Ever since my heart surgery in 2003 to replace a congenitally defective aortic valve (you can read about this in the newsletter of April, 2003), I have had rare episodes of atrial fibrillation lasting for a few hours, perhaps once a year, but this unusually cool winter altered my exercise schedule and immune function, and the arrhythmia recurred several times a week for about two months (and occasionally several times a day), and was causing fatigue and general discomfort.
I have known about the value of the amino acid L-taurine in treating arrhythmias for some time, and often take it as a supplement. With some further research, I came across an article suggesting much higher doses of taurine for managing atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias, and I decided to try this treatment along with other supplements.
The atrium (specifically, the sinus node) is where the regular heartbeat is initiated, and if the atrium is not beating normally, as in fibrillation, the ventricular rhythm is thrown off. In many cases (as in mine) there are periods of rapid heart rate and palpitations. If the atrium does not beat, about 30 percent less blood gets into the ventricle for pumping to the muscles, impairing exercise capacity and causing shortness of breath.
I have treated a number of patients with atrial fibrillation with taurine and magnesium, including intravenous doses. After reading this new report on taurine, I increased my oral dose to 9 to 15 grams per day, and treated myself with intravenous taurine and magnesium (along with vitamin C and B complex vitamins) and several EDTA chelation solutions. In addition, I took high doses of magnesium orally, and now my heart rhythm is back to normal. After this, I went back and reviewed several articles on taurine.
In 1987, researchers reported on a study of 19 young patients with borderline hypertension. They administered 6000 mg of taurine orally daily for 7 days in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The taurine-treated group had an average drop in systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) of 9 points. Their diastolic pressure (the lower number) dropped by 4 points. The placebo group had just a 2.7 drop in systolic pressure (the power of placebo) and a 1.2 point drop in diastolic pressure. (Fujita, T., et al. Effects of increased adrenomedullary activity and taurine in young patients with borderline hypertension. Circulation. 75(3):525-532, 1987.)
This research confirmed what had been noted in previous studies in rats. The researchers also noted that stress hormones were reduced by taurine treatment in humans, just as they were in rats. The baseline plasma epinephrine level (Adrenalin) was higher in the hypertensive patients than in normals, and it dropped significantly with the active treatment.
Young patients are often treated with medication for hypertension, and they are told they need to be on the drugs for the rest of their lives, but lifestyle changes and supplements can almost always totally eliminate the need for these treatments. (Many of the patients do not take their medications because of side effects, but they are not taught the proper diet, exercise, and supplement programs that might help (coenzyme Q10, magnesium, omega-3 oils, hawthorn), and they often do not tell their doctors that they are not taking the drugs.)
Taurine is also beneficial in the management of congestive heart failure (CHF). In CHF, the heart muscle is too weak to pump out as much blood as it needs to, resulting in fluid congestion in the tissues. CHF has a variety of causes. In a double-blind study of 14 patients published in 1985, half were treated with taurine along with conventional treatment, and half were given placebo. (Azuma, J, Therapeutic effect of taurine in congestive heart failure: A double-blind crossover trial. Clinical Cardiology. 8(5):276-82, 1985.)
Those subjects on the taurine were clinically improved and ventricular function was enhanced. None of the patients on the active treatment worsened during the treatment, but four of those on placebo deteriorated. During taurine administration, no side effects were noted.
In 1983, researchers studied 24 patients with CHF in another double-blind trial using 4000 mg of taurine per day. They were evaluated by clinical signs and symptoms as well as the New York Heart Association functional classification, a common standard for monitoring CHF. (Azuma, J., et al. Therapy of congestive heart failure with orally administered taurine. Clin Ther 5(4):398-408, 1983.)
After eight weeks, 19 of the 24 patients on taurine were improved. Of the 15 patients on taurine who were classified as NYHA class III or IV at the start of the study, 13 were designated as class II at the end of the 8 weeks. This was a highly significant improvement from relatively serious CHF to only mild impairment, and very unusual with single nutrient treatment, although coenzyme Q10 offers similar benefits.
