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10 years of support work & 5 years of research & study into triggers and causes.
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Meniere's Help. 37 The Crapen, Dursley, Glos. GL116LL UK
by Mike Spencer
A trigger is usually a term used for something that may spark a sudden Meniere’s attack. It may cause a sudden increase in pressure inside the ear, increase of tinnitus, dizziness or spark a full blown vertigo attack.
There is a gray area between contributing triggers and the actual underlying cause of your Meniere's. On this page we list and discuss what would usually be considered triggers of attacks rather than the main underlying cause. For example your cause could be a dysfunction of the ear through auto-immune problems or a neck issue but stress or alcohol for example may spark an attack.
There are many triggers and a many possible underlying causes. We have spent over 10 years supporting Meniere's sufferers and over 5 years studying and researching actual underlying causes. Although there are many gray areas we have narrowed down the list of possible causes of Meniere's to common threads and scenarios. You can learn more about actual causes here.
So then on this page we talk of triggers as something that in some cases may have caused your Meniere's symptoms in the first place, but mostly are thought of as things that spark attacks once you actually already have this condition and are susceptible to the extra strain on your nerves in the ear, the immune system or other parts of your body that connect with the ear.
Triggers can arise from illness, lifestyle, your environment or the things you eat, drink or do. You have to keep an open mind and try to identify just what sparks attacks with you. If varies greatly from person to person, but there are a lot of very common occurrences. Once identified, with many triggers there are things you can do to avoid them. It could be a change of lifestyle, cutting out or cutting down on something in your diet or avoiding doing certain activities for example.
It is a big subject that we cover in depth in the book Managing Meniere's Disease - How To Live Symptom Free. This is a text that covers all of our observations from the years of supporting Meniere's sufferers, our own experiences living with this condition and 5 years of extensive research and study into triggers and underlying causes. It explains what they are and how to deal with them.
Some triggers to be avoided just seem like common sense, others are more obscure and contentious in some people's eyes. That said, they are all very real triggers. It can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack when trying to identify your triggers, other times it seems very obvious. Doctors will often speak of certain triggers as being just hearsay because there is no 'clinical data' to back up the claims of their patients. The fact is though, many triggers are obvious to even the most skeptical and the numbers speak for themselves.
Having helped support Meniere's sufferers for many years now, it is obvious to us that common themes occur, whether clinically proven or not. The trick is identifying your own particular triggers and taking positive action to eliminate them from your life. This can be done, has been done and is being done all the time. So take heart if you are suffering badly at the moment. There is light at the end of this twisted, confusing and exhausting tunnel of ours.
Everybody involved in Meniere's Help has lived through this illness themselves and either controlled their symptoms and now live a normal life and/or have identified their original underlying cause and dealt with it directly themselves or through help from medical professionals. That or they are health professionals themselves who have done the same with family members.
In my own case I was told by some doctors that certain things in my diet would be a problem, while other doctors told me there was no 'proof' they were a problem and not to worry about them. In the end I could easily identify them as being huge triggers and could cut them out of my diet, or life. One or two other triggers were more difficult to avoid so once I identified my underlying cause (which in my case was related to neck and back misalignments) I didn't have to worry about them.
Like most things related to this condition, nothing is written in stone. It can be very different for each individual. We hope his page helps you identify your own triggers and do something about them. To get a more indepth and better understanding of all this I suggest you get hold of our recorded information in 'Managing Meniere's Disease'.
If you would like help with any of this just contact us using the form on this page or email us using the address at the top of the page.
A Summary of Possible Triggers
Triggers in what you eat and drink
There are a lot contentious possibilities here but the one trigger that doctors all agree on is too much Sodium. Sodium causes the body to retain fluid. The build up of fluid in the ear is thought to cause the endolymphatic sac in the inner ear to swell and put pressure on the hearing and balance nerves close by. You may have heard of the term endolymphatic hydrops. Hydrops is simply another term for edema: swelling from excessive fluid build up in the cells, tissues or serous cavities. We have such cavities in our ears.
