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Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm disturbance which may impact on both quality and quantity of life.
AF can also come and go and when a patient does develop an episode of AF, they can be very symptomatic with palpitations, breathlessness, fatigue and tiredness. We also know that AF begets AF. The more AF, you get the more you will have in the future.
Whilst there are many pharmaceutical agents that may be used to reduce the burden of AF in patients, these are often associated with side-effects and can also be very costly and therefore unsurprisingly, patients would prefer natural alternatives. The problem is that most of modern medical practice is driven by the pharmaceutical industry who would never fund a study large enough to study a natural agent and therefore the common argument against using perhaps a natural supplement would be that there is lack of evidence. Of course, there is a lack of evidence because no-one will do the experiments!
I have become increasingly interested in seeing if there are any small scale studies which show any benefit from natural supplements on AF occurrence and AF recurrence and this is where I chanced on some research on the potential benefits of Vitamin C in AF which I will share with you today.
We know that a process called Oxidative stress (which I don’t fully understand) has been implicated in both the pathogenesis and perpetuation of AF. It therefore would seem reasonable to hypothesise that those agents that may have anti-oxidant properties could perhaps help reduce AF. VItamin C is one such naturally occurring potent, water-soluble anti-oxidant.
In 2001, a group of researchers led by a scientist called Cynthia Carnes became interested in the antioxidant effects of Ascorbate on the atria (the chambers that malfunction in AF). They did an animal based experiment where they took 11 dogs and put a wire in the atria and delivered electrical impulses to the atria at a rate of 400/min and then studied the effects of this on the electrics within the atria . They were particularly interested in something called the atrial effective refractory period (AERP) which is the time when the heart muscle is refractory to any new electrical signal. if the atrial refractory period is shortened then it increases the likelihood of more heart rhythm irritability/AF etc. They found that pacing was associated with both a shortening in the AERP and a fall in ascorbate levels in the tissue and if you supplemented the dogs with extra ascorbate before-hand then you did not see this shortening in the AERP suggesting that in someway supplementation with ascorbate protected against more atrial electrical irritability.
These authors became interested in these findings and decided to do a study on patients and they took 50 patients who had been planned for a heart bypass operation and gave them 2g of extended release ascorbic acid the night before surgery followed by 500mg bd for 5 days after surgery and compared them to age matched controls and found that the group of patients who were given Vitamin C had significantly less AF in the post-operative period (16.3% vs 34.9%. Whilst there were some flaws in this very small study, it clearly was interesting that this natural medication which is well tolerated and without much in the way of side effects may be associated with less AF.
There was another interesting study in 2007 by a scientist called Eslami who wanted to study the effects of Ascorbic acid in combination with beta blockers compared to beta blockers alone in patients undergoing surgery in 100 patients and found that the incidence of AF in the Via C group was 4% and in the control group was 26%
In 2010 Papoulidis published a paper showing that after bypass, the incidence of AF, hospitalisation time, ICU time and time interval for conversion back to a normal heart rhythm was significantly lower in the Vitamin C supplemented patients.
In 2011, a scientist called Harling looked at all the data pertaining to Vitamin C and concluded that when you put everything together, the data indicate that Vitamin C supplementation does significantly reduce the amount of postoperative AF although the quality of the studies so far has been poor and therefore a bigger better designed study is warranted before incorporating Vitamin C in routine practice.
What about AF in the non-cardiac surgery setting? There are very few data. In 2005, Kornatzapoulos published a study looking at the effects of vitamin C supplementation to see if it reduces recurrence of AF in patients who underwent electrical shock treatment or cardioversion and found that within 1 week AF recurred in 36.3% of patients in the control group and only 4.5% of patients in the Vet C group. In addition they found that inflammatory markers decreased in patients who underwent cardioversion whilst taking vitamin C.
So clearly very interesting data which makes a compelling case for studying this naturally occurring cheap and generally very safe supplement. The only problem is who is going to do this study? And in the absence of a big study, patients may continue to be deprived of an agent which potentially makes a significant difference to AF patients because most doctors these days are protocol driven rather than being patient-driven. This is where patient empowerment comes in. This is where patients can come together and say ‘look i understand that there are gaps in the evidence base but this is generally a safe product and therefore may be i am willing to try it and see how it goes’.
