POTS and Salt

Why do people with POTS need salt

If your experience is anything like mine, you grew up hearing that sodium is really, really bad for you. It was said to be terrible for blood pressure and heart health, and people should limit added sodium at all costs. This sort of thinking led to me omitting salt whenever I cooked and I was always mindful about buying things like low sodium vs regular broth.

About two months before “the incident” that kicked off my medical mystery tour, I found myself craving all sorts of chips. I never really cared for them before then, especially potato chips, which baffled everyone around me. I just wasn’t much of a salt person. But suddenly I couldn’t get enough of them.

At the time, I just figured it had to do with chips being a quick grabbable snack while I was insanely busy with school. Looking back, I see it for what it actually was: my body’s cry for help.

Why do people with POTS need salt?

It turns out that people with POTS often have low blood volume (also known as Hypovolemia) which is hugely problematic. POTSies already have issues with blood circulation and getting the blood that pools in the legs to circulate back to the heart, and then to the brain. So, if our blood volume is lower than the average person, plus we can’t circulate it properly, we become incredibly symptomatic. This looks like dizziness, numbness, brain fog, and high heart rate—just to name the most common symptoms.

Luckly, sodium helps the body retain fluid which increases overall blood volume! My favorite go-to for quick Hypovolemia help is Liquid IV mixed with 16oz of water. It’s the perfect amount of water + electrolytes to boost blood volume.

TIP: This only seems to work in a pinch if you drink the entire amount at once. Simply sipping the drink throughout the day won’t do much. It’s all about getting that water into your system with the right amount of sodium to keep it there.

POTS and Salt

In my experience, when I don’t consume enough salt my brain fog is nearly unbearable. In fact, it can get so bad that my boyfriend says it’s like watching someone with Hypoxia. I feel a very particular type of dizziness plus a strange detachment from my extremities, I then start to feel panicked, I can’t think of words and very quickly lose the ability to speak in full sentences, which then frustrates me, and I end up on the floor feeling like my whole body is shutting down.

When this happens, I need lots of salt as quickly as possible. In these instances, I go for LMNT electrolytes which have twice the amount of salt as Liquid IV and pulls me out of this Hypoxia-like state almost instantly.

Unfortunately, once something like that happens I’m fatigued in a way that not only ruins the day, but also most of the week going forward. It’s incredibly taxing on the body.

How much salt does a person with POTS need?

As always, every person is different. That being said, the standard is said to be anywhere from 5-10 grams of sodium per day. My perfect salt consumption to maintain some sense of normalcy looks like this:

  • LMNT in the morning (1,000mg of sodium)
  • Liquid IV in the afternoon (500mg of sodium)
  • LMNT before bed (1,000mg of sodium)
  • Vitassium Electrolyte Capsules before I leave the house (500mg of sodium)
  • Vitassium Fast Chews as a rescue med when I can’t get to the other options and need help ASAP (125mg)

In addition to my electrolyte routine, I make it a point to add salty foods to my diet. My personal favorite is Chili Cheese Fritos because they’re super salty and gluten-free. Pickles are also a POTSie’s best friend which is why there are so many POTS pickle memes out there! Salami is another quick fix, as is Better Than Boullion added to soups.

Even with all of this extra salt, my most recent labs showed an abnormally low sodium level. Baffling, I know.

Honestly, high salt intake is probably the one perk of having POTS. I saw that lab result and thought, “Oh darn, I guess I need a medicinal charcuterie board today!”.

snacks for POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome)

“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life, the facts of life.”

The Facts of Life – sitcom

*Disclaimer – Everything I discuss about my health journey is specific to me and not to be taken as medical advice. My hope is that what I share here empowers readers to talk to their doctors more openly about their own health.