If you suffer from vertigo attacks, you are not alone. About 40 percent of Americans have experienced vertigo at some point in time. Vertigo can be disturbing, even incapacitating, and can have an impact on your day-to-day activities.
Nearly 80 percent of those affected by vertigo report missed employment and the need for medical attention. Modifying your diet by including foods known to minimize the effects of vertigo may help relieve your symptoms of dizziness.
There aren't any specific foods that can treat your vertigo. But eating a healthy diet that includes foods that are rich in vitamin D, such as salmon and fortified milk, and vitamin B12, such as meat and fortified grains, may help.
What Is Vertigo?
Vertigo is not a condition or a diagnosis — it's a description of a sensation. Vertigo can be described as a perception of motion — most often spinning with lightheadedness, dizziness and a feeling of unbalance. It is caused by a vestibular dysfunction that stems from your inner ear.
Your inner ear and cerebellum are responsible for maintaining your balance and perception of stability. Your brain regulates muscular activity and requires good blood flow and oxygen supply to maintain your balance. Your ear needs a proper equilibrium of fluid, and the slightest variation in the volume and composition can make your upright body posture difficult to maintain.
What Causes Vertigo?
Vertigo is a symptom of various conditions. The most common cause of vertigo is BPPV, or benign positional paroxysmal vertigo. BPPV happens as a result of the accumulation of calcium carbonate deposits in the canal of the inner ear. Because your inner ear controls your sense of balance, sudden head movements trigger episodes of severe dizziness.
Vertigo can also result from a condition in your brain or central nervous system, such as vestibular migraine, vestibular neuritis, multiple sclerosis or brain tumor. Drugs associated with medicine-induced vertigo include anticonvulsants, antibiotics and phenytoins.
Symptoms of Vertigo
All vestibular disorders have similar symptoms despite being caused by different underlying conditions. Dizziness is the most significant indication of vertigo. Symptoms may be intermittent and last only a few seconds to minutes, or symptoms may be more persistent and last for hours or even days. Common signs of vertigo include:
- Sudden spinning, tilting or dizziness
- Sensation of spinning or feeling of unsteadiness and imbalance
- Vision impairment or difficulty
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Increased heartbeat
- Nausea and vomiting
Diagnosing and Treating Vertigo
With the many possible causes of vertigo, it’s important to be diagnosed to determine the reason you are experiencing dizziness. For example, to confirm if you have BPPV, quickly turning your head to the side will likely induce rapid or involuntary eye movements in addition to severe dizziness.
Your doctor may recommend special exercises, such as Epley maneuver, or physical therapy. Finding out what is causing your vertigo will help you understand what dietary modifications you can make and what foods to avoid that trigger vertigo.
You may be prescribed medications, such as steroids to reduce ear inflammation or water pills to reduce fluid buildup in your ears. Depending on the diagnosis, specific vertigo diets or dietary modifications may help you alleviate the severity of the episodes.
Will Diet Really Help Vertigo?
The food you eat is digested and absorbed, affecting every cell in your body, including your inner ear, which is why your diet may play a role in maintaining vestibular health.
Since vertigo and tinnitus are often common complaints among the elderly, a study was conducted to determine if there was an association between dietary habits and vertigo. Researchers used benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) to find out if nutrition had an effect on 487 elderly patients.
The findings, published in the International Archive of Otorhinolaryngology in 2015, reported a significant relation between BPPV and inadequate carbohydrate and fiber intake. The subjects had diets rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids.
From the conclusions of the study, the authors stressed the importance of reducing the intake of fats and carbohydrates and increasing fiber to control triglycerides as part of an anti-vertigo diet to minimize adverse effects of dizziness.
Eat Foods Rich in Vitamin D
BPPV is usually a recurring disorder. Vitamin D has been found to be effective in eliminating vertigo episodes, according to a study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses in 2014. Ten participants with vertigo and low vitamin D levels were treated for two weeks. Researchers found that none of the subjects receiving vitamin D therapy had any repeated episodes of vertigo.
Including foods in your vertigo diet that ensure you don't become deficient in vitamin D may help with your symptoms. Some foods that are rich in vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon
- Fortified foods, such as dairy, orange juice and cereals
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
Salt contains sodium. Sodium is responsible for the retention of excess fluid accumulating in your body. This may affect your inner ear by disrupting your internal equilibrium and balance mechanisms.
