Foods to Avoid for Vertigo

If you've ever experienced that sudden spinning, tilt-a-whirl feeling of dizziness, you know what vertigo is. Depending on the underlying condition, you may be able to make some dietary alterations to help alleviate the symptoms of vertigo. Knowing which are the foods that trigger vertigo and which foods to avoid may decrease your risk of vertigo attacks and the discomfort of the associated symptoms.

Watch your caffeine intake with vertigo; too much may increase the ringing in your ears.
Credit: franz12/iStock/GettyImages

What Is Vertigo?

The term vertigo comes from the Latin phrase verto, which means to revolve. Vertigo is a vestibular disorder that occurs in your inner ear. It is more commonly found in women than in men. Neuro Equilibrium says that 20 to 40 percent of people are affected by dizziness or vertigo at some point in their lives. Vertigo typically causes a mild to severe sense of motion with dizziness, lightheadedness, spinning and a feeling of imbalance.

What Causes Vertigo?

Vertigo is just a symptom of a disorder that can be caused by more than 40 diseases or conditions of your inner ear, your nervous system or your brain. The cause can be from an infection, ear wax or a dislodgement of calcium carbonate particles, inflammation, functional disorders, weak immune response, increased inner ear pressure or a medical condition.

There are two types of vertigo — peripheral and central, depending on the cause, according to NHS Inform.

Peripheral Vertigo

Peripheral vertigo is the most common type. It is usually caused by an issue with the balancing system of your inner ear. Some conditions and diseases that could cause peripheral vertigo are:

BPPV
With BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo), the most common cause of vertigo, dizziness occurs with specific head movements while standing, turning over in bed or bending over. BPPV is caused by small crystals that have broken off the lining of the channels in your inner ear and become lodged in one of the ear's fluid-filled canals.

Labyrinthitis Labyrinthitis is caused by an inner ear infection deep inside your ear. The labyrinth is a maze of channels in your ear that are filled with fluid and control hearing and balance. Your infection could be the result of a viral infection, such as a cold or flu, or a bacterial infection.

Meniere's Disease
Meniere's disease is a rare condition of the inner ear, and the cause is unknown. It can lead to vertigo, hearing loss and a feeling of pressure in your ears.

Vestibular Neuritis Vestibular neuritis is the result of inflammation of the nerves that connect your inner ear to the brain. It can be caused by a viral infection and create symptoms of unsteadiness and nausea.

Central Vertigo

Central vertigo is often a result of a problem in part of your brain or brainstem. Some of the causes of central vertigo are:

Migraine
A severe headache causing throbbing pain at the front or on the side of your head that is often associated with dizziness and nausea.

Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis or MS is a condition affecting the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. MS is usually caused by the growth of a lesion on the brainstem or cerebellum, the area in the brain that controls balance, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

Acoustic Neuroma Acoustic neuroma is a rare benign brain tumor that grows on the nerve that helps to control hearing and balance.

Brain Tumor
This is a tumor on the cerebellum, located at the bottom of the brain. Dizziness is just one of many symptoms that may result from a brain tumor.

Stroke
A stroke may occur when part of the blood supply is cut off to the brain. According to the American Stroke Association, symptoms of a stroke may be vertigo, with dizziness and severe imbalance occurring together.

Head or Neck Injury Following a head or neck injury, you may experience the common symptom of vertigo. This tends to resolve but can be ongoing and debilitating.

Certain Types of Medication Certain prescription medications can have a side effect of vertigo. Drugs including anticonvulsants, anti-hypertensives, antibiotics, antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-inflammatory medications may cause dizziness and escalate the chances of a vertigo attack, according to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics. If symptoms of dizziness persist, check with your doctor to find an alternative drug.

Symptoms of Vertigo

If you experience vertigo, your symptoms may come and go. They may last from a few seconds to minutes, hours or even days. Persistent or intermittent dizzy spells usually manifest with:

  • A sudden sensation of spinning, swaying or tilting
  • Feeling unsteady or imbalanced
  • Falling
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Double vision or difficulty focusing on moving objects
  • Headaches
  • Impaired hearing or ringing in the ears
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A racing heartbeat

Diagnosis of Vertigo

It is important to be diagnosed to determine what is causing your dizziness so you can take steps to treat the condition or rourelieve the symptoms, possibly with a dietary change. Your doctor may look for abnormal or involuntary eye movements. Induced rapid eye movement by quickly turning your head can indicate which ear may be causing the problem.

Foods to Avoid With Vertigo Symptoms

Making some modifications to your diet may be helpful, avoiding foods that trigger vertigo or control the symptoms. Your inner ear maintains a constant volume and concentration of sodium, potassium, chloride and other electrolytes that help with your balance. Managing your diet could not only help regulate this fluid balance, but could provide valuable antioxidants and foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect on your body to help treat your underlying condition.

Limit Caffeine Caffeine, present in coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks and soda, may increase the ringing sensation in your ears. The elimination of caffeine intake recommended in the Meniere's disease diet is good advice for all vertigo-related conditions, according to a study published in Nutritional Neuroscience in 2018.

