Hi, friends! I have POTS diet tips woven throughout different blog posts, but I don’t have one post dedicated to compiling all these diet tips in one neat and tidy place. Plus, I’m really interested in nutrition and how what you eat can fuel and nourish your body. So I thought I’d write a post full of POTS diet and nutrition tips that can help you manage POTS symptoms after eating and throughout the day.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor before beginning any new lifestyle changes.
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Keep Up With Your Fluid Intake
With Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, staying hydrated becomes a priority in your everyday life. The Cleveland Clinic recommends that POTS patients drink 68-85 fl oz of fluids each day, or 2-2.5 liters.
On this blog, I recommend getting a big water bottle that you only need to refill once or a few times per day. This bottle can help remind you to drink throughout the day and keep you on track for reaching your hydration goals.
Also as part of a POTS diet, make sure to add drinks with electrolytes into your daily rotation. This can include electrolyte replenishers like Liquid IV, Pedialyte, and Vitassium, or sources like coconut water, which naturally has potassium and sodium for hydration.
Mixing up smoothies is another favorite — and healthy — way I like to stay hydrated each day. Not only can I add things like frozen fruit, Greek yogurt, and collagen powder (I use Vital Proteins!), but fluids like water and almond milk help keep my hydration levels up.
In the summer, I like to make tropical smoothies with pineapple, mango, and peach. I’ll mix it with coconut water and plain water (or almond milk, depending on what I’m feeling) to get a double whammy of electrolytes and what feels like a mini tropical getaway.
The only downside to all this hydration throughout the day is the many bathroom trips that come along with it. Yes, it’s annoying to need to empty my bladder almost every hour. But I do it because my body needs it! Who else here hates how often they need to pee with all this extra hydration?
Choose High-Fiber Foods and Complex Carbs
For some people with POTS, meals full of simple carbs can cause POTS symptoms after eating. Simple carbs are sources with little nutritive value, such as processed foods, cakes and cookies, candy, and sugary drinks. The Cleveland Clinic suggests eating plenty of high-fiber foods and complex carbohydrates. These foods help to keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day, which can reduce your POTS symptoms.
Some high-fiber foods you can add to your diet include:
- Berries, especially raspberries and blueberries
- Whole grain products
- Beans and lentils
- High-fiber cereals and granolas
- Dried fruits, like prunes or dates
- Chia seeds (a great smoothie addition!)
Examples of complex carbohydrates include:
- Whole grains, such as quinoa, oats, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta and bread
- High-fiber and starchy fruits and vegetables, like apples, berries, broccoli, and carrots
You’ll notice that many of these foods overlap in each category, so these are especially great foods to add to your POTS diet!
Eat Small, Frequent Meals on a POTS Diet
Instead of eating three large meals per day, experiment with eating smaller, more frequent meals. Why? Because eating large meals increases the demand for blood flow to your abdomen so your body can digest the food. And that means that there’s less circulating blood going to your brain, which is often why eating a large meal can trigger POTS symptoms.
Every year, I almost always feel my POTS symptoms after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. And every year, I tell myself to pace myself with my portions, but sure enough, I don’t listen. (I just love stuffing SO much!) But it’s the holidays — they come once a year — so I make an exception. All the other days of the year? I prioritize smaller and more frequent meals.
So what does this look like for me? I’ll drop an example of some of the meals I eat on a typical day below:
Breakfast: Oatmeal or scrambled eggs with a piece of whole wheat toast
Midmorning Snack: Pretzels, popcorn, protein smoothie with berries, or almonds (hello, salt!)
Lunch: A salad with deli turkey or chicken breast, or leftovers from dinner (usually a protein, whole grain, and veggie, or a soup)
Late Afternoon Snack: Greek yogurt with granola; apples, carrots, and/or celery with peanut butter; or a Luna protein bar
Dinner: This varies, but usually includes a protein, whole grain, and veggie. We cook a lot of stir fry-type meals with chicken, rice, and vegetables because you can make salty sauces to pour over them (and you can go Chinese, Thai, or Indian flavors with these). We also cook a lot of soups and stews because that’s easy on a weeknight, and I can easily add more salt to them.
Dessert: Either a cookie or a brownie if I’m treating myself (lately, that’s been often, I’ll be honest) or a piece of dark chocolate. I have such a sweet tooth!
Cut out Alcohol
POTS and alcohol are kind of like POTS and running — they don’t go well together. And this is for several reasons. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it flushes water out of your body and causes dehydration. And this dehydration can raise your heart rate, worsening tachycardia. Finally, alcohol interacts with certain medications, so drinking alcohol may not even be safe if you take POTS medication.
