According to the Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA), many people with Ménière’s disease (also called primary idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops), secondary endolymphatic hydrops, or migraine-associated dizziness, find that certain changes in their diet can reduce dizziness and help manage other symptoms of dizziness. Why is this?
Inner ear fluid balance
The inner ear is a fluid-filled hearing and balance system that normally functions independent of the body’s overall fluid and blood system. However, injury or illness can impact that delicate system, causing issues for those with some dizziness and balance conditions.
If you have Ménière’s disease, secondary endolymphatic hydrops, or migraine-associated dizziness, it’s important to evenly distribute food and fluid intake throughout the day. This includes eating approximately the same amount of food at each meal, not skipping meals, and eating snacks, if needed, at regular intervals. Evenly spacing food and fluid intake helps with inner-ear fluid stability. For example, having breakfast first thing in the morning can help stabilize your system for the day, reducing the risk of low blood sugar, which can trigger a migraine attack.
Here are some other tips you may find helpful if you have been diagnosed with one of these vestibular disorders:
Avoid foods and beverages that have a high sugar content. A low-sugar diet can reduce dizziness. Meals or snacks with a high-sugar content can cause fluctuations in the volume of body fluids, which may increase vestibular symptoms. For the purpose of minimizing such fluctuations, foods with complex sugars (such as those found in legumes, whole grains, potatoes, and vegetables) are better choices than foods with a high concentration of simple sugars (such as table sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and corn syrup). To lower overall sugar intake, cut the amount of sugar in recipes in half, substituting fresh fruit for sweetened baked goods, and possibly using sugar substitutes.
Likewise, eating foods with too much salt can impact some vestibular disorders. Instead, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed grains, and fresh meats, poultry, and fish, which are low in sodium. Some frozen or canned food items are available without added salt.
Many commercially packaged salt substitutes contain mixtures of herbs and spices. However, such products also often include potassium, which can complicate certain medical conditions (particularly those involving the kidneys), and thus should not be used without first consulting a physician.
Drink adequate amounts of fluids daily. Fluids can include water, milk, and low-sugar fruit juices but not coffee, caffeinated tea, alcohol, or soft drinks. If possible, extra fluids should be consumed before and during exercise and in hot weather. It is important to stay hydrated by drinking several glasses of water throughout the day.
Avoid foods and beverages with caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can make tinnitus louder and increase other symptoms. The diuretic properties of caffeine also cause excessive urinary loss of body fluids. Foods and beverages that often contain caffeine include chocolate, coffee, soft drinks, and tea.
Limit or eliminate alcohol consumption. Alcohol can directly and adversely affect the inner ear by changing the volume and composition of its fluid.
Do not use tobacco. Nicotine (found in tobacco products and some stop-smoking aids) can increase symptoms, because it decreases the blood supply to the inner ear by constricting blood vessels; it also causes a short-term increase in blood pressure. In addition, nicotine is a migraine trigger.
Some medications contain substances that can increase symptoms of vestibular disorders. For example, aspirin can increase tinnitus, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can interfere with the body’s fluid-control mechanism, causing water retention or electrolyte imbalance. Some medications contain caffeine. Antacids may have significant amounts of sodium. If product ingredients are not readable on the package label, ask a pharmacist for this information.
See a Vestibular Disorders Specialist
Diagnosing and treating vestibular disorders can be complex. Danielle Dorner, Au.D., is a vestibular disorders specialist with Associated Audiologists. She earned her Doctorate of Audiology degree from Northern Illinois University and her Bachelor’s degree from Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois. Dr. Dorner performed her clinical externship with Associated Audiologists.
She is a member of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), holds a certificate of clinical competence in audiology from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and is a member of the Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (KSHA).