Heart arrhythmias occur from what are known as ectopic pacemakers. These are heart cells that try to act as nodes that fire off electrical impulses to control heart contractions.
A very basic description of how things normally work is that the sinoatrial (SA) node fires off an electrical charge that leads to contraction of the atria. This is the first sound you hear in the heartbeat. Then the electrical charge travels to the atrioventricular (AV) node causing the ventricles to contract giving the second sound in the heartbeat. Thus we hear a lub, lub…….lub, lub…….. lub, lub in a normal heartbeat.
When there is a decrease of blood flow or oxygen to the heart muscle cardiac irritability develops and individual cells in the heart try acting as nodes themselves. So the SA and AV nodes still fire off, but additional cells trying to act as nodes also fire off throwing the heart rhythm off. So instead of lub, lub…….lub, lub…….. lub, lub you may get something like lub, lub, lub…….lub, lub, lub…….. lub, lub,lub…..
In severe cases there can be multiple cells in a portion of the heart all trying to act as nodes causing spasms of the heart muscle. This condition is referred to as fibrillation.
Decreased blood flow is the most common reason for arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm) such as palpitations or fibrillation. The decrease in blood flow can occur from excessive calcium contracting the blood vessels, arterial plaque, thrombus or embolus, excess epinephrine (adrenaline) release from high emotional stress or allergic reactions, elevated insulin levels in diabetes or severe drops in blood pressure. The decreased blood flow to the heart decreases oxygen levels to the heart leading the heart to work harder to increase blood flow to itself. This can exacerbate the condition though if the body does not find a way to increase blood flow such as through the release of prostaglandins or nitric oxide.
As a side note here it is often recommended people take aspirin to prevent a heart attack and even worse to take an aspirin during a heart attack. Aspirin, or other NSAID therapies can actually contribute to arrhythmias and promote heart attacks:
Damage (scar tissue) in the heart muscle is a less common reason for arrhythmias.
Natural methods of dealing with heart arrhythmias include:
*Magnesium- Magnesium works like a natural calcium channel blocker (CCB). Calcium causes muscles, such as blood vessels, to contract. Contraction of the blood vessels leads to an elevation of blood pressure and decreased blood flow, which dilates blood vessels increasing blood flow to the heart. CCBs are used to lower blood pressure by preventing calcium from entering the muscles of blood vessels causing the blood vessels to relax. Magnesium works because it is a calcium antagonist. Magnesium forces calcium out of the blood vessels causing them to relax.
Magnesium also displaces calcium from calcified arterial plaque making it easier for the body to remove the plaque. This further improves blood flow to the heart over time.
Acidified forms of magnesium are the best absorbed and most effective. These include magnesium malate and magnesium citrate. I also prefer malate or citrate because the acids used to form these salts, malic acid and citric acid, like magnesium raise adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels. ATP is the fuel for cells that not only allows them to function, but to function properly. For example, many people take CoQ10 to promote proper heart function. As with magnesium, malic acid and citric acid, CoQ10 elevates ATP levels to the heart muscle.
Magnesium oxide should be avoided. Magnesium oxide in contact with water forms the caustic magnesium hydroxide. Magnesium hydroxide is poorly absorbed and it neutralizes stomach acid leading to a whole host of problems. The hydroxide though also burns the intestinal wall leading to an influx of water and increased peristalsis. This is why magnesium hydroxide is sold as a laxative under names such as Milk of Magnesia.
*Cactus grandiflorus (night blooming cereus)-Cactus grandiflorus is a very weak cardiac glycoside source. Cardiac glycosides slow the heart rate, increase contractile force and dilate blood vessels. Therefore cardiac glycosides are used to improve heart function, especially in cases of congestive heart failure, and to lower blood pressure.
*Lily of the valley. This is a slightly stronger cardiac glycoside source.
*Coleus forskohlii (aka forskohlii). Coleus forskohlii is also a weak source of cardiac glycosides. Forskohlii also elevates levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), which is an extremely important chemical messenger for the body. Among its many effects, cAMP acts as an antihistamine, which reduces the release of blood vessel constricting epinephrine during exposure to allergens.
Combining nettle leaf with forskohlii will prolong the effects of the forskohlii.