By Mike Spencer Founder of Meniere's Help
Researcher and author of Managing Meniere's Disease and The Need for Balance - Dealing with the Causes of Meniere's
Meniere's disease is a chronic inner ear condition that affects the hearing and balance of millions of people worldwide. While the exact cause of Meniere's disease is unknown, there are several known triggers that can bring on symptoms, including dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss.
Understanding the triggers of Meniere's disease and how to manage them is key to preventing and controlling symptoms. Below, we will explore the causes and triggers of Meniere's disease, including environmental, dietary, and lifestyle factors, and offer tips on how to prevent and manage attacks.
Whether you are living with Meniere's disease or care for someone who is, this article is a valuable resource for understanding individual triggers and learning how to control and prevent Meniere's disease symptoms.
Basic summary of known triggers for vertigo, tinnitus, dizziness, hearing loss and Meniere's:
Vibrations on skull/face
Sudden head movement
Watching fats moving objecsts
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, increased tinnitus, dizziness or spark a full blown vertigo attack.
There is sometimes a gray area between contributing triggers and the actual underlying root cause of your Meniere's. On this page we list and discuss what would usually be considered triggers of attacks rather than a major underlying root 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.
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 the nerves in your ear, the immune system or other parts of your body that connect in some way to 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. It can vary 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.
Understanding and identifying your triggers will enable you to avoid them or eradicate them from your life and therefore reduce your chances of a full blown vertigo attack and perhaps give you some relief..
Having helped support Meniere's sufferers for over 19 years now (as of 2023), it is obvious that common themes occur. 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. I know, I have been there and come out the other side, healthy.
Like most things related to this condition, nothing is written in stone. It can be very different for each individual. I hope this page helps you identify your own triggers and inspires you to do something about them.
Triggers in what you eat and drink
There are a lot contentious possibilities here but the one trigger that doctors all agree on is that too much Sodium will increase your chances of an attack. 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 endolymphatic sac in the ear might burst under the pressure and mix sodium rich fluids and potassium rich fluids and this 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, known 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 processed salt we use that is prevalent in everything we eat these days. Add to this fact that it is insulin that actually controls sodium levels and things become less clear; or perhaps more clear even, depending on your perspective..
Natural sea salts may be a healthy alternative as they are completely balanced, have had no goodness taken out, no exposure to harmful chemicals and are full of iodine, which is very important for your thyroid gland and therefore several other body systems including your immune system.
This said, it is safe to say that cutting down on plain old table salt and salty foods can help prevent attacks, while pouring it on your meals or eating lots of processed foods and junk foods that are packed with it will almost definitely increase the probability of triggering 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 processed salt. That includes all junk food and highly processed foods.
A diet high in certain fats may also cause problems, as plaque from cholesterol builds up inside the blood vessels. Anything that obstructs the flow of blood in and 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, trans-fats, 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 and packed with antioxidants.
Good quality, pure coffee has its health benefits, while cheap, highly processed coffee and energy drinks full of caffeine will almost certainly increase your chances of an attack. The fact that coffee is a stimulant in itself increases your chances of triggering an attack.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking decaffeinated coffee is the answer. The decaffeination process can often involve a lot of toxic chemicals. (See below for toxicity as a trigger)
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 vital to balancing your immune system. By damaging and putting this system out of balance you increase your vulnerability to all kinds of 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 harmful toxic residues from pesticides and herbicides.
The list of harmful neurotoxins listed by the FDA in a popular fast food 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 (CNS). Problems with the 'CNS' has been linked to Meniere's.
Add to this mix the ever increasing 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. Hexafluorosilicic acid used in the fluoridation of water is highly toxic and can damage the cognitive ability of the brain.
Alcohol is a know trigger for sufferers of Meniere's disease. 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 and free of Meniere's, 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 to some, 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 among Meniere's sufferers and accepted by many health professionals.
Even after years living free of Meniere's symptoms, while using 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 it has to be said. 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.
Click here to read: Stopping Meniere's Symptoms during Allergy Season
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 can 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 sufferers stop using certain household cleaning products, personal hygiene products, skin care or acne preparation products and their symptoms disappeared.
Smoking is something most doctors will advise Meniere's sufferers and anyone else to quit. Easier said than done, 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 discussed 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 and form their 'opinions' based on no real data and certainly no first hand experience at all.
In Japan there are doctors and researchers who even put stress down as an underlying root cause.
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.
Work, money and relationship stresses are things that only you can deal with. After ridding myself of nearly all my symptom while using 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 later beating Meniere's completely I now find it easy stay relatively calm over these things.
Click here to read: Stress and Meniere's disease - Symptom or Cause?
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, such as Meniere's. That said cannabis and 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.
Indeed, some doctors, notably in California actually prescribe medical marijuana for Meniere's.
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 or use oil extract. Smoking anything is going to have its adverse 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 effects on the body.
Users have reported immediate massive increases in tinnitus when taking stimulants such as cocaine.
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.
Vibrations from electric toothbrushes can trigger attacks as can electric shavers used on the side of the face near the affected ear or when shaving your head.
Do you eat or use artificial sweeteners...or drink diet sodas or fruit drink crystals? (92 different health issues have been identified with the use of these.)
Are you doing heavy exercises? (Over exercise can result internal oxidative stress). Exercise is of course a good thing and promotes health and strengthens your immune system but overdoing it in the gym or a marathon may spark an attack. When considering this also consider dehydration. Drink plenty of filtered water or a carefully chosen electrolyte drink as well making sure your body is receiving enough antioxidants to counter the oxidative stress caused by heavy exercise.
Do you use presciption drugs for any other condition? Consider drug interactions and side effects. Did you know that many drugs present their own side effects, many similar to Meniere's symptoms? Many drug side effects include dizziness, nausea, brain fog and tinnitus.
Do you use nail polish?
Nail polish remover with acetone may be a problem. The fumes alone will mean you are inhaling toxic air that can cause dizziness.
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 today's 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 can be all around you and constantly 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 and long narrow corridors.
You can find triggers through an elimination process,Identifying what you think is triggering attacks for you, and taking action may well help you a great deal over time.
Keeping a food and activity diary can be very useful. When an increase in symptoms or a full blown vertigo attack occurs you can check in your diary just what you were consuming, doing or the environment you were in prior to this. When common correlations are clear you can identify triggers and take action.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD): "Meniere's Disease." https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/menieres-disease.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA): "Meniere's Disease: Triggers and Management." https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/menieres-disease/.
Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA): "Triggers and Coping Strategies for Meniere's Disease." https://vestibular.org/menieres-disease/triggers-and-coping-strategies-menieres-disease.
Click here to read Managing Meniere's Disease - How to Live Symptom Free
Click here to read The Need for Balance - Dealing with the Causes of Meniere's
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Meniere's Disease Triggers
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