Named after Prosper Meniere, who first described the condition over a century ago, Meniere’s disease is marked by problems in the inner ear, which is responsible for hearing and balance. Most attacks are accompanied by severe vertigo, or dizziness, and various hearing problems, including hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or a sensitivity to loud noises. An attack can last anywhere from an hour to days or months-there was even an instance of an attack lasting over two years. In one-quarter to one-half of all cases, it will move to the other ear.
While the exact cause of Meniere’s disease is not known, there seems to be a connection to an increase of fluid in the labyrinth, a part of the inner ear that helps to control balance. The excess fluid creates pressure within the labyrinth, distorting and sometimes even rupturing the tissue in that area.
Signs and Symptoms
- Episodes of severe vertigo (dizziness), often accompanied by nausea and vomiting
- Muffled or distorted hearing in the ear
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Hearing loss
- Feeling of pressure in the ear
Conventional Medical Treatments
If you think you may have Meniere’s disease, see your physician, who can perform a variety of tests. One test measures how well you hear sounds of various frequencies. Another involves flooding the ear with water and monitoring the eyes’ response-when performed on a healthy inner ear, the eyes should flicker.
There is no cure for Meniere’s disease. Instead, treatment is limited to treating symptoms, not the condition itself. Treatment may include medication to combat the vertigo, dizziness, and nausea, or diuretics to decrease the fluids in the body. However, most Meniere’s disease attacks corne and go on their own. If you feel an attack corning on, lie down until the symptoms have passed, then call your physician.
In severe cases, or in cases that slip in and out of remission, surgery may be required to relieve the pressure within the inner ear. In some severe cases, parts of the inner ear can be removed in a procedure called labyrinthectomy.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Nutrition and Supplementation
The exact cause of this disorder is not known, although some doctors recommend a high-protein, low-refined-who hydrate diet because they have found that people with this disorder have high blood insulin levels. Other factors that may contribute to this disorder include obesity, alcohol use, smoking, high cholesterol, allergies, stress, and excessive salt intake. Some doctors recommend a hypoglycemic diet, Avoid fats, fried foods, salt, and sugar in any form, as well as caffeine.
Nutritionists recommend the following daily supplements:
- manganese (5 mg, taken separately from calcium)-a deficiency may cause this disorder
- chromium picolinate (200 mcg)-controls blood sugar levels
- coenzyme (100 mg)-improves circulation
- vitamin B3 (50 mg twice; do not exceed this amount without consulting your doctor)-improves circulation. Do not take if you have a liver disorder, gout, or high blood pressure.
- vitamin B complex (50 mg)-stabilizes the nervous system
- vitamin B6 (100 mg twice)-reduces fluid retention
- calcium (1500 mg)-stabilizes the nervous system and aids in muscle contraction
- magnesium (1000 mg)-balances calcium; reduce amount if bowels become loose
To help relieve the stress brought on by this disorder, try soaking in a warm bath to which you’ve added no more than 15 drops of the essential oils of lavender, geranium, and sandalwood.
Bodywork and Somatic Practices
CranioSacral Therapy is usually a first therapy for ear and inner ear problems. Other modalities that may help include reflexology, polarity therapy, Oriental bodywork, Therapeutic Touch, and Reiki.
As a complement to standard medical care, chiropractic may be extremely helpful in reducing the frequency and intensity of the symptoms of this disorder. The chiropractor will typically concentrate on adjusting the upper cervical vertebrae (C1 and C2), which are related to one’s center of balance. In conjunction with specific chiropractic adjustment (SCA), heat or ice may be used on a case-by-case basis, depending on the duration and intensity of the patient’s symptoms.
Meniere’s disease may respond to homeopathic treatment. However, the selection of a remedy-more than one is available-depends on your symptoms and the stage of the condition. Don’t try treating this disorder yourself. See a homeopathic professional.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture can be extremely effective in alleviating the dizziness and tinnitus associated with this condition by improving the flow of energy and stimulating circulation to the ears. Auricular therapy may focus on the kidney, heart, internal ear, bladder, and head acupuncture points. The practitioner’s focus is on balancing liver function.
Acupressure To relieve the symptoms of Meniere’s disease, a practitioner may focus on the “extra points” known as Tai Yang (at the temples) and Yin Tang (between the eyebrows), along with Gallbladder, Liver, and Triple Warmer.
Chinese Herbal Therapy Anemarrhena, Phellodendron, and Rehmannia Formula may be recommended to treat Meniere’s disease, but as is always the case in chronic disorders, it is best to work with an herb-trained acupuncturist.