POTS Syndrome Diet: 10 Foods To Try
People looking to manage their POTS symptoms through dietary changes should attempt to consume more salty foods. Here’s what to know!
POTS is a relatively common medical condition that can cause a dramatic increase in your heart rate when sitting or standing. The troublesome condition can be severe, causing patients difficulty in carrying out daily tasks.
The good news is that POTS can usually be managed through the POTS syndrome diet, exercise, and the addition of medication.
What Is POTS?
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, commonly referred to as POTS, is a type of disorder of the autonomic nervous system, or dysautonomia.
The autonomic nervous system deals with the functions of the body that we do not have active control over, such as heart rate, sweating, blood pressure, and body temperature. People who suffer from POTS experience a number of symptoms, the most notable of which is a significant increase in heart rate when standing up.
POTS stands for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Postural indicates that the condition is influenced by your body’s posture, while orthostasis specifically indicates that the condition is related to standing upright. Tachycardia refers to an increased heart rate, while a syndrome is a medical condition typified by a group of symptoms.
What Are the Different Types of POTS?
There are four primary types of POTS: neuropathic POTS, hypovolemic POTS, hyperadrenergic POTS, and secondary POTS.
- Neuropathic POTS is a type of POTS that occurs when the small fiber nerves in the body are damaged, leading to a condition called small fiber neuropathy. The small fiber nerves in the body are responsible for constricting the size of the blood vessels in your arms, legs, and abdomen.
- Hypovolemic POTS is a type of POTS that occurs when the body has abnormally low levels, or volume, of blood, a condition known as hypovolemia.
- Hyperadrenergic POTS is a type of POTS that can occur when levels of a stress hormone called norepinephrine are elevated in the body for an extended period of time.
- Secondary POTS is said to occur when POTS symptoms occur as a result of another disorder that causes autonomic neuropathy. Conditions known to contribute to POTS include Lyme disease, lupus, diabetes, and Sjögren’s syndrome, among others.
What Causes POTS?
While there are several different types of POTS, researchers are not entirely sure what causes the condition. Secondary POTS is attributed to other medical conditions that contribute to the disorder, but it is unknown why some patients with these disorders experience POTS and others do not. Other forms of POTS may not be attributed to any one specific cause.
What Are the Symptoms of POTS?
Everyone experiences POTS differently, so symptoms vary from person to person.
Symptoms commonly associated with POTS include:
- Excessive or prolonged feelings of fatigue
- Brain fog, or difficulty focusing, paying attention, or remembering details
- Vomiting and nausea
- Excessive sweating
- Difficulty with exercise or symptoms that get worse after periods of increased activity
- Feeling lightheaded or faint after prolonged periods of sitting or standing
- Heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, pounding or forceful heartbeats
- Pale face
- Purplish discoloration of the hands or feet when the limbs are at a lower elevation than the heart
Certain conditions may exacerbate the symptoms of POTS, including:
- Being in a warm environment, such as spending time outside on a hot day, taking a hot bath or shower, or waiting in a hot room
- Taking in too little fluids and electrolytes, often associated with skipping a meal
- Standing for an extended period of time, such as while waiting in line, trying on clothes, or standing at a concert
- Being sick with a cold, bacterial infection, or another virus
Some people with severe forms of POTS may not be able to sit or stand upright for more than a few minutes at a time without experiencing symptoms. This can make it challenging to manage daily responsibilities associated with school, work, and personal life.
While some people attribute the symptoms of POTS to psychological issues, such as anxiety, it should be noted that POTS has physical origins and is a physical condition.
How Is POTS Treated?
As noted previously, the symptoms of POTS are experienced differently by each person with the disorder. As a result, POTS treatment is largely tailored to the patient’s unique symptoms and the underlying causes of their condition.
Most people can manage POTS through lifestyle changes to their diet and exercise; some people may also benefit from the use of medication to control symptoms.
POTS Syndrome Diet: 10 Foods To Try
The POTS syndrome diet is an important lifestyle change that will help minimize your symptoms.
