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"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology,
Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su
Cavanaugh Heart Center,
Phoenix, AZ

"Your book [Beat Your A-Fib] is the quintessential most important guide not only for the individual experiencing atrial fibrillation and his family, but also for primary physicians, and cardiologists."

Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel, nurse, blogger and author "Rational Preparedness: A Primer to Preparedness"



"I love your [A-fib.com] website, Patti and Steve! An excellent resource for anybody seeking credible science on atrial fibrillation plus compelling real-life stories from others living with A-Fib. Congratulations…"

Carolyn Thomas, blogger and heart attack survivor; MyHeartSisters.org

"Steve, your website was so helpful. Thank you! After two ablations I am now A-fib free. You are a great help to a lot of people, keep up the good work."

Terry Traver, former A-Fib patient

"If you want to do some research on AF go to A-Fib.com by Steve Ryan, this site was a big help to me, and helped me be free of AF."

Roy Salmon Patient, A-Fib Free; pacemakerclub.com, Sept. 2013

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

Warning: 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.

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.


“Anyone in A-Fib is almost certainly magnesium deficient.” 3

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.” 4

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. 5  

One method of determining your magnesium levels is the diagnostic tool EXAtest” (http://www.exatest.com) which tests for intracellular rather than serum (in the blood) magnesium concentration. A normal lower limit is 33.9 mEq/IU191.

Serum Magnesium levels aren’t good indicators of how much Magnesium is actually present and working within cells. Serum levels of magnesium remain relatively stable (about 1%), even though working intracellular magnesium levels may be low. The body depletes the magnesium stored in the body to maintain the 1% blood serum level of Magnesium. Not good.)

Unfortunately few doctors provide this test. But if you have A-Fib, you can take for granted that you need more Magnesium.

A more common test is the Red Blood Cell (RBC) Magnesium analysis, though it may not be as accurate as the EXAtest.

Foods highest in magnesium content are:

  • Green Vegetables
  • Whole Grain Cereals (bran breakfast cereal)
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews)
  • Beans
  • Seafood (halibut, mackerel)

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:


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. 7

Oral Magnesium Alternatives

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” which is odorless. Available from Amazon.com. (One method is to apply a drop the size of a quarter to the inner arm fold opposite and above the elbow, then wash off in 20 minutes.)

Another alternative treatment is Epsom Salts Baths—soak for 20 minutes in a bath with 2 cups of Epsom Salts (any brand will do but here are some choices on Amazon.com). (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.

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Danger of Too Much Calcium!

Too much calcium (Ca) can excite the heart cells and induce A-Fib, especially when magnesium is deficient. 8 According to Dr. Andrea Natale, calcium overload is the primary factor in A-Fib remodeling. 9 A-Fib patients may need to stop or lower significantly their calcium supplements and increase magnesium 10 Aim for a ratio of one part Calcium to one 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.


Potassium (K+) is often the second key nutrient A-Fibbers may be deficient in. In fact, magnesium depletion can lead to potassium depletion. 11 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. 12

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

getting the amount of potassium

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.


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). Instead we recommend the powder form—”Now Foods Potassium Gluconate Pure Powder” available from Amazon.com and iHerb.com. Take a total of 3-4 teaspoons a day with meals (approximately 540 mg per teaspoon). But 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 5.0 13 A word of caution—adding too much potassium too soon will make A-Fib worse, not better. 13 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. 14

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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. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 16


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 18 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. Warning: Please be advised that, before taking magnesium and/or potassium, you should check with your doctor and be tested to determine your current levels.


Last updated: Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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References    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Cardiovascular Disease Comprehensive 8 – Therapeutic C. Life Extension Vitamins. Last accessed Jan 6, 2013 URL: http://www.lifeextensionvitamins.com/cadico8thc.html, 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: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v07n16.shtml

  2. Burgess, Jackie. “The Strategy – What Metabolic Cardiology Means to Afibbers,” July 2010, p. 3. http://www.afibbers.org/resources/magnesiumabsorption.pdf
  3. Knox, Kerri. FACT (moderator@gordonresearch.com). Atrial Fibrillation responses. A2: http://www.easy-immune-health.com/atrial-fibrillation-cause.html
  4. Burgess, Jackie. “THE STRATEGY – WHAT METABOLIC CARDIOLOGY MEANS TO AFIBBERS,” July 2010, P.5. http://www.afibbers.org/resources/magnesiumabsorption.pdf
  5. Davis, William. “Is Your Bottled Water Killing You?” Life Extension Magazine, February 2007. http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2007/feb2007_report_water_02.htm
  6. Whitaker, Julian. Health and Healing, March 2011, Vol. 21, No. 3, P. 3.
  7. Burgess, Jackie. FACT (moderator@gordonresearch.com). Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1: http://www.easy-immune-health.com/atrial-fibrillation-cause.html 193 Berkelhammer, C, Baer, RA “A clinical approach to common electrolyte problems:*4. Hypomagnesemia” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1345822
  8. Burgess, Jackie. FACT (moderator@gordonresearch.com). Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1: http://www.easy-immune-health.com/atrial-fibrillation-cause.html
  9. Natale, Andrea and Jalife, “Atrial Fibrillation: From Bench to Bedside,” Pp. 103-4. http://tinyurl.com/29sclh3
  10. Burgess, Jackie. “THE STRATEGY – WHAT METABOLIC CARDIOLOGY MEANS TO AFIBBERS,” July, 2010, p. 12. http://www.afibbers.org/resources/magnesiumabsorption.pdf
  11. Berkelhammer, C, Baer, RA “A clinical approach to common electrolyte problems:*4. Hypomagnesemia” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1345822
  12. Van Wagoner, David R. J Mol Cell Cardiol 32, 1763-66 (2000) doi: 1006/jmcc.2000. 1224.
  13. Burgess, Jackie. FACT (moderator@gordonresearch.com). Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1: http://www.easy-immune-health.com/atrial-fibrillation-cause.html
  14. Burgess, Jackie. FACT (moderator@gordonresearch.com). Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1: http://www.easy-immune-health.com/atrial-fibrillation-cause.html
  15. Van Wagoner, David R. J Mol Cell Cardiol 32, 1763-66 (2000) doi: 1006/jmcc.2000. 1224.
  16. Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Heart Palpitations?  Livestrong.com.  Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL: http://www.livestrong.com/article/508611-can-vitamin-d-deficiency-cause-heart-palpitations/#ixzz25lPz7ame
  17. Vitamin D Deficiency, WebMD.Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL: http://www.webmd.com/diet/vitamin-d-deficiency
  18. In-home vitamin D test from the Vitamin D Council. Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/vitamin-d-deficiency/am-i-vitamin-d-deficient/
  19. Vitamin D Deficiency, WebMD.Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL:   http://www.webmd.com/diet/vitamin-d-deficiency
  20. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D, U.S.Office of Dietary Supplements, the National  Institutes of Health. Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
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