by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac
(aka Vertigo * Tinnitus * Fullness in the Ear * Hearing Loss)
Meniere’s disease is a disorder characterized by recurrent vertigo, dizziness, loss or diminished acuity of normal sounds, tinnitus, and often, a feeling of fullness in the ear. Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in one or both ears) may be either intermittent or constant and may be worse before, during, or after an attack of dizziness. The term endolymphatic hydrops is often used synonymous with Meniere’s disease. From a Western etiology, Meniere’s disease is unknown or idiopathic by definition. Whereas Meniere’s syndrome can occur secondary to various processes interfering with normal production or resorption of endolymph. The known triggers of Meniere’s disease can be set off by certain stresses, emotional upset, over working, salt consumption, and fatigue.
Vertigo can come on suddenly or occur when we change levels from standing or sitting to moving quickly or lying down. The symptoms are sometimes accompanied by nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. These attacks may last anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours. Typically, paroxysmal attacks can occur suddenly and subside gradually. Usually, only one ear is affected, and there may be a feeling of fullness or pressure in that ear. Hearing may also deteriorate progressively in the affected ear over time.
The Western medical treatment of Meniere’s disease is based on verifiable observation or experience rather than theory. Symptomatic relief of dizziness and vertigo may be helped with anticholinergic drugs, such as scopolamine and atropine in over the counter preparations. Antihistamines and barbituates are also used to provide general sedation. Effective alternative treatments have been shown to be helpful to many sufferers of this condition.
1. Acupuncture: The Ancient Art of Acupuncture is the needling of specific points along “meridians” or channels that run throughout our body. Acupuncture can be traced back as far as the Stone Age in China. Below are the most studied points used for this disease. Based on their location, massage can also be applied to these points in order to increase blood circulation and Qi (vital energy). The main points used in this protocol are:
Governor Vessel (DU 20) The Hundred Meetings, is located at the top of the head, in line with the tips of the ears. Among other things, you can use this point for a headache, to clear your mind because of overthinking, to increase memory, to resolve hemorrhoids, and counteract depression and dizziness.
Small Intestine (SI 19) Auditory Palace, is located in front of the ear, anterior to the tragus and posterior to the condyloid process of the mandible, in a depression formed when the mouth is opened. It is indicated for inflammation, deafness, tinnitus, hearing loss, TMJ, and toothache.
San Jiao or Triple Heater (SJ 17) Wind Screen, is located behind the ear, posterior to lobe of ear in depression between the mandible and mastoid process. It is indicated for Bell’s Palsy, ear problems, tinnitus, deafness, acute earache due to wind cold.
Pericardium (PC6) Inner Pass, on the inside of the wrist, 2 finger widths above the wrist crease between the tendons of palmaris longus and flexor carpi radialis. It is indicated for the chest, chest tightness, asthma, angina, palpitations, insomnia, spirit disorders of an excess or deficient nature, mania, nervousness, stress, poor memory, nausea, sea sickness, motion sickness, vomiting, epigastric pain, carpal tunnel syndrome.
Stomach (ST36) Leg Three Li, is located on the outside of the leg, 3 finger widths below the anterior border (head) of the tibia bone. This is indicated for low immunity, chronic illness, poor digestion, general weakness, all issues involving the Stomach, breast problems, lower leg pain, asthma, wheezing, dyspnea, psychological/emotional disorders, PMS, depression, nervousness, insomnia.
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that acupuncture helped to alleviate vertigo symptoms. In this study, four acupuncture sessions were conducted every other day and then one week later. Significant improvement was shown after the first session. Vertigo symptoms ceased after the second session. Six months later, the patient remained symptom free.
2. Massage: Deep tissue massage focusing on the stretching and massaging of the neck is associated with significant improvements in tinnitus, according to a study published in the Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics. In addition to deep tissue massage, cranio-sacral therapy, and lymphatic drainage massage may help to increase circulation and reduce fluid buildup. Consider massaging all of the above acupuncture points working from the legs moving upwards.
3. Music Therapy: along with sound therapy may help to improve blood circulation in the inner ear and facilitate relaxation while reducing stress. Finding the right combination of nature sounds with music may help reduce symptoms. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Neurology found that the sound of streams, rain, waterfalls, and wind can decrease tinnitus-related activity. The same is not true for chirping birds or bugs. The sound should be pleasing and just in the background.
4. Reducing Stress. Stress can exacerbate any condition we may be experiencing. Stress increases cortisol levels which trigger a physiological response in the body. Effectively reducing stress can naturally lessen the severity of symptom. This disease affects the patient, physically and emotionally. Emotional stress does impact the body, causing changes that may increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, certain autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, and even certain types of cancer.
5. Herbal Options: The Western medicine approach to treating Meniere’s disease, is often giving anticholinergic drugs, such as scopolamine and atropine in over the counter preparations. Valium (diazepam) is particularly effective in relieving the distress of severe vertigo, however it may be habit-forming. Valerian Root capsules (120 – 200mg) for relaxation or (300 – 500mg) for sleep can often be a better option. This is also non-habit forming. Before taking any herbal supplementation, be cautious of the fact that certain Western drugs for Meniere’s disease can cause problems if mixed with herbs, especially Gingko Biloba. When taking herbal supplements be sure and take them either 2 hours before or 2 hours after any Western prescribed medications in order to avoid any side effects.
Cayenne: has Vitamin A and it may reduce hearing loss and tinnitus.
Dandelion in tea form, is one of best herbal diuretics and can be a very important part of a healing regime for Meniere’s disease. Have at least two cups a day, morning and evening.
Ginger Root: is exceptional for treating symptoms of nausea.
