A Natural Approach to Atrial Fibrillation
A natural approach to Atrial Fibrillation
What was this?
In early August of 2013, I suddenly woke up around 2 a.m. My heart was racing with what felt like an irregular heartbeat. Why I would be experiencing this? Was it a bad dream, too much caffeine, or too much licorice root, which I keep by the bed for indigestion? I chalked it up to some sort of weird anxiety and fell right back to sleep—only to wake up to the alarm, still experiencing the same racing, irregular heartbeat.
What the bleep was going on? I am the healthiest person I know, except for maybe my husband. I am very strict about what I eat, keep a low body fat, and exercise every day, so what could be the problem?
That morning I was going to a professional tennis tournament with my girlfriend who just happens to be a PA (physicians assistant). When she got in the car, I gave her a rundown of my condition and had already decided my racing heart must be caused by something I had ingested. I almost wished I hadn't said anything because she went down the clinical list of all and everything I could possibly have contracted. The good news is she didn't freak out and make us drive immediately to the emergency room. It was becoming apparent that I was experiencing atrial fibrillation, or AFIB.
Prepare to deal with "Healthcare Protocol."
After a full 24 hours passes, I was still having heart problems, so I called a doctor friend of mine who assured me that I was not going to die and helped me get in right away to see a cardiologist. I called the cardiologist that was a friend of my physician friend—but it was still going to be over 6 weeks until I could be seen. I don't know about you but if your heart was flipping around in chest for two days would that not serve as a reason to be seen as soon as possible? I posed this question to the doctor's nurse and she said, "Well honey if it's really bothering you, you should go to the emergency room". Of course, about now, I could go into a lengthy diatribe about our health care system but, why bother? Everyone I have ever known who had a serious issue (doctors included) will tell you our medical system stinks at diagnosing problems without a massive barrage of tests. The reference to the E.R. made me think about the one time I took my mother to a hospital E.R. for just about the same symptoms. They poked, prodded, gave her multiple tests, and even insisted she stay overnight! After a $30k plus bill for their medical "services", it was simply a miserable experience that led her nowhere. At her discharge, they suggested she visit a cardiologist! You might ask, what took you so long to come to this conclusion? Trust me on this, if you are experiencing heart problems, you are not experiencing a clear head!
I remembered that my mom had complained of a racing heart that would not stop. She thought it was a reaction to a new drug, I thought it was her 50 years of smoking coming back to haunt her. We were both wrong. After 8 hours in the emergency room, a CT scan and an x-ray, we were informed that my mom would stay overnight for observation. Later on they also did a late night MRI of her heart (got to use those machines 24 hours a day since they are expensive and someone needs to pay for them) we were informed that she was experiencing atrial fibrillation. Of course they wanted to administer a bunch more tests and that really freaked out my mom. I told the head cardiologist, who also teaches, that she would do the echocardiogram but the stress test was out of the question. Well after a long lecture on how smart he was (compared to us laymen) and that if we didn't agree to all the testing (hospital "protocol") he then threatened to not sign off on her chart which might mean that Medicare would not pay a dime of her stay. That was a flat out lie. I lost complete trust in the system and we managed to have her discharged before they could inflict more tests upon her. She was prescribed a blood pressure medication (mind you her blood pressure is fine) and Coumadin. She agreed to fill the blood pressure medication but refused in my mom's own words, "to take the rat poison".
It's been 5 years since this event and my mom is still on the blood pressure medication, but has had no further testing. She is still experiencing bouts of irregular heartbeat. There is no medication to stop the episodes. I also found out that my grandfather had the same AFIB issue for decades (he died in his mid 80s) but that's another story.
An Herbal Approach
I needed to try something different—can herbs work for me?
I was a week into my heart flutters, and every day I took both my blood pressure and pulse. Both were very normal. I searched the internet for help but only got fear and misinformation. After a full week of heart flutters I almost threw in the towel and just went to the E.R., but to what end I kept asking myself? I would be subjected to tons of test and medication, just like my mother's incident.
