Updated: Jun 24
Last year a young woman booked in for a Skype appointment. That's nothing unusual, except that on checking her address I found out she lived but 10 minutes away from my office by bus. I jumped to a whole bunch of conclusions. May be she was shy, perhaps agoraphobic? Dare I say it, even lazy. I was wrong on every count.
The girl in question, I soon discovered, as she flickered into view on my laptop screen, was suffering from POTS or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and her legs were covered in bruises from all the times she'd passed out and fallen in the last few weeks. The full list of her symptoms was dizzying, literally.
Topping the bill were light-headedness and multiple daily fainting episodes (especially in the shower or on standing up) with madly elevated heart rate, palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, shaking and sweating, weakness and exhaustion. All that plus the sideline symptoms of brain fag, random adrenaline surges, pounding headaches, nausea, heartburn, bloating, constipation, sweating, buzzing in the ears, trouble focusing the eyes, itching skin, recurring nightmares or insomnia. No wonder she didn't want to get on the bus.
The trigger in POTS appears to be a disruption to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), in other words, the backroom of our nervous system that controls blood pressure, blood supply to the brain, the digestive system and many other 'automatic' functions of the body like sleep and body temperature control. Imagine a car where the electrics are seriously on the blink and you'll get the idea.
I'll admit I'd never heard of POTS. I'll be surprised if you have either. But POTS is on the rise and it's not about to go away any time soon. In the USA alone there are now over 3 million estimated sufferers, knocking the number of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) sufferers into a hat. Currently there's no known medical cure, only drugs to take the edge off the worst symptoms.
And just like CFS and Fibromyalgia, up until recently POTS patients have been repeatedly dismissed and dumped in the 'It's all in the head' file for too long. Mandy, the girl who came to see me, had taken over a year to be diagnosed and subjected to more than a few pointed interviews where her mental health was subtly called into question.
To give doctors their due, POTS isn't easy to diagnose, it looks like a lot of other illnesses. It can come on after a major accident, surgery, post virus like glandular fever, CFS and even pregnancy. It's also often found co-existing with a host of other maladies including diabetes, autoimmune disorders, Lyme disease, hypermobility (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) or severe allergies (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome). Typically though, most doctors have been trained in the deductive school of medical reasoning where, if the patient's symptoms don't fit the medical theory, then it's the patient rather than the doctor who is wrong. And no one's got a medical explanation for POTS yet, well, not one that sticks.
Reading the available clinical papers on POTS which are now being spewed out on an almost daily basis as doctors (and drug companies) race to find a cure, the big guns are currently looking into the culprit being a malfunctioning enzyme EZH2 or a compromised Vagus nerve, the majordomo of the Peripheral Nervous System. The question on everyone's lips is, but why there, why now?
A homeopath will tell you it's not that surprising. It fits perfectly with the concept of repeatedly suppressing acute illness at the cost of long term health. As master homeopath George Vithoulkas plausibly purports in The Science of Homeopathy, the body has a defense mechanism that closely guards its major players namely kidneys, lungs, liver, endocrine system, heart, and ultimately brain. From its first moment, the body will push any 'dis-ease' out, if it can, to where it causes least damage to the whole; the skin and mucus membranes, and if they're already compromised, then the muscles and bones. Those who are born into this world already sick, or have a poor genetic inheritance, are already struggling with this process.
He goes on to say that if you subvert this process again and again (think multiple vaccinations at birth, followed by a steroid cream for eczema, some antibiotics for an ear infection, the Pill for period pains or acne, and on and on), the body has no choice but to sound the retreat, and move its defense lines further and further back.
This is not a condemnation of allopathic medicines per se; Vithoulkas would be the first to admit they can and do save lives. He merely states that in his 50+ years of practice treating literally thousands of cases, he has observed that if drugs are routinely used for non emergency situations there will eventually be pay back. However far out you think Vithoulkas' theories may be, if he's right, then what we're seeing with POTS is a major retreat right to the ANS. That's pretty far in.
Theories aside, I'll admit that I was pretty reluctant to treat Mandy when she came my way. I seriously doubted if homeopathy would even touch the sides. But she was insistent; like many others she'd tried the standard protocols of the betablockers, the antihypotensives, the antidepressants et al, and none of them had helped. I won't bore you with the details of how I managed the case except to say that Mr Vithoulkas' ideas came in very handy. Four months on, Mandy is now happily catching the bus about town and even walking to work... and no more bruises. You can read about her progress here.
If you're struggling with POTS then please get in touch or make an appointment. I work internationally via Zoom video and face-to-face in Brixton, London, UK.
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Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of your physician or health care provider. First aid situations may require medical or hospital care. Do not use this article as a means to diagnose a health condition. Speak to your doctor if you think that your condition may be serious, before discontinuing any medication that has been prescribed for you, or before starting any new treatment.