So, for all these reasons, POTS and alcohol often don’t mix well. And this is a topic you should definitely speak with your doctor about.
That being said, everyone is at different points in their POTS journey. Before my POTS diagnosis, and for a while after, I avoided alcohol because it made me feel absolutely terrible! But now, over three years since my POTS diagnosis, my symptoms are better under control, and I’m not on any POTS medication. I can tolerate a drink or two socially, as long as I remember to stay hydrated.
So just because you can’t drink now doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine forever. And in the meantime, you can make plenty of delicious and refreshing mocktails! I love to drink mojitos without alcohol because it’s so refreshing and the mint helps debloat my stomach. Other favorites are a mock mint julep with ginger ale and a frozen pina colada without the rum. Got any other favorites to share? Drop them in the comments!
Bottom line: Speak with your doctor to get the right recommendation for you.
Eat High-Salt Foods
If your doctor recommends that you increase your salt intake for POTS treatment, you’re going to want to stock up on high-salt foods and salty snacks.
A 2021 study reports that people with POTS who ate a high-salt diet experienced lower standing heart rate, increased blood volume (plasma levels), and lower standing norepinephrine levels. (For context, norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter heavily involved with the fight-or-flight response.)
But despite the yummy options available for high-salt foods, it’s not always easy to eat a high-salt diet. Especially if your doctor tells you to eat upward of 3,000-10,000 mg of sodium per day (a range provided by the Cleveland Clinic).
Too much salt can make food hard to eat. So, depending on just how much sodium your doctor wants you to ingest each day, it may benefit you to try other ways to get a lot of salt. For example, Vitassium makes many products from Fast Chews to electrolyte drink mixes and capsules that you can take to increase your salt intake. And many other popular electrolyte replenishers contain high sodium levels.
Need more tips for a salty POTS diet? Check out my post on eating a high-salt diet for POTS treatment which talks about this topic more in-depth.
And read my post on my favorite salty snacks for POTS to get more ideas for your grocery list!
Learn if Caffeine Belongs in Your POTS Diet
The guidelines for POTS and caffeine are similar to those for POTS and alcohol. Have you ever experienced the constant need to pee after drinking coffee? That’s because caffeine is a diuretic as well. But caffeine also increases your heart rate as it gives you that boost of promised energy. For these reasons, caffeine may negatively affect your POTS symptoms and you should consider limiting or avoiding it.
But this advice isn’t for every POTSie.
Some people with POTS actually feel better when they drink caffeine. That’s because caffeine may also temporarily constrict blood vessels, raising low blood pressure. I believe I’m in this category, and I’ve found that there’s a fine line between having just enough caffeine to feel good and becoming a jittery, tachycardic hot mess. So, proceed with caution when it comes to caffeine.
Try the FODMAP Diet
During my trips to the Cleveland Clinic, I attended two support group meetings held by one of the top neurologists who treats POTS patients at the hospital. During one of these meetings, he mentioned something called the low FODMAP diet and how it can help POTS-related digestive problems.
This diet cuts out any foods that can aggravate digestive issues. And since it’s not uncommon for people with dysautonomia to experience tummy troubles, trying the low FODMAP diet can help you identify troublesome foods so you can cut them from your diet. Many people experience less bloating, stomach pain, constipation, and diarrhea from trying this diet.
If you’re just hearing about the low FODMAP diet and want to learn more about it, here’s a list of a few well-reviewed books to check out on the topic:
- The Low FODMAP Diet For Beginners by Mollie Tunitsky
- The Ultimate 5-Ingredient Low FODMAP Diet Cookbook by Edwin J. Garden
- The Beginner’s Guide to Low-FODMAP by Sarak Mirkin and Prevention editors
Other Nutrition Tips
- Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Choose lean proteins like chicken, fish, pork loin, turkey, or lean ground beef.
- Reduce red meat consumption.
- Eat poly and monounsaturated fats — the healthy fats! — like nuts, seeds, and fish.
- Avoid any food sensitivities you may have; common ones are dairy and gluten.
- Remember that your diet is all about balance, and you can absolutely treat yourself in moderation.
Shop Products Shared on This Page
- Large Reusable Water Bottle 32 fl oz
- Liquid IV
- Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder
- Vitassium Pink Lemonade Drink Mix
- Vitassium Fast Chews
- Vitassium Electrolyte Capsules
- Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder
I hope this more comprehensive blog on POTS diet and nutrition tips is helpful to have in one place. Until next time, fellow POTSies!