Last year, along with over 100 practitioners and health professionals from around the country, we attended the annual POTS Unmasked conference, hosted by the Australian POTS Foundation. The goal of the conference was to shed some light and educate health professionals on a common but relatively unknown condition affecting many thousands of Australians called POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome).
Simply, POTS is generally attributed to a lack of proper blood flow to the brain, where the heart rate of a patient will rapidly increase when they stand up, causing dizziness, brain fog and nausea. With diagnosis rare and hard to pin down due to a variety of symptoms from seemingly unrelated disorders, an opportunity now exists to inform and educate as many as possible in identifying the symptoms and root cause of the condition. With a variety of treatments showing promise, interestingly enough, it’s eating more salt that has shown itself as a simple and effective treatment.
We ask could eating more salt improve symptoms in POTS patients? This article will give a brief overview of POTS, outlining its potential causes, symptoms and treatments.
What is POTS?
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is a common condition affecting a growing number Australians every year. The condition affects women 5x more frequently than men, and is more common in younger demographics than the general population. Let’s break it down.
Postural - Position of the body
Orthostatic - Standing up
Tachycardia - Rapid heart beat
Syndrome - Set of symptoms that characterize a condition
Whilst the largest and perhaps most troublesome symptom of POTS is a rapid heartbeat when standing up, a range of other symptoms follow, including Headaches, Dizziness, Brain Fog, Blurry VIsion, Heart Palpitations, Tremors and Nausea. Perhaps the worst and most common symptom of all is debilitating fatigue, which effects patients from going about everyday life. These symptoms appear to get worse with longer periods of standing, hot days, fasting and sweating, due to fluid and sodium loss.
Because of the wide variety of associated symptoms, diagnosing POTS can be tricky. A little like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), the causes are many and the diagnosis is often made on symptomatology, not underlying pathology.
The method of diagnosing POTS is currently the Tilt Table Test, where the patient lies on a table that tilts from horizontal to vertical, simulating the act of standing. Watching for an increase in heart rate of at least 30bpm within 5 to 30 minutes of the tilt.
A diagnosis of POTS can only be achieved once several other symptoms have been ruled out, including but not limited to Dehydration, medication reactions and orthostatic hypertension, the latter of which presents itself very similar to POTS, with a drop in blood pressure when standing.
The Causes of POTS
As we have discussed, there is a clear link between POTS and reduced blood flow to the brain when standing. Less blood flow will result in less oxygen and more symptoms.
Standing up will cause blood to be pulled into the lower half of your body, to balance that, hormones renin and aldosterone are secreted to boost blood volume, delivering more to the top half of your body and increasing your heart rate slightly. For POTS patients, that critical system is broken, where blood volume and pressure don’t rise and blood flow to the brain is restricted. This potential breakdown in the bodies ability to balance hormones could explain the worst of the symptoms being derived from the bodies autonomic nervous system.
To make things more difficult, there are different types of POTS with causes including low blood volume, excess adrenal hormones, damaged nerves, diabetes and autoimmune disease. There may also be a strong link to low levels of aldosterone and renin, which are your Sodium retention hormones. It’s this link that may explain why so many POTS patients respond favorably to increased sodium intake.
The Salty Fix
Sodium is an electrolyte found in Salt. Among other functions, it regulates fluid balance inside and outside of cells. Sodium increases blood volume, which in turn increases blood flow through your body and your brain.
If one of the primary reasons POTS patients are suffering from symptoms is low blood volume, driven by a deficiency in renin and aldosterone; could eating more salt improve symptoms?
Well, yes. Research has shown that consuming a salt tablet or electrolyte solution can help restore blood volume in those with POTS caused by low blood volume, with physicians recommending anywhere from 6-10 grams of additional sodium per day to improve symptoms quite dramatically.
Whilst intravenous sodium solution injections have shown promise also, simply consuming an homemade electrolyte drink or product like our Everyday Hydration Salts will have a similar effect, and is much more convenient.
Several other treatments exist, ranging from hydrating and exercise to more prescriptive medication including Beta-Blockers, Vasoconstrictors and Fludrocortisone. Should you have POTS or know someone who does, it’s recommended to consult your doctor before administering any treatment.
POTS is a debilitating condition associated with high levels of social, economic and health burden. With thousands of patients diagnosed every year, and many more who go undiagnosed, the pressure is on to educate and inform.
POTS is largely attributed to low blood volume, where standing up causes a lack of blood flow to the brain, resulting in dizziness, brain fog, fatigue and more.
Research has shown increasing your consumption of Salt can decrease the symptoms of POTS dramatically.
For more information on POTS, visit the Australian POTS Foundation