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Meniere's syndrome

MagazineJuly 1999 (Vol. 10 Issue 4)Meniere's syndrome

This puzzling syndrome of the inner ear causes recurrent attacks of vertigo, nausea, vomiting, involuntary eye movements, ringing in the ears and slowly-progressing deafness

This puzzling syndrome of the inner ear causes recurrent attacks of vertigo, nausea, vomiting, involuntary eye movements, ringing in the ears and slowly-progressing deafness. Typically, people with this condition have bouts of unsteadiness and a waddling walk, headaches, neck and chest pains, after dinner drowsiness, abdominal discomfort and slight diarrhoea. All symptoms are aggravated by bending movements.

No one knows exactly what causes Meniere's syndrome, but for 30 years it's been variously blamed on an allergy, a histamine hypersensitivity, salt retention, a deficiency of nutrients due to small intestinal malabsorption, or even the result of spasm of the small blood vessels (Practitioner, 1971; 207: 759). No orthodox medical treatment is fully effective. Destructive surgery on the labyrinth or vestibular nerve in the ear may be considered necessary in severe cases that don't respond to the conventional anti nausea drugs.

Abundant evidence supports the role of allergies in this condition (Otolaryngol Clin North Am, 1974; 7: 757; Laryngoscope, 1972; 82: 1703). Although orthodox medical literature mainly blames salt and advises a salt free diet (MJ Chatton, Handbook of Medical Treatment , Los Altos, CA: Lange Medical Publications, 1972: 307), in naturopathic medicine salt, gluten, caffeine, fried foods, alcohol, and any drugs are all considered possible culprits and are routinely removed from the diet (R Trattler, Better Health through Natural Healing, Wellingborough: Thorsons Publishers, 1987: 432). Other naturopathic measures include supplementing with calcium to improve the calcium to phosphorus ratio in the diet, plus vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.

Another cause could be increased intestinal permeability the so called leaky gut syndrome, or malabsorption. In my practice, I've found that malabsorption usually results from a defective gastrointestinal function, like hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), a decreased flow of pancreatic juice, a fungus type or a parasitic gut infestation or a bacterial gut dysbiosis. It's wise to get all these tested for.

It may be that an allergic response affects the labyrinth of the inner ear, causing ruptures (Otolaryngol Clin North Am, 1968; 1: 433). Release of fluid has a paralytic effect on the vestibular nerve fibres (Acta Otolaryngol, 1965; 59: 275). High resolution tomography has demonstrated narrowing of some of these passageways in a substantial number of patients with Meniere's syndrome (Radiol Clin North Am, 1974; 12: 517).

In osteopathy, manipulative therapy often produces beneficial results in cases where there is no irreparable nerve damage (J Am Ost Assoc, 1952; 51: 407).

In herbal medicine, the extract of the root of Zingiber officinale (ginger) works as an anticholinergic (blocks the effects of acetylcholine) and an antihistamine, helping to reduce nausea, vomiting and vertigo. It also seems to work in the gastrointestinal tract by absorbing and neutralising toxins and acids here, which slows the feedback interaction between the stomach and the nausea centre in the brain (ORL J Otorhinolaryngol Relat Spec, 1986; 48: 282-6; Lancet, 1982; i: 655-7). Extract of Ginkgo biloba leaves have been shown to be helpful in all types of vertigo, with tinnitus, and with acute cochlear deafness (Presse Medicale, 1986; 15: 1569-72; Presse Medicale, 1986; 15: 1559-61). Dr John Christopher, the famous US practitioner of botanical medicine and author of School of Natural Healing (1976), recommends that a few drops of oil of garlic be placed into the ears each evening upon retiring (about the contents of a garlic capsule). You might also benefit from drinking two teaspoons of cider vinegar in a glass of water or using rosemary oil as an inhalant (T Bartram, Bartram's Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine, London: Robinson Publishing, 1998: 291).

!AHarald C Gaier

Registered Osteopath, Naturopath and Homoeopath

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