Reducing your intake of salt is an integral part of the Meniere’s therapeutic vertigo diet. The Meniere’s Society says that salt causes a buildup of sodium-rich fluid in your inner ear. A sudden release of excess pressure results in a vertigo attack.
To reduce your salt intake, substitute fresh herbs such as cilantro, mint, sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme and dill for seasoning. Spice up your meals using paprika, garlic, red pepper, cayenne or other dried spices as a substitute to add flavor.
Choosing foods that are naturally low in sodium, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meat and poultry, and unprocessed whole grains, may alleviate your symptoms of vertigo. Snack-type foods to avoid with vertigo symptoms include salty chips, pretzels, crackers and popcorn.
Ginkgo biloba is a Chinese herb known to help resolve symptoms of vertigo, possibly by increasing blood flow to the brain to relieve dizziness and imbalance issues. To investigate the effect ginkgo biloba has on vertigo, a study compared ginkgo with a commonly used anti-vertigo medication called betahistine. The 2014 trial evaluated 160 patients with symptoms of vertigo over a period of 12 months.
The results, published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology, found that ginkgo biloba had a slightly better effect than betahistine in the treatment and management of symptoms of vertigo. Ginkgo biloba also had fewer adverse reactions.
Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger helps blood circulation and controls inflammation, so it may help to decrease the episodes of vertigo. Ginger root, steeped in a cup of boiling water for five minutes, makes a ginger tea that you can drink twice a day to relieve dizziness, nausea and other vertigo symptoms.
Research published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science in 2016 found that ginger root reduced the symptoms of vertigo better than the commonly used BPPV therapy of manual repositioning, such as the Epley maneuver.
Eat Vitamin B12-Rich Foods
Deficiencies in vitamin B12 may cause symptoms of dizziness and fainting. Low vitamin B12 is related to impairment of the nervous system and neurological problems, including low blood pressure causing dizziness, lack of balance and decreased blood flow to your brain.
Clams, beef liver and fish are the best sources of vitamin B12, but it is naturally found in all animal products, including fish, poultry, meat, eggs, milk and milk products. Fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, are also good sources of vitamin B12.
A Handful of Almonds
Eating nuts may relieve some of the discomfort of vertigo. Nuts are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, helping with inflammation, which can potentially be a cause of vertigo.
Nuts may improve blood circulation in your body, including your inner ear, and reduce the buildup of pressure in your inner ear due to excess fluid, explains NeuroEquilibrium. However, if your vertigo is due to a vestibular migraine, nuts should be avoided.
An ayurvedic home remedy that is alleged to treat vertigo involves smelling chopped onions. By inhaling the smell forcibly until tears start to flow, the idea is that vasodilation, or dilation of blood vessels, is produced which brings more blood supply to your brain. According to NDTV Food, sandalwood oil or incense is also claimed to be effective.
When to See a Doctor
If you have regular occurrences of vertigo, you should consult your doctor. Usually vertigo is not harmful, but the underlying cause should be identified, especially if dietary changes and home remedies do not help.
- NeuroEquilibrium: Vertigo
- International Archive of Otorhinolaryngology: Is There a Possible Association Between Dietary Habits and Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo in the Elderly? The Importance of Diet and Counseling
- Journal of Neurology: Decreased Serum Vitamin D in Idiopathic Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
- International Journal of Otolaryngology: Treatment of Vertigo: A Randomized, Double-Blind Trial Comparing Efficacy and Safety of Ginkgo biloba Extract EGb 761 and Betahistine
- Medical News Today: What Are the Home Remedies for Vertigo?
- Advances in Otolaryngology: Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo: An Integrated Perspective
- Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science: Clinical Observation on Ginger-Partitioned Moxibustion Plus Manual Repositioning for Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
- Medical Hypotheses: Vitamin D Deficiency and Benign Paroxysmal Positioning Vertigo
- National Institutes of Health: Vitamin B12
- University Health News: Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms Can Range Far Beyond Fatigue
- NDTVFood: 6 Effective Ways to Get Rid of Vertigo
- NeuroEquilibrium: Here's a Diet to Help You With Vertigo
- Vertigo Treatment: Vertigo Diet – Understand And Treat Conditions Such As Meniere’s Disease And Vestibular Migraine
- StatPearls: Vertigo
- Meniere's Society: Other Non-Surgical Treatments
- UCSF Health: Vertigo