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Mineral Deficiencies - common among atrial fibrillation patients,,, Afib.

Mineral Deficiencies – common among atrial fibrillation patients.

Mineral Deficiencies

When you have A-Fib, a sensible starting point may be to check for chemical imbalances or deficiencies. A deficiency in minerals like magnesium or potassium can force the heart into fatal arrhythmias.

Minerals, vitamins and herbs have a long and consistently safe track record. Nearly half of the people in the US take supplements every day. A large study published in 2012 found that there were no deaths linked to nutritional supplements in 2010. (Whereas in an average year, there are roughly 200,000 deaths and over 500,000 adverse events reported due to prescription drugs.)1

Unfortunately a great number of physicians are not well versed in recommending or supervising nutritional support and quite often, will dismiss your inquiries about nutritional supplements.2

You may need to work with your doctor to determine the benefit of supplements for your A-Fib health. (See the FDA’s attack on cherries as an example of the bias you may encounter.)3

Remember: The authors of this website are not medical doctors. Consult with your doctor before adding any minerals or supplements to your treatment plan. They may interfere or interact with the medications you are taking. In addition, you may need closer medical supervision while taking minerals and/or supplements.
Magnesium, Mg - common mineral deficiencies among atrial fibrillation patients,, Afib.



“Anyone in A-Fib is almost certainly magnesium deficient.”4

While Magnesium (Mg) is one of the main components of heart cell functioning, it seems to be chronically lacking in most diets. “Magnesium deficiencies range from 65% to 80% in general populations in the US and globally.”5 “At least 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium.”6

Most US adults ingest only about 270 mg of magnesium a day, well below the modest magnesium RDAs of 420 mg for adult males and 320 mg for adult females. This creates a substantial cumulative deficiency over months and years.7

Magnesium used to be plentiful in fruits, vegetable and grains, but decades of industrial-scale farming have stripped the soil of minerals like magnesium. One study found that the nutrient content of crops has declined by as much as 40% since the 1950s. “It now is almost impossible to get adequate amounts of magnesium from food.”8

Most US adults ingest only about 270 mg of magnesium a day, well below the modest magnesium RDAs of 420 mg for adult males and 320 mg for adult females.

Common blood tests are poor indicators of your Magnesium level because Magnesium does its work inside the cell (intracellular), not in the blood. Blood “serum” levels of Magnesium are misleading. They remain relatively stable (at about 1%), even when working intracellular magnesium levels are low. (The body “robs” stored Magnesium to maintain the 1% level in your blood. Not good.)

More meaningful is an intracellular test such as Red Blood Cell (RBC) Magnesium analysis. (Another is the EXAtest” (, unfortunately few doctors provide this test.) The RBC test gives the average level of Magnesium in the cells for the past four months. (A normal lower limit is 33.9 mEq/IU191.) Combined with your symptoms, the RBC analysis should indicate if you’re Magnesium deficient.Even without the tests, if you have A-Fib you can take for granted that you need more Magnesium.

Carolyn Dean-R The Best Way to Supplement Mg 100sq at 96 res

Carolyn Dean, MD

 VIDEO 1: The Best Way to Supplement Magnesium” with Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle, talks about supplementing magnesium, assuming that most people don’t have diets that can supply enough.(3:04) Published on Aug 16, 2012 by

Foods highest in magnesium content are:

• Green vegetables (dark leafy greens)
• Whole grain cereals (bran breakfast cereal), quinoa
• Nuts, seeds (almonds, cashews)
• Beans
• Seafood (halibut, mackerel)
• Soy
• Brown Rice
• Avocados
• Dairy

What Kind of Magnesium?

