Low air pressure = increased body pressure and chronic pain

Over recent times, I’ve written enough about sudden bouts of low blood pressure (a condition known as POTs) but what I haven’t touched on enough is the fact, at least in my experience, that in the same body its also possible to experience sudden bouts of high pressure and most especially at this time of year. I believe I am into this phase now and I was last December. As per my last post, these chronic health conditions can be extremely seasonal. I have also learned to turn to some natural remedies for pain, over the years, that happen to be indicated as relief from higher blood pressure, which is an interesting clue (see below for much more on those).

My father, who (I believe, in hindsight) shared many of my more bizarre health issues and sensitivities, was medicated for hypertension for years…and here’s the thing, he would complain endlessly that it wasn’t helping or made him feel worse. For decades, he was in deep discomfort in his body and nobody seemed to understand the symptoms he would describe; only, the prescription pad would come out and he would be sent home with his pills. Likewise, if I presented to a doctor at this time of year (I won’t) I might be medicated for something that doesn’t apply at other times of the year or which may change again by next Tuesday. Linear medicine can be a precarious thing, I believe, when confronted with neurodiversity and I wonder how many undiagnosed neurodivergent people are to be found floundering in the hinterlands of unsolved chronic health issues that often get worse with meds. As per most things, isn’t it likely that neurodivergent individuals are much more likely to respond to seasonal differences in air pressure in some fairly acute, possibly over-zealous ways (akin to how they “overreact” to other sensory triggers), in which case the effects are going to be as changeable as the weather?

What I do know for sure, and its all I can really know for sure, is what happens to me and here it is again…a very cold snap in the weather and my all-over body tension has been amping up for days. Yes I have had dizziness (easy, out of habit, to put that down to low blood pressure, as it sometimes is, but do you know hypertension can also cause this?) and many of my other “usual” POTs issues such as blood pooling to my feet have been absent this time, also salt (which normally helps with those) has made me feel distinctly worse. Instead of laxity, I have been feeling gridlock in the muscles of my calves, neck and ribcage, with extremely stiff and painful joints. So its important to remember, low blood pressure isn’t all there is to dysautonomia as frequent swings in blood pressure are a hallmark of this and, I would also say, don’t necessarily expect fluctuations to swing back and forth in the same moment, as per the classic tilt test…because they can swing overtly one way for a few days or weeks at a time and then change again, according to varying triggers (including air pressure). There’s so much focus on dysautonomia being this acute thing of toppling over but I suspect some of us have long-lasting variable in blood pressure…yet they are extreme variables nonetheless.

Right now, instead of feeling lax as though my body is made of pipe-cleaners, I actually feel like I am trapped in some sort of pressure lock only this isn’t my environment applying the pressure (since this must, by virtue of 0 degree temperatures today, must be fairly low pressure) but the inside of me, over-responding to that. My body has created its own high pressure zone; almost as though to (over)compensate for the sudden downturn in barometric pressure. Some people “just are” more sensitive to barometric pressure changes; are most or at least a high proportion of us neurodivergent?

So, I’ve had excruciating headaches and neck/back tension that squeezes me in a distorted way like some sort of iron body cast. No doubt from that, so much nerve pain and just (well) generalised agony going on in so many quarters of the body it would be quicker to list what doesn’t hurt (perhaps the tip of my nose). I feel vaguely short of breath all the time and my vision is much more blurry than usual. My tinnitus is amped way up high and I feel so aggravated, irritable. Those things that bother me (and as someone with misophonia and other such sensory processing foibles going on, see my other post on this, that’s a lot of things) seem to send my annoyance through the roof right now; my teeth are on edge and I feel borderline angry all the time so its as much as I can do not to take it out on people I care about. The traffic outside, I swear it, is ten times as loud. Headphones and music are a must but it has to be exactly the right music and some of my usual favourites are too stimulating to be borne at the moment; even people’s voices on podcasts can amp the pain.

If only I could get some respite but there isn’t much to draw on…what works, briefly, is maybe a lemonbalm tea or a couple of squirts of CBD, a bowl of oatmeal, the fives minute I can distract myself with an interesting plotline (I lose my ability to attend to anything outside my own thoughts when I am like this) before my pain levels invade again.

