If you’ve ever suffered from a vertigo attack, you know how awful it can be. After a simple change in the position of your head, you suddenly feel dizzy, and either feel like the ground is moving under you, or like you are about to fall forward.
Often it feels as though you have absolutely no control over it. The sensation can lead to headaches, sweating, nausea, vomiting and falling. A vertigo attack will make you feel off balance, and it can last anywhere from a few seconds to hours on end.
Vertigo attacks can be extremely uncomfortable, and they can be spurred by a range of things. Is there a connection between your diet and vertigo attacks? Can certain changes in what you eat reduce the frequency or intensity of vertigo attacks?
In this article, we review what the scientific literature says to answer those exact questions.
What Causes Vertigo?
Vertigo is usually caused by a problem with the inner-ear. The inner ear is responsible for helping to keep you balanced, so anything that affects the inner ear will inevitably cause you to feel unbalanced. Some of the conditions and diseases that can cause an inner-ear problem include:
- BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo) – caused by small calcium particles in the inner ear.
- Meniere’s disease – caused by a pressure change in the ear
- Labrinthitis – caused by a viral ear infection that can cause inflammation
- Vestibular neuronitis – an inflammation of the nerve in the inner ear that helps to control balance
- Secondary endolymphatic hydrops – affects inner ear fluid, the vestibular apparatus of the ear, or both
- Head injuries
- Brain problems in the past
- Certain medications
Traditional treatment will depend on the cause. In many cases, it includes vestibular rehabilitation, which is a type of physical therapy that helps train your senses to compensate or adapt to vertigo. It can also include canalith repositioning maneuvers (when diagnosed with BPPV) or medicine to help control the headaches and nausea that may accompany the vertigo.
Is there a connection between diet and frequency and intensity of vertigo attacks?
Evidence shows that diet does, indeed, influence the intensity and frequency of vertigo attacks and spinning sensations, especially if vertigo is cause by Meniere’s disease, migraines. Endolymphatic hydrops.
Below are general dietary guidelines to follow if you suffer from vertigo attacks.
How Should Your Diet Change if You Have Vertigo?
As mentioned previously, vertigo is caused by changes in the inner ear. The inner ear is filled with fluid, so making dietary choices that help balance inner ear pressure may significantly alleviate associated discomfort.
Here are some useful strategies for helping to reduce your vertigo, as suggested by the Vestibular Disorders Association.
- Avoid high-sodium or high-sugar foods
Consuming too much sodium promotes fluid retention and can increase inner-ear pressure. Most processed or pre-packaged foods like canned or instant soups, processed meats, and breakfast cereal are all very high in sodium. Even homemade foods with tons of added sugar or too much salt can cause disbalances in inner-ear pressure, as well.
- Drink fluid throughout the day
Staying hydrated is essential to maintaining healthy fluid pressure. Drink at least 8 glasses of water throughout the day, and if you exercise and/or live in a hot or humid area, make sure to up your fluid consumption.
- Avoid drinking alcohol
Alcohol has an adverse effect on bodily fluid balance. It can also trick us into thinking we are drinking enough fluids when it is, in reality, dehydrating us.
- Limit caffeine
If your vertigo is accompanied by a ringing in the ear (tinnitus) caffeine can make the ringing even louder. Caffeine also triggers fluid loss, potentially offsetting inner-ear fluid pressure.
- Avoid foods with tyramine
Tyramine is an amino acid found in some foods like red wine, liver, processed meats, yogurt, cheddar, and brie, and nuts, among others. If your vertigo is associated with migraines, tyramine can worsen the vertigo.
- Stop smoking
While this isn’t a dietary suggestion, it is important to avoid tobacco if you have an inner-ear issue. Nicotine increases blood pressure in the ear and constricts blood vessels.
If you are experiencing vertigo, it is important to visit your doctor to determine the cause before you start self-treating. Dietary recommendations may change depending on the cause of your vertigo. However, many of the dietary changes suggested here are important for better health in general. Improving your diet and lifestyle choices could result in improvements, not only in the frequency and intensity of vertigo attacks, but also in blood pressure and heart and brain health.