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Atrial Fibrillation Diet: What to Eat and Avoid

A cardiologist’s look at diet and Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the a common abnormal heart rhythm plaguing millions of people. In fact, Afib is the most frequent reason why people come to my office.

Afib is associated  with an increased risk for stroke, heart failure, dementia and mortality.

The risk of atrial fibrillation increases with advancing age. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, congestive heart failure, heart attack, thyroid disease and obesity. AFib also occurs after cardiac surgery.

New evidence suggests that lifestyle factors like diet can play big roles in atrial fibrillation risk and prevention.

Best Foods for Atrial Fibrillation

Overall, an anti-inflammatory diet is key to preventing ATRIAL FIBRILLATION

Fish
Fish
Certain types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to help normalize heart beat rhythms1. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that can normalize heart beats1. Eat oily fish such as wild salmon, sardine, and anchovy. Shellfish are excellent as well. Click here for a anchovy salad dressing.
Curcumin
Curcumin
This is a highly anti-inflammatory nutrient in turmeric spice. Curcumin is a plant compound responsible for the yellow color found in curry dishes. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that are great for the heart. Atrial fibrillation is all about inflammation. Some studies suggest that this inflammation-fighting spice could play a role in preventing irregular heart beats2.
Avocados
Avocados
This heart-healthy superfood is loaded with magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin E. These are all important nutrients related to heart function. High levels of these nutrients can decrease chances of AFib. Heart-healthy fats are key to the heart. You can even opt for using avocado oil when cooking.
Kiwi
Mango, Papaya or Kiwi
These are some of the fruits that are highest in vitamin C. It is key to decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress, both related to atrial fibrillation. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, is also important to health of blood vessels and the heart. It is also required for proper functioning of most of the body. Interestingly, when patients were given vitamin C with medication pre- and post- heart surgery they had a much lower incidence of AFib than the patients given only the medication3.
Bone broth
Bone broth
Bone broth is essential to healing the leaky gut. Atrial fibrillation is related to leaky gut. Over 40% of patients with atrial fibrillation also have digestive issues4. Patients with inflammation of the small intestine, such as those with celiac disease, also have increased odds for developing atrial fibrillation5.
Fermented foods
Fermented foods
Fermented foods, which are full of good bacteria, are needed to heal the leaky gut. These foods can increase gut health by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. These foods also decrease oxidative stress and inflammation6, both risk factors for atrial fibrillation development.
Organ meats
Organ meats
Organ meats are highly nutritious. They are loaded with B vitamins, which can help to lower homocysteine and overall atrial fibrillation risk. They are also a great source of Coenzyme Q10, which is an antioxidant that could be used to prevent atrial fibrillation in patients with heart failure7.
Eggs
Eggs
Eggs have essential nutrients including choline, which is an essential nutrient needed for healthy heart cell membranes. Choline also helps to normalize lipid levels and decrease inflammation, both of which are protective of the heart.
Beets
Beets
These powerhouse root vegetables can increase nitric oxide and balance the nervous system. The nervous system is responsible for regulating processes such as beating of the heart, breathing and digestion. It is thought that acid reflux can lead to AFib because it causes nervous system imbalance and inflammation8. We love our Heart Beet supplement.
Berries
Berries
Berries are antioxidants and have significant effects on inflammation9. This is important because chronic inflammation is a contributor to atrial fibrillation and cardiovascular disease.
Dandelion Greens
Dandelion Greens
These are a great food to cleanse the liver and heal inflammation. They work as antioxidants to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation10 to protect the heart and it’s rhythms. Dandelion greens are also a good source of protective B and C vitamins, as well.
Sea vegetables
Sea vegetables
Sea vegetables are loaded with the mineral iodine. Iodine is needed for a healthy thyroid, a gland critical for stable heart rhythm and prevention of atrial fibrillation. low levels of iodine have long been linked to increased risk of atrial fibrillation and cardiac problems11.

Worst Foods for Atrial Fibrillation

There are specific foods that can trigger ATRIAL FIBRILLATION

Processed foods
Processed foods or drinks that are high in sodium and sugar
Being overweight or obese can lead to atrial fibrillation. Overconsumption of unhealthy foods can contribute to obesity and an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. Additionally, these foods are inflammatory and can decrease overall gut health, both risk factors for Afib.
Gluten
Gluten
Gluten is a highly allergenic and inflammatory food for many people. In fact, it has been established that patients with autoimmune conditions like celiac disease have a much higher risk of getting atrial fibrillation12.
Simple carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates include white rice and white bread. There is typically no fiber in these foods to slow absorption. Therefore, these foods can result in rapid spikes in blood sugar. These also contain gluten, which can increase inflammation.
Alcohol
Alcohol
A higher alcoholic intake has been linked with a higher risk of atrial fibrillation13. In fact, alcohol and binge drinking can trigger atrial fibrillation14. Moderate to heavy consumption of alcohol is also related to increased risk of atrial fibrillation in men15. Along with this, an intake of more than 2 drinks per day can increase atrial fibrillation risk in women16.
Pasteurized dairy
Pasteurized dairy
Dairy is another food group that is highly allergenic and inflammatory. It has been consistently linked to autoimmune disorders and chronic inflammation, both known risk factors for abnormal heart rhythms.
Soy
Soy
There are compounds called phytates in soy that can bind essential minerals and cause them to be excreted, which isn’t good. Magnesium and potassium are key minerals to heart health. Soy also contains high levels of goitregens, which are compounds that can inhibit the thyroid gland’s ability to use iodine properly. Iodine imbalances and over activity of the thyroid gland are linked to atrial fibrillation11.

Nutritional Supplements for Atrial Fibrillation

As a cardiologist, I’ve found these nutritional supplements important preventing and treating atrial fibrillation:

  • Foundation 5 – this is our foundational nutritional supplement regime for good health for all of us.
  • Potassium Boost – this is an excellent supplement full of potassium, which is excellent in supporting the healthy electrical activity of your heart. Take 1 teaspoon, 2x per day.
  • Max Mag – packed with magnesium, which promotes healthy heart rhythm. Take 1 capsule, 3x per day.
  • Berbe – wonderful anti-inflammatory supporting overall cardio function. Take 1 capsule, 2x per day.

 

References:

  1. Calo et al., 2013: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24016540
  2. Wongcharroen et al., 2009: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19233493
  3. Eslami et al., 2007: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17948074
  4. Laliberte et al., 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4210454/
  5. Lebwohl et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312018/
  6. Kim et al., 2016: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5216880/
  7. Zhao et al., 2015: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25919281
  8. Turagam et al., 2014: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4956280/
  9. Joseph et al., 2014: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf4044056
  10. Park et al., 2010: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20812277
  11. Dunn et al., 1998: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9492159
  12. Emilsson et al., 2011: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21653560
  13. Gronroos et al., 2010: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951273/
  14. Shen et al., 2011: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3021424/
  15. Djousse et al., 2004: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15019874
  16. Conen et al., 2008: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2630715/

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