This blog post will shine some light on to the question: "Can certain foods help me with my Vertigo, Meniere's disease, or Vestibular Migraine?". You will learn some basics of various processes happening inside our bodies when we choose to put something in our mouths. We will discuss which foods to avoid if you're experiencing vertigo (plus any types of harming activities or medications) as well as what could support our recovery. At the end of this article you will find some extra materials to let you dive even deeper into the topic. We hope you will find what you are looking for!
Quick Note about the difference between Vertigo diet and Meniere’s disease diet: Those two conditions are quite similar when it comes to symptoms. In simple words, all Meniere’s disease patients have vertigo as a symptom, but not all patients with vertigo have a Meniere’s disease. Treatment is similar too (in terms of diet). Everything mentioned above about the food that can help with treating vestibular symptoms applies to a treatment of Vertigo and Meniere’s disease.
Picking the right kind of food is what makes the difference between health and disease. The whole food industry has a tendency of somehow measuring and quantifying every single aspect of meal plan, forgetting that essentially, the most important “skill” of eating healthy is balance.
Making sure that you eat the right amount of grams and calories of certain food every day puts a huge psychological pressure and then, it’s a matter of time when you are going to give up on the healthy diet (it becomes exhausting to follow all the “rules”). That is why this article has a different concept. It is an introduction to a healthy eating and food choices for patients that have some of the vestibular disorders. Identifying the “good” and “bad” and applying this knowledge in everyday life is far more important than measuring and counting every single piece of food you are taking.
Inner ear and cerebellum play a crucial role in maintaining the upright body posture. While “the brain part” of the balance requires a good blood perfusion and oxygen supply, “the ear part” is a little bit different. Fluid balance in it is extremely important for its proper function. On average, there is 200ul of fluid (one fifth of a milliliter) in the inner ear (in total) and the slightest deviation in its volume and composition can make an upright body posture impossible to maintain.
All the food we take is digested, absorbed and its components go throughout body affecting every cell in it. The smaller the body compartment is, the bigger is the significance of our food choices. Having in mind that inner ear is quite small, it is clear why the diet plays a major role in maintaining its health.
Vestibular disorders have similar symptoms (although the treatment approach may be quite different) and similar underlying conditions. Depending on the dominant pathological disorder and structure involved in it, doctors make difference between diseases that develop on the terrain of the inner ear.
Each body organ, tissue, and a cell need nutrients to stay healthy. When it comes to a disease, each disease has its own dominant underlying pathological processes, such as inflammation, mechanical irritation because of the swelling, functional impairment, immune response, scarring and so on.
Food (nutrients) have the power to modulate all of those processes, to help tissue to repair and maintain the healthy environment in the body. Also, it has the power to speed up the mechanisms of disease, so the proper meal plan is one of the most important aspects of a healthy life.
Drinks can mess up the fluid balance, but this doesn’t mean that you should avoid fluids in order to lower their level in the body. It doesn’t work that way. Water, for example, if taken in large amount will not affect significantly (in individuals with healthy kidneys) body fluids level. You should avoid the fluids that cause “the pileup” of the water in the body. Beverages with a high concentration of sugar (soda, drinks with honey, etc.) or salt are the ones that you should skip. If you want to be sure you are taking a right kind of drink, take those with no caloric value and do not sweeten them (water, tea, decaf).
Sodium intake may be a problem. To put it in simple words, sodium acts like a chemical sponge, when it comes to water retention and an increase of body fluids. Limiting the sodium intake to lower than 2,3 grams/ day is an FDA recommendation for staying healthy. A potassium salt is a good alternative to a traditional salt since it's not retaining water as much as sodium (less potent as a “chemical sponge”).
Alcohol is a big no-no! Alcohol may cause dehydration, and its metabolites are toxic to a brain and inner ear. Even in healthy individuals, alcohol can cause vertigo (that resolves as soon as the alcohol is completely metabolized) and in those suffering from a vestibular disorder, it can trigger really unpleasant episodes of vertigo with nausea, vomiting, headache, even migraine attacks.
Caffeine is to be avoided. Because of its diuretic effect, too much of it can push you in the state of dehydration. On top of all, it can worsen tinnitus (a quite common component in individuals suffering from vestibular disorders).
In almost all diseases, inflammation is a major component of their pathogenesis. This applies to vestibular disorders as well. Some foods have a tendency to speed up the inflammation process, making the symptoms more severe with a longer duration. These foods include:
Nicotine constricts the blood vessels of the body (that’s why smokers often complain about cold hand and feet during winter). Decreased blood flow to the inner ear can increase the severity already existing vestibular disorder.
Any activity that increases blood pressure, especially those that increase the blood pressure in the head significantly should be avoided. Bungee jumping, roller coasters, rotation at high velocities- amusement parks, hanging upside down from some reason- exercises, for example, increased abdominal pressure for prolonged period of time (weight lifting, etc.) and other activities that cause adrenalin rush can trigger the problems with the inner ear.
Does this mean that you should never do any of these again? No! Pay attention what happens with your dizziness/ vertigo/ migraine after being engaged in those activities. Different people react differently, it's good to know your enemy and avoid doing things that worsen your health condition.
Some medications can affect inner ear (side effects) and if needed, their safer alternatives should be used. It is estimated that 5% of all adverse effects are vertigo/ dizziness and other health issues related to vestibular disorders.
