Today's post is a partnership between Kind of Broken blog and the makers of SaltStick. This is my first sponsored post and I decided to share this post with you because I have used their product every day for years now. I wouldn't have agreed to this partnership if I didn't believe in the product. Enjoy this informative sponsored post and some of my comments at the bottom:
"As most readers of Kind of Broken probably know, Dysautonomia is an umbrella term for autonomic neuropathy, meaning the autonomic nervous system (ANS) does not function correctly, reducing the effectiveness of nervous signals between the brain and other organs including the heart, pupils, intestines and blood vessels. This is why Dysautonomia patients often suffer from symptoms such as low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, tunnel or blurry vision.
One common manifestation of Dysautonomia is known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which occurs when the ANS cannot compensate for changes in body position. Thus, standing is usually accompanied by rapid increases in heart rate and a drop in blood pressure.
The link between low blood pressure and severity of POTS symptoms has been heavily explored by the medical community. However, the advice to consume ample amounts of water and salt to increase blood pressure and relieve symptoms hasn’t changed much over the years.
Here’s a little more detail on why salt can help alleviate symptoms of Dysautonomia:
The link between POTS and low blood pressure:
As we said above, the medical community has heavily explored the relationship between POTS and low blood pressure. Currently, there are three main theories:
I. As described by a 2012 study published in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, the act of standing causes blood to pool in the legs and feet, due to gravity. In a healthy person, the heart rate will increase slightly and the peripheral blood vessels will constrict to keep blood in the upper body. This response depends, in part, on the ANS. In a Dysautonomia patient, the nervous system does not properly activate these changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and all the blood will remain in the patient’s legs and feet, resulting in lightheadedness upon standing. Bottom line: An impaired ANS prevents the body from responding to changes in position that require increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
II. Another theory, suggested in a 2005 American Journal of Physiology paper, states that POTS symptoms are due to an overreaction to changes in the baroreflex mechanism, which is responsible for regulating blood pressure to the brain and other organs. The 2005 paper found that POTS patients’ bodies have an exaggerated response to changes in the baroreflex, which could result in increases in heart rate. Bottom line: POTS patients’ bodies do not properly respond to the baroreflex mechanism which helps regulate blood pressure.
III. A third theory (published in a 2005 Hypertension paper) suggests that the genes responsible for regulating nitric oxide are underrepresented in POTS patients. Nitric oxide helps regulate blood pressure and also contributes to the release of noradrenaline, which is the main neurotransmitter for the cardiovascular system. Thus, impaired nitric oxide release undermines the systems that regulate blood pressure and heart rate in POTS patients. Bottom line: POTS patients suffer from impaired nitric oxide production, which hampers blood pressure regulation.
As you can see, there’s no consensus about what exactly causes the low blood pressure in POTS patients. Regardless of the initial mechanism, the treatment seems to be the same: Drink a lot of water and eat a lot of salt. In the next section, we’ll explore why this helps alleviate symptoms.
Why salt increases blood pressure:
Like nearly everything in the body, blood pressure is maintained through a balance of water and certain key minerals, one of which is sodium. This balance is, in part, regulated by the kidneys.
Blood contains water in addition to many other elements, including blood cells, minerals and nutrients. Whenever there is too much water in the blood, the kidneys work to remove the excess and send it to the bladder to be excreted. The process of removing extra water relies on a balance of sodium and potassium, which work together to pull the water across the walls of your blood vessels through osmosis. This process has been examined extensively in medical literature (American Journal of Physiology, 2006; American Journal of Physiology, 2012; Nature Reviews: Nephrology, 2012; Journal of Human Hypertension; 1996).
When you consume a lot of sodium, without consuming a similar amount of potassium, this balance is thrown off, and the kidneys cannot pull enough extra water from the blood. This results in a greater volume of water in the blood stream, which puts pressure on the walls of your arteries and veins, thus raising blood pressure. In a healthy person, this would be a bad thing, but in a POTS patient suffering from chronically low blood pressure, this is ideal.
A caveat: Why it’s important to create an imbalance: The link between sodium and chronically-high blood pressure is hotly contested, partly because one of the most effective methods to counter high sodium intake is to correspondingly increase potassium. The American Heart Association recommends an intake of 4,700 mg of potassium per day, and notes on its website that “potassium is important in controlling blood pressure because potassium lessens the effects of sodium.”
Again, it comes down to the balance of sodium and potassium. If a healthy person consumes too much sodium, which throws off the sodium/potassium balance in the kidneys, causing an increase in blood pressure, that person simply needs to consume more potassium to restore the proper ratio. Of course, in a POTS patient, raising blood pressure to normal levels requires an overconsumption of sodium relative to potassium. Otherwise, the balance is maintained, and blood pressure remains too low.
