By David P. Brungo, PT, Expert Contributor, Summerville PT & Balance Rehab for Adults
Dizziness, vertigo (i.e., the sensation of your head spinning or the room spinning when you’re not actually moving) and even certain types of migraine headaches, which are common in cases of vestibular dysfunction, can all be caused by many things. Sometimes there are problems with your brain or spinal cord (i.e., the central nervous system) that are the culprit, and other times it could be more of a peripheral nervous system issue such as crystals in your ears that trick your brain into thinking you’re moving when you’re not — a condition known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV. But did you know how important your DIET is when it comes to dizziness? If you didn’t, here’s some food for thought:
Things that we eat, drink and smoke can have very significant impacts on our overall sense of balance and equilibrium by changing the manners in which our vestibular system and nervous system work. For example, some things that enter our bodies will change the delicate pH balance or the volume or density of the endolymph – the fluid in our inner ear — and can cause abnormal function of the structures within our ears that are responsible for telling our brain what’s happening. Our endolymph normally maintains a steady state of volume as well as chemical composition relating to potassium, sodium, chloride and other chemicals collectively called electrolytes. Eating things that are high in salt or sugar can disrupt this important balance, as can heavy use of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. This probably seems pretty straightforward but did you know that a chemical in smoked meats call tyramine can actually trigger migraine headaches and dizziness? If you love ‘ya some smoked pork and eat it regularly, maybe with a few beers or other adult beverages, don’t be surprised if these favorites are contributing to your dizziness or headaches.
You might be surprised at how powerfully our diets affect our sense of balance and equilibrium. Here’s a brief summary of the FOODS TO AVOID or at least be careful about in terms of how much and how often they’re consumed if you’re suffering with dizziness, vertigo, headaches or other vestibular symptoms:
6. Processed food and meats
7. Bread and pastries
8. Fried foods
9. Pickled and/or fermented foods
Here are what experts suggest to EAT OR DRINK MORE OF to keep your vestibular system happier:
1. Water (be careful if you have kidney or liver issues or take a diuretic! Speak to your doctor first if you do!!!)
2. Foods rich in potassium (but be careful about over-doing it! Speak with your doctor first if you keep track of these levels!!!)
3. Foods rich in antioxidants, micronutrients and anti-inflammatory qualities
4. Ginger (but not good for patients who take diabetic or blood thinning medications! Speak with your doctor first if you do!!!)
5. Food rich in Vitamins B & C, Zinc and Magnesium (be sure to get guidance from your doctor first!!!)
There are some really great resources available online that will help you understand how your diet affects your sense of balance and equilibrium. I’ve included four excellent resources below and strongly encourage you to review them as well as speak with your doctor about if you’re feeling dizzy, off balance or have headaches or migraines regularly. Moreover, I’d encourage everyone to consider making changes to your diet and/or lifestyle choices BEFORE starting new medications or continuing long-term use of medications like Meclizine (an anti-histamine frequently prescribed to reduce dizziness), or anti-anxiety medications such as Lorazepam, Klonopin, Ativan, Valium or Xanax. These are powerful vestibular suppressants that can actually prevent you from ever getting better in many cases of vestibular dysfunction.
Always speak to your doctor, nutritionist/holistic expert and/or physical therapist before you make any serious changes to your diet as they can have significant health consequences for certain people who take medications to control other problems!
Healthier diets and lifestyle choices benefit us in many, many ways. If you’d like to discuss this topic further, please do not hesitate to ask an expert but be prepared to start making some tough choices about what you like to eat, drink or smoke!
VERTIGO DIET – UNDERSTAND AND TREAT CONDITIONS SUCH AS MENIERE’S DISEASE AND VESTIBULAR MIGRAINE; found online (November 20, 2018) at: https://www.vertigotreatment.org/post/vertigo-diet-menieres
HERE’S A DIET TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR VERTIGO!; found online (November 20, 2018) at: https://www.neuroequilibrium.in/diet-to-help-you-with-your-vertigo/
DIETARY CONSIDERATIONS – Does Diet Really Matter?; found online (November 20, 2018) at: https://vestibular.org/understanding-vestibular-disorders/treatment/vestibular-diet
ALCOHOL INTOXICATION ON VESTIBULAR FUNCTION; found online (November 20, 2018) at: https://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/disorders/medical/etoh.html