Managing Vestibular Migraine by Making Simple Diet Changes

vestibular migraine, chiropractor for vertigo

When people think of the factors that affect their vertigo episodes, they seldom consider what they eat. Little did they know diet plays a critical role in maintaining good health and reducing the severity of various vertigo diseases such as vestibular migraines.

Getting proper nourishment helps speed up the recovery of damaged body parts like an irritated brainstem (a common cause of vestibular migraines). 

If you already started receiving care from a chiropractor for vertigo or other health professionals, we highly recommend switching to a healthier diet. Check out some helpful diet tips for patients with vestibular migraines below: 

#1. Start by knowing what you need to improve

What better way to know what aspects of your diet you need to change than by tracking what you eat and drink every day? You can use a food diary or personal journal to list the usual items you grab when you feel hungry. Additionally, we highly recommend noting food products that trigger spinning sensations, such as:

  • High-sodium foods
    Foods high in sodium can lead to fluid retention and disrupt the delicate balance in the inner ear, resulting in vertigo symptoms.
  • Caffeine and stimulants
    Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, raising blood pressure and heart rate, worsening imbalance and dizziness.
  • Processed foods and additives
    Processed foods often contain chemicals like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners, which may worsen vertigo symptoms.
  • Foods that trigger migraines
    Certain foods, including aged cheeses, cured meats, and pickled foods, high in histamine, can trigger migraines and vertigo symptoms. Vertigo is a known migraine symptom, too, so avoiding migraine-triggering food can also avoid a possible onset of vertigo and other accompanying symptoms.
  • Alcohol
    Consuming alcohol affects the vestibular system, which maintains balance and spatial orientation, and can cause vertigo symptoms. It also acts as a diuretic, leading to dehydration that can disrupt fluid balance in the inner ear.
  • Spicy foods
    Consuming spicy foods can dilate blood vessels and affect blood flow to the inner ear, potentially causing vertigo symptoms.
  • Dairy products
    Some dairy products, especially aged and fermented ones, contain tyramine and histamine, which can contribute to vertigo symptoms.
  • Foods rich in Tyramine
    Food with high levels of tyramine can alter your blood pressure and can upset the delicate balance in the inner ear, leading to vertigo symptoms.
  • Fatty and fried foods
    Diets high in unhealthy fats can impair blood flow to the inner ear, contributing to vertigo symptoms. Inflammation caused by unhealthy fats can also affect balance.
  • Salicylate-containing foods
    Certain fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices containing salicylates can trigger or worsen vertigo symptoms in some individuals.

#2. Never skip meals

Infrequent eating can lead to several negative impacts on your health, such as brain fog, fatigue, and mood swings. It can also potentially aggravate vestibular migraines because of the lack of nutrients absorbed by the brain and the sudden decrease of sugar flowing into the bloodstream. 

#3. Avoid eating too many carbohydrates

Binge eating on carbs spells trouble for people with vestibular migraines because it can suddenly cause your blood sugar to increase. We suggest eating carbs in small amounts each meal to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. By doing this alone, you can significantly reduce the severity of your vestibular migraine episodes.    

#4. Switch to a low-fat diet

Balance problems and spinning sensations heavily affect obese people. Consequently, obesity increases the risks for health conditions that may aggravate your vestibular migraines. That’s why it’s crucial to keep tabs on your weight and shy away from food products that may contribute to your weight problem. 

Instead of opting for food products with excessive saturated fat in them, we suggest trying some of the following low-fat food products:

  • Leafy green veggies
  • Fresh fruits
  • Legumes and beans
  • Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, turnips, bok choy, etc.)
  • Tart cherry juice
  • Ancient grains (bulgur, spelt, quinoa, and farro)

vestibular migraine, chiropractor for vertigo

#5. Experiment with herbs and spices

Food products rich in saturated fat are popular for a reason–they’re tasty and widely available to the public. However, as mentioned above, opting for such food products is a big no-no if you frequently struggle with vestibular migraines. 

Instead of immediately reaching for fast-food or ready-to-eat meals, we suggest experimenting with spices and herbs to bring out the flavor in popular superfoods. Surely enough, you can easily find amazing recipes that will keep you from craving unhealthy food products. 

#6. Work with a dietician 

Restricting or eliminating certain food groups for a prolonged time can make you susceptible to nutrient deficiencies. Moreover, removing a specific food product from one’s diet to curb the frequency of a vestibular migraine doesn’t work for every patient. So, if you tried making changes to your diet and noticed adverse effects, we suggest taking a second look at your approach to addressing potential problems. 

You might also find it helpful to work with a dietician or your primary healthcare provider to learn the best course of action you must take. 

