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How a Leaky Gut Leads to Atrial Fibrillation

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A digital stomach model hanging above a device in the doctor's hand.

The ancient philosopher Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut,” and modern medicine is increasingly validating this age-old wisdom, especially in the context of atrial fibrillation (AFib). This heart condition is now linked to gut health, particularly ‘leaky gut syndrome.’

Leaky gut syndrome is believed to trigger systemic inflammation – a key player in the onset and progression of AFib. By exploring the gut-heart connection, medical professionals are uncovering new possibilities for preventing and treating AFib, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach to health that starts with the gut.

What Is Leaky Gut? 

Imagine your gut as a careful gatekeeper of your body. It has crucial tasks like breaking down food, taking in nutrients and water, getting rid of waste, and helping your immune system. Normally, this gatekeeper is choosy, allowing only the good stuff and keeping out the bad. But what if the gatekeeper isn’t doing its job correctly and starts letting in things that should be kept out?

This is the essence of a ‘leaky gut,’ formally known as intestinal hyperpermeability. In this condition, the gut’s lining becomes like a colander with overly large holes. Undigested food particles, toxins, and other not-so-welcome guests sneak into the bloodstream through these gaps. Their presence disrupts the body’s harmony, leading to various medical issues.

A striking example of leaky gut’s extreme impact is seen in Celiac disease. This condition is an epitome of gut dysfunction, leading to widespread inflammation. Notably, individuals with Celiac disease have a 34 percent higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation compared to the general population. 

This statistic is more than just a number. It reveals an underlying abnormality in the heart’s electrical functions linked to gut health. It’s a compelling illustration of how a compromised gut can echo its troubles all the way to the heart, disrupting its rhythm and impacting overall well-being.

A 2023 study confirms the connection between leaky gut and AFib. The research reveals that patients with first-diagnosed atrial fibrillation (FDAF) show signs of increased intestinal permeability. 

The research, involving 80 patients with FDAF and 20 control subjects, found higher levels of biomarkers indicating gut inflammation and damage in the FDAF group compared to those with chronic cardiovascular diseases but no AF. 

These findings suggest that gut-derived endotoxemia, a condition where bacterial toxins enter the blood, is present during the early stages of AF and is associated with structural changes in the heart. The study concludes that addressing leaky gut could be a key strategy in treating and possibly preventing the progression of AFib and related heart complications.

What Causes Leaky Gut? 

A poor diet is one of the primary culprits behind the development of leaky gut. Foods high in sugars, unhealthy fats, and processed ingredients can weaken the gut’s defenses. This dietary onslaught is like continuously throwing harsh chemicals at a delicate wall, eventually causing it to crack and weaken. 

In addition, certain food additives that enhance flavor or preserve shelf life can irritate the gut lining. These additives, often found in processed foods, can contribute to the breakdown of the gut barrier over time, allowing unwanted substances to slip through into the bloodstream.

Another significant factor is the exposure to various environmental toxins, including agricultural pesticides. These chemicals often find their way into our food supply and can harm the gut lining. Just as they are designed to ward off pests in crops, these pesticides can be equally aggressive toward the delicate cells in our gut. 

Moreover, the increasing pollution and toxins in our environment, from the air we breathe to the water we drink, further burden our gut health. These external factors collectively create a hostile environment for the gut, compromising its ability to function effectively and maintain its crucial barrier.

How Do I Know If I Have Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut doesn’t always present with symptoms you’d expect, like diarrhea or gas. Its indicators can be quite subtle and easily overlooked. A specialized test called the Wheat Zoomer, developed by Vibrant Wellness, is often used to diagnose this condition accurately. Think of the Wheat Zoomer as a two-in-one test: it checks for leaky gut and measures the immune response to wheat and gluten.

The test assesses leaky gut through various markers, including zonulin, a protein crucial for maintaining a strong intestinal barrier. Usually, zonulin helps keep the tight junctions between gut cells selective, allowing only specific particles through. However, elevated zonulin levels can lead to a compromised barrier, where unwanted substances like food particles and toxins slip through—a process known as paracellular transport.

