What’s the best diet for atrial fibrillation?


I started being plant based after Thanksgiving. The principal reason is for my health and hopes to reduce or eliminate some day all my meds. One area that I’ve never seen any reference to is diet and atrial fibrillation. Is there any connection? Can diet begin to replace cumadin or pradaxa?

Duke / Originally posted on the NutritionFacts.org Facebook page

Answer:

Atrial fibrillation is the most common clinical cardiac arrhythmia, an irregularity of our heartbeat rhythm, which can set you up for a stroke, increase your risk of dementia and heart failure, and significantly shorten your lifespan. Previous findings on the effect of diet have been conflicting. Some studies have found alcohol, caffeine and fish consumption to be good in terms of preventing or resolving atrial fibrillation, and other studies have shown them all to be bad. It’s when this kind of situation arises in nutritional science, you pull out the big guns and put it to the test in one of the bigger better studies, like the famous Framingham Heart Study population, which is what was recently done. They found no effect either way in general from the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, or fish, but when they looked closer they observed an association between the consumption of dark fish and atrial fibrillation. A 6-fold higher hazard ratio for those eating a lot of fish like salmon, swordfish, bluefish, mackerel, and sardines. They conclude that their findings may suggest a “true adverse effect of dark fish and fish oil on certain subtypes of atrial fibrillation,” proposing that “potential toxins such as dioxins and methyl mercury accumulated in certain fish may have a negative effect on cardiac arrhythmia.” I profile this study in my video Red Fish, White Fish; Dark Fish, Atrial Fibrillation.

There’s less out there about treatment, but a recent study did find that those with atrial fibrillation with higher intakes of antioxidants did have 80% greater odds of spontaneously reverting back to a normal heart rhythm. Until that happens your physician will likely want you to continue to take those two anticoagulants. My video Antioxidant Power of Plant Foods Versus Animal Foods offers an overview on which foods to choose to maximize antioxidant intake, though since you’re already eating a plant-strong diet, check out Antioxidants in a Pinch for a tip on taking it to the next level. Just make sure not to increase your dark green leafy vegetable consumption while on coumadin without your physician helping you titrate your drug dose.

Image Credit: zimpenfish / flickr

  • Linda

    Is honey ok to eat if you are prone to getting n A Fib?

  • Kenneth

    I have been studying http://www.nutritionfacts.org and listening to Dr Gregers’ talks daily for the past month and am so grateful for his work.

    I went vegan in October for environmental reasons after watching “Cowspiracy” and quickly pivoted to a whole-foods, plant-based diet for health reasons after watching “Forks over Knives” and reading “China Study” and
    “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”.

    My Father died suddenly in his early 50’s from a massive stroke. He was a heavy smoker and loved his T-bone steaks! I have been suffering from chronic A-fib for the past 7 years and am only 49 years old. I have always tried to eat a healthy diet and have been a flexitarian for many years, but was misguided by inaccurate information.

    Since switching to a whole foods diet, in just 4 weeks I have: lost 10 lbs, have more energy, have reduced
    aches, pains and stiffness, have no more back and neck pain, have no more leg cramps and muscle spasms,
    have improved flexibility, improved ability to assimilate fruit sugars (Dates, bananas and raisins lo longer bother
    me), have decreased muscle tension, increased strength and stamina, improved digestion, have no
    more chronic headaches / dizziness, have improved mental cognition and memory, have increased typing speed (my wife noticed this one), have improved mood – I find myself happy most of the time – for no apparent reason, have faster response times (I can now beat my 12 year old son at air hockey and foosball!), have reduced food sensitivities (I can now eat strawberries, raw onions, lentils, pineapple, white potatoes and 20 other foods I have avoided for years with no reaction), have reduced allergies – my cat dander allergies are completely gone!, have
    improved muscle tone, have improved complexion – my skin is clearer and softer and all my skin-bumps have cleared up, have improved sleep, and reduced anxiety!

    It is very unusual for me to see any results from the many healing modalities I have tried over the years (and I have tried many!). But now that I am no longer reinjuring myself on a meal to meal basis with animal products, the healing powers of my body have finally been unleashed. If these are the results of just 4 weeks on a plant based diet, I can’t wait to see how I feel in 5 years!

    My question is, has a whole foods, plant based diet been shown to reverse A-fib and are there any specific foods that are more effective at reversing it?

    Thank you,

    Ken