Dysautonomia / POTS
Updated: Jul 21
A common symptom of brain injury is autonomic nervous system dysfunction or “dysautonomia.” Your brain stem is the control center for the automatic things like your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, digestion, perspiration, etc and is very vulnerable to injury. Dysautonomia can basically feel like all your bodily functions are “out of control” or “have a mind of their own”.
A common syndrome is POTS or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome where your heart rate increases dramatically (over 30bpm) when you are in a standing position vs sitting or laying down. Someone with dysautonomia symptoms often have huge fluctuations in their heart rate and blood pressure while just trying to do simple daily activities.
I remember the first time I went to a doctor that understood brain injury. He took my heart rate sitting down and then again standing up. I was surprised to see the huge 40bpm difference. This explained why I would often “black out” when I stood up. I then started to wear a heart monitor daily and the fluctuation was so high that I thought it was broken until I put it on my husband for a day and his readings barely budged.
Another common symptom of dysautonomia is Gastroparesis where the stomach doesn’t empty properly. I suffered from severe gastroparesis after a car accident in 2006. I would vomit things that I knew I didn’t eat that day. My doctor performed an endoscopy where he found there was still food in my stomach from the day before. There wasn’t a large awareness of dysautonomia back then so my doc couldn’t explain why this was happening. Now there are some doctors, especially neurologists, who are aware of dysautonomia, but many still don’t know that it is commonly caused by brain injury from concussions and also reported to be a common problem after the Gardisil vaccine which I had also been talked into getting before I knew better.
So far my biggest improvements through therapies have been in my breathing, blood pressure, digestion, sweating, and heart rate. When I went to see a certain specialist for this condition, they told me that I wouldn’t get better on my own and would have to just take steroids to manage the symptoms long term. I knew better though and so did my other Doctors. As my brain has healed from the many therapies that I’ve done, my symptoms have greatly reduced. It’s hard to tell what “did the trick” but I’ve noticed that some of the most powerful therapies for my dysautonomia symptoms have been anything that helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system and stimulate the vagus nerve. These activities have included breathing exercises, electric stimulation like Fisher Wallace and SSEP, throat activations like humming and gargling, Christian meditation and prayer, Wholetones music, etc.