Load up on Electrolytes

Let’s talk salt shall we?

POTSie people are told to increase their salt intake, as a high sodium level in the body causes water retention. Water retention increases blood pressure. Most POTSies have a lowered ability to retain fluids AND low blood pressure, so saltiness is akin to manna from heaven for us. #Supposedly.

Luckily, I like salt. Give me a crate of fries over sugary candy any day, I am all for that. But as much as we (over) salt our food, we still need to supplement.

Enter electrolyte beverages, stage left.

There are so many electrolyte beverages on the market right now. It would be impossible to review them all. Personally, I cannot tolerate artificial sweeteners (sucralose, sorbitol, et al.), which narrows the field quite a bit. I am also gluten free, and weirdly, some manufacturers use gluten in the form of modified food starches to thicken some formulas, so watch out!

Keep in mind that the average POTSie is to increase their salt intake to anywhere from 4 to 10 grams (that’s right, grams) of saltiness a day depending on symptom severity (always check with your doctors, kids- really, I mean it!). Most food labels use milligrams, so to be clear with the below breakdowns, POTSies need 4,000 to 10,000 mg a day of saltiness. Here are some of my favorite salt-suppling beverages:

Gatorade

Classic choice. This beverage was created in 1965 by research scientists in Florida in the hopes of boosting the university football team’s recovery while playing in the humidity and heat. It aids the Gators– get it? Flash forward to now, and Gatorade is the ubiquitous sports drink, and has way more products than its original Lemon-Lime concoction.

My go to flavor is Gatorade Frost Glacier Cherry. A 20-ounce bottle contains:

Calories: 130

Sugars: 34 g

Sodium: 270 mg

Potassium: 75 mg

For ease of comparison, 1 ounce contains 13.5 mg sodium and 3.75 mg potassium (another important electrolyte).

Pretty standard. I’m not a fan of how sugary it is (1.7 g per ounce) because I’m not big on sugar. It can cause upset stomach if you drink a lot at once. It helps to water it down.

Available: Almost everywhere beverages are sold.

Vitalyte

I stumbled upon this stuff when looking for a Gatorade alternative. I like the Lemon flavor. It’s light and not overpowering. This is sold as a powder that you add to liquid- you can make an 8-ounce glass at a time or quarts or gallons depending on your needs.

An 8-ounce glass contains:

Calories: 40

Sugars: 10 g

Sodium: 68 mg

Potassium: 92 mg

So, 1 ounce has 8.5 mg sodium and 11.5 mg potassium. And I’ll take that 0.45 g reduction in sugar thank you very much.

Available: REI

Plus for Nuun

I’ve heard good things about Nuun, but the majority of their products contain artificial sweeteners and some even have gluten. Plus for Nuun is like a booster tablet that you’re supposed to add to your previously Nuun-ed drink for even more electrolyte power. Happily, it is unflavored and can be added to nearly anything to add some electrolytes in a pinch. Plus is in tablet form and does take a minute or two to dissolve, but the skinny container can easily fit in your purse for convenient electrolyte boosting on the go.

Recommended serving size is 2 tablets in 16 ounces of fluid.

Calories: 40

Sugar: 9 g

Sodium: 50 mg

Potassium: 100 mg

Again, 1-ounce gives 3.125 mg sodium and 6.25 mg potassium. Plus also contains magnesium and calcium for a more well rounded electrolyte benefit.

Available: Online, drugstores, REI

Thermotabs

The salt pill of champions! Salt pills are not everyone’s favorite. They are not coated, so swallowing them is tricky. They taste salty. They are known to cause stomach upset. (Take them with food to lessen this effect.) Yet nothing quite touches the salt content. Per pill, each contains:

Sodium: 180 mg

Potassium: 15 mg

Available: Most pharmacies and online

I tend to drink some combination of the above beverages, take a couple of salt pills, plus glue the salt shaker to my hand at each meal. I haven’t tallied my daily sodium intake up in a while, but any POTSie worth her salt (so punny) can tell when her sodium is dipping- if not, pay attention to the not-so-random headaches and over-zealous urges to pee all the time and adjust accordingly.

It’s important to get your sodium levels checked through blood work too. If you happen to be starting out depleted, you may need more. Also, if you have a stable level, adding more to your diet might not be as helpful as you wish it would be.

How do you get your salt, POTSies?

Also, have you ever drunk straight pickle juice for electrolyte purposes? There’s a company that sells it as a sports drink (Pickle Juice Sport!) and in 8 ounces, it contains 890 mg sodium and 70 mg potassium (111.25 mg and 8.75 mg in 1 ounce respectively- 8 times the amount of sodium in Gatorade!). I mean, I love pickles, but I don’t know if I love them enough to drink them before I go on a run…

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2 thoughts on “Load up on Electrolytes

  1. Elizabeth B. says:

    Weird thing: I have high blood pressure with my POTS, which is awkward. However, if I drink salty beverages or eat fries or otherwise increase my salt, many of my symptoms disappear (headaches, dizziness, vision issues, etc). I have no idea what is going on with me 😛 Luckily, there has been research recently saying that increasing salt doesn’t impact high bp as much as originally thought. The main key to my POTS just seems to be massive quantities of fluid, and my doc recommended electrolyte fluids, but not to worry too much about salt.

    I also really like Propel (zero calories, decent sodium, technically no potassium but there is some in the ingredient list), and SoBe Lifewater (some sodium, also zero calories).

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