I get this question a lot, what causes an irregular heartbeat? But first…
Fending For Myself
As I mentioned, my wife Vivien is in Europe, having a great time, in France and the UK. I have had to do my own cooking (cue sad violins…)
Last night I had to make do with butter-glazed Atlantic scallops on a bed of delicious salad with edible flowers, topped with a lemon and blueberry vinaigrette. Desert was a chocolate pudding made ONLY with creamed avocados and chocolate powder, with honey and vanilla flavoring, sprinkled with Aztec sea salt… and of course, a bottle of sparkling wine from Italy.
What did you expect? I’d open a can of beans and a bottle of beer!
It was delicious, as you can imagine. But I’m not just boasting I’m a great cook. There is a lesson here.
This is practically a Stone Age meal! Salad and flowers is what any caveman or cavewoman would see. You can make the vinaigrette without lemons, just any fruit juice and olive oil: lightly fry a shallot or scallions in the juice from the scallops and add the blueberries (I crushed a few to release the juices).*
Even the pudding was Stone Age! Chocolate is just a bean, avocado a fruit, vanilla a herb and the honey would occasionally be obtainable by any enterprising soul who didn’t mind being stung by the bees!
The only issue is the alcohol but, as I keep pointing out, it is actually a paleolithic food and was available in Stone Age times, from rotted fruits. Follow this link for a hilarious video of wild animals getting drunk on fermented marula fruits!
The point is you can cook GREAT dishes like this while you are on my Stone Age diet in the Diet Wise Academy program. It’s not difficult and can help you feel great and make discoveries about your food sensitivities. You might need to hold on the citrus and wine until you’ve tested it properly. But you can soon add them in, after the first few challenge tests.
* If you are OK to do so, add a splash of sherry vinegar; I did because I am not on the full paleo- program.
Irregular Heartbeats vs Palpitations
I’m asked a lot by emails from my readers to talk about heart irregularities; especially one called atrial fibrillation. I have tended to fight shy of it because it’s relatively rare. However, if I throw in palpitations—which are pathological but not dangerous—then it’s almost universal!
So let’s dive in, starting with terms:
Arrhythmia. Means the rhythm has gone off; not regular.
Did Your Heart Just Skip A Beat?
Palpitation is that yikes! feeling in your chest, when you know your heart just “fluttered” or skipped a beat. Chances are it only lasts one or two beats. It can be terrifying, especially the first time it happens. It’s common after coffee and caffeine drinks and relatively harmless (meaning it not associated with increased risk of heart attacks or death). More of that in a moment.
Potentially serious causes of heart palpitations include:
An overactive thyroid
Blockage in the coronary arteries
Electrolyte imbalances (sodium, potassium)
Diseases of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
I put this next because it’s easily dealt with.
Fibrillation means messy and ineffective muscle action, no synchronized contractions, all fibers going off randomly. No blood is sent to the lungs, brain and body. The result is immediate death; the heart trembles wildly but ceases to effectively pump blood to the brain and body.
Recoveries are somewhat rare and require an electrical “defibrillator” (“Clear!”) or adrenalin.
Even if you can’t feel a pulse on someone who has collapsed, you must not assume he or she is dead and do nothing. The heart may be very much alive but fibrillating. Start immediate CPR and continue it until help arrives. Ventricular fibrillation is a killer but is survivable.
Then, in between these two high and low risk arrhythmias comes atrial fibrillation or a-fib as it’s called. The atria are the small upper chambers in the heart, which simply squirt blood into the lower, big, powerful chambers, the ventricles.
Not so big in themselves, the atria are important because that’s where the heart’s natural pacemaker is found. The “wiring” fibers carry the contract-NOW message through to the ventricles. When a-fib starts, the signals to the ventricles become intermittent. That’s felt as a crazy irregular heartbeat, sometimes very fast (120 pm up to 220 pm).
But it does beat. You don’t die. It can go on for years and is typically controlled by drugs. Not good.
The main problem with a-fib is that it signals a much-increased risk of heart attack and, in particular, stroke.
All good so far?
What Causes Irregular Heartbeat – Little Known Causes of A-Fib
Now we come to the two important questions every wants me to answer: what causes irregular heartbeat or triggers a-fib? And how can it be prevented or treated holistically? My answer is a mixture from scientific papers and clinical experience. The latter is more important than the former.
As one of a group of worldwide wizards in the 1980s who called themselves “clinical ecologists” (a term now hijacked by non-medically trained interlopers, so we don’t use it any more), I came to see the powerful effects of body overload. In particular, I/we noticed that irregular heartbeats were often caused by food allergies and chemical sensitivities.
So that’s the first part of my answer. If you suffer with palpitations or a-fib, you have unidentified food allergies, till proved otherwise. And it won’t be proven otherwise, because the food reactions are there, for sure.
If you do the program fully, you will identify the foods which trigger or cause an irregular heartbeat. Avoid them.
If you still have trouble after that, you will need to investigate chemical sensitivities. That’s beyond a short paper like this. The point is that many xenobiotic chemicals are highly inflammatory and inflammation is at the bottom of a-fib.
Interestingly, I found a paper from Nov 2013, making this exact point. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, found that microvascular changes—inflammation in the smaller vessels of the eyes or kidneys—appeared to be linked to the presence of atrial fibrillation.
My friend and colleague Dr. William Rea in Dallas has made a lifetime study of the way that chemical sensitivities inflame blood vessels, in particular phlebitis and thrombophlebitis.
The point here is that damage to the vessels in the eyes and kidneys are thought to reflect similar findings in the rest of the body, including the heart. It’s a coherent model and fits everything I learned from clinical experience over the last 3 decades or more.
How to Treat Irregular Heartbeats
The main treatment is identification of triggers and avoiding them, as above.
If you are overweight, shedding pounds is a must. This was made very clear by a study published in JAMA late last year (Nov. 17, 2013, Journal of the American Medical Association). Patients who lost an average of 30 pounds also dropped their a-fib! Extra fat mass is definitely a problem to the little atria.
There are one or two remedies that may help and always come to mind with cardiac arrhythmias. One is Crataegus(Hawthorne, prepared homeopathically) and the other is Aurum met (metallic gold, also prepared homeopathically).
You need to supplement magnesium, which is needed for irregular heart rhythms. Take 500 mg of magnesium citrate or a chelated form of magnesium twice a day (plus an equal dose of calcium, if needed, to offset magnesium’s laxative effect).
You MUST also reduce stress. I find binaural beat technology to be very satisfactory. Tai Chi and meditation are equally recommended, if you have the temperament.
You must get your blood pressure down to a safe level.
Limit caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, all of which can set off abnormal heart rhythms, and avoid any stimulant herbs such as ginseng, guaraná, kola nut, kava and yerba maté.
Avoid the infamous marijauna (your writer is someone who utterly opposes the concept of a “medical” poison).
That’s all for this week!