It used to be hypothesized that the endlymphatic sac in the ear might burst under the pressure and mix sodium rich fluids and potassium rich fluids and that caused the vertigo, but this is no longer believed to be the case.
The puzzling thing about the sodium factor is that there was a time when salt was one of the most prized commodities on earth for it's "health benefits". The body needs sodium as one of several vital electrolytes. So the problem may not be salt itself but the highly refined salt we use and that is prevalent in everything we eat these days.
Natural sea salts may be the answer as they are completely balanced, have had no goodness taken out, no exposure to harmful chemicals and are full of idodine, which is very important for our thyroid gland and therefore our immune system. But it is safe to say that cutting down on table salt can help your condition and pouring it on your dinner or eating lots of processed foods and junk foods that are packed with it will almost definitely trigger attacks.
Doctors will put Meniere's patients on a strict low salt diet, so it only makes sense to be careful about eating foods high in salt. That includes all junk food and highly processed foods.
A diet high in fat may also cause problems, as plaque from colesterol builds up inside the blood vessels. Anything that obstructs the flow of blood around the inner ear may well contribute to Meniere's symptoms. As sugar is stored in the body as fat, it makes sense to eat a diet not too high in sugar, saturated fats and hydrogenized fats.
People have noticed that eating too much sweet food and especially chocolate can bring on attacks quite quickly as can drinking drinks full of caffeine. Opinions differ on this, so as with all these possible triggers it is up to you to keep an eye on what you eat and drink and you'll soon realize if these things are causing you problems. Pure dark chocolate is generally good for you however; packed with antioxidants.
Excess sugar also causes problems with the endocrine system which has been linked to Meniere's. The endocrine system is also linked to the thyroid and other hormonal organs so again it may be damaging your immune system resulting in your vulnerability to health problems including Meniere's.
Junk food and overly processed food is packed with processed salt and processed sugar in addition to msg, other harmful chemicals and neurotoxins, not to mention unholy amounts of residues from pesticides and other neurotoxins. The list of harmful neurotoxins listed by the FDA in a MacDonalds burger spans three pages in the book 'Managing Meniere's Disease' and that is only one of many junk food outlets we tend to frequent far too often for our own good. Neurotoxins attack the central nervous system. Problems with the CNS has been linked to Meniere's.
Add to the mix the invasion of genetically modified foods in our super markets and we can see that our immune system is constantly under attack in today's world. If you live in an area where the authorities allow fluoride to be put in the drinking water you can add this to the bombardment of harmful chemicals invading our bodies.
Given this information only it is no wonder that we need extra nutrition in the form of expensive supplements to stay healthy. The supplements I used to stay symptom free in the years prior to finding my cause are packed with powerful antioxidants and my symptoms disappeared very quickly when I started taking them. I still take them out of choice but I can understand how and why they made a difference just by knowing all the toxins that are being fed to us one way or the other.
In a perfect world we wouldn't need them. But this far from a perfect world when it comes to what we consume. Even fresh produce which is very important in place of junk food may be covered in toxic pesticides.
Clearly the answer to the bombardment of harmful substances entering our body through pesticides, herbicides, chemical preservatives and the like is to eat plenty of fresh organic vegetables and fruits and to take high quality supplements full of anti-oxidants or super foods such as chlorella. Our bodies need all the help they can get.
Drinking fresh filtered water is also important when possible. Fluoride and big pharma run offs are poisoning us. Fluoride was used by the Nazis in concentration camps to damage the pineal gland of the brain and keep the inmates pacified by dumbing them down. The fluoruide used in our water supply comes from biproducts and derivatives from petro-chemical refineries. Do you really want to be consuming that. It is a wonder any of us are healthy at all and no wonder that so many have such "idiopathic" conditions as Meniere's. Anything that was purposely used to calcify the pineal gland to zombify humans can not be a good idea for anyone, let alone someone proned to brain fog.
