Low Salt Diet to reduce the symptoms of Meniere’s Disease
Table of Contents
The apparent importance of a low salt or low sodium diet for Meniere’s sufferers is well known and well documented. More sodium can mean more fluid retention in your body.
One of the first things your treating doctor will usually advise when you are diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease is to keep your intake of salt low. In today’s world of processed foods, junk foods and snacks or even eating out and just cooking fresh food at home, it may feel very difficult to stick to a diet as low as 1500 mg of sodium per day.
Is a low salt diet for Meniere’s disease really that difficult? Is it that important and what are the alternatives?
On February 29th Huffington Post Australia reported on a Meniere’s patient named Emily George and how a low salt diet enabled her to live free of her symptoms.
Emily was diagnosed with Meniere’s in 2011. After suffering one too many vertigo attacks, she was of course advised to change her diet.
She told Huff post,
“My neurologist recommended a low sodium diet to help manage the symptoms,”
“I stopped using salt immediately and within weeks I was vertigo free.”
But it wasn’t only Emily’s symptoms of vertigo and dizziness that disappeared.
“My blood pressure has also come down, I am less bloated and now my family and I eat a lot less processed foods,” she said.
When sufferers are first told to stop drinking alcohol and reduce salt intake many wonder how they will cope with such a big change in their life. Wont life be boring and food flavorless without any salt?
In my own case, it was easy to quit alcohol and after a very short time food actually tasted better without added table salt. I could taste the true natural flavor of vegetables and it was easy to substitute salt with other flavorings in the kitchen.
Many years later. after recovering from Meniere’s I noticed an important observation in hindsight. Shortly after my worst year with vertigo I went into remission for around 6 to 8 months. At the time I didn’t care why and never gave it a thought. I was just ecstatic to have my life back again albeit temporary.
When later analyzing why, I could put it down to two things despite the fact I hadn’t been watching my salt intake at all and drank occasionally at that time. So what was different?
I had become very physically fit, going to the gym several times a week and the real surprise was I had been using natural sea salt crystals rather than common table salt. At the time, salt was salt to me; just the crystals that my wife was buying seemed more fancy sitting on the dinner table.
You might say, well sodium is sodium right? And although your body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly we all know about how it supposedly raises blood pressure and causes the body to retain fluid if over consumed. So what’s the difference?
The difference is, while common table salt has been heavily processed to the point where it is virtually robbed of all its original nutrient value, is totally unbalanced and is ‘just sodium’ plus some additives. Something like Himalayan salt crystals is completely natural and its minerals are balanced so there much less possibility of an overload with sodium. The minerals work in synergy with other nutrients inside the body in a beneficial way.
Himalayan salt crystals have been deep in the earth for over 250 million years and are toxin free. Containing all the natural minerals that are vital to the human body, it’s safe and more beneficial than any other processed salt.
Natural sea salt is a great source of iodine. Though little attention is given to it, iodine deficiency is a major problem in the western world and contributes to Thyroid problems which have been linked to Meniere’s possibly because of the effect that has on weakening the immune system.
It also balances the body’s pH. It has been shown that disease states such as Meniere’s and cancer are unable to manifest in alkalized human cells. Some cancer research suggests our bodies can become too acidic.
Much of nature’s best medicine in plants helps keep our body’s cells pH well balanced through their alkalizing effect. (The pH Miracle is well worth reading to learn how you can take care of your pH levels and avoid disease)
In the bible the term “salt of the earth” was first used and there is good reason for that. It was a prized mineral and was even used as a form of ‘money’ in ancient times. Sadly, in recent times the blind acceptance of over processing for mass production, distribution and profit of every food source has become the norm at the obvious expense of our health.
These days, at a time I value non toxic organic food more than anything, I wouldn’t use processed table salt if you paid me. I only use pure sea salts.
If you sticking to processed table salt are and attempting a low salt diet Emily George promises that it is possible — in fact, it’s actually better, she says.
