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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.)

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.

You may need to work with your doctor to determine the benefit of supplements for your A-Fib health.

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.


Magnesium Deficiency

Anyone in A-Fib is almost certainly magnesium deficient.

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. At least 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Other Western countries today exhibit similar deficiencies.

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.

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. In addition, we no longer absord magnesium by bathing in or drink natural water that is high in magnesium—instead, we’re drinking and bathing in tap water that’s devoid of magnesium. Therefore, it’s now almost impossible to get adequate amounts of magnesium from a healthy diet. 

Low magnesium is often difficult to detect. In addition to an irregular heart, other physical signs include tics, muscle spasms and cramps, seizures, and anxiety.

Magnesium to Prevent A-Fib After Surgery

Many kinds of heart surgeries (and occasionally other surgeries) are known to induce A-Fib and other arrhythmias. Though they often disappear after a few weeks, these arrhythmias are very troubling (and sometimes they don’t go away). Magnesium supplementation is now routinely used before many surgeries to prevent patients from developing A-Fib after surgery.

Anyone in A-Fib is almost certainly magnesium deficient.

Testing for Magnesium Deficiency

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.

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.)

Intracellular Testing:  More meaningful is an intracellular test such as Red Blood Cell (RBC) Magnesium analysis. (Another meaningful test is the EXAtest” ( Unfortunately few doctors provide this test.) 

The RBC intracellular 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 it 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 by

Foods Highest in Magnesium

To increase your intake of magnesium naturally, try increasing you intake of these foods that are highest in magnesium content: Consider these foods:

• 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

The Cleveland Clinic on their web site lists magnesium rich foods

What Kind of Magnesium Supplement?

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. To restore your Magnesium level, it’s often necessary to take a magnesium supplement over several months (super-load Magnesium). But add Magnesium gradually, because too much Magnesium in too heavy doses can cause loose stools and lose of electrolytes.

Oral Mg Tablets & Liquids: My recommendations of supplemental magnesium are:

Magnesium Glycinate (tablets): an amino acid.  One source is Pure Encapsulations, 120 mg. (To decrease the potential laxative effect, take with a meal or just after eating.)
Angstrom Magnesium (sublingual ): 99.9% pure magnesium; liquid applied under the tongue; Such as Mother Earth Minerals Angstrom Minerals, Magnesium-8 ozs.
• Magnesium L-Threonate: Recommended by Life Extension for brain health “has demonstrated the most impressive results.” (Life Extension, January 2019 p. 40.)

Roger Finnern recommends timed release magnesium, MagSRT by (Roger is A-Fib free for 3 years after a catheter ablation by Dr. Swarup in Phoenix, AZ.)

Dianne T. from Mesquite, Nevada, recommends ReMag, a liquid magnesium supplement, created by Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle. (Dianne wrote how within a year, it eliminated most of her A-Fib symptoms and restored her to normal sinus rhythm.)

Starr S. emailed me that I should include Magnesium Malate as an easily absorbed magnesium supplement. See

Added 6/5/21: 

Dale G. writes, “…magnesium taurate has stopped my A-Fib attacks (last one August 12, 2019, so coming up to two years). I had 7 episodes during the 2019 Summer. They lasted up to an hour but all stopped on their own. I also have completely stopped drinking…I’m a 52-year old male…For several years I had noticed I had ectopic beats and a slightly irregular heartbeat. I didn’t seek any medical advice on this and kind of buried my head in the sand! At some point those ectopics progressed to A-Fib. I now also run 5ks twice a seek. The combination of these things seems to have sorted me out for now. But I’m convinced that the Mg is a major component. Good luck to one and all.”

(Alternatives to oral Magnesium are listed below.)

Supplement Dosage

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

It may take as long as six months to replenish your intracellular magnesium levels.

Start slow: 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. 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

Intravenous Magnesium: 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. Dr. Julian Whitaker in Newport Beach, CA performs this therapy (

Magnesium Chloride bath flakes: Similar to Epsom salts (Magnesium sulfate), the molecular structure of Magnesium Chloride is different and is much more easily absorbed into the body. Soak for 20-30 minutes in a bath with 2 cups of bath flakes, any brand will do.  Can be used in conjunction with magnesium tablets. You can also make an Magnesium spray—one part salts to one part hot water. Place in a spray bottle and mist the chest. Let it dry on the skin.

Transdermal or “Topical” Magnesium Oil: If oral magnesium causes bowel sensitivity, an alternative (or an additional source of magnesium) is Magnesium Oil. It’s applied to the skin and is absorbed directly into your cells, bypassing the digestive system. 