But to insure you’re getting the amount of magnesium you need, it’s often necessary to take magnesium in supplemental form, in addition to foods rich in magnesium. My recommendations of easily absorbed supplemental magnesium are:

Magnesium Glycinate: a chelated amino acid. Look for the label “Albion Minerals.” This is a patented process designed to limit bowel sensitivity. One source is “Doctor’s Best High Absorption Magnesium (200 Mg Elemental)
Angstrom Magnesium: such as “Ancient Minerals Ultra Pure Magnesium Oil 8 oz.”

Another form is Intravenous (IV) Magnesium Sulfate. This is the fastest way to restore normal heart rhythm. It is a recognized therapy worldwide, but not generally in the U.S.9Dr. Julian Whitaker in Newport Beach, CA performs this therapy (

Supplement Dosage

A recommended goal is a minimum 600 mg/day, preferably 800 mg. (For example, 200mg three times a day and 200 mg at bedtime.)

It’s prudent to start off with very low doses of oral magnesium such as 100 mg. (Excess magnesium or magnesium sensitivity can cause loose stools and diarrhea which is counterproductive, because of the loss of electrolytes.) Increase the dosage of magnesium every 4-5 days. It may take as long as six months to replenish your intracellular magnesium levels.10 Since the kidneys excrete excess magnesium, it’s rare to find cases where magnesium exceeds optimal levels, with the exception of people with kidney disease.

Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle, recommends putting 1/2 teaspoon of ReMag in 500 ml of bottled water and just “sipping” on the mixture throughout the day. That way you get supplemental magnesium at lower levels throughout the day with less danger of loose stools, diarrhea, and losing electrolytes. (Thanks to Frances Koepnick for this tip.)

Alternatives to Oral Magnesium

If oral magnesium causes bowel sensitivity, an alternative (or an additional source of magnesium) is Magnesium Oil which is applied to the skin and over the heart.

An example is Ancient Minerals Ultra Pure Magnesium Oil which is odorless and comes in a spray bottle.. (One method is to apply a fine mist to arms and legs, then massage in. Wash off in 20 minutes.) Eight sprays of magnesium oil delivers approximately 100 mg of magnesium to the skin.

Another alternative treatment is Epsom Salts Baths—soak for 20 minutes in a bath with 2 cups of Epsom Salts (any brand will do). (Caution: Epsom Salt Baths can also cause loose stools.) See Personal Experiences: Epsom Salts Cure. You can also make an Epsom Salts spray—one part Epsom Salts to one part water. Place in a spray bottle and mist the chest. Let it dry on the skin.

See Steve’s Shopping Guide for a Healthy Heart for recommended products and brands (see all of Steve’s Shopping Guides on our sister site,

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Calcium overload - mineral deficiencies - atrial fibrillation, A-Fib, afib

Calcium overload

 Danger of Too Much Calcium!

Too much calcium (Ca) can excite the heart cells and induce A-Fib, especially when magnesium is deficient.11

According to Dr. Andrea Natale, Executive Medical Director, Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute, ‘calcium overload’ is the primary factor in A-Fib remodeling of the heart, i.e., structural changes to the heart, including enlargement of the atria and the development of atrial fibrosis.12

Carolyn Dean - Calcium Magnesium Balance 75 pix sq at 96 res

Carolyn Dean, MD

VIDEO 2:Importance of Balancing Calcium & Magnesium“. Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle, discusses the importance of balancing calcium and magnesium supplementation. She looks at the benefits of both and why you need to have both in the body. (2:30) Posted 11/15/2010 by

A-Fib patients may need to stop or lower significantly their calcium supplements and increase magnesium.13 Aim for a ratio of one part Calcium to two or more parts Magnesium. It’s good to keep track of how much Calcium you are taking in daily, so that you can be sure to take in more Magnesium than Calcium.

A serum calcium test in the 8.6-10.2 mg/dl is considered normal, but one/half of the calcium in blood is attached to proteins (like albumin). A more accurate calcium blood test looks at “ionized calcium” which is calcium not attached to proteins.14 But this is a specialized test and probably isn’t necessary for most people.