I can’t bear to be cold but getting too hot drives me up the wall when I’m like this; and I can’t bear the central heating on for more than 10 minutes at a time. So I layer up in woollens around the house, only to have to peel them off again when I suddenly feel suffocated. Being on a laptop for too long only amps the pain and when I forgot to put my phone onto airplane mode for a couple of hours yesterday my head pressure amped up so high I could have wept, if only I hadn’t known that crying would have only made it worse. I’m trying to distract myself with some painting but just getting that going has taken a gigantic effort as just sitting there in my favourite chair really hurts. I can’t embroider or play my instruments due to pain in my hands; even a brush is challenging enough and, though I make myself go out for a walk each day, the pain and cold make this difficult. The one thing that seems to help each morning is maybe 20 to 30 mins of qigong as it not only relaxes the nervous system but gently opens up some of the joints that feel so gridlocked right now.

So, what’s the likelihood that a change of air pressure can trigger such a shift in body pressure that I’m in a completely different body to the one I was in under two weeks ago? Here’s some salient facts:

Airpressure and the body

When the Barometric Pressure is high, the pressure pushes more against our body and limits how much tissue can expand. On the other hand, when the atmosphere’s air pressure is low, it allows our body’s tissues to expand more—putting more pressure on nerves and other parts of our body.” (Livewell article.) This is how air pressure affects all of us; presumably felt all the more acutely when you have preexisting pain issues going on.

If you happens to have hypermobility traits then the effects, by the sound of it, on forums and from my own experience, can be much more profound, presumably to do with insubstantial collagen forming cell walls that are meant to modulate internal cell pressure for optimum biological function. I then wonder, as before, if there is an element of overcompensation going on when cells don’t behave as they are meant to do; hence the gridlock response adopted when pressure is low or the sudden laxity episodes that can coincide with high pressure (my experiences). Perhaps this is the body doing its best with body tissues that aren’t quite what they are supposed to be.

Natural hypertension remedies (that I happened to have tripped upon primarily because they help with my pain)

One study I have found looked into quite a long list of natural remedies that may be helpful for hypertension. Out of this list, the most accessible that I happened to have gravitated towards when I am in pain are: lemonbalm (see study) ginger, oats, basil, celery, cats claw, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, cardamom, chocolate (see below), omega 3s and dietary sources of phytoestrogens (soy, for example; see study). Any wonder I crave starting my day with a bowl of wholegrain porridge laced with cinnamon at this time of year (in fact, my instincts often turn me towards oats at any time of day, even at bedtime, especially when I am in a lot of discomfort). I also gravitate towards tulsi (holy basil) tea mid afternoon at that point I hit the slump of my day. Though caffeine is meant to be avoided for hypertension, green tea and oolong have been found to have a positive effect and I would concur (in moderation…so that caffeine doesn’t built up).

Remembering to get some more of these things in my diet because I’ve been reminded they help with increased tension would be a good idea. Dad didn’t have access to any of these in the 1970 and 80s (well, he could have had porridge but nobody ever told him it might help) but I know different thanks to improved research and the internet. I mention some other supplements and helpful foods below.

The link with fibromyalgia

“Sudden drops in barometric pressure, as well as extreme temperatures may make pain much worse” (article, “15 of the best places to love with fibromyalgia (and vacation“.)

The effect of other, personal, responses to changes in air pressure

Could it be the case that certain people respond more adversely to low air pressure than others; potentially due to psychological factors (such as associated stress) or difference of neurortype? A study discovered that though changes in barometric pressure had no clinical significance when it came to fibromyalgia pain, “significant individual differences in response to changes in BMP were present, and the relation between weather and pain may be of clinical relevance at the individual level” (Blame it On The weather? study linked below).

