Want alternatives to traditional drug therapy? We started a new Frequently Asked Questions category: FAQ: Natural Therapies & Holistic Treatment. Many A-Fib patients have questions about treatment alternatives such as naturopathic doctors and Holistic medicine as well as mind/body practices such as chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga and meditation. For questions/answers for you to browse, go to FAQ page.
FAQ Minerals Deficiencies: Lack of Nutrition Training
4. “I tried to talk with my doctor about magnesium and other nutritional supplements. ‘There’s no proof that they work,’ was his response. Why are doctors so opposed to nutrition as a way of helping A-Fib.”
Unfortunately in the US, doctors have been taught to consider medication and surgery as the recognized way to treat patients, to the exclusion of nutrition. According to Dr. Colin Campbell, in his book, The China Study, “doctors have virtually no training in nutrition and how it relates to health…Nutrition training of doctors is not merely inadequate; it is practically nonexistent.”
For many doctors, the only therapy they will consider is an FDA-approved medication. Anything else is considered ‘snake oil’.
According the to 2010 report “Nutrition Education in U.S. Medical Schools”, less than 1/4 of physicians feel they received adequate training in counseling patients on diet or physical activity. How does this happen? The research went on to report that fewer than 30% of medical schools are meeting the minimum number of hours of nutrition and physical activity training recommended by the national academy of sciences. No wonder!
For traditionally trained doctors, nutrition education, if any, is usually in the context of other courses like biochemistry and physiology, with the emphasis on the major discipline by teachers who have little interest and expertise in nutrition. Few medical programs hire nutrition-oriented physicians.
But this situation may be changing.
More of today’s medical schools are devoting time to nutrition especially as it relates to public health problems like obesity. At medical conferences (like the Boston Atrial Fibrillation Symposium), you will hear cardiologists and EPs discuss nutritional remedies for Atrial Fibrillation. (See Dr. T. Jared Bunch’s discussion of A-Fib and Dementia in the 2011 Boston AF Symposium.)
These days it’s possible for A-Fib patients to find an EP willing to discuss use of nutritional supplements. Many EPs today take a ‘whole-person’ approach to patient treatment. For example, when seeking an ablation, EPs will assist and even require an overweight or obese patient to change their nutritional habits and lose weight before they have a catheter ablation.
Seek a Holistic Approach
If your doctor isn’t willing (or trained) to discuss nutrition and mineral deficiencies with you, seek another doctor who will. In addition, you may want to seek out medical professionals who specialize in nutrition and take a holistic approach to treatment. Your search may lead you to an ‘integrative medical’ professional—physician, nurse, and/or health coach or a licensed naturopathic physician (ND). (See our FAQ: How do I find a doctor with a more “holistic” approach? I want nutritional counseling and a more integrated approach?)
Contrary to your doctor’s comments, there’s loads of research studies about mineral deficiencies in patients. Research has shown that some uses of dietary supplements are beneficial to health. For example, folic acid (vitamin C) prevents certain birth defects. And magnesium is used after heart surgery to avoid developing atrial fibrillation.
Last updated: Saturday, August 20, 2016
Return to: FAQ Minerals & Supplements
FAQs: Mineral Deficiencies & Supplements for a Healthy Heart
A-Fib patients often look for non-drug approaches to ease or prevent the symptoms of their Atrial Fibrillation. Here we share answers to the most often asked questions about minerals deficiencies and the use of supplements.
1. Dementia: “I’m scared of getting dementia. Can the right minerals help? I’ve read about the link with A-Fib. What does research reveal about this risk?”
2. Vitamin D: “How can I tell if I’m lacking in Vitamin D? I’m concerned because Vitamin D deficiency has been tied to both A-Fib and Dementia. What is a normal level of Vitamin D?
3. PVCs and PACs: “I have annoying PVCs and PACs with my A-Fib. Are there natural remedies to reduce these extra beats and palpitations? My doctor says to ignore them.”
4. Nutritional Info: “I tried to talk with my doctor about magnesium and other nutritional supplements. His response was ‘There’s no proof that they work.’ Why are doctors so opposed to nutrition as a way of helping A-Fib.”
Related Question: “What’s the best way to take supplements—at the same time each day or spread throughout the day? In one lot or in divided doses?”
Related Question: “Where can I find reliable, unbiased research and information on specific vitamins and supplements? (I want an independent resource, not some site trying to sell me their products.)”
5. BCAA+G: “The supplement BCAA+G helps builds muscle. Is it a natural remedy that could help my A-Fib? Are A-Fib patients BCAA-deficient?”
