healthy cardiovascular function. Natural remedies for Afib include:

 

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Fish Oil

Fish oil has a number of benefits for improving cardiovascular health. It is known for reducing inflammation,  stabilize plaque on arterial walls, reducing triglycerides and decreases blood viscosity or the stickiness as well as to increase fibrolytic activity, which is beneficial for preventing clots.  Numerous studies have also shown and inverse correlation to the amount of omega-3 fatty acid blood levels and sudden cardiac death. You can increase omega 3 fatty acid consumption through diet by eating fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna or mackerel or through supplementation. 

 

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Magnesium

Magnesium has a number of benefits, some of which may extend to supporting cardiovascular health. It may prevent atrial fibrillation from occurring as well as improve Heart Rate Variability. Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of cardiac function and nervous system activity, a high HRV shows balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches in the nervous system, which is crucial for good cardiac function. Supplementing with magnesium has been shown to improve vagal tone and improvement in stress response and resiliency. 

 

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Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient, meaning that we must get it from food or supplementation. It is involved in many physiologic processes including metabolism, methylation, neurotransmitter synthesis, and provides structural component for cell membranes. Deficiency has been associated with neural tube defects as well as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Choline is the precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is crucial to many activities in the body, including cardiovascular activity. Choline is also important in lowering homocysteine levels in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine have been associated with an increase in stroke risk, inflammation and myocardial infarction. It is recommended that adults get between 425-550 mg/day of choline through food and supplementation. Choline is found in egg yolks, meat, cruciferous vegetables and dairy5.  

Managing Atrial Fibrillation at Holistic Health Heart Center

While medication is appropriate in many cases, they are not without side effects. Many patients come to the Healing Heart Center looking for a more holistic approach to managing the cardiovascular care of Afib. At the Holistic Healing Heart Center, the providers are well versed in both conventional and alternative options for treatment and can discuss with you your best options. Under careful supervision, the goals of medication may be able to be accomplished with natural supplements including clot and stroke prevention and slowing the heart rate.  

Dr. Cynthia Thaik will perform a thorough cardiovascular assessment, looking at cardiac function, ruling out structural damage, assessing the adverse effects of hypertension and dietary toxicity (alcohol, caffeine, excessive inflammatory foods), checking for vascular inflammation and endothelial dysfunction, and exploring the impact of stress on arterial tone and the autonomic nervous system regulation of the cardiovascular system.

Subsequently, Dr. Mallory Aye will assess the patient’s dietary and nutrient history, hormonal balance and adrenal status and make appropriate dietary, nutritional and supplemental recommendations.  If necessary, functional laboratory testing, such as food sensitivity assessment, thyroid and sex hormonal levels, and adrenal function testing will be ordered.  The patient will have an option to receive individual coaching from a mindfulness instructor.  Together, this integrative team approach to Afib will provide the patient with the best opportunity to address the root causes underlying the atrial fibrillation and hopefully restore normal sinus rhythm. As with all health conditions, our goal is to help Afib patients transition from symptoms and disease care to optimal health and wellness – true preventive cardiology.

If you have been diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and are looking for natural treatments, we invite you to contact us today for a consultation.

 

References:

 1. Weitz D, Weintraub H, Fisher E, Schwartzbard A. Fish Oil for the Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease. Cardiol Rev. Sept-Oct. 2010;18(5):258-263.

2.Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Lancet. 1999 Aug 7; 354(9177):447-55.

3. Iseri LT: Role of magnesium in cardiac tachyarrhythmias, Am J Cardiol Jun 19;65(23):47K-50K, 1990.

4.Wienecke E., Nolden, C. Long-term HRV analysis shows stress reduction by magnesium intake, MMW Fortschr Med. 2016 Dec; 158(6):12-16.

5.Choline. Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/choline. Published January 27, 2020. Accessed February 9, 2020.

About the author

Dr. Cynthia Thaik, M.D., FACC is a Harvard-trained cardiologist serving the greater Los Angeles community at her holistic health center in Burbank and Valencia, CA. Dr. Thaik is the author of Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength, and Spirit from the Body’s Core. To learn more about Dr. Thaik or the Holistic Healing Heart Center, or to schedule an appointment, please contact info@drcynthia.com or call (818) 842-1410.