Diet and nutrition

Nutritional therapy is the use of diet, vitamins, minerals and supplements for healthy living.

Caffeine and alcohol

Coffee, tea and alcohol can be a problem as they cause the tiniest blood vessels at the very end of the system to contract and so restrict the blood supply to the inner ear. A cup or two is one thing but 10 or more strong coffees a day could make your symptoms much worse. Small amounts of alcohol - half a pint of beer, a glass of red wine or a pub measure of spirits - may actually improve the peripheral circulation, but any more has the opposite effect.

Salt

Salt reduction is widely recommended for many people with vertigo, as it is thought to result in a reduction of endolymphatic pressure. Reducing salt intake may help to reduce the frequency and severity of Ménière’s attacks. There is a strong belief that Ménière’s disease involves an excess pressure of the sodium-rich fluid (called endolymph) in the inner ear. It is thought that reducing salt in your diet may be helpful, because it may reduce the pressure of that fluid. The build up of this fluid accounts for the feeling of fullness in the ear before an attack. The sudden release of that pressure, with the chaos that ensues, accounts for the sudden attack of vertigo that you have, and for the sudden changes in hearing that happen. It is strongly recommended that you consult your GP before undertaking a salt restricted diet, particularly if you are taking medication for any other illness or if you are pregnant. Empirically, many patients will themselves know that if they have a particularly salty meal a few hours later they start to develop an attack. 

Vitamins and supplements

If you’re unsure of your diet or if eating regularly is a problem, it is essential to make up any shortfall with a regular intake of good quality vitamin supplements. The antioxidants like A, C and E, a B complex for the nervous system, and a general multi-mineral formula are a good starting point. Garlic and ginger are available in tablet or capsule form and this is a good way of ensuring a regular intake. Increase the amount of vitamin C (good sources are citrus fruits, peppers, kiwis, tomatoes and most fruits and vegetables) and vitamin E (olive oil, sunflower seed oil, avocados, whole grain cereals, fresh seeds and nuts). Vitamin C is important for the structure of blood vessels and vitamin E helps maintain their elasticity. Omega 3 fatty acids from oily fish such as sardines, herrings, mackerel, pilchards, salmon (if tinned they should be in olive or sunflower oil not brine) are an excellent anti-inflammatory.

Complementary Therapy

Complementary therapy treatments are known as holistic as they aim to treat the whole body and not just one part. Although these treatments may not offer a complete cure, they can help to alleviate the symptoms and may help you to cope better on a day-to-day basis.

In the UK, one fifth of adults are estimated to have used some form of complementary therapy. There are a number of different treatments available including acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, osteopathy, reflexology and yoga. Often these are only available at private clinics or with private therapists, but more and more are becoming available on the NHS.

Choosing the therapy that’s right for you

Each therapy has its own method of treatment and you should consider which one/s will work best for you. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the therapy before you embark on it. Only try one new therapy at a time and give it time to have an effect. If you find it’s not working for you then look at changing to a different treatment.

It is important that you inform your GP/health professional about any new treatment you are going to undertake. You can use complementary therapies alongside conventional medicine, but do make sure you talk to the therapist about your Ménière’s disease and any medication which you are taking before you start. Some complementary therapy treatments may be available on the NHS.

Before trying a new therapy you should find out as much as possible about the treatment and the practitioner such as the qualifications, experience and reputation of the therapist/practice, what happens during the treatment, who the therapy is suitable for, advantages and disadvantages of the treatment and the cost.

Below is a list of some of the types of complementary therapy treatments available. The list is not exhaustive and the information provided is intended purely as an overview. Anyone wishing to undertake a new complementary therapy should seek further information. The Ménière’s Society does not recommend a particular treatment or therapy. Where links are provided please note these link to external sites and are not representative of the views of the Ménière’s Society.