For my own part, I wonder whether factors such as past trauma (even genetically remembered past trauma) may play a part; it has already been discovered that factors such as poverty can impact several generations beyond that which was directly influenced…so do our genes hold onto recollections of factors such as extreme cold due to, say, homelessness or poverty as happened to my family just a small handful of generations back? Of course anxiety, even at the subliminal level, can massively increase blood pressure. And yes, I feel sure my neurodivergence (with all its extra challenges), my associated high sensitivity and my extra struggle with transitions all play a significant part. One study I found reports an increased likelihood of “weather salience” in autism, where this refers to “the degree to which individuals attribute psychological value or importance to the weather and the extent to which they are attuned to their atmospheric environments” (Stewart 2009). I strongly suspect that, potentially for genetic reasons, I have been busy tracking subtle alterations in weather and other environmental conditions since the day I was born and that (whereas perhaps all babies do this from the point of view of basic survival instincts), due to lack of synaptic pruning I have never ceased to do so!

The link between hypertension and ADHD

There is already a known link between ADHD and a risk of high blood pressure (see below). These certainly coinicided in the case of my dad and, looking back at his habits, I see so much of myself. The more bothered he was by his health symptoms and sensory triggers, the more he would throw himself into his ADHD pursuits (much as I described about myself in my last post) but the net result can be to amp up hypertension even further. The key…and its one I am having to become much better at finding myself…is to notice when this is happening and take that foot off the accelerator. Speeding up may be a temporary distraction from pain and aggravation but if it only feeds back into the condition itself, it becomes the snake eating its own tail. Impulsivity is a particular risk when I am feeling under pressure.

These days I am *somewhat* better at noticing when this happens and then setting a time limit or some other parameter on the activity, for instance (writing this blog) I get to do it for an hour before I STOP and pick up my paints, which are much more soothing and less target-driven. If I interject rewards throughout my day, I get better at calming my system down in the interim times and though it can feel as though its just another struggle-day, by the end of it I feel less amped up than if I was to let my ADHD run wild. Of course, it takes an admission of ADHD to get to this point and I spent five decades in the dark and then in denial and disbelief.

Intensity meets pressure

I’ve talked about the intensity trait quite a bit this year, so what happens when it meets unusually high blood pressure (in a person who usually has low or more variable blood pressure), for instance during a few days of unusual cold weather or when its the first cold snap of the year (I really do think those “first” seasonal weather fronts of the season hit us neurodivergent folks harder than people who are quicker to adapt). I can only speak for my own part but when I feel like this in my body, my intensity (much like my ADHD trait) amps-up and I can become rather too determined, forthright, serious, zealous, fixated, dogmatic, obsessed and so on for other people to be around…even for myself at times. Like a dog with a bone, I get into things or onto a topic and there is no putting it down when my body is more tense; and, of course, mental and emotional tension only feeds back into the system. I do what I can, these days, to lighten up, gain the broader perspective and take time out but it all takes additional work compared to other seasons.

EMFs and increase in blood pressure

“Braune et al. reported that mobile phones caused a rise of blood pressure of 5-10 mmHg each time of exposure” (quote in study linked below and there are plenty of others out there so I won’t go down the rabbit hole). Enough said.

The importance of achieving “the right” temperature in our living environments

One study suggests that “adequately heating homes during the winter months could help reduce the winter increases in hypertension and associated cardiovascular risks, particularly among those at heightened risk of high blood pressure” including those with a family history of this. The caveat to this is that most of us are all turning our thermostats down this year; we certainly are, so our house is maintained at a much “fresher” base temperature most of the time than is our usual So, is this making my body tension and pain much worse? Quite probably.

Yet on the other hand, I have a love-hate relationship with central heating as something about having it on seems to create intense pressure in my body; especially if it comes on when I am still in bed. Perhaps its the time it takes for my neurodivergent body to adjust while I am still, technically, asleep, but I am finding colder mornings far better than waking up to a blast of heat. It’s a case of, just like Goldlocks, getting it just right and perhaps more of us will achieve a healthier level this year as we are no longer so careless with our fuel consumption (I still find most other people’s homes and public spaces wayyyy too stuffy and hot).

Body tension and full moon

I know, I keep talking about the moon (see my last post) but I believe it is a key factor. My response to the moon is always one of an increase in blood pressure when it is full (which can be helpful in seasons when low blood pressure is rife, for instance during the peak of a summer heatwave). Right now its double-welly of a cold snap plus a potent full moon mars opposition tonight. I have often noticed an increase in pressure when mars is especially close or lined up (perhaps because it is one of our closest planets to start with) and here it is lined up neatly with the moon today; I would have thought that would pack a punch and maybe that’s some of what I am feeling.