Potassium - common deficiencies for Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib, afib



Potassium (K+) is often the second key nutrient A-Fibbers may be deficient in. In fact, magnesium depletion can lead to potassium depletion.15 Low magnesium leads to low tissue potassium, since magnesium is needed for potassium transport into tissue.

Potassium is essential for normal nerve and muscle function and is very important in maintaining normal cardiac function. Potassium helps prevent A-Fib by prolonging the refractory period—the time when the heart is resting between beats. (During this rest period the heart can’t be stimulated to contract, thus leaving the heart in normal sinus rhythm.) When potassium levels are too low, heart cells become unusually excitable, often leading to premature contractions and/or A-Fib.16

Sources of Potassium

Foods rich in Potassium include:

• Beans (White Beans)
• Dark Leafy Greens (Spinach, Chad, Kale, Collards)
• Baked Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes (with skin)
• Dried Apricots
• Yogurt (plain, skim/non-fat)
• Seafood (salmon, pompano, halibut)
• Bananas
• Avocados

But to insure you’re getting the amount of potassium you need, it’s often necessary to take potassium in supplemental form, in addition to foods rich in potassium. Here’s my potassium recommendations.

Supplements Dosage

The recommended dosage is 1600-2400 mg/day. While potassium is available in tablets, the 99 mg maximum FDA dosage makes them impracticable requiring 16+ tablets a day. (Beware: some brands offer 540mg tablets, but the actual dose of Potassium Gluconate is only 90 or 99 mg per tablet.) 

Therefore we recommend the powder form. Our favorite is “Now Foods Potassium Gluconate Pure Powder“. Take a total of 3-4 teaspoons a day in juice and divided between 3 meals (approximately 540 mg per teaspoon). You can also consider Potassium Citrate powder using up to 3 teaspoons a day in juice and also divided between 3 meals (approximately 1g per teaspoon). Either form is acceptable. (FYI: Gluconate is neutral PH and Citrate is alkaline, i.e. easier for an acidy stomach.)

As with magnesium, start off low, one teaspoon/day, and increase the dosage every 4-5 days. The goal is to keep the serum blood potassium level at 4.5 but under 5.017A word of caution—adding too much potassium too soon will make A-Fib worse, not better.18 Too much potassium in blood plasma makes the cardiac cells depolarized and unexcitable, leading to spontaneous activity in other areas of the heart such as the Pulmonary Vein openings.19

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Vitamin D3 - common deficiencies - Atrial fibrillarion, A-Fib, afib

Vitamin D3

 Vitamin D

If you don’t spend much time in the sun or always cover your skin (sunscreen inhibits vitamin D production), you’re probably deficient in Vitamin D. Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sunlight, and occurs naturally in small amounts in a few foods including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks.

A 2009 study estimated as many as 77 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient.20 Excessive Vitamin D is rare and is not caused by excessive exposure to the sun, or foods containing Vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency contributes to the development of both A-Fib and Dementia. (See Boston AF 2011: A-Fib and Dementia by Dr. T. Jared Bunch.) Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. A deficiency in vitamin D can cause an imbalance in Magnesium and Calcium, and contribute to heart palpitations.21

 As many as 77 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient.

Testing for Vitamin D deficiency

Ask your doctor for a “25-hydroxy Vitamin D Test” or use an in-home Vitamin D test available from the Vitamin D Council.22 Vitamin D deficiency is defined as a blood 25(OH)D level below 20 ng/dL. Normal levels are considered to be above 30 ng/dL.23

Supplements Dosage

Vitamin D from sun exposure: 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen.24 Vitamin D is found in supplements (and fortified foods) in two different forms: D2 and D3—both increase vitamin D in the blood. The RDA for adults is 600IU and 800IU for seniors (mostly from sun exposure).

