Meniere's disease is a condition that affects the fluids in the inner ear. It causes symptoms like ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and dizziness (vertigo). Another symptom is hearing loss that comes and goes. Sometimes there is a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.
The inner ear fluids normally stay at a constant pressure. In Meniere's disease, the pressure may change. The change is due to a change in the body's overall fluid balance. When the pressure changes, you may have dizziness, ringing, pressure or hearing loss.
Meniere's disease treatment
Salt is a major factor in changing the fluid balance in the body. Salt (sodium) is in the fluids that are part of all body tissues. Large doses of sodium cause a change in those fluids. That change causes a change in the inner car fluids. This can lead to an episode of hearing loss, tinnitus or the other symptoms mentioned. Perhaps you've noticed this after eating pizza or salty popcorn. Both of these foods are high in sodium. One of the ways we treat Meniere's disease is to put you on a low salt diet.
Daily Sodium Allowance
We suggest 1.5 grams (or 1500 milligrams) each day for people with Meniere’s disease. This is equivalent to 500 mg per meal (1/2 teaspoon) or 1 ½ teaspoons per day. Most people can reach this level if they follow the rules below.
4 Ways to Shake the Salt Habit
1. Take the saltshaker off the table. (Try replacing the salt in the shaker with herbs. A dietitian can suggest herb mixtures that you might like.)
2. Reduce the amount of salt you use in cooking and baking. Do this a little at a time. Most recipes still taste fine with much less salt. Try using spices and herb seasonings instead of salt.
3. Limit your use of processed "convenience" foods. This is most food that comes in packages or cans. Most food that is "ready to eat' or just needs heating is high in sodium. When you do buy a packaged/canned food, buy a brand that doesn't list salt or sodium as one of the first three or four ingredients.
4. Beware of fast foods. They are almost all high in sodium.
Fats in the Diet
Doctors and dietitians also suggest a diet low in total fat. This is because people with Meniere's disease may also have high levels of fat in their blood. When the amount of fat in the blood is lowered, the symptoms of Meniere's disease often improve. The first step is to reduce the total amount of fat you eat.
1. Cutting out "visible" fats is the easiest approach. This means things like:
- Using a little jelly instead of butter on toast
- Putting low fat yogurt instead of sour cream on potatoes
- Taking the skin off chicken before cooking it
- Cutting the amount of fat and oil in recipes in half
- Using a non-stick fry pan.
2. Read labels to know how much and what kind of fat a food contains. Try to avoid foods made with lard or palm, palm kernel or coconut oils. These are saturated fats, and are more likely to cause problems. Instead choose low fat foods and foods made with vegetable oils.
3. Switch to a low fat or skim milk.
4. Eat less red meat and more fish and skinless poultry.
If you can make these changes, you may also lower your cholesterol levels. This may reduce your risk of heart disease. In addition to a low salt, low fat diet, there are some other diet changes that can help reduce symptoms of Meniere's disease.
1. Spread your eating over the whole day.
- This spreads out your intake of salt and sugar. It helps to keep body fluids stable.
- Meal skipping usually means you'll eat large amounts later.
2. Reach and stay at a "healthy" body weight. Your dietitian can help you determine the right weight.
3. Don't get dehydrated (short of fluids).
- Meniere’s disease is a disorder of body fluids. It's important to drink enough fluids every day to keep the amount of fluid in your body constant. A good rule of thumb is 8 glasses of water a day. Drink more if you exercise or perspire heavily.
4. Limit (or stop) caffeine and alcohol intake.
o Both caffeine and alcohol can worsen Meniere’s disease symptoms. Caffeine can stimulate the inner ear and lead to symptoms. It also acts as a diuretic (causes fluid loss) so it can change your fluid balance. Alcohol is quickly absorbed into the blood stream and inner ear fluids. This can cause problems with balance. Some foods and drinks to avoid are:
- Beer & Wine
- Hard liquor
- Most teas
- Coca Cola products
5. Avoid sweets. Sweets have simple sugars that enter the blood quickly after eating. The change in blood sugar can cause a change in fluid balance. For you, that can mean symptoms. Table sugar, honey, brown sugar and corn syrup are all simple sugars. Use them lightly or not at all.
6. If you are sensitive or allergic to any foods, avoid them. A reaction to food often includes a fluid shift. Notice symptoms that happen just after eating certain foods. Some foods that tend to cause problems for some people are:
So What's Left to Eat?
Does all this sound like there's nothing left to eat? Not so. You will probably have to change your current habits some. However, you can still enjoy many foods, prepared in different ways.
- Bowl of cereal (no sugar coating) with banana slices and low-fat milk.
- Slice of whole-wheat toast, or a muffin with a little jelly
- Glass of orange juice
- Cup of decaffeinated coffee or tea
- Cup of lentil soup, or cup of low fat yogurt
- Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with light mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato
- Carrot, celery and green pepper sticks
- Diet pop or herbal tea
- Serving of chicken, rice and broccoli casserole
- Mixed vegetables with sprinkle of lemon juice
- Herbed dinner roll
- Tossed salad with low fat dressing
- Glass of low-fat milk
- Rice cakes
- Pretzels with unsalted tops
- Fresh fruit
- Bagel with low fat cream cheese or cottage cheese - Non-fat frozen yogurt (once in awhile for a treat as the sugar is high)