If you know anything about the extreme sensitivities of being neurodivergent, do you really doubt this stuff? There have been studies, with varying conclusions (reading some of them, it feels as though expectations are often geared towards a cynical outcome) but, for instance, this one found “a significant association of intensity of gravitational interaction between the Earth and the Moon and occurrence of cardiogenic pulmonary edema treated by EMS” and recommended further studies as a means of optimising emergency medical services and devising preventative care.

(Note added 24 hours later, after the full moon) I woke last night almost exactly as the full moon happened around 4am and lay there awake, and extremely warm with covers thrown off, though the night was bitterly cold, for about two hours. Yet I actually registered a greater sense of calm than in the days that preceded its fullness, which felt as though the pressure in my body was being amped higher and higher. Afterwards I was able to get back to sleep and had full REM sleep with vivid dreams for the first time in a while, as though my body could finally relax.

The importance of hydration

High blood pressure is common in people who are chronically dehydrated because, when the body’s cells lack water, the brain sends a signal to the pituitary glad to secrete vasopressin, a chemical that causes constriction of the blood vessels. This causes blood pressure to increase which leads to hypertension. However, chronic dehydration is also associated with disautonomia and there are times when it feels like I just can’t drink enough water to keep my body hydrated. According to this article “A POTSy body often isn’t so good at retaining fluids. One common problem involves the kidney hormones aldosterone, angiotensin and renin, which regulate sodium and fluid retention”. This is why increased salt intake is so often recommended for POTs although not such great advice if you are right in the middle of having a high blood pressure phase. Getting even more water from food is a good ploy. Oats are 84% water which is another reason they are a great lowborn carb for the dysautonomic body.

Linked to monthly cycle

If I experience a lot of pain these days post-menopause, there is one time that I experienced even more and that was when I was still having monthly cycles. plus there is a family trait of having very severe PMS (including nausea, blurred vision and migraines). By the way, the increase of progesterone that occurs right before a period is known to make hypermobility symptoms such as laxity. clumsiness and dislocation, much more likely in anyone prone so I would also expect this to make a dysautomic episode, for instance a sudden variable in blood pressure, much more likely around the time that PMS tends to occur. At least two studies have linked a risk of hypertension, or a tendency towards fluctuating blood pressure, to PMS according to this article. A lot of the PMS advisories are the same as for hypertension: avoid too much salt or alcohol, also avoid caffeine and sugar, drink more water, eat complex carbs such as oats and a little chocolate (more on that below) can sometimes help.

The trouble with transitions

As alluded to several times in this post, I believe I have a particular struggle with transitions and this is a challenge very-often reported by other neurodivergent people so I wonder of this could be a factor in our sensitivity to changes in air pressure. More than a matter of cognitive struggle with change, my very biology seems to lag-behind when it comes to making adjustments to new circumstances (it takes a lot for me to make all the necessary adjustments and my body knows it). As a result, my nervous system seems to have developed symptoms for preempting change; highly vigilant of shifts, it launches upon the slightest clues of change, almost before they happen, as though to give me the better advantage. This could help to account for hypersensitivity to so many environmental factors and the same applies to changes in air pressure. I swear on my life my body sometimes feels and responds to a cold snap, a thunder storm, a geomagnetic storm several paces ahead of it “happening”. Therefore some of the issues that trigger shifts such as changes in blood pressure could be to do with the transition itself more so than cold or heat per se; and once I have got use to that cold snap or heat wave, I am just as likely to have another health crash should the weather revert back again to how it was before….change itself being the issue. Once the weather has been cold for a few days or weeks, it becomes my new normal to which I have adapted and a milder phase can rock my boat just as much.

Taking an amino acid approach

GABA is known to reduce hypertension, see study, one of the reasons I probably find it so beneficial at this time of the year (and have to not overdo it when I am going through a period of laxity or low blood pressure). Drinking GABA oolong tea is another option, assuming you don’t have so much that the relatively low amount of caffeine has a counter-productive effect, see my last post. L-theanine is also beneficial for lowering blood pressure and probably one to the reasons green tea (which naturally contains it) is deemed to be helpful in this regard. For more on the appropriate use of amino acids, the best resource is Trudy Scott’s website Every Woman Over 29.

