POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome)

What is POTS?

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) is a disorder that affects blood flow in the body, leading to various symptoms upon standing or sitting upright. Normally, when a person stands up, blood vessels contract, and the heart rate increases slightly to maintain blood flow to the brain. However, in individuals with POTS, this process doesn't work as it should.

The hallmark symptom of POTS is an excessive increase in heart rate upon assuming an upright position. Typically, the heart rate increases by 30 beats per minute or more within 10 minutes of standing (or upon tilt-table testing). This rapid heart rate (tachycardia) can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting (syncope), or near-fainting episodes.

POTS - Dr. Melanie Garrett, ND . Naturopathic Doctor, Fort McMurray Alberta.


Diagnosing POTS

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a complex condition that can be challenging to diagnose due to its varied symptoms. While there isn't a single definitive test for POTS, a combination of medical history assessment, physical examination, and specific tests help in making a diagnosis.

Here's an overview of the diagnostic process for POTS:

  1. Medical History Evaluation: A detailed discussion about your symptoms, their duration, triggers, and their impact on your daily life helps the healthcare provider understand your condition better.

  2. Physical Examination: This involves measuring your heart rate and blood pressure in different positions—lying down, sitting, and standing—to observe changes. People with POTS often experience a rapid increase in heart rate (tachycardia) of at least 30 beats per minute (or a heart rate greater than 120 beats per minute) within 10 minutes of standing up, along with certain symptoms like dizziness or lightheadedness.

  3. Tilt Table Test: A tilt table test may be conducted, where you lie on a table that is slowly tilted to simulate the process of standing up. This helps monitor changes in heart rate and blood pressure in a controlled environment.

  4. Blood Tests: While there isn't a specific blood test for POTS, blood tests can help rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms, such as thyroid disorders or anemia.

  5. Autonomic Function Testing: This includes various tests that assess the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which controls automatic bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. These tests can include measures of sweat production, heart rate variability, and other autonomic responses.

  6. Other Tests: Occasionally, additional tests like echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), exercise stress test, or other specialized cardiac tests may be conducted based on individual symptoms and medical history.

It's important to note that the diagnostic process may vary for each person, and a multidisciplinary approach involving healthcare professionals like cardiologists, neurologists, and autonomic specialists may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of POTS.

If you suspect you have POTS or are experiencing symptoms suggestive of POTS, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis. Early diagnosis and management can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with POTS.

POTS - Dr. Melanie Garrett, ND . Naturopathic Doctor, Fort McMurray Alberta.

Signs and symptoms of POTS

Other common symptoms include:

  1. Fatigue: Often extreme and persistent, impacting daily activities.
  2. Dizziness or lightheadedness: Feeling faint, especially when standing up.
  3. Fainting or near-fainting: Due to inadequate blood flow to the brain.
  4. Brain fog or cognitive difficulties: Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and reduced mental clarity.
  5. Palpitations: Sensation of a racing or pounding heart.
  6. Shortness of breath: Especially when upright.
  7. Chest discomfort or pain: Often due to rapid heart rate.
  8. Exercise intolerance: Difficulty tolerating physical activity due to symptoms worsening.

POTS & The Gut-Brain Connection

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) is a condition characterized by an abnormal response of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. While POTS primarily manifests with symptoms related to changes in posture, there's an emerging understanding of the intricate connection between the gut and the brain in individuals with this syndrome.

The gut-brain connection refers to the bidirectional communication network between the gut (the digestive system) and the brain. This communication occurs via nerves, hormones, and biochemical signaling pathways. In the context of POTS, disruptions in this connection can contribute to the complexity of symptoms experienced by individuals.

Here's how the gut-brain connection may influence POTS:

  1. Dysautonomia and Digestive Issues: POTS is considered a form of dysautonomia, where the autonomic nervous system doesn't function properly. This dysfunction can affect not only heart rate and blood pressure but also digestion. Many individuals with POTS experience symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and irregular bowel movements, indicating a link between autonomic dysfunction and gastrointestinal (GI) issues.

  2. Dysfunction in Visceral Sensitivity: The gut contains a complex network of nerves that communicate with the brain. In POTS, there might be an increased sensitivity to stimuli within the gut, leading to symptoms like abdominal discomfort or altered bowel habits. This heightened sensitivity can be due to the dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system, impacting the gut-brain signaling.

  3. Inflammation and Immune Response: Research suggests that inflammation and immune system alterations might play a role in both POTS and gastrointestinal disorders. Inflammation in the gut can affect the nervous system and contribute to autonomic dysfunction, potentially exacerbating symptoms in individuals with POTS.

  4. Impact of Diet and Microbiota: The composition of gut bacteria (microbiota) and dietary factors can influence the gut-brain axis. Certain diets or changes in the gut microbiome might affect symptoms experienced by individuals with POTS. Some individuals report symptom improvement with specific dietary modifications, indicating a potential role of the gut in symptom management.

Understanding the relationship between POTS and the gut-brain axis is an evolving area of research. While the exact mechanisms linking these systems remain to be fully elucidated, addressing gut health and considering interventions that positively impact the gut microbiome and digestive function could potentially complement POTS management strategies.

As research progresses, further insights into the gut-brain connection in POTS may pave the way for more targeted and comprehensive treatment approaches that address both autonomic dysfunction and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Book A Consultation

Naturopathic Initial Consultation

260 CAD

90 min consultation

Book Now

Adolescent Initial Consultation

210 CAD

90 min consultation

Book Now