Meniere's Disease is not fun. Not fun at all. If you or someone you know has this condition, you have my sympathy.
My husband’s aunt had Meniere's, but no one really understood it. She always seemed to be having “one of those days”. At family reunions, if she did come, she preferred to eat alone in the kitchen rather than with everyone else. She stopped working, stopped being her normal vivacious and outgoing self. And no sympathy or understanding from anyone that I could see.
No, it’s not fun at all. If you have Meniere's, is this all you can expect? Or is there some hope?
What is Meniere's Disease?
Meniere's Disease is (also called Vertigo disease), is generally described as an inner-ear balance disorder. A person with this disorder experiences “attacks” which happen suddenly, without notice, any time, anywhere.
You feel like you're spinning (vertigo), you have ringing in your ear (tinnitus), you have a feeling of pressure in your ear and your hearing may come and go. This might last a few minutes, a few hours, or even several days. You may experience nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion and intense fatigue during a prolonged attack of Meniere's.
Is there any cure? This question has a good news – bad news answer. Bad news first? It seems there is no cure. Good news is – you can take action to help yourself and lessen or even possibly end your attacks.
What Can I Do to Help Myself?
First of all, there is no “one size fits all” cure. The attacks you are experiencing may not be as bad as another person, or they may be worse. You may find some of the suggestions work better for you than others. The good thing is that most of the following suggestions cannot possibly harm you, so there is no reason not to give them a try.
If you are a Meniere's sufferer, you probably already know what to do during an attack:
“Lay down on a firm surface. Stay as motionless as possible, with your eyes open and fixed on a stationary object. Do not try to drink or sip water, as you would be very likely to vomit. Stay like this until the severe vertigo (spinning) passes, then get up SLOWLY. After the attack subsides, you will probably feel very tired and need to sleep for several hours. If vomiting persists and you are unable to take fluids for longer than 24 hours (12 hours for children), contact your doctor. Your doctor may wish to see you and may prescribe some medication.” 1. http://www.american-hearing.org/index.html (Menieres Disease, 2008)
But the real answer is to avoid these Meniere's attacks altogether through lifestyle changes. Do they really work? For most people, they do.
• Limit your salt and sodium intake
A normal diet has between 1100 and 3000 mg of salt/day. You should keep your salt intake under 1000 mg/day, even as low as 400 mg/day is good. Generally, processed foods and restaurant meals all will have a high salt content. Prepare or buy fresh, natural foods – and don’t add salt! Almost everyone finds this one action alone brings some improvement. Don’t forget that you still absolutely need some salt in your diet, you do not want to eliminate salt altogether.
• Drink, drink and drink
Yes, remember the eight glasses of water a day? You probably need it. But don’t drink it all at once and “get it done”. You need to distribute your fluids throughout the day evenly. If you’re sighing and thinking of all the trips to the bathroom (!) don’t worry, that only happens when you’re dehydrated. If you drink enough water consistently every day, your cells absorb more and you don’t have that problem. And you might find that when you start drinking lots of water that you actually feel thirstier. Again, this is showing you that you really are dehydrated. This won’t last, either. And please don’t think that milk, juice, coffee, tea etc. replaces plain old H2O. They don’t.
• Don’t drink, drink and drink
No, I’m not really contradicting myself! But everyone agrees. No caffeine. No alcohol. No hot chocolate. No soft drinks. Sorry, but you’ll find that the rewards of avoiding these drinks far outweigh the sacrifice you’ll be making. Reducing the frequency of Meniere's attacks is definitely worth it!
• Eat foods that are good for you
Fruit, vegetables, whole grains. You might find you do better if you avoid dairy products and MSG. Avoid foods that are high in sugar. Avoid processed, instant and canned food.
Avoid Aspirin and medications that include aspirin and/or caffeine. If you are taking prescription medications, pay attention to whether they are making your Meniere's attacks worse and talk to your doctor about it if they are.
• Butt Out!
Just think about how well you’re going to feel and how much energy you will have when you follow all these suggestions! And when you stop smoking, you’ll have so much more money to spend on having fun as well! Seriously, cigarettes restrict your blood vessels and will make your symptoms worse.
• Reduce stress
Not always easy, I know. But if you can rearrange your life to be a bit kinder to yourself, that would be good.
• Nutritional Supplements
Have you heard the story about the guy who went to the doctor and said, “I need a pain reliever for my head. My head hurts when I bang it against the wall.” Predictably, the doctor says, “Well, stop banging your head against the wall!”
But that’s what you’d be doing if you try to stop your Meniere's symptoms with medications or nutritional supplements, yet ignore all the suggestions above. But you might need a little more help.
I don't have Meniere's myself, so I can't tell you from personal experience how well these products work, but I'm listing two that come well recommended. They give you nutrients that you need, and they are anti-inflammatory and help to improve circulation.