When most individuals think about a disease such as Meniere’s disease, a dramatic diet change is not one of the first treatment approaches that come to mind.
But because of the unique etiology and prognosis of Meniere’s disease, diet is a crucial factor when it comes to management of the disease, though even if the diet is followed strictly and precisely, it likely cannot cure Meniere’s disease permanently.
Furthermore, an individual living with Meniere’s disease often has to worry about experiencing an episode as a result of the consumption of certain types of food.
Following the diet to reduce symptoms can also help an individual be able to enjoy their meals because the risk of a diet-triggered episode is considerably lowered.
Description of Meniere’s Disease
Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder known to cause vertigo, a type of dizziness that makes an individual feel like they are spinning. This disease can also cause intermittent hearing loss, sensations of pressure in the ear, and ringing in the ear.
In most cases, only one ear is affected by Meniere’s disease. The part of the inner ear containing structures that manage an individual’s hearing and balance is called the labyrinth, and the buildup of fluid in this region is usually what causes symptoms of Meniere’s disease.
The fluid buildup causes interference with the transmission and receiving of brain signals that result in hearing issues and vertigo.
This disease comes in the form of episodes that can last anywhere from twenty minutes to twenty-four hours. When the disease progresses, symptoms will become more constant instead of episodic.
Meniere’s disease is diagnosed using an electronystagmogram to analyze an individual’s balance, as well as the use of an electrocochleography or a test that measures the pressure of the fluid in the ear.
Goals of the Meniere’s Disease Diet
The goals of the Meniere’s disease diet are focused on reducing the frequency and severity of the episodic symptoms the disease causes. Meniere’s disease is closely related to and dependent upon the body’s blood system and fluid balances.
Certain dietary changes may help with managing the disease effectively. The first goal of Meniere’s disease diet is to get rid of substances that cause and stimulate water retention in the body. The retention of water makes the symptoms worse because excess fluid can continue to build up in the ear.
Another goal of this diet is to decrease overall volumes of fluid in the body through the consumption of natural diuretics. An overall reduction in body fluids can help reduce the fluid buildup in the inner ear.
Additionally, eliminating substances that cause the constriction of regular blood flow and limiting the use of dietary substances are more areas the Meniere’s disease diet places emphasis on.
Food and Drink to Avoid
Individuals with Meniere’s disease should avoid foods and drinks high in sugar and salt. The intake of sugar stimulates the body to respond with insulin. Insulin retains sodium, and sodium triggers the body to retain more water.
Food and drink with a higher concentration of simple sugars like honey, candy, table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and chocolate should all be avoided. Foods with higher levels of sodium that should be avoided include yogurt, eggs, shellfish, meat, and certain vegetables, such as artichokes and celery.
Other foods high in sodium that should be avoided include canned fruits, canned soups, canned beans, canned vegetables, hot dogs, lunch meat, salad dressings, smoked and cured meats, pickles, olives, and canned sauces. Any beverage containing alcohol should not be consumed.
Beverages and foods with caffeine should be avoided as it is considered a stimulant that can make Meniere’s disease worse. The intake of frozen foods and items with long pantry shelf lives should also be limited.
Food and Drink to Consume
The best food and drink to consume for an individual with Meniere’s disease are those with limited simple sugars and low sodium. Foods with complex sugars instead of simple sugars that are better to consume are raw nuts, fresh beans, lentils, whole grains, sweet potatoes, and brown rice.
Food and drink known to be natural diuretics are great to help reduce fluid retention in the body. Natural diuretics include fresh asparagus, ginger, beets, fresh watermelon, fresh lemons, nettle leaves, cucumbers, fresh mint leaves, fresh peaches, fresh pineapple, and cilantro leaves.
When an individual eats food they should be consuming an equal amount of water or other caffeine-free fluids. Having an equal distribution of food and fluids helps manage levels of inner ear fluid.
In addition, dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, plantain, arugula, chard, and turnip greens should be readily consumed for symptom reduction.
Fresh meat without additives is also okay to consume, however, individuals with Meniere’s disease should be diligent not to eat any processed meats.
Effectiveness of the Diet
Individuals who live with Meniere’s disease have reported the goals of Meniere’s disease diet to be effective in treating several symptoms. Usually, patients are put on a nutritional program that helps them adjust their eating habits and learn new ways to prepare their foods.
In order for an individual with Meniere’s disease to be able to benefit from the diet, they must be consistent and diligent with following it. Because the disease is dependent upon the fluid levels and balance in the body, the diet to treat it is based on foods and beverages that manipulate the fluid levels in the body to reduce symptoms of the disease.
Fluid levels can change rapidly so a deviation from the diet can result in worsening symptoms. It is also reported the Meniere’s disease diet works better when allergies and food sensitivities are avoided such as gluten and lactose.
Some medications that contain caffeine can also be problematic because the diet states caffeine should not be consumed.
Lastly, an individual should anticipate the loss of fluids associated with exposure to heat and physical activities, and try to replace the fluids before they deplete.