“The first two-to-three weeks were pretty hard — food tasted bland,” Emily said.
“But once I got past that point, everything tasted better than it had previously — there was so much more flavor in food that I couldn’t taste before as it always had salt added.”
“Now if I have a taste of something which has been salted, I can taste it instantly and it is often unpalatable to me,”
(I feel exactly the same as Emily with my food)
Aside from helping her manage her Meniere’s disease, following a low sodium diet has also improved her cooking skills.
“It also made me a better cook because I couldn’t just rely on throwing in some salt for flavor any more,” Emily added. “Now I use lots of fresh herbs and spices and different cooking methods to make food taste great.”
As outlined in her new book, ‘The No Salt Cookbook’, there are a number of ways to add flavor without the need for salt.
Emily told Huff Post “Fresh herbs, spices, lemon juice and vinegar are all excellent sources of flavor,” .
“A dash of red wine in a beef casserole is delicious.”
She also recommends trying alternate methods of cooking to bring out different flavors in food, such as poaching, roasting or barbecuing.
“Marinating meats overnight instead of just an hour or so can really intensify the flavor,”
If you are suffering with Meniere’s Disease and in particular vertigo. Consider using Himalayan Salt Crystals and/or try Emily’s recipes from The No Salt Cookbook. (check some of her mouth watering recipes in the Huffington Post article)
Low salt diet for Meniere’s disease explained
Sodium is an essential electrolyte for life. It helps maintain the balance of water in and around your cells. It’s important for proper muscle and nerve function. It also helps maintain stable blood pressure levels.
Insufficient sodium in your blood is also known as hyponatremia. Some of the symptoms of hyponatremia can include altered personality, lethargy and confusion. Severe hyponatremia can cause seizures, coma and even death.
Lethargy, or lack of energy is something many Meniere’s sufferers experience. Confusion could be interpreted as brain fog, another symptom of Meniere’s. Moreover, there may some gray area between a drop attack suffered by some Meniere’s patients and seizures.
Clearly salt, or sodium, has significance for Meniere’s sufferers but quite how may be a little misunderstood. There are studies suggesting that too little sodium can cause vertigo, yet another symptom of Meniere’s.
Too much or too little sodium is clearly a health risk. If you ate a normal healthy fresh food diet and added table salt in moderation, in normal circumstances it would be unlikely to cause any problem.
Both sodium and potassium, two essential electrolytes are both regulated by insulin. Blood sugar irregularities such as diabetes and hypoglycemia can affect insulin production.
A significant number of Meniere’s sufferers have also experienced hypoglycemia or blood sugar level irregularities. Click on the link above to read more on this.
However, the real problem perhaps lies in our overall eating habits. Processed foods, sauces and in particular fast foods can be packed full of sodium (in addition to potentially harmful chemicals).
For example, a serving of fresh asparagus, cooked would average 1mg of sodium, while the same serving of canned asparagus would be 236mg.
A serving of regular roasted Peanuts would average 5mg, salted peanuts 418mgs and peanut butter 607mg.
Consider this; the usual medical advice for a Meniere’s sufferer would be to follow a low sodium diet, usually in the range of 1500-2000 mg per day. But is this in fact a low sodium diet?
According to the US CDC, the guidelines for everyone is to consume less than 2,300 mg per day. So that seems pretty much similar to a “low salt diet”. Now balance that with the fact that the average American consumes 3400 mg per day. (See list of sodium in common foods below)
If you are eating fast food regularly, then your sodium intake may be much higher than that even.
No consider that it may not be just the amount of sodium consumed daily but the sudden spike in sodium after eating fast foods. It could be this sudden fluctuation in sodium that will increase the fluid retention in the tissues of your affected ear.
A constant bombardment of sodium may be continually upsetting the sodium/potassium balance in addition to continually swelling (inflaming) the tissues in the affected ear.
The bottom line is, we may be consuming too much sodium in the first place, meaning a low sodium diet for Meniere’s is rather what should perhaps be a regular diet – if we ate sensibly in the first place.
