If you have any form of dysautonomia you are familiar with flares. Let’s back up a minute and talk about what dysautonomia is.
What is dysautonomia?
Dysautonomia is a dysfunction of the nerves that regulate involuntary body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating. The word literally stands for DYS - dysfunction, and AUTO - autonomic. It is an umbrella term for a myriad of different diseases, but some of the most common are: postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (or POTS), orthostatic intolerance (OI), orthostatic hypotension, and more.
What are chronic illness flares?
People with chronic illness have a variety of symptoms. For example, with POTS it’s often fatigue, brain fog, rapid heart rate upon standing, syncope (fainting), pre-syncope (feeling like you’ll faint, or often called dizziness), migraines, and more. A person who is managing their illness well may not have all of these symptoms every day. Maybe it’s just a couple or none at all.
When you’re “in a flare” usually the symptoms you’ve been managing are exaggerated. The slight headache you were feeling is now a full on migraine. The fatigue has you unable to leave the bed that day. A flare in the world of chronic illness is an exacerbation of a chronic disease.
What causes chronic illness flares?
Flares happen when symptoms you’ve been having suddenly show up and seem to be 10x worse than they were. Often, it’s not your fault. Flares can come and go and you may not be able to pinpoint a trigger. And, there’s no use in blaming yourself anyway. Sometimes your body just decides to go haywire despite anything you’ve done right or wrong.
Other times flares can be brought on by overdoing something. Maybe you walked too much. Maybe you stayed up too late or ate like crap the day before. Do not blame yourself. It’s your disease that is making you feel this way and you should be able to enjoy life the same way anyone else does.
But, you don’t want to live feeling like crap. Here’s some triggers we’ve seen commonly reported by people who have POTS.
6 Triggers for Chronic Illness Flares
- Heat and Humidity. Most people with chronic illness will tell you that heat can cause flares. If you’re someone with POTS, heat intolerance is often one of the symptoms. You just don’t sweat the way a “normal” person would, and even if you could you lose fluids. Exposure to heat seems to never fail to make your symptoms worse, but luckily there’s easy ways to avoid the heat putting you into a flare.
- Over exerting yourself or standing too long. Your friends were going to the water park, and you really wanted to join. Or, maybe it was just an evening out listening to music at a local hotspot. A trip to the grocery? Whatever it was, you’ve over exerted yourself. Know the limits to your body and respect them. If you know that you’re not able to avoid an overly physical day you may want to consider additional electrolytes like NormaLyte to keep your hydration levels up.
- Certain foods. There is a study that discusses the relationship between POTS and gluten intolerance. Now, keep in mind that a gluten intolerance doesn’t mean celiac’s disease, but it does mean that your body may not be able to process gluten as efficiently. If you’re one of those “lucky” few you may need to be extra careful around certain foods. There’s also MCAS, or mast cell activation syndrome, which is essentially your body having an allergic reaction in a big way. It’s also common with people who have POTS, and it can also lead to flares when acting up.
- Your menstrual cycle. It’s really unfair. Not only that we have this curse, but also that it can make the most put together and healthy person fall down. Then add chronic illness. It’s not in your head. Your menstrual cycle when you have POTS and the natural ebb and flow of hormones during a month can definitely put you into a flare. Again, extra electrolytes like NormaLyte can potentially prevent your period from putting you into a flare.
- Caffeine. This is a hotly debated item in the world of POTS. Some say it’s the only thing that can get them through a day while others claim it’s the devil for their symptoms. But, it’s all up to your body. If you suspect that your daily cup of joe is causing your body to go whacko then maybe try eliminating it from your diet. We know that sounds painful too (it really does!), but knowing if caffeine is the thing putting you into a chronic illness flare can mean better days ahead.
- Alcohol. I know. We are not going to be popular by telling you to not only put down the coffee but to also put down your glass of wine. Alcohol is something that can dehydrate you. The more drinks you have the more urine output you’ll have as it’s a natural diuretic. There is a possibility that the one or two drinks you have tonight will affect you not only tomorrow but for the rest of the week. Weigh your choices carefully. And, if you do decide to imbibe be sure to have an electrolyte backup plan.
What do I do about a chronic illness flare?
Avoid the triggers. You may know additional triggers that can make your symptoms of POTS go into hyperdrive. Do what you can to avoid them all. Do it with the knowledge that you will not be able to prevent a flare. As mentioned above, flares are sometimes unavoidable.
If you think you’re experiencing a chronic illness flare from POTS you may want to consider increasing your sodium intake. NormaLyte has been clinically proven to manage symptoms of POTS. Something other brands can’t say. Our Normalyte PURE was created in partnership with Dysautonomia International specifically for people with POTS. We know it will help if you can only give it a try.