The Wheat Zoomer also measures antibodies against zonulin, actin, and lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Antibodies are like the body’s sticky notes, marking foreign particles for the immune system to target and remove. High levels of zonulin antibodies suggest a leaky gut. Elevated actin antibodies are particularly interesting, as actin is a muscle protein found in the gut and heart. This raises a question: could atrial fibrillation be triggered by the immune system attacking the heart’s muscles?

Additionally, LPS antibodies indicate the body’s response to bacteria from the gut entering the bloodstream. A high count of these antibodies can signal excessive bacterial entry, pointing towards a leaky gut and the inflammation it brings.

Instead of guessing, the Wheat Zoomer test offers a clear picture of gut health. If a leaky gut is detected, the recommendation is to fix the gut and re-test in three months to monitor improvement.

How Do I Fix A Leaky Gut?

Repairing a leaky gut is a multifaceted process that requires a holistic approach to lifestyle and dietary changes. It’s about nurturing your gut health through mindful choices in what you eat, how you live, and the environment you’re exposed to. Here’s a roadmap to guide you on this journey:

  • Organic Nutrition: Focus on a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods. This includes plenty of fresh vegetables, meat- including organs, seafood, and nuts, preferably organic to minimize exposure to pesticides.
  • Sleep: Align your sleep patterns with the natural light cycle, sleeping sundown to sunrise, ensuring adequate and restorative sleep.
  • Sunshine Exposure: Make sure to get regular sunlight exposure, not just on your face but also on your belly and other body parts, to promote vitamin D synthesis.
  • Chiropractic Adjustments: Regular chiropractic visits can help maintain overall body balance and wellness.
  • Stay Active: Engage in regular physical activity, preferably outside, which is essential for gut health and overall well-being.
  • Stress Reduction: Implement strategies to reduce stress in your life, as stress can directly impact gut health.
  • Alcohol Moderation: Cut out or significantly reduce alcohol consumption, as it can be damaging to the gut lining.
  • Avoid Chemicals and Toxins: Be mindful of reducing exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins in your environment.
  • Limit Pharmaceuticals and OTC Drugs: Overuse of certain medications can harm gut health; use them judiciously and under medical guidance.
  • Evidence-based Supplements: Consider incorporating supplements supported by scientific research to promote gut health. We recommend the following supplements for the Leaky Gut- 3 month protocol:
    • Daily Defense:  Delicious grass-fed whey protein with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to support gut recovery. Mix two scoops into your smoothie, juice, or water daily. 
    • Gut Flora 30 Billion– Probiotic to promote healthy gut flora. Take one capsule daily to improve the microbiome. 
    • Digest Plus – This digestive enzyme helps break down food. Take one capsule with food 2-3 times a day. 
    • Gut Fuel– Short-chain fatty acids to heal the gut. Take 1-2 capsules with each meal. 
    • Gut Repair– Powdered product to quiet the immune system overdrive in the gut. Take one tablespoon mixed in a drink per day. 

Next Steps 

Having a leaky gut is a dangerous thing. Those with leaky guts often have leaky hearts. This condition affects the endothelial lining of blood vessels, potentially leading to the infiltration of harmful substances like lipids into vessel walls, forming plaques, and increasing cardiovascular disease risk. 

Leaky heart syndrome is closely linked with inflammation and oxidative stress, influenced significantly by lifestyle factors such as an unhealthy diet, sedentary habits, chronic stress, and exposure to environmental toxins. It’s not just about the heart itself but about the vascular endothelium, the largest organ in our bodies, and its health.

To explore this topic further and gain deeper insights into the prevention and management of leaky heart syndrome, we invite you to download our free eBook, Leaky Heart Syndrome. This comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable information on what leaky heart is, its impact on your health, its causes, and practical advice on diet and lifestyle practices for maintaining a healthy heart. Additionally, it offers treatment options for those already dealing with leaky heart disease. 

For personalized guidance and to discuss your health concerns, we offer a free 20-minute health discovery call with one of our experienced NHD health coaches. This session can be a starting point in your journey towards your 100 year heart.


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Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

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Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

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As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

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Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

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Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.


Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

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Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

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Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

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We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

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Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.