If you have spent much time on our main website, Meneieres-Help.Com, you will know how relevant inflammation is to this condition and most other common diseases. If you cook yourself or are cooking for a Meniere’s sufferer The Anti-Inflammation Cookbook: ‘The Delicious Way to Reduce Inflammation and Stay Healthy’ by Amanda Haas and Dr. Bradly Jacobs is a great book to have in your kitchen. It is the #1 best seller in Cancer cookbooks on Amazon.
Meniere’s Help received this message from Murry in Australia regarding sodium:
“I need to write my story as well – just to give other people encouragement and strength to push through it, for me the biggest relief was to limit salt / sodium.
I finally found a specialist who said cut the intake of foods to those that have less than 120mg / 100g. We thought we ate well (carefully) but when went home and cleaned out the pantry we were shocked by the amount of stuff (>120mg/100g) we threw out.
Vertigo / vomiting stopped almost over night
RHS ear still very buggered, LHS not the best and every day is different i.e. Shall I wear the hearing aids today? But the appreciation of music has recovered and I no longer have the vertigo
Low Salt Diets
For those watching their measures of sodium. The University of Washington has a list of Sodium Content of Common Foods:
The information below is provided to assist patients maintain a low-sodium diet by: Alec N. Salt, Ph.D.,
Cochlear Fluids Research Laboratory, Washington University, St. Louis:
Dietary Salt (sodium) Intake
Physicians may initially suggest a partially reduced salt level, in the range of 1000 – 2000 mg/day, to see if symptoms can be alleviated. Maintaining a sodium intake below 2000 mg/day requires considerable effort. Eating in restaurants causes difficulty as the majority of restaurant food is salted. To maintain a low sodium diet, you need to scrutinize the “Nutritional Information” boxes on food cartons. The amount of salt is listed as “sodium”.
Choose those products which would give you the least sodium, based on the amount of product you eat. Note that many “high salt” products (ketchup, salad dressing, corn chips) show relatively low sodium values based on very small serving portions (who eats only 12 corn chips at a sitting??). What is important is the total amount of sodium you are eating each day. As shown in the list below, fresh fruits and vegetables have low sodium content, but avoid adding salt to vegetables during preparation. The following advice may help maintain a low salt intake.
- Do not use salt at the table
- Reduce the salt used in food preparation. Try 1/2 teaspoon when recipes call for 1 teaspoon. Many cakes and desserts can be prepared without adding salt.
- Use herbs and spices for flavoring meats and vegetables instead of salt.
- Avoid salty foods such as processed meat and fish, pickles, soy sauce, salted nuts, chips and other snack foods.
- Check every “Nutritional Information” label before you buy or use a product. Note sodium and portion size information.
A cautionary note: The body possesses exquisite systems which accurately regulate body sodium. The goal of a low sodium diet is to “push” this regulation system toward one end of its range, without pushing it to the limit when body sodium starts falling. Although a low-salt diet if difficult to achieve, be aware that the low-salt diet can be “overdone” with possible adverse consequences.
For this reason, if your vestibular symptoms persist, do not keep decreasing your salt intake. The level of sodium intake should be decided in consultation with your physician or nutritionist. Lower levels require more rigorous monitoring by your physician. You should also be aware that your body can lose sodium by a number of routes other than in the urine. Sweating, vomiting and diarrhea can all produce significant sodium loss. In addition, other diseases, such as those which impair kidney function, may result in greater than normal sodium losses. In the event of adverse symptoms, you should contact your physician.
Sodium Content of Common Foods
All values are given in mg of sodium for a 100 g (3.5 oz) food portion. These values are a guide. More accurate values are given in the Nutritional Information on the package of most products, in the form of mg of sodium per serving.