Takeaways: How to apply this knowledge:
Now that you have a greater understanding of the role salt plays in helping to relieve symptoms of Dysautonomia, we’d like to provide a few steps you can take to put your knowledge into practice.
Eat a lot of salt. This one is pretty obvious, but it’s worth repeating the common advice to consume more salt, which is about 40 percent sodium. Exact recommendations vary, ranging from seven to 15 grams per day. Either way, it’s far less than the American Heart Association’s recommendation of approximately 3.5 grams. The bottom line is that you want to consume more sodium relative to potassium in order to keep blood pressure at normal levels. If you’re consuming the recommended 4.7 grams of potassium per day, you’ll need to really increase the table salt.
Try SaltStick. Of course, all that salt in your food can sometimes be … a lot. Salt has a distinct taste, and it can sometimes get tiring to consume savory foods all day long. SaltStick, which contains 215 mg of sodium in each capsule, may help. There are two major benefits to consuming SaltStick for POTS patients:
I. It doesn’t taste like salt. SaltStick Caps are flavorless and easily digestible. Commonly used by endurance athletes exercising in the heat, SaltStick is formulated to enter the bloodstream with as little resistance as possible -- either from flavor or absorption in the stomach. If you are tired of the flavor salt adds to your food, consider supplementing with SaltStick instead. Note that SaltStick is also non-GMO, vegetarian, gluten-free and does not contain any sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup. Just the electrolytes you need, in a form your body can easily absorb.
II. It provides more than just sodium. Remember, most physiological processes rely on a balance among minerals in the blood. “Salt” and “electrolytes” are both umbrella terms for several minerals, including sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride. All of these minerals are important for a variety of functions, only one of which is blood pressure, and consuming nothing but table salt will mean you’re missing out on the other key electrolytes. Because SaltStick contains all of the above electrolytes, you can be sure you’re getting everything you need. This is especially important, given that more than 60 percent of men and women consume less than the recommended daily amount of magnesium, and more than 50 percent do not consume enough calcium.
But wait! Doesn’t SaltStick contain potassium? It’s important to remember that POTS patients want to over-consume sodium relative to potassium. Given that one SaltStick capsule contains 63 mg of potassium, it may seem counterintuitive to use SaltStick as a method for increasing sodium intake. However, this should not be a cause for concern, as each capsule contains more than three times the amount of sodium than potassium.
SaltStick is designed to mimic the profile of electrolytes contained in sweat, which results in a 215 to 63 ratio of sodium to potassium. For the endurance athlete exercising in the heat, consuming this much sodium in relation to potassium is not only acceptable, it’s recommended because this athlete needs to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. SaltStick is not recommended for sedentary individuals precisely because capsules contain levels of sodium that only make sense if you’re sweating in the heat.
However, for the POTS patient who wants to over-consume sodium, SaltStick may be ideal precisely for the reasons listed above, and the inclusion of potassium in each capsule should not be of concern because of the high levels of sodium.
We hope we were able to shed some light on why salt can help relieve symptoms of Dysautonomia. By consuming high amounts of sodium, relative to potassium, patients can raise blood pressure to normal levels, which can help counteract the lightheadedness and other negative symptoms.
If you are tired of salting your food, supplementing your diet with SaltStick Caps may help because each capsule is flavorless and also provides additional electrolytes that keep your body functioning properly.
Important Note: The above should not be construed as medical advice. Contact your physician before starting any exercise program or if you are taking any medication. Individuals with high blood pressure should also consult their physician prior to taking an electrolyte supplement. Overdose of electrolytes is possible, with symptoms such as vomiting and feeling ill, and care should be taken not to overdose on any electrolyte supplement.
Image source: pixabay.com
SaltStick has offered a discount code for Kind of Broken readers. Use the code "KIND25" and it is good for 25% off all products bought through our online store at shopsaltstick.com. Note that it only applies to customers in the U.S., and it will expire ."
One of the first suggestions you'll hear when you get a diagnosis of Dysautonomia is to increase your salt intake. It takes some trial and error to find the best way to do this because each person's presentation of the condition is different as well as our tastes. Since there are many other electrolyte products out there besides SaltSticks I wanted to make sure there was information that would compare the products, which is provided in the chart above.
Many in the Dysautonomia groups I'm in use ThermoTabs, which are cheaper. I haven't tried those. I've only ever used SaltSticks and I've had success with them. I'd love to hear your experiences with other electrolyte tablets or other salt products.
You can also read my post here I wrote awhile ago discussing some of the other products I use to try to reach the recommended high salt intake for Dysautonomia patients.
Increasing your salt intake is just one piece of the puzzle in managing Dysautonomia symptoms. Dysautonomia International lists many different strategies for managing the condition that are useful. Since Dysautonomia presents uniquely in each individual, it's important to find what works best for you.
I hope this information has been helpful and I'd love to hear what other strategies you use to get more salt in your diet.