I hope you found this video useful. If you have had positive experiences with Vit C or negative experiences then this would be a great place to share your experiences and this way, patients benefit from each other rather than being at the mercy of pharmaceutical companies, economists and protocol-bound medics.
This post is also available in: हिन्दी (Hindi)
Hi If you are interested in Vit C for the heart, then Linus Pauling did extensive studies
Ray Ellis in the States, founder of Save Your Hart, knows more about him than anybody I know . I think Ray has retired now but he is still mentioned on the web site
I did take their supplement until it got too difficult to bring it to the UK
Regards Doreen Noon
Thank you for the information ..and I found this little bit as well.
What kind of vitamin C? How many milligrams?
A heart surgeon in Canada had a heart attack in his 80’s when he was still working. I attended a speech he did when he was 93. He said the recommended heart medication would kill you and that you should take at least 6 grams of vitamin C each day for the heart. He is still alive at age 96. I have been taking large doses of vitamin C for years. I have AF and don’t take any medication. I don’t know if vitamin C helps with AF.
For years, the heart doctor I mentioned above has been writing, outside the box, articles on health. Search for. W. Gifford-Jones, MD – Medical Tips
For years the heart doctor that I mentioned above has been writing, outside the box, articles on health.
Search for: W. Gifford-Jones, MD – Medical Tips
Search docgiff for the doctor who I mentioned above.
Very interesting article and video so I’m off to try it. Many thanks
I am 63, female. I first experienced heart arrythmia when I was 26 and backpacking in Baja California’s Sierra San Pedro Martir for a geology class. Middle of nowhere. Lots of sun, lots of pollen, lots of exertion, pushing through high thorny brush. Arrythmia has come and gone over the years, especially present when mentally stressed. Two years ago it would not go away. I drank a soda and thought I was going to pass out. I finally began reading ALOT on webmd and healthline. I knew that the last two times I had my blood tested over the years, my K was at the low limit so I began there. Dropped caffiene. I split my salt in thirds with iodized, non-iodized and salt substitute. That helped a lot, albeit not completely. Then I looked at iron and began taking a supplement, read that taking it with orange juice (not calcium foods) is best, so started that and now drink 12 oz of orange juice every day with my supplements, which now include a multi-vitamin, glucosamine chondroitin, fish oil and very recently CoQ10. At the same time I also changed up my diet ALOT and got the sugar consumption way down!! I used to think a lot of starchy foods were empty calories and looked only at calorie to fat to protien ratios. I added organic potatoes so I can eat the skin, bananas, red bell peppers, variety of nuts, variety of canned beans, red lettuce, dried fruits, fresh fruits and vegetables, steamed vegetables, I have color in my face now. And I like the A/C at 68 instead of 63 this summer. Started this at 235 lbs, now at 220 (sadly) but the arrythmia is all but disappeared (the strong black tea habit is hard to break). And yes, I do think orange juice was helpful.
PS. Beginning five years ago I started getting rid of sources of mental stress ASAP. That included a very good friend several years ago who hyped me about everything I said and did and couldn’t/wouldn’t stop it.
So interesting and I do supplement with vitamin C somewhat erraticly but will take it regularly now. I also have whole food vitamin c. I’ve heard the essential oil ylang ylang regulates heartbeat too. Great to use natural remedies.
So this may be why my sodium ascorbate seems to reduce frequency of my tachycardia episodes. THANK YOU for this article. To be clear, I have hyperadrenergic POTS (type of dysautonomia) diagnosed by three md’s: electrophysiologist (cardiology specialty), a neurologist specialist to dysautonomia, and my GP. I also have mast cell activation syndrome, low blood volume, and celiac disease + other. The tachycardias I would experience were not adequately explained by any of my tests – nor did any treatments offered help it. It would most often take off as waking up in the morning, but other times too. As I learned what to eat and live like to control all the other symptoms, the tachys also came under acceptable control. However, when I experienced another unexpected waking tachy episode, I realized I had NOT taken my usual Vit C (sodium ascorbate only – I can’t tolerate acidity in normal ascorbic acid or other acids at all – acids caught digestive symptoms from throat downward to feel I’m being chewed up.) I have found that making sure I take about 6 oz of water with 1/4 tsp of sodium ascorbate powder (roughly 800 mg) as I’m getting into bed keeps the tachy from happening overnight / waking. (But I also have to be good about all my other food and lifestyle choices.) If I skip the water & C (even if I’m otherwise good), I will likely have at least a mild tachy or weird flutter sensation. Hope this helps someone else. (I use the NOW brand sodium ascorbate powder. My total daily dose is about 5 grams – spread through the whole day in water. C acts as a mild mast cell stabilizer and helps quercetin function also as a mast cell stabilizer.)