- Apple, raw unpeeled 1
- Apple juice, bottled 1
- Applesauce, sweetened 2
- Asparagus, cooked 1 (regular canned 236)
- Avocado 4
- Bacon, cooked 1021
- Bacon, Canadian 2500
- Baking powder 11,000
- Banana 1
- Barly, pearled 3
- Beans, Lima 1 (regular canned 236)
- Beans, snap green, cooked 4 (regular canned 236)
- Beans, white common, cooked 7
- Beans, canned with pork and tomato sauce 463
- Bean sprouts, cooked 4
- Beef, roasted broiled or stewed 60
- Beef, corned 1,740
- Beef hash, canned 540
- Beef, dried 4,300
- beef hamburger 47
- Beef pie or stew, commercial 400
- Beets, cooked 43 (regular canned 236)
- Beverages, beer 7
- Beverages, liquor 1 (avoid margueritas with salt!)
- Beverages, wine 5
- Beverage, soda 0 to 100 (check can)
- Beverage, fruit drink 0
- Beverage, water 0
- Biscuits 630
- Blackberries 1
- Bluefish, cooked 104
- Bouillon cubes 24,000
- Bread 300 to 500
- Broccoli, cooked 10
- Brussel sprouts, cooked 10
- Butter, salted 826 (unsalted – less than 10)
- Cabbage 20
- Cakes 100 to 300
- Candy, caramels, fudge 200
- Candy, hard, marshmallow, peanut brittle 30
- Cantaloupe 12
- Carrots 40 (regular canned 236)
- Cashews, unsalted 15
- Cauliflower 10
- Celery, raw 126 (cooked 88)
- Cereals bran, wheat, crude 9
- Cereals, commercial 700 to 1100
- Cereal, Corn grits 1
- Cereal, Cornmeal 1
- Cereal, Farina, dry 2 (cooked salted or instant 160)
- Cereal, Oatmeal, dry 2 (cooked salted 218)
- Cereal, Rice flakes 987
- Cereal, wheat flakes 1000
- Cereal, wheat, puffed 4
- Cereal, wheat, shredded 3
- Cheese, cheddar 620
- Cheese, processed 1189
- Cheese, cottage 406
- Cheese, cream 296
- Cheese, Mozzarella 373
- Cheese, Parmesan 1,862
- Cheese, Swiss 260
- Cherries, Raw 2
- Chicken, cooked, without skin 60 to 80
- Chicken pot pie, commercial 411
- Chickpeas, dry 8
- Chicory 7
- Chili con carne, canned with beans 531
- Chili powder with seasonings 1574
- Chocolate, plain 4
- Chocolate syrup 52
- Clams, raw soft 36
- Clams, hard, round 205
- Cocoa, dry 6
- Cocoa, processed 717
- Coconut, fresh 23
- Coffee, instant, dry 72
- Coffee, beverage, 1
- Collards, cooked 25
- Cookies, Fig bars 252
- Cookies, oatmeal 170
- Cookies , plain 365
- Corn, sweet, cooked 0 (regular canned 236)
- Cowpeas, dry, cooked 8
- Crabmeat, canned 1000
- Crackers, Graham 670
- Crackers, saltines 1,100
- Cranberry juice or sauce 1
- Cream 40
- Cucumber 6
- Dates 1
- Doughnuts 500
- Duck 74
- Eggplant, cooked 1
- Egg, whole, raw 74 (whites 152, yolk 49)
- Endive, curly 14
- Figs 2
- Flounder 78
- Flour 2
- Fruit cocktail 5
- Gelatin, dry 0 (sweetened, ready-to eat 51)
- Grapefruit, fresh, canned or juice 1
- Grapes 3
- Haddock, raw 61 (battered 177)
- Heart, beef 86
- Herring 74
- Honey 5
- Honeydew melon 12
- Ice cream, vanilla 87
- Jams and preserves 12
- Jellies 17
- Kale, cooked 43
- Lamb, lean 70
- Lard 0
- Lasagna 490
- Lemon, juice or fresh 1
- Lettuce 9
- Lime, fresh or juice 1
- Liver, beef 184
- Liver, pork 111
- Lobster 210
- Macaroni, dry 2 (commercial with cheese 543)
- Margarine 987
- Milk 50
- Milk, buttermilk 130
- Milk, evaporated 106
- Milk, dried 549