#7. Keep your body saturated

Besides eating healthy food and giving up food triggers, it’s also equally important to drink enough water every day. By doing so, you can help your kidneys clear out toxins and excess electrolytes that may affect several body parts, such as your vestibular system. Avoiding dehydration can also prevent common vestibular migraine symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, and unsteadiness.

A Closer Look at Vestibular Migraines

Now that you have more insights on how your diet can play a role in managing vestibular migraines, lets deep dive into how this condition works and why it causes immense discomfort.

Vestibular Migraines – Why Vertigo Appears as a Migraine Symptom

According to some estimates, up to 40% of migraineurs experience vestibular symptoms such as vertigo. What's the connection between these issues? It may have to do with a common problem that can be the basis for both a throbbing headache as well as dizziness – an atlas subluxation. How do misalignments of the upper cervical spine affect the body’s balance system as well as the central nervous system (CNS)? Here are several ways:

Eustachian tube function

When the atlas becomes misaligned, it can affect the function of the eustachian tubes which draw excess fluid away from the inner ear. As a result, this fluid may build up. When there is too much fluid (endolymph) in the ears, vertigo is just one possible symptom.

Reduced Brainstem function

The C1 (atlas) surrounds the brainstem and defends it from accidental damage. However, even a minor misalignment can cause the atlas to apply pressure to the brainstem. This, in turn, can inhibit the proper functioning of this key component in the central nervous system.

Reduced blood flow

The cervical spine facilitates blood flow to the brain by means of the vertebral foramen, tiny loops of bone that provide safe passage for the arteries that take blood to the head and supply the necessary oxygen. When the cervical vertebrae become misaligned, this can kink the supply lines, so to speak, thereby reducing how much oxygen the brain receives. Therefore, it can lead to both migraines and vertigo.

Increased intracranial pressure

Another common factor in regards to vestibular migraines is intracranial pressure. When the upper cervical spine is out of alignment, it can affect how cerebrospinal fluid drains. Thus, pooling can occur and increase pressure.

If any of these issues are taking place in the body, correcting the underlying problem can help both vertigo as well as migraines. But how can you know if you have an atlas subluxation, and who is qualified to correct this specific type of misalignment?

Is Vestibular Migraine the Same as MAV (Migraine-Associated Vertigo)?

MAV simply refers to migraines that have vertigo as a symptom. This is very common. In fact, estimates are that about 1% of people have MAV. That means between 1 in 12 and 1 in 14 migraine sufferers also have vertigo, depending on the research you base your statistics on. This condition is most common for people between 40 and 70.

Vestibular migraines, on the other hand, are a particular type of migraine that includes vestibular symptoms, vertigo in particular. Because the diagnosis criteria with vestibular migraines are more specific, not all people with MAV are classified as having vestibular migraines, though many doctors use the two terms interchangeably.

In a study of 200 patients, vertigo patients showed a 38% increased chance of also getting migraines than patients without vertigo. Vertigo attacks hit about 50% of all migraine patients before, during, or after the migraine headache. For this reason, researchers claim that vestibular migraines are more common of a problem than we think.

The vestibular system maintains your sense of balance along with the other parts of your body. Inside the ears are components that identify linear movement, gravity, and rotation. The semicircular canals in the inner ear have fluid that reacts to your body’s position and creates information the brain can use for keeping balance.

The brain also gets signals from your eyes, joints, and muscles to figure out your body’s position. It makes necessary corrections for you to stay balanced.  A malfunction within the vestibular system can result in the sending of wrong information to the brain, which causes vertigo.

What Are the Symptoms of a Vestibular Migraine?

Vestibular migraines come along with many of the symptoms noted above. While a headache is the most common symptom, it is important to note that headaches only occur about 85% of the time during a migraine episode. Neck pain is nearly as common with about 75% of patients experiencing this symptom. Additionally, you may experience some of these other less common symptoms during a vestibular migraine:

  • Discomfort when turning the head from side to side or looking up
  • Feeling pressure in one or both ears
  • Tinnitus – a ringing, buzzing, or rushing sound in the ear
  • Temporary vision loss (partial or total)
  • Blurred vision or seeing flashes of light

Other Lifestyle Adjustments for Patients with Vestibular Migraines

Getting enough nutrition is, without a doubt, one of the most crucial things that patients with vestibular migraines need to do. However, there are other lifestyle adjustments that you will need to make to manage your symptoms better. Some examples of these include:

  • Avoid sensory triggers like bright lights and loud sounds
  • Minimize doing sudden movements, especially when getting out of bed
  • Address riboflavin or magnesium deficiency 
  • Try taking OTC medication to reduce headaches, aura, or vertigo symptoms during an episode
  • Explore remedies like vestibular rehabilitation and going to a chiropractor for vertigo 