Ginkgo Biloba: is an herb known for resolving the symptoms of vertigo. It works by managing blood flow to the brain to relieve dizziness and balance issues. A study reported in the International Journal of Otolaryngology finds Ginkgo Biloba just as effective as the medication Betahistine in managing vertigo.
Hydrogen Peroxide or mineral (or baby) oil can be a remedy for fullness, pressure in the ear, or dizziness if the ear is impacted with wax. Using an eyedropper with full strength hydrogen peroxide, tilt the head to one side and put several drops in the affected ear a few times a week. You will hear the hydrogen peroxide bubbling as it slowly loosens the wax. This keeps the wax soft and allows it to drain properly.
Lipase, the enzyme, has been shown to be deficient in most patients with Meniere’s disease. This enzyme improves digestion and helps the body digest fat. The standard dose for adults is 6,000 lipase activity units (LU). These are taken in one to two capsules, three times a day. Ideally, they should be taken on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before meals.
Niacin and Vitamin B3 have both been shown to improve circulation, which can help to reduce vestibular pressure in the ear.
Turmeric: since tinnitus has been linked to the inflammatory process in the body, treatment with turmeric has shown to be affective, especially for middle ear infections, which commonly cause tinnitus symptoms. Turmeric’s antioxidant properties were found to be as effective as antibiotics in some cases.
6. Homeopathy has also provided a few solutions. The Internet Journal of Otorhinolaryngology reported that Nux Vomica, Cocculus Indicus, and Salicylicum Acidum are three remedies that have been equally as effective for reducing Meniere’s disease as the drug, Betahistine, which is a conventional treatment for vertigo.
7. Diet Restrictions: Certain foods have shown to act as triggers for vertigo, dizziness, tinnitus, or fullness in the ear.
Caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol intake can aggravate symptoms for some patients with Meniere’s disease. For those with tinnitus, caffeine, even in small amounts, may make tinnitus louder. Drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, can adversely affect the inner ear by changing the composition and volume of fluid. Chocolate can be a trigger because of its sugar content.
Reduce salt: reducing the amount of salt in your diet will reduce the fluid collecting in the ear. Sodium intake affects fluid levels in the body and how the body regulates them. Avoid high-sodium foods and limit total sodium intake to 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams daily (about one-half teaspoon to 1 teaspoon). If you tend to have low blood pressure, use caution in reducing salt consumption, as it can drop your blood pressure.
Avoid high-sugar foods and beverages. This includes fruit juices, sodas, desserts, and snacks. Sugar can cause fluctuations in the volume of bodily fluids, increasing symptoms.
Two food additives which have been shown to generate the symptoms of Meniere’s disease are the sugar substitute Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) and the flavor enhancer MSG. Many processed foods contain MSG. MSG is often hidden in processed foods under a different name.
Avoid Tyramine: Tyramine is an amino acid contained in a range of foods, including chicken liver, smoked meats, red wine, ripe cheeses, nuts, and yogurts. It has been known to trigger dizziness and migraines and is best excluded from the diet.
8 Eliminate smoking and tobacco: Smoking can cause disease. The chemical make-up of nicotine found in tobacco, changes the body’s composition. It can increase symptoms of Meniere’s disease as nicotine decreases the blood supply to the inner ear by constricting blood vessels.
9. Exercise: Exercise increases blood flow and circulation. Do the type of exercise that is good for you. Cardio workouts, yoga classes, or weight training are all beneficial for increasing your overall health and well-being. While you’re at it, be sure and …
Stretch: stretching bring more blood to the major muscle groups. Reach upward, bend (slowly) at the waist, roll up (slowly) from the waist, stretch side to side, pull the spine back and the arms forward as you stretch through the back and slowly bring your head between your arms.
Cawthorne-Cooksey Eye exercise: involves head and eye movements. Do these exercises seated or laying down. Sit in a chair or lie face up on a bed or the floor. Look up toward your forehead and then look down toward your nose. Look all the way to the left and then look all the way to the right. Lastly, hold one finger up, at bent arm’s length away from your face. Focus on it and straighten the arm in front of your face, as you continue to keep it in focus. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Head Movement exercise: involves tilting the head side to side. Sit upright in a chair, look straight ahead. Tilt your chin down toward your chest. Next, tilt your head back to look at the ceiling. Go slowly and keep your eyes open. You can add speed or close your eyes once the head-tilting exercise makes you less dizzy. Next, turn to look over your right shoulder and then turn your head to look over your left shoulder. Do these head-turning exercises slowly and then gradually speed up, progressing from eyes open to eyes closed.
Self-Massage or Foam Roller: The SCM are the large muscles on both sides of the neck, which turn the head left and right. Slowly start self-massaging into these areas starting from behind the ear and working downward along that muscle until you can massage into the trapezius muscles. Repeat the exercise starting from in front of the ear, pushing back toward the spine as you move down the SCM to the shoulders. If you have access to a foam roller, lay on the floor with the roller behind your neck. Gently massage the roller from the nape of the neck down to the shoulder blades. Then, slowly turn your head on the roller, side to side.
Breathing Exercises: Are the easiest of all exercises to help improve sleep length and quality, reduce anxiety, and lower stress. Practice breathing exercises whenever you feel anxious and before bed. Simply take a deep inhale through your nose, and an even longer exhale through your mouth. With each inhale, fill your lungs with twice as much air, and exhale twice as long on the release. Do this 10 times.
10. Underlying Causes: Could there be underlying causes for your dizziness, vertigo, ear fullness, or vomiting? Are there complications from medications? Have you been diagnosed with another disorder such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, improper fluid drainage, perhaps because of a blockage or anatomic abnormality? Do you have an abnormal immune response, viral infection, or genetic predisposition to another disease? Be sure you are aware of other issues that may be the cause of your symptoms.