In desperation, I started just reading every single blog I could find about any type of heart issue. I came upon someone who tried magnesium. They didn't specify a type or amount. The next day after spin class (oh yes, I exercised every day all the while having symptoms) I went over to the health food store and bought a bottle of naturally extracted magnesium. I popped 100 milligrams into my mouth and a half an hour later my heart was back into regular rhythm.
I took 200 milligrams of magnesium every day for 3 years. I would experience little flutters that lasted 20 or 30 seconds and just added more magnesium to my diet. This lasted 3 years. You should know that's it's nearly impossible to overdose on magnesium because when you have reached your threshold of absorption, you get diarrhea. That's a sign you probably have taken too much. Excess use may also contribute to nausea, appetite loss, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat. Of the many years I've now used magnesium, I've only encountered a touch of diarrhea on rare occasions.
I think I have this under control!
On the Fourth of July weekend 2016, I went to bed on a Saturday night and my heart went into full atrial fibrillation. I laid in bed most of the night trying to figure out what was going on. A few months previously I had gone hiking in Zion National Park and for some strange reason (not related to AFIB) I got into the habit of taking a little known herb called Scotchbroom. I started taking it a year of two ago because I had read in a British health magazine that is very good for regulating the heart. I again spent another horrible week with non-stop heart flutters. My clear headed thinking was clouded with an episode of bad headaches and heart issues. I again got to the place where I was frustrated with my health issue and went back to the computer. I started going through all the herbs that help the heart and there is was again: Scotchboom. I ran downstairs and took a dropper full and low and behold in less than an hour my heart was right back in rhythm. Now with full clarity back, I realized I was lax about taking the Scotchbroom and the magnesium. Not anymore! I no longer go anywhere without it. Excess use of Scotchbroom can cause nausea and diarrhea, but I have never encountered any issues with my consumption of this herb. I still have occasional heart flutters, but they only last seconds, NOT weeks.
Before you send me a comment on my hubris about not seeking medical care immediately, be aware that my education and training is both allopathic (I worked as a medical technician years ago) and herbal (I have a Bachelor's degree in Natural Health). I am not some half-wit taking my life in my own hands. I was fully aware of all the dangers. I am not writing this to get a lecture. In fact, I have told few people of my issue and many of my own family members are not even aware. I wrote this to empower AFIB sufferers, that there in fact might be another path to health than the one they have been subjected to by their doctor. I spent those hellish weeks telling myself, if I can figure out how to manage my AFIB, I need to share this information.
If you are experiencing AFIB and simply do not like the side effects of the medications prescribed to you by your doctor, give Scotchbroom, magnesium, and maybe even a touch of Hawthorne Berry (I also take this regularly) a try. I've been managing my AFIB this way for quite some time now, with no ill effect. For my AFIB, natural remedies do work!
Do your own research!
If you decide to take your health into your own hands you may want to research each herb. In your research you will find that Hawthorn Berry may cause nausea, stomach upset or a headache. High doses can cause arrhythmia, fatigue, sweating, dizziness, insomnia, agitation, palpitations and nose bleeds. It can also interact with any heart medications, you are already taking. Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding should avoid Hawthorn Berry. My experience has been as long as you follow the instructions on the bottle you will be fine. I have also found that tinctures work better than powders and pills. A good reliable and organic source is www.herb-pharm.com. They are also an excellent source for information. I receive the Scotchbroom tinctures from them. Scotchbroom also should not be used by breastfeeding and pregnant women. It can have some toxicity issues only associated with using too much. Again, follow the instructions on the bottle and use the least amount possible everyday to control symptoms. There is little to worry about with magnesium if you again follow the dosing on the bottle. I have been taken 1,000 mg's a day for over a year. You may need to work up to that amount. You will know when you have taken too much-- it causes diarrhea.
If you are looking for articles on the mechanics of atrial fibrillation, these are great resources: www.medlineplus.gov, www.NIH.gov, U.S. National Library of medicine, and Emedicine.com.
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