Your doctor may also recommend keeping a diary to discern events or factors that increase your vestibular migraine risks. Some triggers are environmental or lifestyle in nature, and you may be able to avoid these triggers to reduce the frequency of your migraines.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, the following triggers are the most common:

  • Lifestyle – Everything from stress and lack of sleep to skipping meals and overexerting yourself can lead to migraines. As a result, you may be able to reduce the frequency of migraines through things such as stress relief techniques and maintaining a regular schedule for sleeping and eating.
  • Environmental – Sensory triggers are common, such as loud noise, strong smells, or bright flickering lights. Try to avoid cigarette smoke and other forms of pollution. Travel may also be a trigger due to motion sickness and pressure changes.
  • Medication – Certain medications, even ones that are supposed to help with headaches, can trigger migraines. For some, this has led to a pattern of medication overuse and chronic migraines (more than 15 migraine days per month).
  • Weather – These are the toughest triggers to avoid. Changes in weather conditions, such as an incoming storm or even fluctuations in humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure, trigger migraines for some. Migraines also seem to increase when lightning is in the area.
  • Postural imbalances - Spinal misalignments, especially in the atlas and axis bones, are often unseen and neglected until they cause health mishaps like those we enumerated above (impaired Eustachian tube function, reduced cranial blood flow, etc.).

Upper Cervical Care for Vestibular Migraine Relief

There you have it, our list of vestibular migraine diet tips! We hope you will put it to good use to minimize the impact of your condition in your everyday life. Upper cervical chiropractors are no strangers to the horrible experiences patients have to go through because of their vestibular migraines.

If you haven’t tried upper cervical chiropractic for vertigo or vestibular migraine relief yet, we recommend booking a consultation. This way, you can determine if upper cervical chiropractic will make an excellent option to explore for your case. 

Upper cervical chiropractic is a proven remedy for chronic vertigo attacks due to conditions like vestibular migraines. It involves checking for cervical bone misalignments and providing ample chiropractic adjustments to revert the changes and stimulate natural healing.  

After you start receiving the adjustments, you can potentially reduce the severity of your vestibular migraine attacks. That’s because restoring your upper neckbones' neutral alignment releases pressure on tissues like the brainstem and vestibulocochlear nerve–which play a part in sensing balance and motion changes. 

Want to work with a chiropractor for vertigo? You can schedule your consultation with an upper cervical care practitioner near you today!

FAQs on Vertigo, Migraines and Upper Cervical Chiropractic

What are the key signs of vestibular migraines?

Vestibular migraine patients experience vestibular symptoms, whether migraine symptoms exist or not. Common vestibular symptoms are vertigo, dizziness, motion sensitivity, loss of balance, and many more. These symptoms often last 5 minutes to 3 days. Sometimes they even last for weeks or months.

Patients often experience a wide range of sensations. For example, they may feel unsteady and unable to walk straight, or as if they have “sea legs” where they feel movement in the ground beneath them.

If you suffer from vertigo and migraine symptoms, even if you don’t experience them at the same time, you may have vestibular migraines.

What other symptoms can hand in hand with vertigo when you have vestibular migraine episodes?

If you have vestibular migraines, your vertigo attacks may come along with symptoms of a migraine, such as the following:

  • Hypersensitivity to light, smells, sound, or touch
  • Ringing or roaring sound in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Visual disturbances (aura), such as seeing wavy lines, having blurred vision or blind spots
  • Headache – headaches due to migraines are moderate to severe. They often only affect one side of the head. Patients may also experience a pulsating or throbbing sensation in the area of the affected eye or the sinuses.

Can migraine triggers also set off vertigo episodes?

Another clue that you may have vestibular migraines is that your vertigo attacks worsen when you expose yourself to common migraine triggers. These triggers have four categories:

  • Hormonal - Women may experience vertigo symptoms that coincide during their menstruation.  Other hormonal changes that have something to do with vestibular migraines are menopause and pregnancy.
  • Behavioral - This includes changes in sleeping schedule, stressful situations, changes in an exercise routine, or becoming very emotional over something.
  • Environmental - It involves changing weather conditions such as extreme hot or cold temperatures, changes in barometric pressure, lightning storms, and low or high humidity levels. Strong smells such as chemicals or perfumes are also under this category.
  • Dietary - Certain foods and food additives can trigger attacks for people with vestibular migraines. These include chocolate, aspartame, MSG, alcohol, red wine, caffeine and food products that contain dyes.

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.