Vertigo may have seemed an exotic illness when Alfred Hitchcock immortalised it in his movie of the same name, but it is actually a relatively common condition. This is largely because it is the result of a wide variety of causes from viruses to certain drugs. So, before your doctor writes out a prescription for one of the usual drugs given for vertigo, it's wise first to try to figure out the cause of your particular condition. Tests such as a computer assisted tomographic (CT) scan or the osteopathic Romberg's test a test of the nature of a person's balance are helpful, and electronystagmography can help to determine specific vestibular (inner ear) diseases in people with vertigo.
CausesVertigo is most commonly caused by:
- A disturbance in the semicircular canal of the inner ear or of the vestibular nuclei of the brain stem your centres of balance
- Hypoglycaemic attacks (low blood glucose levels)
- High blood pressure
- Herpes zoster infection (shingles): An infection affecting the organs of balance in the inner ear which usually starts off as a cold or 'flu. Up to half of the individuals with vertigo due to labyrinthitis will have had a cold or other viral infection shortly before the onset of symptoms
- Certain drugs, which adversely affect hearing or the ears
- The innerear disorder known as Meniere's disease
- A side effect of antibiotics
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Food poisoning or heatstroke
- Hardened arteries (arteriosclerosis)
- In rare cases, a brain tumour, multiple sclerosis, impaired cerebral blood flow, or a type of epilepsy
- Wax jammed against the eardrum
- In cervical vertigo, sensory nerve stimuli from certain neck muscles or ligaments, or the sternocleidomastoid muscle (Aust NZ J Surg, 1974; 44: 275-7).
The dietary treatment you choose depends on your type of vertigo.
- To arrest or reduce arteriosclerosis, follow a low fat, low cholesterol diet
- For reactive hypoglycaemia, follow a glucose lowering diet
- With progressive hearing impairment, if hypoglycaemia is also present, try increasing dietary sodium
- For Meniere's disease, follow a low sodium diet
- For yeast overgrowth gut fermentation, avoid wheat, rye, barley, oats and sugars (South Med J, 1981; 74: 1194-7)
- For iron deficiency anaemia, take 30 mg of supplemental iron two times a day until the anaemia is gone. Thereafter, take a minimum dosage to replenish tissue storesu For all cases of vertigo, a daily 2g dose of a standardised flavonoid mix called hydroxyethylrutosides has been shown in double blind trials to be effective in treating vertigo, Meniere's disease, hearing loss and tinnitus (J Laryngol Otol, 1984; 98: 265-72).
A small glass of fruit juice or water and a slice of wholegrain bread can sometimes help. Lie still and avoid any sudden movement or head rotation
Avoid alcohol, caffeine and refined sugars.
Try one of the following three remedies at 6CH every 15 minutes until you feel better or are able to see a professional homoeopath:
- Kali carbonicum, if you feel worse on moving, or you feel better in the open air or beside an open window
- Chenopodium anthelminticum, if you feel pain in the shoulder blade
- Conium maculatum, if symptoms are worse when lying down.
Or try a single dose of the following at 3D potency:
- Saraka indica (also known as Jonosia asoka), if you suffer from disturbed sleep or insomnia.
Apply gentle pressure for about two minutes to the stomach 36 acupuncture point (this is found four fingerwidths below the kneecap in a small dent on the shin bone). A practitioner of Oriental medicine may prescribe Herba Ecliptae Prostratae for vertigo. The usual dosage is 9 g, or up to 20 g when the herb is used fresh, taken every day (Bensky D, Gamble A, Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, Seattle, WA: Eastland Press Inc, 1993: 365).
Medical herbalismA tried and tested Western herbal medicine is Stachys betonica (bishops wort or wood betony), taken as 3 g of the dried herb equivalent or as a tea like infusion three times a day (British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Part I, 1976: 35).
Food hypersensitivitiesIn one study, 23 patients with vertigo of unknown cause who had not been successfully treated with antivertigo medication underwent radioallergo sorbent testing (RAST) for allergies. Foods that produced any ear symptoms were completely eliminated from their diets. Within two weeks, the condition of all 23 patients was much improved [Annual Meeting Abstracts, AAOA News, 1987; 5(4): 10]. Osteopathy or chiropracticOsteopathy or chiropractic to decrease muscle tension by treating the upper thoracic spine and rib attachments may also be helpful.
Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homoeopath and osteopath.