POTS and Your Period
It’s that time again. Aunt Flo, an unwelcome friend, is in town.
No, we aren’t talking about an actual person, a crazy auntie. We are talking about your monthly menstrual cycle; your period. Once a taboo topic, your period can affect how you feel day to day when you have a chronic illness.
All genders and age groups can be affected by POTS (or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), but it’s clear that women are generally more likely to develop POTS than men. According to Dysautonomia International, approximately 80% of POTS patients are females between the ages of 15-50. Prime child rearing years which means that this group of people may likely also have a menstrual cycle.
All chronic illnesses can cause your menstrual cycle to become irregular (or even completely absent) which makes planning your life around known triggers difficult. Our bodies are perfectly balanced and when there’s something sneaky like a chronic illness lying in wait… it can put things off skelter with your hormone levels. This can make management of the flares that happen around your cycle difficult to predict.
Know your body. Everyone experiences premenstrual symptoms differently. Some common indicators are: mood swings, tender breasts, irritability, depression/anxiety, inability to concentrate, and more. Some are also signs and symptoms of POTS so watching your body and knowing the difference can help you stay on top of potential POTS flares associated with your period.
Your Period and POTS
It’s not in your head. You have flares with POTS on your period.
In fact, a published study shows that women with POTS are more likely to experience lightheadedness through all stages of their menstrual cycle compared to controls without POTS. The study says flares that happen around your period are due to the normal hormonal fluctuations that occur in a woman’s body.
So, What Helps?
Try tracking your cycle. If your cycle is regular, it is important for you to track your cycle so that you know for sure what to expect day to day as it relates to your chronic illness. Keep a diary of symptoms and days through your cycle to see if you can start to recognize a pattern. This is especially important if your cycle is irregular.
Treat the flare before it starts. Eventually you’ll be a pro knowing that, “okay, today I’m going to struggle with headache and extra dizziness” or something similar. If you know when your period will start or when your symptoms usually begin to take hold then you’ll be able to start treating a flare before it begins. A win win for all.
How do I prevent a POTS flare?
There’s different options for treating flares with your chronic illness. You know your body best and you likely already know what will help you best. But, maybe you’re new to this and you were recently diagnosed. Here’s some tips to prevent or shorten flares.
Get enough rest. Yes! This is your sign to nap. Getting to bed early can also help. We know it’s hard. Your mind is healthy and is giving you a do list longer than the end credits of a Marvel movie, but your body is saying no. Resting is really important when you’re in a flare. The rest of the stuff can wait.
Hydrate! Are you getting enough electrolytes? Making sure you’re keeping your sodium and water levels up is super important for potsies. The recommended treatment for POTS is between 3,000mg and 10,000mg per day of sodium. And, be aware, there is a great difference in electrolyte drinks. Sports drinks are not optimal for potsies. Personally we are fond of NormaLyte.
Try to exercise. Moving makes a difference in how you feel. I know, it’s difficult, but you can adapt your workouts to work for you. Any little bit helps.
Stock up on salty snacks. You’re hydrating, but you should also be getting enough nutrition and salt as well. If you know when to expect your cycle, it’s good to have the items you need on hand ahead of time. Get your favorite salty snack and be prepared to chow down.
It’s not in your head. POTS is worse on your period. With some time and a little effort, you will come to find that your period doesn’t have to be a triggering event anymore. You will find what works for you to prevent the flares associated with your period. Aunt Flo doesn’t have to be such a traumatic event, and while you may not welcome her with open arms… you can learn to tolerate her when she visits.