Treatment Options and Life Changes
Treatment for POTS is not one set protocol. Each patient's treatment must be tailored to their specific condition and needs. But there are some general rules of thumb that cover the majority of patients who are treated for POTS, whether they have mild POTS or severe, debilitating POTS. But before we look at these treatments, there are some things that POTS patients need to be vigilant about. POTS patients are sensitive to certain chemicals and stimuli that can agrivate the disease.
Dos and Don'ts
~Don't overexert yourself
~Don't be inactive for long periods of time.
~Avoid activities that aggravate your POTS
~Stay out of the heat since POTS patients can't regulate their body temp.
~Don't Drink Alchohol, Alchohol is a diuretic and a blood thinner
~Don't drink energy drinks
~Limit caffeine intake, although this is debatable, I have read studies on both sides of the spectrum. Talk to your POTS doctor to find out what is right for you.
~Don't Do Drugs!, This is a no brainer! And it's illegal
~Don't Allow yourself to get dehydrated, you need to keep your blood volume high to compensate for poor circulation.
~Make sure you find a doctor who is familiar with POTS, being treated by a doctor unfamiliar with the condition will lead to substandard management of the condition.
~Make sure you take enough salt each day. Increasing your salt intake helps you retain more fluid and increases your blood volume and raises your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor to see what they recommend for you. The average is 8 grams a day.
This doesn't mean that you need to eat a spoon full of salt. Look at the nutrition facts on food packages, the sodium levels in food will help you calculate how much you intake. Click the button to the right to go to a page that I found very useful is managing salt intake.
~You need to get plenty of rest. Rest several times throughout the day, you don't have to nap but sit, take a break. Let your body recuperate.
~Make a journal, take notes of when your symptoms are worse and when they are the least problematic. After about two weeks this will give you an idea of how you can make plans around your symptoms so that you can rest during the rougher times.
~Try to maintain good sleep hygiene. keeping a regular sleep schedule is difficult when you are in constant pain. EDS patients have a hard time with this because our joints are constantly slipping in and out of socket. Our muscles are sore, we get hurt doing the simplest things. Medication and homeopathic medicine can be helpful. Talk to your doctor before starting any OTC or homeopathic therapies.
~Avoid known triggers
~Educate yourself and those in your support system. Being educated about your condition does help. Knowing what is going on inside your body can bring closure and peace of mind. But don't let the search for knowledge consume you.
~Eat small meals, after you consume food, your body pushes more blood to your digestive system. Which can, in turn, pull it from your head and aggravate your POTS. Eating smaller meals helps keeps these symptoms at a minimum,
And lastly, and what I feel is most important DON'T LOSE HOPE! Once you are diagnosed, and you find a doctor who knows what they are doing, things will get better. You will have flares, and other times you will feel great. But you can live a full and healthy life once you figure out your triggers, and learn how to manage the condition.
POTS Treatment Options
Increased fluids are paramount. Staying hydrated helps to keep your blood volume high, Higher blood volume raises blood pressure, lowers pulse. Many patients hear from a lot of trainers, nurses, physical therapists, and physicians who are not POTS trained that they should consume 8 glasses of water a day. This is not necessarily true. This is a generalized number based on an average consensus of patients.
You should consume more than you were before, but not to the point of making yourself sick. Consuming enough water to improve your POTS symptoms seems to be the general rule of thumb. Because each person is different, the amount of water they require is also unique. When you consume enough water and electrolyte solutions, your symptoms will get better.
Coconut water is a great, natural electrolyte replenishing beverage. It has many benefits. It can be a bit pricey but the majority of the time it is 100% natural with no additives. And if you are on medications that tend to slow down your digestive system, making it difficult to go, coconut water is a natural diuretic. It also boosts your metabolism and is believed to control cravings for sugar.
I cannot speak to how much better these will make you feel. Trial and error will help you determine what works best for your specific needs. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
To help POTS patients track the symptoms of POTS crisis episodes, We have created a spreadsheet to do just that. It is an Apache Openoffice document and the spreadsheet is set up for one episode. I recommend printing out multiples and putting them in a binder. That way when an episode happens, you can record what you feel. Click the button below to download today!
Increased Salt Intake
Increases salt intake is also one of the main treatments for POTS. When I was diagnosed, I had to ask the doctor to repeat himself when he said this. Because generally, you tend to hear people say that their doctor told them they need to cut back on their salt. But he made it very clear that I needed to double the amount of salt that I was already taking.
I was already putting salt in everything that I cooked, not so much on top afterward because it is better to cook with than to apply it afterward. But there are exceptions to all rules. And most people live in families where only one member may be two have POTS. So cooking with an increased amount of salt would not be beneficial to all involved.
Increasing your salt intake increases your water retention, which raises your blood pressure and lowers your heart rate. It also lowers the severity of the symptoms associated with POTS and can make living with the condition more tolerable.
This one is a bit ironic. Exercise helps POTS symptoms improve, but POTS causes fatigue and exhaustion. So to do one to do the other is a struggle. Before doing any kind of exercise program, you should consult a physician, and a physical therapist so that they can set you up with a program tailored for POTS patients.
Over time, exercises can be slowly intensified and stamina will be improved under the guidance of professionals and this will lead to improvements in overall symptoms.
There are certain classes of medications that are used to help manage the symptoms of POTS. Some of the classes of meds are Beta-Blockers, Vaso-Constrictors, Benzodiazepines, Clonidine, Midodrine, Fludrocortisone, Desmopressin and a few others. Doctors try to treat POTS using nonpharmaceutical means first generally, and they will take you off of any medications you may be on that will aggravate your POTS and could cause serious side effects.
Compression, Diet, and other Changes
Compression stockings, tights, and leggings, have shown to improve the symptoms of POTS because it forces blood from the lower extremities back into the upper body and keeps it from pooling in the lower limbs. Slow movement upon standing can also minimize the chance of passing out and dizziness upon standing.
Changes to one's diet is also a big factor. Caffeine, alcohol, junk food, high carb meals, and large meals can all make POTS symptoms worse. avoiding all these and using moderation with carbs can limit the severity of the POTS symptoms. Energy drinks are a big no-no. as is alcohol.
Muscles tensing can helping manage sudden POTS symptoms. Talk to your doctor about all of these options. Only a licensed physician can prescribe a treatment plan that will benefit you in the best way. Remember, you are not your disease, you a person who has this condition. Be empowered, you are a POTS Warrior!