Pots(Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) affects millions of people around the world and is a particularly debilitating chronic condition. There is also speculation that many M.E sufferers actually have POTS, as opposed to M.E.
Pots is a very hard condition to diagnose and I’ve heard many stories of people who have gone through painstaking and extremely challenging battles with the medical system to get a diagnosis, with the patient often having to either push for the correct diagnosis, or pretty much self diagnose in some cases.
Without getting too political, the medical system know very little about this condition and so Pots sufferers have to endure a double whammy of frustration, because not only have they got to fight this battle alone, but there are actually no medical solutions.
All that’s offered by the medical system is drugs and whilst they may help some, they undoubtedly cause side effects and create other issues.
Before I go on, I would like to make it clear that any of the tips I’ll be giving you today are purely from personal experience and for the record, I am not a medical professional. That being said, most of the tips I have for you, were not learned from medical professionals. Ironic as it may seem.
Tip 1- Add salt
Adding salt will increase circulatory volume and blood pressure and this is a must for Pots sufferers. And it makes perfect sense, because for anyone that has Pots, when their blood pressure drops, they inevitably feel lousy, often experiencing nausea, dizziness and a myriad of other unpleasant symptoms.
So sprinkle that salt guys and gals! Add it generously, to every meal if possible. Nut butters are fantastic for Pots, cashews, peanuts, (providing you’re not allergic of course). I’ve even heard that peanut butter in porridge is quite appealing!
Salty foods will include processed meats such as bacon, ham, gammon, cheese. I believe the saltiest cheeses are blue cheese, Haloumi and Parmesan, but regular cheddar is high sodium too. Salty crisps is an obvious one and whilst not the healthiest option, could really help if needed.
Tip 2- Change the way you eat.
Sufferers of Pots have noticed a big improvement in their symptoms by reducing carbs in their diet, but ensuring that a sufficient amount of carbohydrate is consumed per meal.
It is far better to have six small meals a day (a cereal bar could be considered a meal) and by eating this way, you can regulate your blood sugar levels and avoid spikes.
It is so important for Pots sufferers to maintain their blood sugar, mainly for two reasons. Firstly, if your blood sugar spikes too high, you will inevitably feel the physical after-effects of that, which could result in exhaustion, nausea and generally feeling lousy. A spike in blood sugar usually results in an energy level crash.
If you are having a sugary food, try your best to balance it with protein. Foods high in protein are cheese, meat, fish, chicken, milk,eggs, yogurt etc. Protein is really important for Pots sufferers.
The importance of drinking water
Drink lots of water throughout the day as this will help maintain blood pressure and blood volume levels. Interestingly, salt is excellent for maintaining blood volume levels.
If you’re going out, take a bottle or two of water with you, a snack to keep your blood sugar levels up and nuts in case you need salt urgently.(This does obviously not apply if you have a nut allergy).
Many Pots sufferers experience issues with their gut and in some cases, the problem is not gluten, but rather very specific Fodmap foods. The idea is to avoid foods that contain a high Fodmap rating and to consume low Fodmap foods in your diet.
Two known high Fodmap foods that cause stomach issues are garlic and onion. Avoiding these is quite a challenge as there are so many foods on the supermarket shelves that contain garlic, but people are seeing improvements in their gut health by avoiding these.
Obviously there are no guarantees, but when you have a chronic condition, it is only you that can improve the quality of your life, or at least, the majority of the time.
Tip 3- Breathing technique
Pots sufferers often have a breathing disorder. For many, the act of standing up will cause the heart to work extra hard, and as a result, will see their heart rate increase dramatically. This is turn means that you have to breathe more, as you’re having to take in more oxygen. Your whole system is having to work frantically.
For pots sufferers, the problem lies in the fact that you’re taking in too much air, so the levels of oxygen in your blood are too high and the carbon dioxide levels in your blood are too low.
So there is a breathing exercise that can possibly help. Lie down on your bed, or sofa, whatever feels comfortable. Breathe in through your nose for 2 seconds and out through your mouth for 4 seconds. Do this for 10 minutes per day.
Take care to breathe very gently and subtly, you don’t want to take deep breaths in and out. Avoid taking in too much air and expelling too much air when you practice this exercise.
The idea is that your body will learn to breathe properly again. It’s almost as if you have to teach yourself to breathe again.
Tip 4- Build up your leg muscles to increase your blood circulation.
For this, you could purchase a recumbent bike which is a home exercise bike, but with this type of bike, you are more or less in a seated position. People with Pots tend to struggle with the more conventional exercise bikes.
The other two alternatives, would be to go to a gym, where a personal trainer can give you some exercises to strengthen your leg muscles. Otherwise a good physiotherapist can set you some exercises.
Tip 5- Electrolyte drinks
So these can be purchased at a health food shop and there is a good brand called Nuun that sells them. What these drinks do is re-establish and balance the electrolytes in your body and the idea is that they help with sluggishness and that general feeling of being under the weather.
Tip 6- Buy a mobility shower seat
Standing is a real challenge for Pots sufferers and standing in the shower is no exception. Invest in a shower seat and this may help.
Tip 7- Wear a sunflower laniard
You can often get these at the supermarket and this will alert people if you’re struggling in a queue somewhere, or on a crowded train etc. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for a seat, or to move up the queue.