How to Treat Heart Pain and Discomfort


There have been times in my life when I’ve occasionally had slight pain or discomfort in my heart region. Most doctors seem to pass over this as if it’s insignificant, but in my experience, sometimes small things when left untreated can become big issues, of which the hallmark of conventional medicine seems to be the opposite: “you’re situation isn’t severe now so you’re fine”. And so what? We’re just going to wait until it becomes a problem?

The core of functional medicine is preventative medicine; it’s digging deeper to see what’s going on.

The response I’ve had from doctors (EVEN self-proclaimed “functional medicine” MDs!) when I mention this on my intake forms is disgusting. It seems unacceptable to completely overlook anyone who is having any discomfort or pain in their heart region, regardless of the cause.

After some digging I was surprised to not find any succinct article with practical, actionable, relatively harmless and easy things you can do today to reduce your heart discomfort/pain, keep your heart healthy, and reduce the risk of any serious incidents – at least in the meantime until you get an echocardiogram (also called an “echo”, this is not the same as an EKG/ECG. It is a non-invasive ultrasound of your heart. It’s one of the best tests you can get for your heart.), which the wait time for can often be many weeks and sometimes months.

I’m not a doctor. I also have had the honor to be humbled many times on my journey by my own naivety and the grace that my DIY-decisions did not cause any serious, irreversible consequences. So, I take caution with any recommendation and have strived to compile a list of ideas that are very safe when approached carefully. These strategies may not be a replacement for visiting a cardiologist, but they can certainly be worth trying in the meantime or in conjunction with.


There are 2 leading functional medicine doctors in the heart health space: Dr. Thomas Cowan and Dr. Stephen Hussey.

Thomas Cowan, MD, graduated from Duke University with a degree in biology and completed medical school at Michigan State College of Human Medicine.

Dr. Cowan says their are 3 causes of heart attacks:

  1. Increased sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic activity (essentially a laymen may call this “stress”)
    • Therapies to bring your central nervous system into homeostasis include massage/chiropractic therapy, meditation (I highly recommend the Muse meditation headband. It was recommended to me for my ADHD. It is one of the easiest ways to meditate. I recommend using Ambient Music in the app and starting with 2 minutes/day and add 2 minutes every week to a total of 20 minutes/day if you can, but something is better than nothing! Even a few minutes can be life-changing.), yoga, stress management, self-care, and etc. Dr. Cowan particularly has pioneered the use of the herb Strophanthus, which he says targets the parasympathetic pathway to the heart.
  2. Increased glycolysis (aka lactic acid build-up in the heart)
    • Vitamin K is the remedy for this says Dr. Cowan. Vitamin K assists with blood clotting for healing and helps with the transportation of multiple nutrients and chemicals to/in the heart. NOTE: If you take anticoagulant medication, consult with your (hopefully functional/integrative) doctor before taking Vitamin K.
  3. Collateral circulation (a blocked artery or vein causing blood to go around it)
    • Dr. Cowan says the top remedy for this is exercise, especially strength training. One of the best programs is Body by Science by Dr. Doug McGuff. For people who are physically weak, sick, or elderly (or not), this is an incredible way to increase bone density and muscle mass with minimal exertion and post-exercise malaise. Or for those too debilitated, EECP (which you can get at most cardiologist offices) or compression boots simulate the same benefits of exercising but without any exertion.
    • Secondarily, he says inflammation from high insulin and glucose levels cause collateral circulation, which he says can be remedied by avoiding toxins and air pollutants and inflammatory oils (like soybean, canola, and safflower) and taking natural anti-inflammatories like ginger, turmeric (curcumin), garlic, dark leafy greens (like spinach, kale, collard greens, etc.), following a low-sugar diet, and etc.
  4. Bonus: Lack of love.
    • Dr. Cowan’s tells us there’s a reason our cultures affiliate the heart with love and emotions and that we should heed this. Dr. Cowan’s remedies include: being true to yourself, listening to your essence (your intuition), loving others, gratitude, fostering relationships, time spent with family, smiling, sunlight, clean water, wonderful tasting foods, creating financial security, and central nervous system regulation as discussed in #1.

