My POTS Journey: Learning to Live With Dysautonomia

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. This article contains my personal experiences and opinions. Please consult your physician regarding any medical conditions, treatments, or lifestyle changes.

When the Diagnosis Clicked In 2022, I was formally diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). Upon receiving this diagnosis and doing some initial research, it all began to make sense. For most of my life, my blood pressure has run low—so low that when it’s taken, medical staff often ask if I’m a marathon runner or extreme athlete. I chuckle at this question, as running is one of my least favorite activities, whereas I could swim happily for hours.

While I try to exercise and eat healthy, I don’t consider myself anywhere close to a marathon-caliber athlete that would explain very low blood pressure. And while low BP can signify good health, too low becomes dangerous. I had begun experiencing personal symptoms like:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Lightheadedness when standing too quickly
  • Worsening of symptoms when doing activities that require excessive standing up/sitting down or positional changes

Learning my diagnosis helped connect the dots on why ordinary tasks like unloading the dishwasher left me drained and noodle-limbed thanks to all the bending, reaching and getting up and down. Or why something as simple as taking a shower could cause tunnel vision and a near fainting spell. My dysautonomia had clearly been brewing for years before a doctor finally recognized the pattern of symptoms for what it was—an autonomic nervous system unable to efficiently adjust my blood pressure and heart rate in response to postural changes and daily life demands.

Understanding POTS and the Autonomic Nervous System The intricate nervous system works below our conscious awareness to regulate critical functions like blood pressure, breathing rate, digestion, temperature control and more. This system has sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) branches that work cooperatively to keep the body balanced through stimuli like stress or positional changes.

With POTS, the autonomic communication between critical systems breaks down, preventing the body from making proper cardiovascular adjustments back to homeostasis when moving to an upright position. Blood often improperly pools in the legs upon standing, reducing return to the heart, in a sense tricking sensors that blood pressure is too high when it’s actually falling critically low by the time symptoms manifest. The heart will pound faster to attempt to pump more volume, while adrenaline may spike to constrict blood vessels as the confused dysautonomia system tries to maintain equilibrium it’s no longer capable of.

Treatment Approaches That Have Helped Me While each POTS case requires personalized management, I have found some at-home therapies and supplements helpful for improving my day-to-day function:

  • Recumbent Bike – Allows me to exercise while remaining seated since positional changes are a huge trigger. Morning use helps reset my sleep-wake cycle.
  • Electrolytes – Help increase my low blood volume to improve BP. Favorite brand is LMNT packets.
  • Grounding – Connecting to the earth helps regulate ANS function. I end my morning walks grounded if weather permits.
  • Cold Plunging – Brief cold exposure is invigorating. I jump in my pool for a couple minutes when it’s colder out
  • At-Home Sauna – Assists cellular detox which some theorize can influence POTS. Must be careful not to overheat. I use Relax Infrared Sauna and absolutely love it. It gets super-hot but also folds up for easy storage. It’s amazong.
  • Castor Oil Packs – Help support nervous system communication. So does therapeutic-grade essential oil application.

Because so many POTS patients have low blood volume contributing to symptoms, I focus on hydrating with electrolyte sources like mineral-rich LMNT packets and coconut water. I also drink pure cranberry juice in moderation to support bladder integrity. Increasing fluids expands blood volume so the heart doesn’t have to accelerate as drastically to circulate oxygen properly.

I further assist my ANS by taking magnesium and B complex to nourish taxed adrenal glands and nerve communication. Ginger, mint and bitters promote healthy gut motility often impaired with autonomic dysfunction. I prioritize sleep and movement that feels right for my body. And through trial and error, I learned that having a small glass of orange juice with sea salt first thing in the morning prevented early-day lightheaded misery better than my usual coffee routine which wrongly spiked epinephrine my stressed system couldn’t handle.

There is still much to uncover about dysautonomia, especially the underlying drivers and varied manifestations. But despite POTS being incurable, focusing on regulated lifestyle factors and micronutrient sufficiency has greatly improved my energy, stamina and symptom burden. Knowledge truly empowers. I hope sharing my lessons learned assists fellow warriors battling the highs and lows of autonomic dysfunction!

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