POTS is commonly associated with low levels of fluid. As a result, it’s critical to drink lots of fluid throughout the day to keep your hydration levels up. Most patients will need at least 64 to 80 ounces (8 to 10 cups) of hydrating liquids throughout the day, such as water, broth, juice, or decaffeinated tea.
Maintaining proper hydration is important because it helps ensure that your blood is able to reach your heart and brain, keeping symptoms at bay.
Drinks containing caffeine or alcohol should be avoided, as these beverages can have a dehydrating effect that exacerbates symptoms. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect and also removes blood from the central circulatory system out to the skin, which can make POTS symptoms worse. Caffeinated beverages can cause some patients to become jittery or lightheaded and may also have a dehydrating effect.
Most patients with POTS also need to increase their salt intake in order to help regulate their hydration levels. Some patients choose to sprinkle table salt onto their normal foods or take salt tablets, while others prefer to increase their intake of salty foods.
Ten easy-to-incorporate salty foods that can be beneficial for those with POTS include:
- Salted nuts, such as peanuts or almonds
- Salted popcorn
- Salted potatoes
- Dried meats, such as beef jerky
- Canned vegetables
- Canned beans
- Chicken or vegetable broth
Many foods found in the Western diet are processed and thus contain large amounts of salt, particularly prepackaged foods and foods from restaurants.
Consuming enough salt is critical for people with POTS, but it’s also important for patients to avoid consuming excess fat or calories that could contribute to other health conditions. Because POTS can be triggered by other medical conditions, maintaining your overall health is important in order to prevent your symptoms from becoming worse.
Exercising With POTS
For many people with POTS, symptoms associated with the condition may make it challenging to do even small amounts of physical activity, such as sitting or standing upright.
However, physical therapy can be helpful in managing these symptoms. While many medical conditions improve with exercise, vigorous exercise can make POTS worse. Instead, patients should work with a physical therapist to slowly increase their tolerance for movement.
When combined with medication and changes to your diet, physical therapy can help improve blood circulation through the body. A physical therapist can work with you to help retrain your autonomic nervous system, allowing you to engage in physical activity for longer periods of time.
Because exercise helps increase your blood volume, it’s vitally important for patients with POTS. However, it must be initiated slowly and carefully with the help of a professional.
Exercising in water creates pressure around the body, which can help to stimulate blood flow and circulation. As a result, some patients with POTS find aquatic therapy helpful. Others may benefit from manual physical therapy, in which a trained therapist moves various parts of the body in order to work on range of motion and improve nerve tightness.
Even people who are unable to sit or stand upright for extended periods of time can benefit from exercise. Your therapist can help teach you exercises that can be done while laying down, eventually working your way up to movements while sitting or standing.
Medications for POTS
Many people with POTS, particularly those with frequent or severe symptoms, can benefit from taking medication designed to treat the condition. Because each patient’s symptoms are different, some trial and error is usually required in order to identify the right medication or combination of medications that are most helpful.
Depending on the cause of a patient’s POTS and their specific symptoms, medications may be taken to help:
- Increase blood volume
- Lower the heart rate
- Block the effect of adrenal hormones on the heart
- Help kidneys retain sodium
- Improve blood vessel constriction
Some patients may need to take several medications in order to best manage their symptoms and function normally.
The Bottom Line
POTS is a medical condition affecting the autonomic nervous system. There are four different types of POTS, each of which has different causes and is treated differently. Many people are able to manage their POTS through changes to their diet, working with a physical therapist, and taking medication.
People looking to manage their symptoms through dietary changes may consider consuming more salty foods, such as salted nuts, salted popcorn, pretzels, cheeses, dried meats, soups, canned vegetables, and more.
Before making changes to your diet or lifestyle, consult with your Primary Care Provider to discuss symptoms and determine the best course of treatment for your particular health history.
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Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) | Cleveland Clinic
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) | Johns Hopkins Medicine