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/or legs, then massage in. Wash off in 20 minutes.) Eight sprays of magnesium oil delivers approximately 100 mg of magnesium to the skin.

For recommended A-Fib related products, see Steve’s Shopping Guides to supplements, books, DIY heart rate monitors and more.

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.

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.

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 by

Aim for more Magnesium vs. Calcium:

Unlike what Dr. Dean recommends for normal people, A-Fib patients may need to stop or lower significantly their calcium supplements and increase magnesium. 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.

Added 6/9/22:  Steve Carr writes that maintaining calcium consumption at or below 400 mg/day and maintaining Vitamin D at approximately 64 ng/mL keeps him A-Fib free. He takes a 5000iu capsule of vitamin D3 5 days per week.

Joan L, in A-Fib for 15+ years, writes that she has drastically reduced her calcium intake. “I’ve noticed a great reduction in the number, severity, and duration of my A-Fib bouts.”

Testing for Calcium: A serum calcium test in the range of 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. But this is a specialized test and probably isn’t necessary for most people.

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


 Potassium Deficiency

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

Foods Highest in Potassium

To increase your intake of Potassium naturally, try increasing you intake of these foods that are highest in potassium content: Consider these foods:

• 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.)

Beware: some brands offer 540mg tablets, but the actual dose of Potassium Gluconate is only 90 or 99 mg per tablet.

Powder vs. Tablets: 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.)

Start slow: 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. A word of caution—adding too much potassium too soon will make A-Fib worse, not better. 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 in the Pulmonary Vein openings.

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

Vitamin D3

 Vitamin D Deficiency

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

Vitamin D deficiency contributes to the development of both A-Fib and Dementia.

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 CouncilVitamin 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.

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. 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 600 IU and 800 IU for seniors (mostly from sun exposure).

You should retest after three months of Vitamin D supplementation.

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 IU a day.

Monitoring Vitamin D Level

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

Keep in Mind: The Supplements Industry is Not Regulated

Our Top 3 Sources

In the US, vitamins and mineral supplements are not regulated by the FDA (or any other government agency). Quality and potency will vary. So, it’s up to you to find reliable, unbiased information to evaluate the vitamins, minerals, herbs or supplements and to select reliable brands and products.

In our search for unbiased sources, we looked at many, many informational directories. Three searchable databases rose to the top of our list. See Our Top 3 Sources for Reliable, Unbiased Info on Vitamins and Supplements.

References for this article
• 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:

• Burgess, Jackie. “The Strategy – What Metabolic Cardiology Means to Afibbers,” July 2010, p. 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:

• Knox, Kerri. FACT ( Atrial Fibrillation responses. A2:

• Burgess, Jackie. “The Strategy – What Metabolic Cardiology Means to Afibbers,” July 2010, P.5.

• Goodman, Dennis. This Mineral Prevents Headaches, Heart Disease, More. Bottom Line Personal. Volume 35, Number 2, January 15, 2014.

• Davis, William. “Is Your Bottled Water Killing You?” Life Extension Magazine, February 2007.

• Whitaker, Julian. Health and Healing, March 2011, Vol.21, No. 3, P. 3.

• Burgess, Jackie. FACT ( Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1: 193 Berkelhammer, C, Baer, RA “A clinical approach to common electrolyte problems:*4. Hypomagnesemia”

• Burgess, Jackie. FACT ( Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1:  • Natale, Andrea and Jalife, “Atrial Fibrillation: From Bench to Bedside,” Pp. 103-4.

• Burgess, Jackie. “The Strategy – What Metabolic Cardiology Means to Afibbers,” July, 2010, p. 12.

• Medline Plus. Calcium Blood Test.

• Berkelhammer, C, Baer, RA “A clinical approach to common electrolyte problems:*4. Hypomagnesemia”

• Van Wagoner, David R. J Mol Cell Cardiol 32, 1763-66 (2000) doi: 1006/jmcc.2000. 1224.

• Burgess, Jackie. FACT ( Atrial Fibrillation responses. A1:

• Van Wagoner, David R. J Mol Cell Cardiol 32, 1763-66 (2000) doi: 1006/jmcc.2000. 1224.

• Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Heart Palpitations?  Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL: • Vitamin D Deficiency, WebMD.Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL:

• In-home vitamin D test from the Vitamin D Council. Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL:

• Vitamin D Deficiency, WebMD.Retrieved  October 25, 2012. URL: 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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