Alcohol and especially beer, is thought to be a trigger for many. Firstly alcohol is toxic to the inner ear and beer depending on the type and brand can sometimes be full of sodium, making it double trouble. Again it is up to you to take note, if you are regularly having attacks during drinking, shortly afterwards or the next day then it would make sense to avoid alcohol for a while to see if that makes a difference. You may want to cut your drinking down or cut it out altogether, or you may not be affected. It's up to you to find out and take action if needed. I personally was told by one doctor that I should avoid beer, and then by another that it was no problem at all. I later learned through experience that it was a massive trigger for me. Now I am healthy, I do drink in moderation occasionally with no problems.
Possible Triggers in Your Environment
Sufferers notice an increase in pressure in their ears when there are barometric changes in the atmosphere. It may sound far fetched, but low pressure systems put lots of pressure on the ears. Many people complain that heavy damp weather tends to spark attacks. Doctors may or may not agree but this is a common observation by Meniere's sufferers.
Even after six or seven years free of Meniere's symptoms, while on the supplements I could predict if there was a nasty storm or Typhoon on its way (I lived in Japan). I would feel an unusual pressure in my left ear at these times.
For a time I used acupuncture for relief from my symptoms, with some success. But during the rainy season or Typhoon season, the practitioner was fighting a losing battle. The pressure was too great and I would be in a very bad way.
There is of course nothing you can do about changes in the weather or air pressure, but it would be perhaps wise to eliminate as many other possible triggers in your life as you can at this time to give yourself a chance.
Allergies from pollen in the air and sinus problems seem to be a factor with many people. Hay fever and the like, causing inflammation around the nasal passage and sinuses and clogging up the ears with pollen would seem an obvious candidate and many people do seem to have problems with this.
Wearing a mask during allergy seasons and steaming the sinuses clear regularly may help. More on possible environmental triggers below.
When I was at my lowest point, the possibility of mold being a trigger was mentioned to me. In Japan the rainy season makes everything so damp that if no precautions are taken even the clothes in your drawers rot with mold! Around this time I moved a chest of drawers to clean behind and found a huge growth of mold. This had been just a few feet from my bed.
Mold is a known health hazard and mold definitely causes problems for Meniere's sufferers.
Chemicals in the workplace, household goods or being used in industry near you may contribute. We have known of people stop using certain household cleaning products, personal hygiene products, skin care or acne preparation products and their symptoms disappeared.
Smoking is the most obvious and most doctors will advise Meniere's sufferers to quit. Easier said than done I know, but with the smoke clogging up your tubes when what you need is the complete opposite it would make sense to wouldn't it?
Stress is highly debated as a trigger. In theory, as stress is known to make the blood vessels contract it makes perfect sense that this would be a factor. It is interesting that the people who dismiss stress as a factor have never suffered from Meniere's.
In Japan there are doctors and researchers who even put this down as an underlying cause. This is discussed at length in the findings from our research.
Personal experiences show, that either during or following severely stressful situations and especially prolonged stressful situations, increased pressure and extreme vertigo would follow.
What to do about stress is a big question. There are stress management techniques, relaxation techniques and therapies that undoubtedly help, but they do not stop the source of the stress. If you suffer from genuine anxiety and/or panic attacks this may well help you. We have had very good reports on this technique.
Work, money and relationship stresses are things that only you can deal with. After getting better on the supplements, I decided never to get stressed over work or the kind of day to day relationship problems that most people have to deal with ever again. After beating Meniere's I now find it easy stay 'relatively' calm over these things. For suggestions about stress and Meniere's Disease click here.
Recreational Drugs, as with smoking, are an obvious no no. They often deplete the body of vital nutrients and as a result weaken your immune system, opening the way to illness, like Meniere's. That said cannabis and especially hemp (which is not a drug) is known to have many health benefits. Medical marijuana is well know for its wonderful health benefits and is being used more and more. I have had people comment that smoking pot was exactly what they needed to stay symptom free. If you were to go down this route I would be sure to make it supervised medical marijuana or at the very least vaporize it. 'Smoking' anything is going to have its advers effects.
