A Range of Symptoms
Dysautonomia is an umbrella term for a number of disorders or medical conditions caused by damage to the autonomic nervous system ANS. Since the ANS controls all the automatic functions of the body including heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and gastrointestinal system, sufferers may have a wide range of symptoms. The severity of the symptoms can range from irritating to incapacitating and can fluctuate from day to day.
Most people with this disorder look perfectly healthy and others may see them as suffering from a psychological disorder, or worse still, as lazy. Either way, since this is a chronic disease with very real physical symptoms, their attitude may leave you feeling unappreciated.
Suddenly, I was now the subject, and not just an observer, of what I had been writing about for nearly a decade. — Tamara McClintock Greenberg Psy.D.
Share How You Feel
If you have been diagnosed with Dysautonomia you will have to make some lifestyle changes to accommodate the condition. You should take the time to explain the condition and how it makes you feel to your family and friends. You may need their support. They also need to understand why on some days you are just not well enough to do what they may want you to do.
Running a home when you suffer from Dysautonomia can be daunting especially if you suffer from fatigue. Learn to ask for help. Employ others to do what you can’t do, or buy the latest appliances to reduce the effort. Don’t be too harsh on yourself if you don’t manage to complete what you set out to do.
Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty or discouraged when your daily goals are not met. Schedule plenty of time for rest before and after difficult tasks. Prioritize the important things. Remember that stress can exaggerate the symptoms of this condition.
Find time to do the things that you enjoy. You may have to adjust your hobbies to accommodate your symptoms, but there are still many things that you should be able to do. Reading, art, and music are all relaxing pastimes that you can enjoy.
I made it clear in my tone and body language that my chronic illness was a minor setback, a hiccup, a pesky footnote in the narrative of my life. — Katie Willard Virant MSW, JD, LCSW
Moreover, sleep is very important especially if you suffer from chronic fatigue. Eight to nine hours of sleep per night is important. Take small breaks throughout the day so that you don’t wear yourself out.
A healthy and nutritional diet is vital for people suffering from this condition. Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar. These increase your blood sugar and could trigger symptoms. Food intolerances are recognized as a contributing factor to Dysautonomia in some people. Be on the look out for such intolerances and if necessary hire a dietician to assist in identifying them.
A diet that is high in sodium and fluids will assist in raising the blood pressure, which when low causes so many of the symptoms. Consuming between two and four grams of sodium and between two to three liters of water a day will alleviate symptoms.
Eating several small meals a day rather than two or three large meals can also help to reduce symptoms.
Exercise is recognized as one of the best ways to reduce the symptoms of Dysautonomia. It will help to improve your mood as the brain releases endorphins during exercise. It will also help to improve sleep patterns and to recondition the autonomous nervous system.
Your exercise plan should be discussed with your doctor who can provide you with heart rate targets and goals. The exercise options are many. You may choose to exercise in the comfort of your own home with or without an exercise buddy. You may join a gym, go to a physiotherapist or hire your own personal trainer. Some clinics also offer inpatient exercise plans where the patients are taught how to function effectively with their symptoms.
Because symptoms are generally worse when you are upright, exercise for people with Dysautonomia normally starts in a recumbent position. It can include swimming, weightlifting from a sitting or lying position, Pilates or yoga. Upright exercise should only be attempted after you have spent some time building up resistance.
The secret is to start slowly and then build up the pace. Your current level of fitness will determine the start of the exercise plan. The point of the exercise is to get the heart rate up so you may want to invest in a heart rate monitor. Your aim should be forty minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week.
Sometimes the cause of a chronic illness/condition can be identified, but often no specific cause can be determined and nothing can explain why it happened. — Dan Mager MSW
Find support groups. It always helps to talk to people who are going through the same or similar problems as those that confront you. Keep abreast of the most current research into Dysautonomia and discuss it with your doctor.
The Start of a Journey
The diagnosis of Dysautonomia is the start of a journey to understand and to alleviate the symptoms and to mitigate any negative effects that they may have on your life. A few lifestyle adjustments and a lot exercise will go a long way to making your life easier.