In a study of rat hearts, researchers compared treatment with taurine to hearts that were subjected to the same low-oxygen stresses but not treated. Taurine protected the tissue from ventricular fibrillation (much more serious than atrial fibrillation). The incidence of ventricular fibrillation was reduced from 86 percent in the control hearts to just 16 percent in the hearts that were treated with taurine throughout the stress period. (Chahine R, Feng J, Protective effects of taurine against reperfusion-induced arrhythmias in isolated ischemic rat heart. Arzneimittelforschung 1998 Apr;48(4):360-4).
The researchers also evaluated the effect of taurine on indicators of lipid peroxidation, which corresponded to heart muscle damage. The indicator molecule, malondialdehyde, was significantly reduced with the taurine treatment. In addition, taurine decreased the frequency of ventricular premature beats and rapid heart rates, acting both as a free radical scavenger and a membrane stabilizer. Both of these effects strongly suggest its value in treatment of arrhythmias.
In a report of case studies, researchers presented a hypothesis for how taurine might work for elimination of cardiac arrhythmias. They included in their subjects those with a variety of arrhythmias, including premature beats, atrial fibrillation, and pauses. They treated with either taurine, or a combination of taurine with another amino acid, L-arginine. (Eby G, Halcomb WW, Elimination of cardiac arrhythmias using oral taurine with l-arginine with case histories: Hypothesis for nitric oxide stabilization of the sinus node. Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(5):1200-4.)
This report is on only three subjects (with premature atrial contractions (PACs), premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), atrial fibrillation (AF), and tachycardia (rapid heart rate), and palpitations), but the results were striking and in accord with the theoretical information already available in laboratory, animal, and some human studies. They treated the patients with 10 to 20 grams of taurine per day and found a 50 percent reduction in PACs and elimination of PVCs, but not pauses.
When they added 4 to 6 grams of arginine per day, the PACs were eliminated as well as all pauses. In the patient with heavy palpitations and AF, 95 percent of symptoms were eliminated by taking 4 grams of taurine three times per day, and the remaining symptoms disappeared with the addition of one gram of arginine with each dose. They noted that fish oils can provide similar benefits.
Tachycardia and palpitations can be exhausting and uncomfortable, and can disrupt sleep. As a result of these reports, I started taking 3-4 grams of taurine three to four times a day. I also gave myself 100 mg of taurine with magnesium intravenously several times a week. This all occurred over a 10 week period, and I was able to eliminate all of my arrhythmias. I am now down to a maintenance dose of six grams of taurine orally per day. I never needed to add the arginine, but as a precursor of nitric oxide it is a valuable treatment in itself.
One case such as my own does not constitute research, but my experience is worth noting, as taurine is a safe nutrient produced in the body, with no reports of toxicity. It is possible that my symptoms simply disappeared with improvement in the weather, or the elimination of a virus (a relatively mild attack of herpes zoster that seemed to coincide with the onset of the AF, and for which I added much higher doses of vitamin C to my IV treatments).
The physicians that I saw did not suggest any relationship with stress (cold weather) or the virus, and all of the tests and monitors offered no solutions. I was told only that the abnormal sinus function would get worse over time, and they wanted to treat me with a drug but could not because they either lower blood pressure (mine is already very low) or heart rate (mine is already at 44 beats per minute). Fortunately, I have found a solution that might help other patients also.
Doughnut makers force political firing
The New York Times relayed an Associated Press report of a doctor who was head of the Panama City Health Department forced out of his job for posting signs critical of junk food and doughnuts (NYT, August 17, 2009). The signs said: Sweet Tea=Liquid Sugar; Hamburger= Spare Tire; French Fries=Thunder Thighs; and Doughnuts=Diabetes.
Dr. Jason Newsom also made a direct attack, “America Dies on Dunkin’.” A county commissioner who owns a Dunkin’ Doughnuts, and two lawyers who own franchises threatened to sue. His bosses made him remove the anti-fried dough rants and forced him to resign, even though everything he said was true! He has reapplied for his job.
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