Sep 2, 2011

What Should a POTS Grrl (or Guy) Eat?

So many of my POTS friends have malnutrition problems, even though they are trying their best to eat lots of healthy foods.  Nutritional deficiencies can creep up on POTS patients because so many of us have trouble swallowing, choking on food, acid reflux, vomiting, nausea, gastric motility problems, constipation, diarrhea, stomach cramps and just a general malabsorption problem in our guts.  Also, illness can rob you of important vitamins and minerals.  Imbalances in the body can divert nutrients away from the places it belongs and into places it doesn't belong in your body.  If you are fighting an infection or if you are just having lots of tachycardia all day, your body can burn more calories than normal, speeding up your metabolism even if you aren't exercising.  

I had a 60 lb, weight loss within the first six months of developing POTS.  Thankfully I was a little chubby and had some spare weight to lose.  At my skinniest, I was 120 lbs. and I'm almost 6 ft tall.  POTS had me looking like an Olsen twin with ribs sticking out and shoulder blades so sharp I could kill someone.  Only supermodels look good when they are that skinny.  I just looked too skinny and sick.  After some serious diet changes, I was able to put on a healthy 15 lbs, and I am now working very hard to keep on the weight.

If you are losing weight without trying, you are also probably not getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.  The most common nutritional deficiencies in POTS are low potassium, low Vitamin D and low iron.  Many POTS patients have low magnesium and low calcium too.  You should ask your doctor to run blood tests to check the basic vitamin levels in your body.  

Here are some good foods to eat if you are deficient in any of those vitamins, or even if you just want to prevent any vitamin deficiencies.

-dried apricots
-apricot baby food
-coconut water
-prune juice
-carrot juice
-white potatoes
-winter squash
-beans (lima, pinto, white, kidney)
-black strap molasses (1 tbsp has more potassium than a banana)
-see other high potassium foods

-direct sunlight, not through a window, is a great way to get Vitamin D (your skin makes it when you are exposed to sunshine)
-canned tuna in water
-shrimp (boiled or steamed)
-orange juice that is fortified with Vitamin D (check label)
-shitake mushrooms
-Vitamin D supplements are pretty cheap and are available in most drug stores.  They are usually very small gel capsules that are easy to swallow compared to larger vitamins.
-see other Vitamin D foods

IRON (absorbed best when eaten with something that has Vitamin C in it)

-clams, oysters, mussel
-dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens)

-roasted pumpkin seeds
-sunflower seeds
-sunflower nut butter (like peanut butter, but made from sunflower seeds)
-dried herbs (Thyme, Parsley, Black Pepper, Marjoram, Cumin Seed, Dill, Oregano, and Rosemary)
-corn flakes
-see other high iron foods

If you are having serious GI issues and keep losing weight, you should talk to your doctor about getting tested for celiac disease.  People with celiac disease get sick from eating anything with gluten in it, which includes wheat, barley, rye, some forms of oats and other less common grains.  Gluten is hidden in many processed foods, even some sodas.  Celiac disease can cause nerve damage, which can cause POTS like symptoms.  Many POTS patients who don't have celiac disease still have a gluten sensitivity, and feel much healthier when they stop eating gluten.  As soon as I stopped eating gluten, my GI symptoms greatly improved and I stopped losing weight. I have other blog posts about going gluten free on this site, which you can find using the search bar on the top right of the page. Gluten free doesn't have to be expensive, so don't use that as an excuse not to try it.

If you have a hard time swallowing and digesting foods, you may want to try eating more "wet" foods like steamed spinach, mashed potatoes, mashed veggies (turnips and cauliflower almost taste like mashed potatoes), soups, and even baby food.  Sometimes I get myself some apricot puree baby food, which actually tastes pretty awesome.  You can also try making smoothies out of some of these ingredients.  You may also want to try out a juicer - to help you get the fruits and veggies you need.  Check out my prior post on the raw food diet, written by a guest POTSy who is on a liquid diet-she had some good blender recipes. Here are my favorite smoothie and juicer combos.

                                                                      For the blender:
Banana Nut Smoothie 
Soy, rice or cow's milk as a base
peanut butter or sunflower nut butter
ice if you'd like it

Berry Good Smoothie
Any flavor yogurt you like
Any flavored berries you like
banana (if you'd like)
ice (if you'd like)

Cucumber Watermelon Cooler
Plain Yogurt
fresh Mint (mint may not be a good idea if you have acid reflux)
fresh parsley
fresh cilantro

                                                                     For the juicer:

I basically mix half "bitter" juices with half "sweet" juices.  The bitter stuff is healthier and the sweet stuff is tastier.  If you drink straight sweet juice, you may give yourself a mega dose of sugar, without all of the healthy fiber found in whole fruits.  I add salt to most of my juice, and believe it or not, it complements the sweet juices pretty well if you don't overdo it.  Fresh juice is best when consumed within 15 minutes of juicing it.  It starts to lose enzymes and antioxidants pretty quickly after that.

Bitter Juices
Celery Stalks

Sweet Juices
Grapes (including stems)

Watermelon Gazpacho-for the juicer
-fill a large bowl halfway with fresh watermelon juice
-juice 1/2 a cucumber into the bowl
-add large tablespoon of sour cream or plain yogurt to the bowl and blend well
-chop up remaining watermelon and cucumber into bite sizes pieces and add to -bowl
-add fresh herbs, cut chiffonade style (thin little strips)-mint, parsley and cilantro
-serve with fresh sour cream and/or avocado as a topping in each soup bowl
-salt and pepper to taste