Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, and its incidence continues to increase. It is defined as an unregulated, chaotic and ineffective contraction of the heart's top two chambers known as the atria. As a result of the ineffective contraction of the atria, ventricular (the main pumping chambers of the heart) contraction can also be affected.
In most people, atrial fibrillation is asymptomatic most of the time. Most commonly, the first symptom that will present for most people will be heart palpitations or a general sense of the heart racing. Other signs and symptoms associated with atrial fibrillation can include:
Atrial fibrillation has 2 main patterns of presentation. Persistent atrial fibrillation is where the arrhythmia is continuous, and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, which is intermittent periods of fibrillation that self-correct within a few hours up to a few days.
Whilst all mechanisms for the development of atrial fibrillation are not yet fully understood, structural changes to the connective and muscle tissues layers surrounding the atria and pulmonary veins, have been found to give rise to electrically charged groups of cells known as ectopic foci. When these foci begin to 'fire', they interrupt the normal coordinated contraction of the heart's muscle.
A small number of people who develop atrial fibrillation (15%) will have lone AFib that is a result of a known and identifiable structural or electrophysiological problem with the heart.
However the majority of people who develop atrial fibrillation, the cause is related to hypertension, valve dysfunction, ischaemia heart disease, and other adaptive changes to the heart structure. Some people have a genetic predisposition to developing familial atrial fibrillation.
Whilst atrial fibrillation is not considered a part of cardiometabolic disease, all factors associated with cardiometabolic disease including smoking, hypertension, over consumption of alcohol, sleep disturbances, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, a suboptimal diet, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and ineffective stress management, are all associated with a 3-6 fold increase in the risk for developing atrial fibrillation. As such, addressing the lifestyle, cardiovascular and neuro-endocrine factors that contribute to cardiometabolic disease and atrial fibrillation is an essential component of addressing the root cause.
The main contributing factors to the development of atrial fibrillation include:
It is also important to address all of the underlying factors for the development of cardiometabolic disease.
People diagnosed with atrial fibrillation have a six-fold increased risk of stroke, and a two-fold increase in all-cause mortality due to the impact atrial fibrillation can have on the dynamics of the cardiovascular system.
Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.
These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.
Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected.
The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.
Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).
Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.
Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.
The conventional approach to atrial fibrillation management is to treat it purely as a problem with cardiac electrophysiology. For uncomplicated cases this will usually mean taking daily medication to control the heart rhythm. Such medications may include beta-blockers, calcium channel blocker or specific antiarrhythmics. In most cases a person will also be prescribed an anticoagulant to prevent blood clots forming which can be a serious risk factor for people with atrial fibrillation.
In more serious cases a person may require defibrillation to shock the heart back into sinus rhythm, or radio frequency ablation if an accessory pathway is found to be the cause of the atrial fibrillation.
When these interventions fail to work, an ablation procedure may be repeated, which occurs in 50% of patients. Your doctor might suggest installation of a pacemaker that helps regulate heartbeats if other treatments are not effective.
In our clinic, cardiometabolic practitioner Mark Payne helps patients with atrial fibrillation identify and address the root cause of their condition so they can feel well again. This starts with a comprehensive assessment of a patient's health, including:
Functional testing may be suggested to help identify the factors contributing to atrial fibrillation, and may include:
Then, a personalised atrial fibrillation natural treatment plan will be formulated, and with the support of a health coach - an expert in behaviour change - patients will implement a plan that may include:
Are you ready for a personalised, natural functional medicine treatment? Our unique model of care was designed with you in mind. Find out how below, then book a call today.
For those wanting to get rid of atrial fibrillation naturally, current evidence suggests that atrial fibrillation management and prevention should be firstly addressed through modifiable lifestyle factors. Arrhythmia natural treatment might include:
Most people who develop atrial fibrillation will also have other factors that contribute to the development of cardiovascular and cardiometabolic disease, so it is important that these factors are addressed as part of a comprehensive prevention or management strategy.
Typically atrial fibrillation starts with heart palpitations that feel out of rhythm, fast, and chaotic. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, weakness or fatigue and a reduction in exercise intolerance.
In around 15% of people, atrial fibrillation is caused electrophysiological problem with the heart. The remaining majority of people will have cardiometabolic factors like diabetes, hypertension, insulin resistance, stress, high cholesterol, obesity and inflammation as underlying issues that contribute to the development of atrial fibrillation.
Current evidence is divided on whether caffeine can cause atrial fibrillation, with some research showing that a low or moderate intake of caffeine, from coffee, can have cardio-protective benefits.
It is generally accepted that high intakes of caffeine will increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation especially if the caffeine is consumed in the form of energy drinks.
However, as caffeine is a stimulant, people with atrial fibrillation would be best to avoid caffeine if they are symptomatic.
Stress and anxiety are known triggers for atrial fibrillation. Stress and anxiety initiate an inflammatory reaction in the body, and with the increased levels of inflammatory cytokines affects the atrial myocardium (muscle of the heart) triggering atrial fibrillation.
Additionally stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis stimulating the release of glucocorticoid hormones as part of the stress response, which can sustain the systemic inflammatory response inducing atrial fibrillation.
In a normal functioning heart the top two chambers, the atria, contract to move blood down to the ventricles, then the ventricles contract to eject blood into circulation. This process happens in a coordinated way with each contraction of the atria being followed by a contraction of the ventricles.
In atrial fibrillation the contraction of the atria becomes rapid, erratic and ineffective because the atria are being stimulated by multiple ectopic cells all firing off at the same time leading to loss of coordination in the heart beat.
With atrial flutter the atria are still contracting in a rhythmic fashion, however they are contracting faster than the ventricles resulting in 2 or more atrial contractions to each ventricular contraction.
Blood clots are one of the complications of atrial fibrillation that can lead to stroke.
In atrial fibrillation, the unregulated, chaotic and ineffective contraction of the heart's top two chambers (known as the atria) can cause blood to pool and form clots. There is a risk these clots can travel from the heart to the brain and cause a stroke.
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