Electrolytes for EDS

Dysautonomia is an umbrella term for dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is one such condition and is common in individuals with hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD) and with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS).

Dysautonomia involves dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system which encompasses a wide range of symptoms. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating automatic bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, kidney function and blood pressure. When the autonomic system is not functioning properly it can cause issues such as lightheadedness, malnutrition and unstable blood pressure. Additionally, dysautonomia can cause dehydration. Individuals with dysautonomia frequently have an imbalance in the hormonal system within the kidneys that is responsible for fluid and electrolyte regulation. These hormones control how much water as well as how much of the body’s electrolytes are released in the urine. This hormonal imbalance can result in chronic dehydration and deficiency in certain minerals including sodium, potassium and magnesium. An effective way to combat this dehydration and accompanying loss of minerals is to supplement electrolytes. 

How the body utilizes salt, magnesium and other individual electrolytes is complex and beyond the scope of this article but in general, symptoms of low electrolyte levels include dizziness, lethargy, abnormal heart rate, digestive upset, muscle cramps, muscle weakness and numbness or tingling in limbs, fingers, and toes

To ensure sufficient sodium levels, recommendations in the literature for salt intake vary from 8-10 grams to 10-12 grams. We have found that appropriate levels can vary substantially from one person to the next. One way to manage salt intake when seeking to improve symptoms of dysautonomia is to start with about 3gm of added salt per day and increase by 1 gram per day up to a maximum of 12 gm per day depending on symptoms. In other words, if  you feel best at 9 gm/ day, that should be your intake unless symptoms change. Doctors can also test for sodium levels using a blood test which can assess the efficacy of supplementation. 

Increasing sodium intake may be sufficient to relieve symptoms of dysautonomia but you may find that including other minerals is more beneficial for you. If you choose to take an electrolyte supplement that is more than just sodium, there are many on the market to choose from. Some contain sugar, and others  contain artificial sweeteners such as stevia which may or may not appeal to you. Additionally, electrolyte supplements contain varying amounts of sodium and other vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and calcium. With so many choices on the market we wanted to make it a little easier to explore your options.  We have compiled a list of electrolyte supplements along with some of the nutrition content and cost so you can easily compare some of the options out there. 

For those of you who prefer other options you can make on your own here are a few recipes we recommend. Note that ⅛ tsp of salt contains approximately 300 mg of sodium.

  • Seltzer with ⅛ tsp a mint leaves in a tea ball with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice
  • Coconut water, lemon juice, maple syrup or honey and ⅛ tsp salt. Try this one blended.
  • Raspberry lemon magnesium citrate,⅛ tsp salt and water.
  • Blend ½ cup strawberries, juice of 1 lime, water and ⅛ tsp salt. Add a little honey if you prefer more sweetness.

Keep in mind that electrolyte replacement is not always sufficient for management of dysautonomia and it is just one tool you can implement to manage symptoms. We encourage you to talk to your doctor about what will work best for you.

Electrolyte Comparison Chart:

Written by Jennifer Oechsner PTA