Meniere’s disease is an inner ear condition that affects the body’s vestibular and auditory systems.
The vestibular system is what gives people their sense of balance and movement. The auditory system gives people their sense of hearing. The disease is named after the French doctor Prosper Meniere.
- semicircular canals
The organs of the inner ear are filled with a special kind of fluid that helps send signals to the brain. When you have Meniere’s disease, too much fluid clogs up the tiny inner ear organs that regulate hearing and balance.
As a result, Meniere’s disease causes problems with:
Meniere’s disease is easily recognized by its symptoms.
People with this condition typically experience episodes of:
Tinnitus is a buzzing or ringing in the ears.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, people with Meniere’s disease can experience these symptoms for 20 minutes to 4 hours at a time.
They also usually have the condition in one ear. However, there are cases where people have the disease in both ears.
As the severity of the condition increases, hearing becomes progressively worse. Eventually, with most people, it results in a permanent loss of hearing in the affected ear.
Meniere’s disease has no known cause or cure. However, with the right treatment — which often includes diet and supplements — you can manage the most debilitating aspects of the condition.
A diet for managing this condition should focus on:
- eliminating substances that cause the body to retain water
- introducing more diuretics to reduce fluid volumes in the body
- limiting harmful substances that constrict blood flow
- limiting dietary supplements and common substances that worsen symptoms of Meniere’s disease
Water and diuretics
Water retention makes Meniere’s disease worse, but this doesn’t mean you should stop drinking fluids.
It’s more important that you avoid fluids that contain large amounts of sugar and salt, such as soda or concentrated juices, which make you retain water.
Instead, drink the following fluids evenly throughout the day:
Diuretics are an important part of managing Meniere’s as well.
Diuretics are drugs that make the kidneys produce more urine, which reduces the volume, salt levels, and fluid pressure in the body. These reductions help you to better manage your condition.
Some common diuretic drugs prescribed for Meniere’s disease include:
Side effects of using diuretics can include:
Limit salt and sugar intake
Foods with a high sugar or salt content cause water retention, which can worsen symptoms of Meniere’s disease.
Try to avoid foods with concentrations of simple sugars, such as:
- table sugar
- high-fructose corn syrup
Instead, focus on foods with higher levels of complex sugars, such as:
The same rule applies to salt intake. It’s difficult to cut back on sodium because so much of our Western diet is packed with salt.
However, people with Meniere’s disease should aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Intake should be spread evenly throughout the day. Much more than that will cause water retention.
Foods naturally low in sodium include:
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- unprocessed grains
- fresh meats, poultry, and fish
Refrain from alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine
Caffeine and alcohol also interfere with your body’s ability to regulate fluid levels, which can make the inner ear worse, causing headaches, pressure, and vertigo.
The nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products can constrict the blood flow to the inner ear, making all symptoms worse. It’s better to avoid nicotine and tobacco altogether if you have Meniere’s disease.
Aside from medications your healthcare provider prescribes, certain OTC medications and supplements can help or hinder symptoms of Meniere’s disease.
Beneficial OTC medications
Common effects of Meniere’s disease and vertigo are:
- motion sickness
Some medications that can help relieve these symptoms are:
Dramamine is helpful because it helps prevent:
- motion sickness
Harmful OTC medications
At the same time, there are common OTC drugs you should avoid because they interfere with Meniere’s disease.
Try to avoid the following:
Antacids are packed with sodium, which will cause water retention.
Drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), which is an NSAID, can also cause water retention and interfere with electrolyte balance. An electrolyte balance is important for the regulation of inner ear fluid.
According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, Aspirin can worsen the symptoms of tinnitus.
Changing your diet is a simple, inexpensive way to help relieve Meniere’s symptoms at home.
However, if a new diet doesn’t work, your healthcare provider may also recommend medication or surgery to help treat your condition.
Vertigo is the most common and most debilitating aspect of Meniere’s disease. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help reduce and manage this symptom and others.
Surgery is usually only a treatment option for Meniere’s disease when all other treatments haven’t worked.
Surgery is primarily used to eliminate debilitating episodes of vertigo. Surgery options include decompressing fluid in the inner ear or cutting a nerve to permanently cure episodes of vertigo.
While there’s currently no cure, Meniere’s disease can be effectively managed, allowing people with this condition to live a satisfying and full life.
A healthy diet and working with your healthcare provider to create an informed approach to medication and other treatment options can help improve your outlook.