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A Powerful Intervention: Intermittent Fasting – Your Heart and AFib

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What is intermittent fasting (IF)?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that has been practiced for thousands of years. It is a timed approach to eating, also known as “time-restricted eating”.  Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that requires you to cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It can look a little different for everyone, depending on the style of IF that you choose.

Scientific studies are coming out regularly now touting the widespread benefits of fasting for cancer, heart disease, inflammation, diabetes and autoimmune conditions.

Can it be helpful for people with AFib?

Yes, fasting can be very beneficial for AFib and other cardiac arrhythmias, if done correctly.

AFib results from multiple root cause issues, which can be greatly impacted by fasting.

AFib can also put one at risk for a weak heart over time. This is known as cardiomyopathy. The good news is that eating less can strengthen your heart and help with AFib.

How does intermittent fasting help AFIb?

  1. IF lowers inflammation

    Research has established that intermittent fasting can significantly decrease systemic inflammation in the body as shown by suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines and regulating circulating immune cells. 

    This is important as one of the top causes of AFib episodes is inflammation. Inflammation in the body can result from various causes such as high toxin load, leaky gut syndrome, cardiac stress, or micronutrient status. If fasting can help to lower circulating inflammatory molecules in the body and suppress inflammation, then this helps to prevent AFib episodes from occurring by keeping the body in a low-inflammation state.

  2. Fasting is cardioprotective

    A review of the literature showed that fasting is cardioprotective with various cardiac benefits including a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure, decreased carotid intima thickness, and improved survival outcomes in times of myocardial ischemia.

    One of the biggest risks with AFib and other heart arrhythmias is damage done to the heart muscle over time and during times of potential blockages. Fasting is highly cardioprotective, which helps to ensure a stronger and healthier heart in those with cardiac arrhythmias.

  3. IF increases mitochondrial function

    Research has shown that fasting can improve the mitochondrial networks within cells, leading to improved cellular function and slowed aging of cells. All disease begins with dysfunctional cells that are full of debris and no longer able to do their jobs correctly.

    Fasting helps to eliminate damaged cells and begin to fix their cellular functioning. This is key for healing AFib and also prevention of other cardiac issues.

  4. IF improves autonomic function

    Another way that fasting  heals the heart is that it can help to heal the autonomic nervous system. A recent 2016 study showed that 48 hours of fasting resulted in significantly higher parasympathetic activity.  This is one of the ways that fasting can help with AFib. It can help to pull the body out of a high stressed (sympathetic) state, and put it into a parasympathetic state, where it can relax, and rhythm can be restored.

    We know that a dysfunctional autonomic nervous system (where the body is stuck in a sympathetic- fight or flight- state) is a main driver of AFib. Targeting this autonomic dysfunction with fasting is highly therapeutic for AFib.

  5. Fasting reduces insulin resistance

    The best way to heal insulin resistance is by fasting daily. Research has shown that intermittent fasting can improve insulin resistance and glycemic control in patients, leading to better metabolic health overall. Another 2020 study concluded that, “there is a significant association between insulin resistance and development of AFib independent of other risk factors”.

    It is established that insulin resistance and high blood glucose are key drivers in AFib. Insulin has a crucial hormonal effect on heart rhythm. Insulin resistance is linked to increased inflammation, excess body weight, diabetes, depleted nitric oxide levels, and electrical remodeling, all of which are significant contributors to AFib.

  6. Fasting detoxes cells

    Fasting has been shown to have potent detox effects. A study found that fasting could lead to increased upregulation of several key detox enzymes. Furthermore, the study showed that fasting has the ability to alter drug metabolism by increasing all of the phases of liver detoxification leading to a decreased risk of toxic side effects. Depending on your unique toxin level, you can alter your fasting time. Some individuals like intermittent fasting while others require extended water fasts.

    This is why fasting is so beneficial for AFib. If you have a high toxin burden in your heart cells, it drastically increases your risk of rhythm problems and inflammation. The goal must be to detox. This is where fasting comes into play.

Tips for fasting with AFib:

  1. Take Magne 5 daily.
    • We recommend  2-6 caps of Magne 5 depending on your need and depending on your length of fast.
    • Fasting can deplete your electrolytes (minerals) at an increased rate. It is important to understand that and make sure you are getting adequate minerals including magnesium, sodium and potassium.
  2. Stay hydrated
    • We like Pristine Hydro water. This water goes through ten stages of advanced filtration to make it the cleanest and most hydrating water. We also recommend San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water to aid in fasting times, as well.
  3. Use Himalayan salt
    • Put a pinch of salt in your water throughout the day. Himalayan salt is one of the best forms of salt as it also is abundant in other trace minerals to aid in heart health.
  4. Check with your doctor if you are on specific anti-diabetic medications to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) while doing an IF method.
  5. Also, be sure to check with your doctor if you’re on any other medication to verify IF is okay with your plan.
  6. Bonus tip: get your intracellular micronutrient levels checked. If you have AFib and are considering doing extended fasting then it is recommended to know your intracellular levels of nutrients like magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium to not only assist with fasting but to begin to help your AFib. The heart functions electrically with the use of minerals. Minerals in the body’s cells must be balanced for optimal cardiac functioning.

What are the different types of intermittent fasting to practice?

The most common types of IF that are utilized include:

  • 16/8 method

    For most individuals, somewhere between 14-18 hours is the ideal daily fasting window to reap health benefits. This 16/8 method is one of the easiest types to implement. It involves fasting for 16 hours (typically after dinner until lunch the next day) and eating within a constricted 8-hour time window.

  • 5:2 method

    This method involves eating normally for five days of the week and restricting calories to a maximum of 500 calories per day for two days of the week. For example, on your two “fasting” days, you could eat two small meals per day (at 250 calories per meal).

  • Alternative day method

    This type of restricted eating plan focuses on fasting every other day. There are different variations of this with some methods allowing for minimal calorie intake on fasting days (i.e., 500 calories or less) and some calling for a complete avoidance of all calories. Typically, the fast begins after dinner one day and continues until dinner the next day to amount to a 24 hour fast.

  • A weekly full day fast

    The full day fast can be done 1-2 days per week for health purposes. It involves an avoidance of food for 24 hours straight. This method is also called the Eat-Stop-Eat method. It can be difficult for many people, so often it is something to work up to by starting with 14-16 hours of fasting.

Switching up your fasting plan can also be beneficial to your health. 12-16 hours seems to be the minimum amount of time required to achieve a successful and beneficial fast that impacts health in a positive way. 

How can I learn more?

Consider scheduling a free 20-minute coaching consult with one of the Natural Heart Doctor coaches today to discuss fasting for AFib and other ways to optimize your heart health.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of extended fasting for a healthy heart and how to do it with AFib, join our upcoming fasting program!

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