Reduce Salt Intake Sodium is a major culprit in aggravating vertigo. Consuming salt may cause the retention of excess water in your body and affect the fluid balance and pressure. Excess salt in your diet can interfere with your internal equilibrium and balance mechanisms in your inner ear. Avoid foods high in sodium such as:

  • Chips
  • Cheese
  • Popcorn
  • Pickles
  • Soy sauce
  • Canned foods

The handbook Dizziness and Vertigo advises a strict low-salt diet with 1,500 to 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day, with some doctors recommending amounts as low as 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams per day.

An option is to replace your regular salt with herbs and spices for seasoning. Choose foods that are naturally low in sodium, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and unprocessed grains.

Alcohol Is a No-No Alcohol is known to worsen dizziness, sense of balance and nausea if you are prone to vertigo. Alcohol has a negative effect on your metabolism by dehydrating your body, which makes metabolites harmful to your inner ear and brain. Alcohol may also aggravate vertigo by altering the volume and composition of the fluid in your inner ear, according to Vestibular Disorders Association. Wine is a known trigger of migraine attacks that can also cause dizziness and nausea.

Don't Eat Foods That Cause Inflammation
As in almost all diseases, inflammation plays a major role as a component of pathogenesis. This applies to inner ear disorders as well. Foods that have a tendency to induce inflammation may make the symptoms of vestibular disorders more severe in the longer duration, according to Vertigo Treatment. These foods include:

  • Fried food
  • Bread and pastries
  • Red meat
  • Margarine
  • Processed food and meat

Read more: 14 Inflammation-Fighting Foods to Eat Every Day

Forgo Sugary Foods When it comes to vertigo and diet, consuming food with a high sugar content can cause fluctuations in the volume of fluids in your ear, resulting in an increase in your symptoms of vertigo. To minimize fluctuations, choose complex sugars found in legumes, whole grains, potatoes and vegetables, and omit:

  • Table sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Sodas or fruit juices that have high sugar content
  • Pastries, pies or sugary desserts

Avoid Dehydration Even mild dehydration can cause symptoms of vertigo. Staying hydrated can help minimize dizziness and balance issues. Your body needs eight to 12 glasses of liquid each day. Water is the best choice because it is calorie and caffeine free and not a diuretic.

Don't Eat Foods Containing Tyramine Tyramine is an amino acid known to trigger migraines and other conditions that may cause dizziness and vertigo. Examples of food containing tyramine include:

  • Red wine
  • Chicken liver
  • Smoked meats
  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt
  • Pickled herring
  • Chocolate
  • Bananas
  • Citrus fruits
  • Figs
  • Ripened cheeses
  • Peanut butter

Foods containing MSG, such as hot dogs and pepperoni, can also be responsible for inducing migraine-associated dizziness, according to Vestibular.org.

Use Over-the-Counter Medications With Caution Certain medications may increase symptoms of vestibular disorders. Aspirin can make the ringing in your ears worse. Anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen, can interfere with your body's fluid-control and electrolyte balance, causing water retention. Watch out for medications that contain caffeine. Antacids often contain significant amounts of sodium.

Suggestions for Relieving Vertigo

To combat the adverse effects of inflammation in your body, you should try to eat whole foods that provide the essential fats, vitamins and minerals your body needs, along with antioxidants that can help cleanse your body of toxins. Certain foods have been proven helpful in eliminating or improving the symptoms that often accompany vertigo.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The healthy omega-3 fat is known to help with inflammation. Omega-3 foods are recommended for a vestibular migraine diet as well as for other inner ear disorders. Fish, especially oily fish, is abundant in omega-3, and certain vegetables and nuts are good sources as well.

Read more: Foods Containing Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Vegetarians

Foods That Contain Antioxidants
Shiitake mushrooms contain a special antioxidant called ergothioneine, which is a cell protector that concentrates on oxidative stress in your body.

Green tea contains nutrients and antioxidants that may help fight inflammation. For example, Japanese matcha tea contains seven times more antioxidants than dark chocolate and 17 times more than wild blueberries, according to Mercola.

Read more: What Foods & Drinks Are High in Antioxidants?

Ginkgo Biloba Supplements Ginkgo biloba is a supplement often used to help reduce symptoms of vertigo by increasing blood flow to the brain. Ginkgo biloba's effectiveness and safety were examined in a study in 2014 that compared Ginkgo biloba extract to the most commonly used anti-vertigo medication, betahistine. One hundred and sixty patients with vertigo symptoms were evaluated. Findings of the double-blind, 12-month treatment plan, published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology, were that the two drugs had similar effects on the treatment of vertigo, with the Ginkgo biloba having a slightly pronounced improvement with fewer adverse reactions.

Foods Containing Vitamin D A deficiency of vitamin D is associated with symptoms of vertigo. A 2013 study, published in the Journal of Neurology, found that subjects with low vitamin D levels had up to 23 times greater odds of having positional vertigo compared to the control group.

Make sure you get sufficient vitamin D from sunshine and your diet. Foods containing vitamin D include fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon; fortified foods, such as dairy, orange juice and cereals; beef liver; and egg yolks.

Read more: Foods With High Vitamin D

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