Dr. Hussey, MS, DC, also tells us that their are 3 primary causes of heart failure:

  1. Inadequate blood flow (often from oxidative stress)
  2. Change in shape of the heart due to scaring/tissue damage (often from surgery, heart failure, high Nonesterified [Free] Fatty Acid blood levels [your doc may be able to order this test cheaper or with insurance], and etc.)
    • If you have high blood Nonesterified (Free) Fatty Acid levels, the first step is to check the saturated fat in your diet. It’s usually not healthy to cut this out completely, but I recommend limiting to around 22g/day.
    • Secondly, if you’re overweight, the Ketogenic Diet (check out this article for how to do Keto better and all the linked-to articles in the introduction of that article) can be helpful to lower this blood biomarker and lose weight by reducing glucose levels, particularly when used in conjunction with supplemental ketones, which also happen to be the main source of fuel for the heart.
    • Lastly, Dr. Hussey recommends vortex 4th phase water, stress management, and not over-exercising (again related to what we discussed with Dr. Cowan with high lactic acid build-up).
  3. Low blood oxygen saturation
    • The #1 remedy for this Dr. Hussey says is infrared sauna (ideally low-EMF ones, especially for those with a pacemaker, which is made of metal and physics nerds will know metals attract electromagnetic fields). In fact, of all the remedies above, Dr. Hussey says this is the most studied and well documented to provide numerous incredible benefits (such as improved nitric oxide, decreased blood pressure, improved circulation, and so much more). He even says he believes every cardiologist office in the world should have one. You can buy infrared saunas, but of course they’re way above most peoples budgets (here is one of the cheapest I found. Use code “DrHussey” for $100 off! Thank you Dr. Hussey!!!). But not to worry! Many places offer infrared sauna sessions as a service often for quite cheap (a cryotherapy place near my house offers them for $15/session). If you search infrared sauna on mobile maps, you may likely find such a health center near you. P.S. For many it’s important to start slow with this and garner your tolerance. Dr. Neil Nathan, a detoxification specialist, recommends starting at 10-15 minutes 2-3x/week and working up to 20-30 minutes 2-3x/week if tolerated.
    • P.S. You can measure your oxygen saturation levels at home easily with a very affordable pulse oximeter on Amazon.


So in summary, here are the best functional medicine ways to keep your heart healthy on a daily basis:

  • Infrared saunas (starting at 10-15 minutes working up to 20-30 minutes 2-3x/week as tolerated. Find locally in your area or buy one here with code “DrHussey” for $100 off)
  • Strophanthus (instructions included on that page)
  • 2 drops/day Vitamin K2 (or Emu Oil which is a high source of K2). NOTE: Those on anticoagulant medication should consult their (hopefully functional/integrative) doctor before using supplemental Vitamin K2.
  • Strength training (or EECP/compression boots)
  • Gratitude (you can make it a daily habit such as with a Gratitude Journal by your bedside as a cue to use it)
  • Grounding (either walking outside barefoot or using grounding sandals, shoes, and mattress pads)
  • Meditation (Muse headband is often best for those who struggle to meditate. Other good options are Ziva Meditation, Driven Meditation, and Headspace)
  • Ketones (especially in extreme cases like heart failure, but I recommend only taking this under the supervision of a functional/integrative healthcare professional)
  • Reduced saturated fat (no more than 22g/day)
  • Optimized water (such as with this or this, this, and this , or products like those)
  • Other recommendations shared by Dr. Cowan and/or Dr. Hussey not discussed above:
    • CoQ10
    • Glutathione (improves oxidative stress through antioxidants. For some, glutathione can cause a “die-off” reaction because it is a very potent detoxifier. If you react negatively, it may infer the presence of toxins or poor detoxification systems and you should discontinue.)
    • Magnesium (p.s. IV magnesium sulfate may even be used for clots, but of course this must be discussed with a trained healthcare professional)

You obviously don’t have to do all of these. Choose what seems the best fit for you and try it. Starting slow, one thing at a time, monitoring how your unique body responds and not forcing anything. Once your heart discomfort/pain goes away, it may not be neccesary to keep adding in more.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best. This article is not done or perfect. I have yet to cite any sources, as I intend to for each idea. Either way, please listen to your body and it will do you well to find a good functional/integrative medicine healthcare practitioner to walk alongside you. In the meantime, give these ideas a shot!

To your health. Take care and God bless!,

Noah Kahn

P.S. Yes, many of the links and product recommendations above are affiliates of mine. Although let me be very clear: I discover products I really like or truly believe can be helpful for others, then I go about and see if I can, as a bonus, profit from simply using a special link. Not the other way around. I do not recommend products primarily to make money. I recommend what I recommend primarily to serve others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: