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Living with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia (POTS) Syndrome

living with POTS

Written by Mallory Davis (Ultima Ambassador)

We all know that we as humans cannot survive more than 3 days without hydration. While most people will notice symptoms of dehydration if they don’t drink anything for an entire day. I notice it within an hour because I have a condition called POTS, which stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and hydration is one of the main treatments for it. People are always asking me, "Can't you live without your water bottle for the trip inside the grocery/this work meeting/a quick workout?" The answer is always no, I cannot live without my water bottle and I must have hydration with me at all times! A lot of people do not understand the importance of hydration, especially like I do. I am 29 years old. For work, I am a marketing manager. I am also a photographer and have my own photography business. That is a passion of mine and I finally decided to turn it into a business a few years ago. Another passion of mine is health, fitness, and nutrition.

Discovering I had POTS

I was an athlete growing up on Gatorade and in college continued my workout routine. During these years, I had some really random and weird symptoms that never made any sense, including:
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness (sometimes fainting)
  • Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, diarrhea, extreme bloating)
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
  • Anxiety
  • Sensitive to temperature (always really hot or cold)
  • Headaches
  • Brain fog

I was always tired when I worked out. My heart rate would jump so high so quickly. I was in great shape - why was my body reacting like this? After I graduated from college in 2009, I became very ill. All of my somewhat mild symptoms were now amplified. I couldn't eat anything without making me sick. We went from doctor to doctor to doctor here in Indianapolis with no luck. The last doctor I went to in October 2010, told me they couldn’t find anything wrong and referred me to a psychologist, suggesting it was all in my head. It was so frustrating and a low point.

Mayo Clinic

 

We then went to Mayo Clinic where they figured "it" out and I was diagnosed with Dysautonomia/POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). Basically, my autonomic nervous system doesn't work correctly. Your ANS is responsible for things your body is supposed to do automatically - heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, body temperature, etc. But for whatever reason, it sometimes goes berzerk. It causes low blood volume which causes low blood pressure which causes all of those lovely symptoms listed above (and more). Upon returning from Mayo Clinic, I went right to work on the recommendations the doctors gave me. First, one increasing my salt intake (yes, I was actually prescribed to consume at least 5g of salt per day) and increase my hydration. The salt helps my body hold onto the increased fluids. Increased hydration=increased blood volume=help with low blood pressure=me feeling better. I began buying the most popular brand of “hydration drink” out there (you know, the one that starts with G) by the case for about 2 years. I realized how much SUGAR and artificial crap was in it! Someone in one of my POTS Facebook groups posted about Nuun tablets. I was over the moon excited! I mean, something I can take with me and plop a tablet into any bottle or cup of water and have instant electrolytes?! I bought and tried many flavors. About 6 months into using Nuun, I had my doctor's appt. with my cardiologist (frequently the type of doctor that treats POTS) and could not wait to tell him about Nuun. I whipped it out of my purse and showed him the bottle and was telling him he should tell all of his other POTS patients to dump Gatorade and try Nuun. I should also mention that earlier in my appointment I explained to him that my gastrointestinal symptoms had increased recently. As I am going on about how great Nuun is, he turns over the bottle and looks at the ingredients. He says, "these have sorbitol in them. Sorbitol is a laxative. We prescribe it to patients as a medication." Um...WHAT?! I was shocked. Basically, I was drinking chemicals that were giving me diarrhea, which negates the whole purpose of a hydrating electrolyte drink! After that, I went on a mad online search for a natural product that gave me more electrolytes than plain water did. Up came Ultima!

Getting Stronger

Over the last 5 years, I have made great strides in my health. I have become very conscious of the food that I am eating. I am a hardcore label reader. I should also mention that I am gluten intolerant and also fructose intolerant, which takes being a picky eater to a whole new level. I eat as much organic food as possible and pay attention to my macros (carbohydrates, fats, and protein) and make sure to get a lot of protein and healthy fats in my diet as this helps. I was never a big soda drinker before, but I stay away from caffeine altogether (that increases symptoms) and stick to strictly water and Ultima. I always have a water bottle with me and alternate between water and Ultima. Because you are dehydrated in the morning from not drinking anything for 8 hours, I will drink at least 8oz. of Ultima before even getting out of bed. I am now hiking, spending a lot of time outdoors, taking the dogs (I have 1 of my own and foster pit bulls) on long walks and doing yoga. It feels so good! I don't go anywhere without at least one water bottle filled with Ultima. It gives me the peace of mind that I can feel well and still enjoy the activities I love, while not putting harmful chemicals in my body at the same time.

Mallory Davis with POTS

On January 1, I made a goal that I wanted to walk a mile a day in 2016, for a total of 366 miles. This may not seem like a big feat, but 5 years ago, I could barely walk up and down the street a few houses and back. Now I am feeling so much better and am able to walk a mile a day and I wanted to push myself to commit to something that I know is feasible with my health, but also is going to force me to not use excuses as much. I still have “bad” days where my symptoms are worse than others (think weather, lack of sleep, stress, or for no reason at all sometimes), and I will not walk my mile that day. But I will make up that mile the next day or week. So far, it has been a really great thing for me to look forward to each day. My dogs love it as well and are even in better shape! On days when I am lacking motivation, my determination steps in and I walk the mile. And of course, I always have my Ultima with me.

Some helpful resources to learn more about POTS (which is extremely misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed for years because of the seemingly unrelated symptoms. The average time for diagnosis is 6 YEARS!) ------------------------------------------------

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MalloryDavis_Ultima

Mallory Davis is an Ultima Ambassador, a marketing manager, photographer and athlete. She has a love for health and fitness and being outdoors with her dogs. Mallory was diagnosed in 2010 with POTS and since then has been helping others navigate POTS as they become diagnosed.

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