7 Foods to Avoid When You Have Atrial Fibrillation

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  • Atrial fibrillation (afib) occurs when the two smaller, upper chambers of the heart beat spasmodically instead of rhythmically. Afib, can allow blood clots to form inside the heart and later travel to the brain and cause a stroke. In addition, afib often causes an unpleasant sensation of the heart racing or pounding. You may take medications to reduce the chance of developing blood clots or to regulate your heartbeat. Your doctor also may prescribe dietary changes. Ask your doctor about these foods to avoid with atrial fibrillation and afib medications.

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    two pints of beer in pub

    Alcohol tops the list of items to avoid on an atrial fibrillation diet. Afib and alcohol don’t mix, since alcohol is a known trigger for atrial fibrillation. Alcoholic beverages—be they beer, wine or spirits—also may interact with medications you take for your afib. Discuss with your doctor whether or not it’s safe for you to consume alcohol, based on the medications you take and your personal lifestyle factors. You may find you can imbibe in moderation, as long as alcohol doesn’t trigger an episode of afib.

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    Hands Holding Tea Cup

    If you’ve been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, you should dial down your caffeine consumption because it may trigger an episode. Cutting out caffeinated coffee is a good first step, but be sure to also read the labels on other beverages. You may find that teas, sodas and even some over-the-counter medications contain hidden amounts of caffeine. Also, keep in mind that herbal supplements and energy drinks might contain guarana—an herb with a high caffeine concentration. Since caffeine and afib don’t always go together well, you should use caution when consuming foods, beverages and supplements that contain caffeine from any source.

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    Certain compounds in grapefruit can cause the concentration of afib medications in your bloodstream to spike. For example, if you take the anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin), eating grapefruit can make your blood thinner than normal and put you at risk for a bleed. If you take medications for arrhythmia, grapefruit can interfere with how they work to regulate your heart rhythm. Ask your doctor if you should avoid grapefruit, based on the specific afib medications you’re taking.

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    Cranberry Juice
    Two glasses of cranberry juice with ice

    You should avoid cranberry juice if you take the anticoagulant warfarin. Like grapefruit, cranberry juice can increase the amount of warfarin circulating in your system and put you at risk for bleeding. People who take other types of anticoagulant medications do not need to restrict their consumption of cranberry juice. But keep in mind any type of fruit juice can raise your blood sugar levels. In general (and especially if you have diabetes along with afib), it’s best to eat whole fruit instead of drinking juice.

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    Asparagus and Leafy Green Vegetables
    Close-up of asparagus bunch

    If you take warfarin, you should avoid eating or drinking foods or beverages that contain high levels of vitamin K, a nutrient that aids in clotting the blood. Common sources of vitamin K in the diet include dark, leafy greens like collards, kale and spinach; certain vegetables, including broccoli, asparagus and Brussels sprouts; and green tea. People taking other anticoagulant medications need not avoid these vegetables. Talk with your doctor to clarify if you should avoid eating produce that contains vitamin K, or if these high-fiber foods make a good choice for your heart health.

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    Processed and Salty Foods
    Salty snacks

    Excessive sodium levels in the body increase blood volume, make it harder for the heart to pump and can trigger afib. To keep your sodium levels normal, avoid eating all types of processed foods, such as fast food, fried foods, lunch meats, salty snack foods—any item that has gone through a significant level of processing. High sodium levels also can deplete potassium, a crucial heart health nutrient. Bananas and afib make a great combination to keep your potassium levels normal, especially if you take a diuretic medication (“water pill”) to manage your blood pressure.

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    In people with a diagnosed gluten insensitivity or allergy, such as celiac disease, consuming gluten may trigger an episode of afib. In this population, gluten can elevate body-wide inflammation levels that ultimately affect how the pacemaker nerves of the heart work. If you consume gluten and believe it triggers your afib, keep a diary of these episodes and discuss them with your doctor. You may need to avoid most gluten to keep your heart beating rhythmically. People who do not have a gluten insensitivity or allergy should be able to consume gluten without concern for triggering their afib.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Sep 19
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  4. Managing Your Atrial Fibrillation: What to Eat (and What to Avoid). Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/managing-your-atrial-fibrillation-what-to-eat-and-avoid/
  5. Warfarin Diet: What Foods Should I Avoid? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thrombophlebitis/expert-answers/warfarin/faq-20058443