Meniere 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.
The organs of the inner ear are filled with a special kind of fluid that helps send signals to the brain. When someone has Meniere disease, too much fluid clogs up the tiny inner ear organs that regulate hearing and balance.
As a result, people with Meniere disease have problems with balance, movement, nausea, and hearing.
Meniere disease is easily recognized by its symptoms. People with this condition typically experience episodes of:
Vertigo makes someone feel like they’re spinning, dizzy, and lightheaded, with a loss of balance. Tinnitus is a buzzing or ringing in the ears. People with Meniere disease experience these symptoms for 20 minutes to 4 hours at a time.
People with Meniere disease usually have the condition in one ear. However, there are cases where people have the disease in both ears.
As the condition worsens, hearing gets progressively worse. Eventually, it results in a permanent loss of hearing in the affected ear.
There’s no known cause of Meniere disease no known cure. However, the right treatment — which often includes diet and supplements — can control the most debilitating aspects of the condition.
- 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 make symptoms of Meniere disease worse
Water and diuretics
Water retention makes Meniere disease worse. But this doesn’t mean you should stop drinking fluids. It’s more important that you avoid fluids that are packed with sugar and salt, such as soda or juice concentrate. These make you retain water.
Instead, drink the following fluids evenly throughout the day:
Diuretics are an important part of managing Meniere as well. Diuretics are drugs that make the kidneys produce more urine. This reduces the volume, salt levels, and pressure of fluids in the body. Reducing these help manage symptoms.
Some common diuretic drugs prescribed for Meniere disease include:
Limit salt and sugar intake
Foods with a high sugar or salt content cause water retention, which can make symptoms of Meniere disease worse.
Sugar prompts an insulin response from the body, and insulin retains sodium. Sodium causes the body to retain water. 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:
- legumes, like nuts, beans, and lentils
- whole grains
- brown rice
- sweet potatoes
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 disease should aim for 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams of sodium each day. 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 should be avoided because it’s a stimulant and can make tinnitus louder. Caffeine and alcohol also interfere with fluid regulation in the body. This 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 disease.
Aside from medications prescribed by your doctor, certain OTC medications and supplements can help or hinder symptoms of Meniere disease.
Beneficial OTC medications
Common effects of Meniere disease and vertigo are dizziness, nausea, and motion sickness. Some medications that can help relieve these symptoms are:
- anti-nausea medication, like Dramamine
- antihistamines, like Benadryl
Dramamine is helpful because it makes dizziness, motion sickness, and nausea go away. Swelling in the ear can also contribute to vertigo, which is why anti-inflammatory drugs like Benadryl can be helpful. Reducing swelling in the ear will curb nausea and dizziness associated with vertigo.
Harmful OTC medications
At the same time, there are common OTC drugs you should avoid because they interfere with Meniere disease. Try to avoid the following:
- antacids that relieve heartburn or indigestion
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
Antacids are packed with sodium, which will cause water retention. Drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also cause water retention and interfere with electrolyte balance. An electrolyte balance is important for the regulation of inner ear fluid. Aspirin is known to increase tinnitus.
Changing your diet is a simple, inexpensive way to help relieve Meniere symptoms at home. But if a new diet doesn’t work, your doctor may also recommend medication or surgery to help you.
Vertigo is the most common and most debilitating aspect of Meniere disease. Your doctor may try to curb this and other symptoms using prescription medication.
Benzodiazepines like diazepam (Valium) or lorazepam (Ativan) can be used to shorten an episode of symptoms. Anti-nausea medications like promethazine or meclizine can be used to curb the nausea and vomiting associated with vertigo.
Surgery is usually only a treatment option for Meniere disease when all other treatments have failed.
Surgery is mostly used to eliminate debilitating episodes of vertigo. Surgery options include decompressing fluid in the inner ear or cutting a nerve to permanently cure attacks of vertigo.