7. Chelate: “What does ‘chelate’ or ‘chelated formulas’ mean when talking about vitamin and minerals? Is it important?”
8. Magnesium: “Regarding Magnesium, can supplementing and restoring Mg to healthy levels reverse my A-Fib? I’m about to schedule a catheter ablation. But if supplementing can cure my A-Fib, why do an ablation?”
9. CoQ10 “Can I take the supplement CoQ10 while on Eliquis for Atrial Fibrillation? On your site it says CoQ10 could be helpful. But on my bottle of CoQ10, it says “do not take if you are on blood thinners.”
10. Krill Oil: “I’m interested in the supplement, Krill Oil, that has natural blood thinning properties. I’m taking Eliquis for my risk of A-Fib stroke. Is It OK to take Krill Oil along with Eliquis?”
Frequently Asked Questions by Newly Diagnosed Patients
Newly diagnosed Atrial Fibrillation patients have many questions about living with A-Fib. These are answers to the most frequently asked questions by patients and their families. (Click on the question to jump to the answer)
1. Cause: “Did I cause my Atrial Fibrillation? Am I responsible for getting A-Fib?”
2. Severity: “My doctor says I had an attack of Atrial Fibrillation. How much trouble am I in?”
Related Question: “Is Atrial Fibrillation a prelude to a heart attack?”
Related Question: “Can I die from my Atrial Fibrillation? Is it life threatening?”
3. Anomaly? “Could my Atrial Fibrillation go away on its own? I don’t want to take any medication. Can I just wait and see?”
Related Question: “Is it possible to have a single Atrial Fibrillation attack and not have any others? I had a single episode of A-Fib and was successfully converted in the ER with meds.”
Related Question: “How can I tell when I’m in A-Fib or just having something like indigestion?”
5. Driving: “Can I drive my car if I have Atrial Fibrillation?”
6. Nutrition: “Is drinking coffee (tea, colas, other products with caffeine) going to make my Atrial Fibrillation worse or trigger an A-Fib attack?”
Related Question: “Is there a diet I could follow which would cure my Atrial Fibrillation?”
7. Medical ID: “Should I carry a wallet card or a medical ID? I have A-Fib and take Coumadin (warfarin). In case of an A-Fib emergency, what information should I include?”
8. Coping: “I have a lot of stress at work. Does this stress cause or trigger my Atrial Fibrillation?”
Related Question: “I live in fear of my Atrial Fibrillation. I never know when I’m going to get an A-Fib attack or how long it will last. How do I deal with the anxiety?”
Related Question: “Is there anything I can do to get out of an Atrial Fibrillation episode? How do others deal with their episodes?”
9. Specialist? “Should I see a cardiologist for my Atrial Fibrillation and not just my primary care doctor? (He wants to prescribe medication.) Should I also see an A-Fib specialist?”
10. Cure? “Is Atrial Fibrillation curable? Or can you only treat or control it? Should I seek a cure?”
If you find any errors on this page, email us. ♥ Last updated: Monday, February 13, 2017
Return to Frequently Asked Questions
7. “Is there a diet I could follow which would cure my A-Fib?”
No. Right now, we don’t know of any diet to “cure” your A-Fib. But you may be able to reduce or improve your A-Fib symptoms.
Start with a ‘heart healthy’ diet (and healthy lifestyle). There are lots of on-line resources and books about eating healthy for your heart. The U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends the “DASH” eating plan which reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Also see our FAQ answer to: “Is a whole food or organic diet helpful for patients with Atrial Fibrillation?
Learn Your Triggers
For some A-Fib patients, a food or beverage seems to cause or trigger their A-Fib. Heavy consumption of alcohol may trigger A-Fib. Some report that caffeine in coffee is a trigger. You may want to try eliminating other stimulants (tea, chocolate, tobacco, MSG, sodas) and see if that helps your condition. A recent study from England suggests that eggs and poultry meat may cause or trigger A-Fib.
It’s likely you’ll receive little nutritional advice from your doctor or cardiologist.
Keep a Food Log
Try keeping a diary of what you eat and drink. If you drink coffee for example, try not drinking any for one or two weeks. (Some patients claim to have been helped by eliminating all dairy products from their diet.)
Last updated: Monday, February 13, 2017
by Steve S. Ryan, PhD, September 2014
Even though North America is a land of immigrants, the prevalence of A-Fib is much greater in the US than in our ancestral countries. There is ten-times more A-Fib in North America than, for example, in Asia. But once these Asians immigrate to the US, the incidence of A-Fib closely approximates that of other Americans.
