Atrial Fibrillation Causes | A Functional Medicine Approach

by Dr. Kilcup | Jun 15, 2018 | Articles, Cardiovascular Health | 3 comments

Atrial Fibrillation Causes

atrial fibrillation causes

If you’re looking for possible causes of atrial fibrillation (AF) you’re a functional medicine type of person! In functional medicine we look for the root of the problem. I think you will be surprised at what has been found to cause atrial fibrillation.

Atrial Fibrillation Causes | Problem Defined

Atrial fibrillation is when the heart starts beating to its own tune and ignores what the brain is telling it. The result of this can be serious. Blood can pool and clot as a result of the heart not pumping correctly, and 15% of time this results in stroke. Symptoms of atrial fibrillation are:

  • Rapid, racing, pounding or fluttering pulse, or it can feel too slow
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Tightness in the chest

Atrial Fibrillation Causes | Inflammation

There is a link between AF and inflammation1. Blood tests, like C-reactive protein that measure inflammation in the circulatory system, are often elevated in patients with AF. Inflammation in the body is always caused by something. It doesn’t just magically appear for no reason. I will go over the common causes of this kind of inflammation in a second. The point I want to make now is that this inflammation causes changes in the atria of the heart and contributes to the AF.2,3

I screen every patient for signs of inflammation. Inflammation is never good. It contributes to every health problem I can think of. So when I have a patient that tests positive for inflammation, I want to find and fix the source of the inflammation.

Atrial Fibrillation Causes | Infections

When there is an infection in the body one of the results is inflammation. It doesn’t matter whether the infection is from a virus, bacteria, parasite, fungus, etc., there will always be inflammation. However, two pathogens have been found to be specifically connected to AF.

Helicobacter pylori (H-Pylori) is a bacterial pathogen that can take up residence in the upper GI tract and cause ulcers. If that weren’t enough, researchers have found a strong link between AF and H-Pylori.4 I screen every patient with AF for H-Pylori. The best test is a stool analysis which looks for the DNA of H-Pylori. This is very sensitive and specific. In fact this test is able to identify certain strains of H-Pylori that are more resistant to certain treatments so that we can use the correct treatment protocol.

Chlamydia pneumoniae is another bacteria that is suspected as a risk factor in developing AF. 5 The connection is the same. C. pneumoniae infection causes inflammation and that gradually damages the atria of the heart causing AF. I can test for and treat C. pneumoniae which is different than acute pneumoniae.

Atrial Fibrillation Causes | Intestinal Health

The GI tract is constantly exposed to a whole host of pathogens that come in the food and fluids we eat and drink. Because it is not uncommon for the gut to be vulnerable to infection, these pathogens can cause intestinal infections. Common things that I see responsible for making the GI tract vulnerable to infection are antibiotics, diet, stress, and hypochloridia.  Hypochloridia is a condition where the stomach doesn’t make enough acid or a result of acid-blocking medications. When the digestion in the stomach is weak, pathogens that should be destroyed in the naturally occurring stomach acids survive and infect the intestinal tract.

These pathogens damage the lining of the GI tract and can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome. This results in toxins circulating in the blood from the gut, and that triggers the immune system, which in turn causes inflammation.

The intestinal tract is BIG and when it’s inflamed the body becomes inflamed. This inflammation is obviously not only bad for the gut but also everywhere else in the body including the heart and circulatory system.

Atrial Fibrillation Causes | Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are a result of the immune system deciding that it doesn’t like a certain food and treating that food like its a pathogen. This results in….you guessed it–INFLAMMATION! Testing is key here. Because of the possible number of sensitivities and the differing severity of each sensitivity, experimenting with eliminating foods on your own can drive you crazy. A food sensitivity test will show what foods are safe for you, and which ones you are mildly, moderately or severely sensitive to.

Atrial Fibrillation Causes | Nutrient Deficiencies

One of the tests I run on every single patient is vitamin D. To my continued amazement most people test very low. Insufficient vitamin D is a huge problem for the body, hurting the immune system, hormone balance, neurotransmitter balance and poor inflammation control. Truth is, if you are low in vitamin D, your health will suffer–it’s just a matter of time.

Insufficient or unbalanced fatty acids will cause inflammation.  If a person is eating foods high in pro-inflammatory fatty acids (soy, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, safflower, and mixed vegetable oils, fatty meats like burgers, hot dogs, bacon, bologna, ribs, etc) or not eating enough foods high in anti-inflammatory fats (olive oil, nuts like almonds and walnuts, fatty fish like salmon) their biochemistry will become pro-inflammation.

Atrial Fibrillation Causes | A Functional Medicine Approach

The key to helping AF from a functional medicine approach is finding the source of the inflammation in the body and fixing it. I hope that one of the takeaways you got from this article is how one thing like inflammation can be caused by many different things. Furthermore, one thing like inflammation can cause many different things like AF, brain fog, eczema, leaky gut syndrome and hormone imbalances.

For our bodies to work well they need all the parts to be healthy. A problem in one area will affect the rest. If you or a loved one is suffering from AF and would like to get to the root of the problem I’d love to help. I work with patients all over the US.

I welcome your questions and comments.

Show 5 Footnotes


Darrell Kilcup, DC, CFMP

Hi there! I’m Dr. Kilcup. You know that health problem you’ve been dealing with – the one that doctors can’t seem to solve, that’s stealing way too much of your time, energy and joy? I can help you get to the bottom that. I am passionate about using the best of science and nutrition to find and fix root causes of health issues. Start your journey towards healing and relief today.

Ways We Can Work Together





All Reviews 5.0google logoGoogle 5.0
Overall Rating
5.0 4 reviews
I have been using the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for the last few weeks and It has helped me so much. I struggle quite a bit with work related stress. When I'm in the chamber I feel completely relaxed, so much so that I can bring my laptop inside and work without stressing. The calmness I feel in the chamber lasts for the remainder of the day as well. I have found too, the more consistent I am with sessions throughout the week the better I feel. The office staff seems well trained in running the tanks too, so I feel safe. I see Dr. Kilcup as well for my brain and gut health. Until now, I don't think I've ever known what "normal" or "healthy" feels like. Thank you all, sincerely!
read more
Mike Kutz Avatar
Mike Kutz
4 months ago
Dr. Kilcup is a pleasure to work with. His office is beautiful! I can’t wait to try his hyperbaric chambers!
read more
Sarina Gomez Avatar
Sarina Gomez
8 months ago
Darrell is highly knowledgeable and really gets to the root of the problem. Unlike a lot of doctors, Darrell doesn't just throw prescriptions at issues. He will test and test - digging for the cause and then working on fixing the issue. He and his staff are professional, courteous, and a joy to be around.
read more
Kevin Miller Avatar
Kevin Miller
11 months ago
I am very grateful to have found Dr. Kilcup and be his patient for the last couple of years. He has helped me restore my health back after being exposed to toxic mold for years. He helped identify and treat all of my symptoms I was experiencing and address the root problem. I was looking for the right person who could help me heal with natural therapies and supplements and Dr. Kilcup was the perfect fit. Every appointment and session was necessary and one step towards all the progress I made. Dr. Kilcup is a great functional medicine doctor who was also an advocate for my own health and well-being. I never received any care or attention to detail from other Doctors in past experiences except with Dr. Kilcup. Anyone who is seeking a holistic path towards healing or improving their own health should see him.
read more
Ciara Wakley Avatar
Ciara Wakley
1 year ago