A New Target for AFib: The Glycocalyx


When it comes to treating AFib naturally, there are many root cause issues to address. One of the most important places to start is with the glycocalyx. The glycocalyx is the technical term for the microscopically thin gel-like lining of your blood vessels.

The glycocalyx is where BOTH cardiovascular health and disease can arise.

This “physiological organ” must be addressed first and foremost when treating AFib.

What is the glycocalyx?

The glycocalyx is the vast protective lining made up of protein and sugars which form a gel that lines the luminal surface of all of our vascular endothelial cells (including the cells that line the capillaries, arteries and veins).

You can think of this lining like the slime on the outside of a fish. You want this glycocalyx lining to be slippery and gel-like to keep things flowing through your blood vessels at the right pace and speed.  The structural integrity of the glycocalyx is imperative as the continuous delivery of nutrients and hormones and the elimination of waste flows through these blood vessel pathways constantly.

The glycocalyx is also there to protect and restore the blood vessels. It regulates so many different pathways and organs within the body. It also functions as a regulatory sieve to choose what gets in and what doesn’t get into arteries.

It is a living tissue lining. In the past, blood vessels were thought to be hollow tubes. This paradigm has changed. With recent, advanced microscopic technology it has been revealed that the entire circulatory system is coated with this gel-like glycocalyx, which serves many important functions among which the most important is protecting the health of the arteries, veins and capillaries.

The glycocalyx is also very fragile and susceptible to destruction. If it gets wiped out, it can regenerate itself within 24 hours but only if it gets the right nutrients it needs to regrow.

What is glycocalyx shedding?

Shedding of the glycocalyx is essentially destruction, degradation and a general breakdown of the lining. It is linked to many disease processes, including AFib. When glycocalyx shedding occurs, the glycocalyx texture is no longer slippery like a fish. It is very sticky.

The endothelial glycocalyx can be damaged due to many conditions. The top causes of glycocalyx shedding include elevated blood sugar, oxidative stress, toxins and inflammation.

Interestingly, these are also the top causes of AFib, as well.

Other disease states linked to excessive glycocalyx destruction include but are not limited to: heart disease, renal diseases, stroke, and trauma. Essentially, due to these conditions and more, the glycocalyx function declines and it can become “leaky”. When this happens, other diseases and conditions can arise. Organs can starve because they no longer get their vital nutrients delivered via healthy capillaries, which further leads to health decline.

In contrast, a healthy endothelium is coated by a “thick”, very slippery endothelial glycocalyx. It is a state in which the blood vessel lining is highly protected and not being damaged by triggers.

The entire circulatory system depends on the health of the glycocalyx.

What cardiovascular functions does the glycocalyx serve?

It is responsible for essentially regulating the entire vasculature. It keeps your vessels healthy and functioning. Once it begins to deteriorate, cardiovascular issues can present.

The glycocalyx is made up of important enzymes and proteins (some of which you may notice) including:

  • endothelial nitric oxide synthase
  • extracellular superoxide dismutase
  • angiotensin converting enzyme
  • antithrombin 3
  • lipoprotein lipase
  • apolipoproteins

All of these molecules work to strengthen the glycocalyx and prevent vascular disease.

The glycocalyx serves many roles including but not limited to:

  • maintaining the balance of the vasculature
  • regulating what gets in and out of vessels (“vascular permeability”)
  • supporting microvascular tone
  • preventing blood clots / stroke
  • controlling and stimulating nitric oxide release
  • regulating leukocyte adhesion

What is the link between glycocalyx shedding and AFib?

A recent 2018 study published in Circulation has linked glycocalyx shedding with increased new onset Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). The study concluded that new onset AFib was associated with increased breakdown of the glycocalyx. The degree of breakdown of this lining was dependent on the inflammatory cascade that takes place (measured by Myeloperoxidase (MPO)) and impairment of nitric oxide. The authors revealed it is a “vicious cycle” whereby with more glycocalyx shedding there is increased MPO release, endothelial destruction and greater stroke risk in AFib patients. This makes sense as other research has shown that in patients with embolic stroke there are significant impairments to the glycocalyx and decreased arterial elasticity. Furthermore, a 2019 study published in Heart and Vessels showed that increased glycocalyx shedding was linked to decreased LVEF (a marker of increasing heart failure).

The heart needs a healthy glycocalyx to function properly. The lining of the vessels needs to be healthy and gel-like to ensure proper release of nitric oxide, reduced inflammation, proper vasorelaxation and normal heart rhythm.

What can you do to heal the glycocalyx?

Arterosil is the product recommended for the glycocalyx. Arterosil includes a specialized sulfated polysaccharide from green seaweed called rhaman sulfate. Rhaman sulfate regenerates the glycocalyx and has also been shown to possess anticoagulant and antithrombotic properties. This compound, rhaman sulfate, has a chemical structure that is similar to heparan sulfate (which is found abundantly in the human endothelial glycocalyx).

Arterosil dosing is 1 cap 2x per day with food.

Anyone with a cardiovascular issue would benefit from this product, especially Atrial Fibrillation patients. There are no known interactions of Arterosil and medications currently.  Arterosil is currently the only product that is able to both protect and restore the endothelial lining, which is why we are using it with all of our patients.

If you are interested in more help for AFib, or have questions about Arterosil, please schedule a free health coaching consultation here.


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