The Webster’s dictionary defines vertigo as “a feeling in which the external world seems to revolve around the individual or in which the individual seems to revolve in space." Vertigo is a sensation of motion or spinning similar to dizziness and light-headedness, very often accompanied with nausea and vomiting. A common problem among adults, it occurs without warning, and ends equally unpredictably.
The two types of vertigo are peripheral vertigo that occurs in the inner ear or vestibular nerve, and central vertigo that occurs in the brain.
Consumption of certain drugs, head injury, labyrinthitis, and Meniere’s disease cause peripheral vertigo of the inner ear. Inflammation and nerve compression cause peripheral vertigo of the vestibular nerve. Consumption of certain drugs such as asprin, blood vessel disease, multiple sclerosis, seizures, migraine, and alcohol consumption cause of central vertigo..
The dietary causes of vertigo stem from consumption of certain foods that trigger the above underlying causes.
Salty foods such as pretzels, chips, salted nuts, deli meats, canned foods and soups, soy sauce, pastas, sauces, condiments, baking soda, baking powder, pizza, seasonings, pickles, frozen meals, cheese, and salad dressings, all have the potential to trigger vertigo.
Sodium creates imbalance in body fluids. It causes fluid retention in the body and affects pressure buildup in the inner ear, causing vertigo. A vertigo diet therefore needs to be very low in salt.
The Menieres organization recommends 120mg of salt daily for those suffering from Menieres disease, a chief cause of vertigo, as opposed to the normal FDA recommendation of 2,000mg sodium intake daily.
Sugar and Sugar Substitutes
Foods high in sugar such as ice cream, honey, chocolate, dates, maple syrup, cream, jams and jellies, juice, cookies, cakes, donuts, candy, and processed snacks can all trigger central vertigo.
A major cause for central vertigo is lack of sufficient oxygen in the brain. Sugary foods raise blood pressure and blood sugar albeit temporarily, and in such a condition, blood takes longer to reach the brain, depriving the brain of sufficient oxygen and becoming a cause for vertigo.
Sugar substitutes do not constitute an alternative to natural sugar to control vertigo. Aspartame, a major ingredient of almost all sugar substitutes including the most popular Equal and NutraSweet can cause many illnesses including vertigo.
Complex sugars found in legumes and whole grains constitute a safe alternative.
Fatty Foods: Foods high in fat such as ice cream, cheese, shortening, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, butter, meats, and other deep fried foods, like sugar raise blood pressure temporarily, causing reduced flow of blood, and consequently lesser oxygen for the brain. This cause dizziness and trigger vertigo. Fatty foods also cause inflammation of the arteries and of the inner ear, creating the same phenomena.
Tyramine Rich Foods: Red wine, chicken liver, smoked meats, yogurt, chocolate, bananas, citrus fruits, figs, ripened cheeses and nuts all contain the amino acid tyramine and cause vertigo.Tyramine cause dilation of blood vessels and trigger migraine, a major causative factor of vertigo.
Alcoholic Beverages: The inner ear plays an important role in maintaining body equilibrium by detecting motion and changes in position of the body and by sending corresponding signals to the brain. Alcohol interprets this function by sending false signals of motion to the brain, conflicting with the signals from the inner ear. This disrupts body equilibrium, triggering vertigo.
Foremost among the foods that prevent vertigo are magnesium rich foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, leafy green vegetables, and milk of magnesia. Conversely, excessive consumption of foods such as yoghurt, rich in calcium contribute to depletion in the body’s magnesium levels and trigger vertigo.
Magnesium is alkaline, and helps in keeping the body’s acid-alkaline balance in check. Disruption of this balance cause nausea, a major condition associated with vertigo.
Magnesium also plays a role in blood circulation. Deficiency of magnesium constricts blood vessels and slows down blood circulation, leading to inadequate supply of oxygen to the blood, triggering vertigo.
Most of the food causes of vertigo stem from deficiency of certain nutrients. Consumption of a healthy and balanced diet, with meals spread evenly throughout the day provides the body with proper supply of nutrients and contribute to preempting vertigo. Drinking a lot of fluids, avoiding substances such as caffeine that causes fluid loss, and consumption of foods with high liquid content help restore lost fluids from the body and prevent vertigo.
- US National Library of Medicine. Vertigo-associated disorders.
- WebMD.com. Dizziness: Lightheadedness and Vertigo.
- Image Credit: wikimedia commons
- Vestibular Disorders Association. Dietary Considerations for Vestibular Disorders.