Apart from being bad news in general, drugs such as cocaine and other stimulants are going to be bad for you simply because they are going to stimulate the nerve ending in the same way as caffeine, only ten times as bad because of their extreme effect on the body.
Users have reported immediate massive increases in tinnitus when taking them.
Over-Work, making you either mentally or physically tired is also going to weaken you and lower your defenses.
Lack of Sleep, is agreed to be a problem. Meniere's sufferers need their sleep. You know how much sleep your body needs, so make sure you are getting it. Regular sleep patterns are recommended.
Do you have a an electric toothbrush? The vibrations can trigger attacks as can electric shavers used on the side of the face near the affected ear and when shaving your head.
Do you eat or use artificial sweeteners...or drink diet pop or fruit drink crystals? (92 different symptoms have been identified with the use of these.)
Are you doing heavy exercises? (Too much exercise can show up as oxidative stress). Exercise is of course a good thing and promotes health and strengthens your immune system but overdoing it in the gymn or a marathon may spark an attack.
Do you ever question presciption drugs and drug interactions? Did you know that many drugs present their own side effects? These could maybe be causing some interactions with other medications. Many drug side effects include dizziness, brain fog and tinnitus. Do you use nailpolish?
Nail polish remover with acetone may be a problem. The fumes alone will mean you are inhaling toxic air.
Have you ever considered the chemicals for laundry and fabric softener products that go onto your skin? (You could be "wearing" them all day long.)
Do you think you could have a latex allergy? It is used in things like make up sponges, condoms, household or garden gloves.
These may seem obscure but they are very real: cell phones and microwave ovens. The electro- magnetic proliferation all around us in todays world, especially in urban areas, is a very real concern and anything that effects the brain like this may be another possibility for you to consider.
This list is incomplete, but it gives you an idea of how common irritants are in your life.
Other Vertigo or Dizziness Triggers known when you have Meniere's
Watching TV, Flashing lights, Driving (especially at night), Quick movements of the head, Bending down, Staring at computer screens, reading (especially while moving in trains or cars), Bright light, Noise, Headphones, Washing your hair, Supermarket aisles.
It is generally accepted that a lifestyle free of stress, with a healthy fresh organic diet low on dairy products and sensible exercise is a good thing for Meniere's sufferers (like anybody else really!). There is clearly not just one single trigger for us, but many. For example, having the odd beer 'might' not affect you. On the other hand, having a stressful day at work, coming home to your partner shouting at you, eating junk food all day, smoking and going out drinking all night followed by snacks, milk chocolate and coffee then going to work the next day without much sleep is obviously not going to be a good idea. You are stacking the odds against you to have a massive attack in this scenario.
You need to give yourself every chance of avoiding attacks.
Identifying what you think is triggering attacks for you, and taking action may well help you a great deal over time. In fact we have seen it help a great deal with many people sometimes eliminating their symptoms altogether.
Eliminate or avoid your triggers, and you can start looking seriously at your underlying cause, and make no mistake there is one. As stated above, some of these 'triggers' may count as your underlying cause. But there is a list of known causes and very real solutions for you to think about. Get a better idea of the big picture here.
You can find triggers through an elimination process, strengthen your immune system through diet, dietary supplementation and exercise and you can live symptom free but only by finding and tackling your underlying cause can you be free of this condition for good.
I know I have done all of these and seen so many other do so too, and continue to see this all the time. This is why the study and research we have done (and are still doing) and recorded can make such a difference. It is proven facts. You do NOT have to live with Meniere's.
In 2011 I held a telephone interview with Karin Henderson, a health professional and supporter of Meniere's sufferers since the '90's. In that interview, she discusses her observations on triggers. This is something that she has spent a great deal of time and effort on with great success. You can hear the interview and see the accompanying video on the Meniere's Help Blog.
Breaking through the mis-information and mis-perceptions of Meniere's