Can you take Ester C ? That’s what I take supposed to be less acidic and easy digestible.
Can you take Ester C ? It’s supposed to be less acidic. It’s what I take.
Thank you Dr Sanjay Gupta and also to all of you for your comments and suggestions. Really helpful stuff! XX
My AF seems to be linked to pinched nerve in my neck/upper back. I have to be careful not to overdo!
Also linked to upper digestion/gas pressure. When AF occurs, if I change positions, get my neck to “pop” and drink a bold ginger ale………..I go back into normal rythm. Everyone is different, this is just my personal experience. I do take 500mg of vitamin C everyday. Thinking of increasing that to 1000mg. I also take a multi vitamin, extra vitamin D3, calcium, 100mg magnesium and a fish oil supplement. No pharma medications.
It helps to hear other people’s experiences with AF.
We are definitely not alone!
ps. I also had an AF attack when I took imodium a/d which was recommended by my doc. ; (
I have read recently that fish oil supplements have been linked to AF. I researched it further and there are a number of articles indicating this.
Thank you for sharing. I believe this has happened to me.
Hi Sanjay, I am an 85 year old woman with a leaky aortic valve, and a bit of mitral regurgitation. I am a believer in large amounts of vitamin c. In the past I have suffered from ectopic beats several times a minute. I started taking 1 mg of vitamin c 6 times a day. The ectopic beats went but I developed small stones blocking my salivary glands. I believed it was the chalky substance the vit c tablets were made of to be the cause and stopped. I started then, to take magnesium at night, 400 mg, and that worked as well. I believe that both would help a fib as ectopic beats seem to be the precurser of afib. If someone is to take large doses of vit c probably liposomal vit c would be best way. I find liposomal to be too expensive, so haven’t as yet. Thankyou for your excellent educational and friendly videos, and your open mind.
I hope your Dad is better soon. I am sure your being there is the best medicine. I would love to hear your take on gut flora and a-fib: “Disordered gut microbiota and alterations in metabolic patterns are associated with atrial fibrillation” published in GigaScience, Volume 8, Issue 6, June 2019, giz058 by Kun Zuo et al. (https://academic.oup.com/gigascience/article/8/6/giz058/5506812.) I suspect different results would be found if the study were done in the West— different diets and far more pharmaceutical intervention than in the Chinese participants in the study. But the vitamin C studies you discussed made me wonder if the real force in operation is the gut flora. One meta analysis found no effect of vitamin C on post operative AF in the United States, but significant benefits in studies done elsewhere… that says gut microflora differences to me. Cheers and thanks!
I have linked my episodes to sulfites and to some herbs, especially oregano, savoury and sage. Molybdenum has helped a lot.
Hi Dr. Gupta, just came across you in Youtube and followed you here.
Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to explain in such detail. God bless you for your goodness.
I am so sorry about you father and his ill health. You and your family will be in my prayers. I live in Hamburg in Germany and would like to schedule a consultation with you when you’re available.
Hi Dr. Gupta, thank you for such great information. I wonder if a diet high in vitamin C rich foods would be better than taking a supplement for AF control. Since the body can only absorb 500mg or so of Vitamin C at once, does taking high dose supplements target AF more intensely or only at the rate at which it is actually absorbed?
Hi Dr. Gupta,
Thanks for what you do for us. I have afib attacks since my 16th. I’m 50 now and taking health more seriously. I feel good! No alcohol, never, and enough sleep (try minimum 7,5 hrs.). Just saw your video and will order vitamin c right now!
Suggested dose of vit c please?
Thank you Dr Gupta for the information on vitamin c as I have just stared taking it as I AF along with other cardiac conditions
I will update you in the future as to how it may help
Thanh you again