Spirulina?

As flagged up by that same study, spirulina is known to reduce hypertension. A study published in the journal Hypertension found that certain molecules in spirulina stimulate a process that releases nitric oxide, which triggers relaxation of arteries, which can help lower the blood pressure level by increasing the amount of blood pumped in one motion (see article below).Out of interest, I used to take spirulina daily, for many years, but decided to take a break from it this last three months; making me wonder if it’s time to reintroduce it if my blood pressure is struggling more than usual. As with everything, it could be a case of making seasonal adjustments and not just taking the same supplements year-round.

Good news for the festive season – chocolate can help with hypertension

Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, and has been shown in some studies (see below and there are countless articles about this) to reduce blood pressure. Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol, meaning it is considered by some to be a heart-healthy snack. Its important to stick to smaller amounts and ideally choose a dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa content though I find a lower value more palatable as long as its vegan and cane-sugar free (I have my favourite brand). In my case, I also have to be careful because of oxalate content but one or two small pieces a day is an indulgent way to help my pain levels. As before, if I am suffering from lower blood pressure at the time, it might not be the time to indulge so it’s a case of listening to the body and adjusting.

In conclusion

The take-home here is that blood pressure can change at different times of the year or according to environment. It’s something Ive noticed over the years…including how blissfully neutral I always feel in a pressurised aircraft (bear in mind that “pressurised” means set to ideal air pressure for its human cargo and is much more akin to what you would experience on a mountain top than real life). In the real world, when is air pressure every constant or ideal? Especially in our modern EMF filled environments, living cheek to jowl with other human beings and with air pollution and other factors taking their toll. Throw in the seasons and a person with a highly attuned sensitivity to changes in air pressure and, voila! Is it beyond the realms of possibility that some people dial in to every minutest barometric change and then their bodies try to overcompensate (perhaps a neurodivergent glitch)? That’s what it feels like to me. If it feels like this to you, I invite you to explore the fact. Of course, always run your theories past a doctor before making any changes to meds etc but it feels like time we explore a less-linear approach to hyper or hypotension and looked at all the possible variables, especially in the case of neurodivergence.

References:

Role of natural herbs in the treatment of hypertension

The effect of lemon balm on high blood pressure

Green tea and blood pressure effects

Exposure to electromagnetic fields induces oxidative stress and pathophysiological changes in the cardiovascular system

Resting blood pressure increase during exposure to a radio-frequency electromagnetic field

Blame it on the weather? The association between pain in fibromyalgia, relative humidity, temperature and barometric pressure

Impact of gravitational interaction between the Moon and the Earth on the occurrence of episodes of cardiogenic pulmonary edema in the field

ADHD Is A Risk Factor For Type Two Diabetes And High Blood Pressure, As Well As Other Psychiatric Disorders

Cool indoor temperatures linked to high blood pressure

Anti-hypertensive effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-rich Chlorella on high-normal blood pressure and borderline hypertension in placebo-controlled double blind study

Suffering From Hypertension? Try This ‘Superfood’ To Manage Your Blood Pressure

Does chocolate reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis

Seasonal Variation in Day-by-Day Home Blood Pressure Variability and Effect on Cardiovascular Disease Incidence

Dietary Phytoestrogen Intake is Inversely Associated with Hypertension in a Cohort of Adults Living in the Mediterranean Area

How Does Barometric Pressure Affect Humans?

Initial Evidence for Increased Weather Salience in Autism Spectrum Conditions

The link between PMS and hypertension is raising alarms

Thirsty for more hydration knowledge? A POTSy perspective

Disclaimer: This blog, it’s content and any material linked to it are presented for autobiographical, general interest and anecdotal purposes only. They are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or prescribing. This article does not constitute a recommendation or lifestyle advice. Opinions are my own based on personal experience.Any links and information shared are for your own assessment and research purposes, I have no affiliation with any of the attached information sources and share them as point of interest, with no recommendation implied. You should check all health-related supplement and other protocols with your medical doctor before proceeding. Please seek medical advice from a professional if you are experiencing any symptoms or before you change your diet, your nutrients, your habits or anything else with health repercussions.

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