Myocarditis: 12 Foods, Herbs, Strategies for Natural Prevention and Treatment

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“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin

Once thought to be a rather rare occurrence, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) incidence in men under 30 has been on the rise. This increased incidence, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is thought to be related to both the Covid-19 pandemic as well as to the mRNA vaccines that are now at the booster shot stage. Myocarditis is said to be a rare side effect of this vaccine.

People who develop myocarditis can have no symptoms but, in some cases, the condition can be life threatening. Somewhere between five to 20% of the cases result in sudden death. In some cases it can lead to a heart attack which can cause severe chest pain and shortness of breath. At least 45% of heart transplants in the U.S. and possibly Canada are thought to be due to the complications of myocarditis.

Causes and Symptoms of Myocarditis

The most common causes of myocarditis are infections (viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi) and autoimmune diseases (e.g. polymyositis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis). Viruses can include those seen with the common cold, as well as hepatitis B and C, parvovirus, rubella, Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis, measles, mumps, fifth disease, HIV, herpes simplex and echoviruses. Myocarditis typically can develop about a week or two after a viral infection or some autoimmune conditions.

Bacterial infections could also lead to myocarditis. Staphylococcus, streptococcus, or the tick-born bacteria that causes Lyme disease could have myocarditis as one of its complications.

Parasites such as those seen with Chagas disease and toxoplasmosis can also lead to myocarditis as can fungal infections (candidiasis, histoplasmosis) in immunocompromised individuals. Environmental toxins, prescription medication reactions or recreational drug use (e.g. cocaine) and toxic heavy metal excesses are yet other possible causes of myocarditis. Rare causes include certain cancers and certain snake and spider bites.

The inflammation in the heart muscle that occurs with myocarditis can cause muscle damage even in children and those with no history of heart disease. Myocarditis can affect the electrical system of the heart leading to abnormal heart rhythms and heartbeat irregularities. Blood flow to certain parts of the body could be reduced and this may lead to abnormal blood clotting that leads to heart attacks and strokes. Scar tissue (fibrosis) can develop in the myocardium and this can then lead to long term complications.

Diagnosis is most often made by blood tests (troponin levels) and an electrocardiogram (ECG) that show evidence of heart injury or inflammation. While most myocarditis victims show no symptoms, those that do can complain of shortness of breath on exertion, fatigue, weakness, heart palpitations, chest pains or pressure and swelling (edema) due to fluid retention in the arms or legs which could be signs of heart failure. Any of these symptoms could be accompanied by typical flu complaints of fever, body aches, joint pain, a sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Conventional treatment is with anti-inflammatory medications (colchicine, corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), heart medications). Recovery may take weeks to months for a complete recovery depending on the severity of the condition as well as the general health of the individual.

Prevention can only be accomplished by practising good hygiene, managing stress, strengthening the immune system, following an anti-inflammatory diet, and ensuring that one is adequately nourished with micronutrients.

Preventing and Healing Myocarditis

“Beware what you set your heart upon. For it surely shall be yours. ” Ralph Waldo Emerson

1) Follow an anti-inflammatory diet: Eat mostly organic fruits and vegetables especially greens, berries, carrots cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, avocado, berries and mushrooms. Include flax and chia seeds, almonds, other nuts, olive oil, beans, legumes and some fatty fish (salmon, cod, halibut) – but only use fish and seafood no more than 4 times a month due to their high mercury content. Avoid gluten, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. If sensitive to the nightshades, avoid tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. Recent studies show that no amount of alcohol is good for the heart. Most obviously, avoid smoking. For more detail on the anti-inflammatory diet see Julie Daniluk’s book, Meals That Heal Inflammation.

2) Avoid salt: Avoid eating processed foods or adding salt to your foods because this forces the heart to pump stronger due to the increased fluid retention caused by excess sodium. Depending on medications you are using you might need to get more or less potassium from your diet. Check with your doctor about that.

3) Practice proper hygiene: Frequent handwashing, especially after exposure to other people, gyms, offices, stores, daycare centres, etc. reduces the chances of getting infected with viruses and bacteria.

4) Use stress-relieving techniques: The EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is just one of many techniques you can use to reduce the impact of stress in your life. The EFT manual can be downloaded free from several web sites and can be easily learned by anyone.

5) Prevent inflammation with supplements: These include antioxidants like vitamin D, C, E and K, omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10, enzymes like nattokinase and serrapeptase, and herbal remedies like garlic, gingko, ginger, curcumin and turmeric, ginseng and hawthorn.

6) Cautious Exercise: Get medical advice on this one because you don’t want to stress the heart during the healing process. Light walks and some stretching may be all that’s really required here.

Other Heart Strengthening Remedies

ASTRAGALUS: This herb is known in Traditional Chinese Medicine circles for its immune system boosting properties. It can help fight viral and bacterial infections that are related to myocarditis.

GREEN TEA: This popular Asian beverage has many positive benefits for heart health. Its content of the amino acid L-theanine helps calm nerves and reduce the adverse effects of stress on the heart. Green tea is also a good source of catechins, bioflavonoids that prevent excessive blood clotting that could lead to heart problems. The catechins in green tea promote elasticity in arteries and that promotes heart health. Drink at least 3 cups of organic green tea daily(these are free of pesticides usually seen with the non-organic type). The small amount of caffeine in green tea is offset by the L-theanine content which makes green tea more relaxing as opposed to stimulating.

LILY OF THE VALLEY: This is a powerful herbal remedy for heart inflammation and chest pain. It also has a good impact on high blood pressure caused by inflammation, and it enhances circulation. It also has calming properties which could be helpful with the anxiety associated with cardiac illness.

MOTHERWORT: is another herbal remedy used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and found useful in treating viral myocarditis as well as to repair damaged arterial pathways. It too helps relieve the anxiety associated with myocarditis.

NEEM LEAF: This natural remedy originates from the Neem tree in India and has been used both orally and topically for centuries for its antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. It is said to revitalize the heart and protect it from disease.

REISHI MUSHROOMS: These are very well known for their immune boosting properties but they also have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal effects. They are high in anti-inflammatory compounds and can be useful in any case of myocarditis.

Astragalus, green tea, and reishi mushrooms are three herbal medicines from Asia that have heart tonic and antiviral effects.

REFERENCES

Dr. Zoltan P. Rona is a graduate of McGill University Medical School (1977) and has a Masters Degree in Biochemistry and Clinical Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut (1984). He is the author of 11 books on natural medicine – three of which are Canadian bestsellers, The Joy of Health (1991), Return to the Joy of Health (1995), and Childhood Illness and The Allergy Connection (1997). He is co-author with Jeanne Marie Martin of The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook (1996) and is medical editor of the Benjamin Franklin Award-winning Encyclopedia of Natural Healing (1998). He has had a private medical practice in Toronto for the past 42 years, has appeared on radio and TV as well as lectured extensively in Canada and the U.S. Visit his website for appointments, call (905) 764-8700; Office: 390 Steeles Ave. W. Unit 19, Thornhill, ON

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