- Molasses, light 15 (Dark 96)
- Muffins, plain 441
- Mushrooms 14 (canned 400)
- Mustard, prepared yellow 1,252
- Mustard greens 18
- Nectarine 6
- Noodles, dry 5
- Nuts, in shell 1 (processed nuts may contain high amounts of salt)
- Oil, corn 0
- Okra, 2
- Olives, green 2,400
- Onions, green 5 (mature 10)
- Orange peeled, juice, canned or juice 1
- Oysters, raw 73
- Pancakes 425
- Papayas, raw 3
- Parsley 45
- Parsnips, cooked 8
- Peaches 2
- Peanuts, roasted 5 (salted 418)
- Peanut butter 607
- Pears 2
- Peas, cooked 2 (regular canned 236)
- Peas, dried 40
- Pecans, shelled 0
- Peppers, green 13
- Perch 79
- Pickles, dill 1,428
- Pickles, relish, sweet 712
- Pie 250 to 450
- Pie crust, baked 617
- Pike, walleye 51
- Pineapple, raw or canned 1
- Pizza, cheese 702
- Plums 2
- Popcorn, salted with oil 1,940
- Pork 65
- Pork, cured ham 930
- Pork canned ham 1,100
- Potatoes, baked, boiled or french fried 2 to 6
- Potatoes, mashed salted 331
- Potato chips, up to 1000
- Pretzels 1680
- Prunes 4
- Pumpkin, canned 2
- Radishes 18
- Raisins, dried 27
- Raspberries 1
- Rhubarb 2
- Rice, dry 5 (cooked salted 374)
- Rolls, bread or sweet 400 to 550
- Rutabagas 4
- Rye wafers 882
- Salad dressing 700 to 1300
- Salmon 64 (canned 387)
- Sardines, canned 400
- Sauerkraut 747
- Sausage, pork 958
- Sausage, Frankfurter 1,100
- Sausage, Bologna 1,300
- Scallops, 265
- Shrimp 150
- Soup, canned 350 to 450
- Spaghetti, dry 2
- Spaghetti with meatballs, canned 488
- Spinach, raw 71 (cooked 50)
- Squash 1
- Strawberries 1
- Sugar, white 1 (brown 30)
- Sunflower seeds 30
- Sweet potatoes 12
- Syrup 68
- Tapioca, dry 3
- Tomato 3 (canned 130)
- Tomato ketchup 1,042
- Tomato juice, canned 200
- Tongue, beef 61
- Tuna in oil 800
- Turkey, 82
- Turnips 34
- Veal 80
- Vinegar 1
- Waffles 475
- Walnuts 3
- Watermelon 1
- Wheat germ 827
- Yeast, compressed 16 (dry , active 52)
- Yoghurt 46
A final word – Something for you to contemplate
I spent 10 years 95% free of symptoms through good nutrition before fully ridding myself of Meniere’s in 2012 (Click here to read my story). About two years into this period of being symptom free I visited my old home in Hawaii. I was living in Japan and eating normally (not counting my sodium intake).
Within two days of being in Hawaii and eating Burger Kings and the like, I suddenly felt dizzy again. That sudden spike in sodium (and whatever else was in that junk food) and the resulting dizziness took several days to subside.
Moral of the story? While you are living with Meniere’s, eat fresh whole foods, avoid processed foods and junk. Eat what natures makes not what man makes.
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By Mike Spencer
Founder of Meniere’s Help – Supporting sufferers since 2004
Researcher and writer of Managing Meniere’s Disease and The Need for Balance – Dealing with the Causes of Meniere’s
Help other Meniere’s Sufferers:
What are your experiences with salt, Himalayan salt and Meniere’s? Do you have any advise for low salt cooking? Tell us all about it in the comments box below or email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org