The most widely used medications that can cause dizziness/ vertigo are:
Reducing inflammation throughout the body can help in reducing vestibular symptoms. Anti-inflammatory foods can help in the treatment of vestibular disorders. This food modulates the immune response, so it helps in diseases which have the autoimmune response as a mechanism of their pathogenesis as well.
Anti-inflammatory food that can help:
Keep in mind that oils and fats are calorie dense food. Although helpful in fighting and reducing the inflammation, they should be used in reasonable amounts. One or two table spoons of olive oil in your salad are just enough to get its beneficial effects and avoid caloric surplus which can lead you toward weight gain and obesity.
Raw or cooked they are an excellent choice. Rich in potassium, they help the body eliminate an excess amount of fluids, provides a better heart muscle contraction and increase overall body strength. In terms of calories, they are in the group of “safe food” when it comes to avoiding the caloric surplus and weight gain.
Although their nutritional value may vary, they are proven to be anti-inflammatory food. All nuts are packed with monounsaturated fats that can help in the regulation of a lipid profile (HDL, LDL, triglycerides) improving that way the blood circulation in the inner ear. Antioxidants are another important ingredient of all nuts. They have a tremendous value in healing processes and elimination of toxic metabolic products.
Brazilian nuts have a high concentration of selenium, which helps healing processes of the body. Pistachios are rich in vitamin B6 which helps the regeneration of nerves. Pecans can help you reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and slow down atherosclerosis, which compromises blood flow throughout the arteries of the body (which can ultimately reduce the blood flow in the inner ear, increasing the vestibular symptoms that way).
Reach in mono-unsaturated fats and antioxidants consuming fish instead of a red meat helps in regulation of lipid profile and healing processes. It is a very good source of protein and fat.
It might not be a direct cure but ginger can definitely provide a great relief from vertigo sysmptoms. Ginger will certainly help to alleviate nausea. However, keep in mind that even if it works for some people for vertigo treatment it doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Widely used in medicine as an adjuvant treatment of conditions in which there is a nerve damage. It speeds up nerve reparation (nerve damage is one of the major components of all vestibular disorders).
Zinc deficiency can cause tinnitus, and supplementation of it in patients with vestibular disorders helps them reduce the severity of symptoms.
It's quite important in the treatment of Meniere’s disease and vertigo. A study conducted by Hiroshima University in Japan showed some encouraging results. Patients that were treated with a combination of 600mg of vitamin C and 300mg of glutathione for eight weeks, reported a significant decrease of their vertigo symptoms. Vitamin C can be taken as a dietary supplement or by eating vitamin C rich food. What food is rich in vitamin C? The easiest way to tell is by the color. Everything that’s green and leafy has a lot of vitamin C in it (cabbage, broccoli, spinach, etc.).
An interesting fact is that in parts of the world where the magnesium is represented in a diet in large quantities, the vestibular disorders are rare. To avoid going into too many details, the magnesium regulates the cell metabolism and improves blood circulation. Magnesium rich foods are pumpkin seeds, almond, spinach and black beans.
Although ginkgo products need more research before the science community accept them as a part of a medical treatment, based on the data collected so far, it seems that they improve microcirculation (another pathological component of vestibular disorders).
It can help fight the nausea in patients with vertigo. Because of the interaction with blood thinners, patients that use this medication should avoid it.
When it comes to the treatment of a vestibular migraine it is all about prevention. One of the prevention measures includes avoiding the food that can trigger its attacks.
Food that has a potential to trigger migraine attacks:
Does this mean that you should never again consume any of these foods? Absolutely no! Not all patients react to each of the listed food or food ingredients. To determine which of these foods can trigger migraine attacks, you should take a migraine diary, write down what have you eat and what did you do on a day before the attack and after a few episodes, it will become clear what kind of food and behavior have a triggering potential for you.
During the attack, stay hydrated, rest, avoid eating “heavy” food, use the medications your doctor already prescribed and try some of the foods that are listed as desirable (for example, try ginger root to determine can it decrease nausea and vomiting).
It's all about the balance and listening to the signals your body sends you (this may sound like some principle of alternative medicine, but have in mind that a vast majority of diseases develop because we often ignore the subtle warning signs our bodies send us).
The food won’t miraculously cure vertigo/ dizziness or a vestibular migraine, but over time, it will bring relief. The frequency and severity of the attacks will subside and with an adequate medical support, the quality of life will improve. With the knowledge and technology available, medical professionals cannot, unfortunately, treat chronic vestibular disorders so they never appear again. It's all about putting a disease under control which improves the quality of life. Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools that can help you fight vertigo, dizziness, Meniere’s disease or a vestibular migraine. Be patient, be consistent and the results will be there!
1. Below is a great video describing 2 ways to cure your vertigo: coriander seeds and basil.
2. Another video briefly describes dietary adjustments for vertigo treatment.
3. Finally, in this video Dr. Michael Berglund goes much deeper into the causes and various natural solutions for vertigo.
MD, Aleksandar Grbovic lives in Belgrade, Serbia. Finished Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade (2012). Worked as a medical representative in a pharmaceutical company, General medicine physician, soon to be Radiologist in the biggest occupational medicine Institute in Serbia. Crazy about forensic medicine. Passionate about promoting evidence based medicine to the layman, bridging the gap between the doctor’s and the patient’s point of view.