For adults who aren’t getting vitamin D from the sun, the recommended supplement is: 200 IU of vitamin D a day for adults under 50 and 400 IU for adults 50 to 70 years of age. Many doctors are advising their patients to take much higher amounts, such as 1,000 I.U. a day.


You should retest after three months of supplementation. The dose of vitamin D may need to be adjusted based on the test results.

 Additional readings

• Frequently Asked Questions: Mineral Deficiencies & Supplements 
• ‘Natural’ Supplements for a Healthy Heart
• Alternative Remedies and Tips
• Acupuncture Helps A-Fib—Specific Acupuncture Sites Identified
• Low Serum Magnesium Linked with A-Fib

Unfortunately a great number of physicians are not well versed in recommending or supervising nutritional support and quite often, will dismiss your inquiries about nutritional supplements.

Last updated: Monday, October 29, 2018

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Return to Treatments for Atrial Fibrillation

Footnote Citations    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Cardiovascular Disease Comprehensive 8 – Therapeutic C. Life Extension Vitamins. Last accessed Jan 6, 2013 URL:, and No Deaths From Vitamins: America’s Largest Database Confirms Supplement Safety. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Press Release, December 28, 2011; Last accessed April 1, 2013. URL:
  2. Burgess, Jackie. “The Strategy – What Metabolic Cardiology Means to Afibbers,” July 2010, p. 3.
  3. Life Extension magazine reports: “On October 17, 2005, the FDA banned information about cherries’ health benefits from appearing on websites. The FDA sent warning letters to 29 companies that market cherry products. In those letters, the FDA ordered the companies to stop publicizing scientific data about cherries. According to the FDA, when cherry companies disseminate this information, the cherries become unapproved drugs subject to seizure. The FDA warns that “if those involved in cherry trafficking continue to inform customers about these scientific studies, criminal prosecutions will ensue.” Rowen, Robert Jay. FDA and Cherries. Second Opinion, Vol.XXIV, No. 6, June 2014. Read online at:
  4. Knox, Kerri. FACT ( Atrial Fibrillation responses. A2:
  5. Burgess, Jackie. “The Strategy – What Metabolic Cardiology Means to Afibbers,” July 2010, P.5.
  6. Goodman, Dennis. This Mineral Prevents Headaches, Heart Disease, More. Bottom Line Personal. Volume 35, Number 2, January 15, 2014.
  7. Davis, William. “Is Your Bottled Water Killing You?” Life Extension Magazine, February 2007.
  8. Goodman ibid.
  9. Whitaker, Julian. Health and Healing, March 2011, Vol.21, No. 3, P. 3.
  10. Burgess, Jackie. FACT ( Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1: 193 Berkelhammer, C, Baer, RA “A clinical approach to common electrolyte problems:*4. Hypomagnesemia”
  11. Burgess, Jackie. FACT ( Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1:
  12. Natale, Andrea and Jalife, “Atrial Fibrillation: From Bench to Bedside,” Pp. 103-4.
  13. Burgess, Jackie. “The Strategy – What Metabolic Cardiology Means to Afibbers,” July, 2010, p. 12.
  14. Medline Plus. Calcium Blood Test.
  15. Berkelhammer, C, Baer, RA “A clinical approach to common electrolyte problems:*4. Hypomagnesemia”
  16. Van Wagoner, David R. J Mol Cell Cardiol 32, 1763-66 (2000) doi: 1006/jmcc.2000. 1224.
  17. Burgess, Jackie. FACT ( Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1:
  18. ibid.
  19. Van Wagoner, David R. J Mol Cell Cardiol 32, 1763-66 (2000) doi: 1006/jmcc.2000. 1224.
  20. Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Heart Palpitations?  Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL:
  21. Vitamin D Deficiency, WebMD.Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL:
  22. In-home vitamin D test from the Vitamin D Council. Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL:
  23. Vitamin D Deficiency, WebMD.Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL:
  24. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D, U.S.Office of Dietary Supplements, the National  Institutes of Health. Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL:
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