Whatever protective effect Asians enjoyed in their native countries is lost when they immigrate. And the A-Fib epidemic is occurring not just in the US but also in most developed countries around the world.
A-FIB HAS INCREASED 71% IN THE LAST 20 YEARS
Dr. John D. Day of Intermountain Healthcare in Utah has performed more than 3,000 A-Fib ablation procedures. But he asks, “Am I even making a dent in this disease? I cannot remember seeing so many new patients, even young patients, with atrial fibrillation when I began my cardiology fellowship nearly 20 years ago.”
A-Fib has increased 71% in the last 20 years. The general consensus is we are seeing more A-Fib due to our aging population (and also because we are looking more for A-Fib and have better tools to diagnose it).
But that doesn’t explain why A-Fib is increasing more than our aging population.
Though he poses it as a question, Dr. Day suggests strongly that obesity is causing the increase in A-Fib. “Could the lifestyle of modern civilization and our obesity epidemic explain the marked spike in new atrial fibrillation cases we are now seeing?”
WEIGHT LOSS CAN REVERSE A-FIB
In a study at the Mayo Clinic, bariatric surgery helped to prevent A-Fib in patients with morbid obesity. New onset A-Fib occurred in only 6.4% of patients with bariatric surgery, compared to 16.1% in the control group.
Dr. Day described a new program (DARE—Drive Atrial fibrillation into Remission Evaluation) started at Intermountain Healthcare in January, 2014, to encourage aggressive lifestyle modification.
Even though less than 5% of people successfully change their lifestyle to maintain long-term weight loss, 92% of his patients are still actively engaged in this lifestyle modification program.
They’ve lost an average of 16 pounds over the last few months and a 42% reduction in their A-Fib symptom burden. They “feel better than they have ever felt before.” Patients who had failed multiple ablations were now A-Fib free.
A-Fib can be prevented or reversed by lifestyle changes. Dr. Day encourages doctors to take a holistic approach, to not just treat A-Fib but to help patients become aware of and overcome the toxic lifestyles of our culture. “A large percentage of cases in the USA are unnecessary.”
Weight loss improves A-Fib ablation success & symptoms
Researchers in Australia found that obese patients who had a catheter ablation and then lost weight, had nearly a five-fold greater probability of staying A-Fib free.
Two groups of obese patients had catheter ablations for A-Fib. The first group agreed to participate in an aggressive risk factor management program. Each group was monitored for two years. The life-style change weight management group experienced more weight loss, better systolic blood pressure, better glycemic control and lipid profile.
Ablation success rate much better with weight control
The single procedure A-Fib free rate was greater for the weight management group (32.9% vs 9.7%), while the multiple procedure results were markedly better (87% vs 17.8%). [A 32.9% success rate is relatively low compared to other centers.] A-Fib frequency, duration, severity, and symptom severity were better in the aggressive risk factor management group.
A previous study had found that a weight management program for highly symptomatic A-Fib patients reduced symptom burden and severity and reduced antiarrhythmic drug use. The authors wrote that these benefits, “may be attributable to a decrease in left atrial area and ventricular wall thickness, thereby reducing the left atrial hypertension that is a common finding in obese patients.”
The authors concluded that current A-Fib management guidelines should be changed to include risk management when treating A-Fib.
Before this study, many doctors were already requiring that A-Fib patients with pre-existing conditions or risk factors get these taken care of before getting a catheter ablation. If they didn’t, they were much more likely to have a recurrence than other patients. These Australian researchers also developed risk factor management strategies not only for weight, but also for hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, cholesterol, alcohol use and smoking.
Catheter Ablation often isn’t enough if pre-existing health problem
The beauty of this Australian research is it confirms scientifically what we already knew, that just performing a catheter ablation on someone with a pre-existing health problem like obesity, isn’t enough. Doctors must take a holistic approach and treat not just the A-Fib, but also the pre-existing health condition that caused or triggered the A-Fib in the first place. Let’s take the example of an obese patient who has a catheter ablation and is A-Fib free. That person’s PVs are isolated. But the ongoing obesity (which produces left atrial hypertension) can potentially trigger other areas of the heart to produce A-Fib signals.
Many doctors today emphasize a holistic approach. For example, new patients with A-Fib are routinely tested for sleep apnea. The EP works with other doctors in his practice to develop a sleep apnea strategy for this patient. The patient isn’t given a catheter ablation till they address their sleep apnea problem.
For more about a taking a more holistic approach, see our FAQs: Natural Therapies & Holistic Treatments
Last updated: Sunday, February 15, 2015