Monday, April 29, 2013

The Diet of all Meniere's Diets

On my first visit to the doc concerning my spinning world, I was met with the sorry sad news that I had an incurable disease.  My journey down the Meniere's Disease crazy road had begun.  I was put on steroids and a mean-ass diuretic.  When that didn't work, the Doc brought out... The Needle.   He was going to inject my inner ear with Steroids THEN, when that wasn't enough he was going to inject a poison in the tube that controls balance and fry it.  Instantly I'd lose a portion of my hearing and there wouldn't be a guarantee that it would work OR that it would be permanent.  Before I started hyperventilating, he gave me another option.


The single preservation of hearing and getting control of Meniere's symptoms was regulating sodium, caffeine and sugar intake.  I very abruptly told the doc to put that needle away and I would go Low-sodium and no sugar from that point on.  Before I try and convince anyone about the benefits, you should know that going on a Meniere's diet is HARD.  No bones about it.  For the first ten days on it I thought I was going to die of chocolate depravation.  This is what convinced me to stay strong:

My Chiropractor is an amazing man.  Big bear of a dude, Vietnam Vet and a 30 year Meniere's sufferer.  As I sat in his office discussing the scoliotic curve to my spine we got to talking about the disease.  He was very interested in my diagnosis and discussed with me at length how to deal with it.  At the time I was a spinning miserable mess.  I was five days on the diet and leaning towards giving up.  He convinced me to stick to it.  Here sat a man who suffered through ten years of spinning, nausea, and severe tinnitus.  He had done it all: steroid injections, a stint in his inner ear, invasive surgery.  None of it worked.  He was 80% deaf and miserable.  Then, he changed doctors to a brilliant ENT who directed him to change his diet, drastically.  Since that day, he has been spin free, tinnitus free and preserved the remaining 20% of his hearing.

Do the math folks.  Diet helped him keep his remaining hearing, NO vertigo attacks and in full control of his Meniere's for 20 YEARS and counting.  He sky dives, travels the world and works 40 hour weeks, ALL of it spin free.

Too good to be true?

On March 17th, 2013 I tripped off a two week spin cycle, lost 20% of my hearing in my left ear and was bed ridden almost every other day.  I went low sodium, low sugar and caffeine free cold turkey.  It took me about a week to get my head clear, but I am currently 30 days spin free and counting.  My most current episode was so minor, I slept through it and was only nauseated for 10 minutes and had muted tinnitus for 30 minutes.  In my book, that's a HUGE win.

Here is The Meniere's Diet broken down by food group:


To AVOID: ALL soda, caffeinated tea, coffee, alcohol and oddly, buttermilk.  Soda is a biggie, but that fizz is bad new for the inner ear.

The GOOD stuff: lemon water, lowfat milk, 100% juice drinks.


To AVOID: Salty crackers and artisan breads.

GOOD stuff: bake your own and halve the salt required in the recipe.  Whole grain breads can be found, but keep them under 6% sodium per slice.


To AVOID: Instant cooked cereal or prepared boxed cereals.

GOOD Stuff: Home cooked Oatmeal with honey gives you control over what goes in your mouth.


To AVOID: ALL cheese except cottage, hoop, cream and low sodium cheddar.  I buy a skim-milk fresh mozzarella that is only 4% sodium per ounce.  It's really yummy!  Just make sure you read the sodium content before you buy ANYTHING cheese.  Feta is a whopping 25% sodium per ounce.  OUCH!!  Typically the more it is aged the saltier it is.


To AVOID: desserts made with salt, high sugar content, karo, baking powder, baking soda and cake mixes.  For me personally, I junked all sugar and stick to fruits and honey.  It just worked better.  Also avoid chocolate at all cost.  The caffeine in it is mean to your inner ear.

GOOD Stuff:  Like I mentioned, fruit and honey is going to be your new best pal.


No restrictions.  Though cooking an egg with no salt can be tricky.  I'll post the perfect way to cook an egg with no salt that is to DIE for yummy.


To AVOID: Bacon fat, salted butter and margarine, regular salad dressing (Ranch especially as well as italian) and mayonnaise.

GOOD stuff: Extra virgin olive oil and sweet cream unsalted butter.  Basalmic Vinegars are fantastic over salads and specialty shops like have flavored vinegars that are divine!

Fruit Juices:

To AVOID: Tomato Juice and anything that isn't 100% juice.

GOOD stuff:  Drink up the 100% juice good stuff.  They are usually 0% sodium.

Meat, Fish and Poultry:

To AVOID:  Salt cured meat, canned meat, smoked meat like ham, bacon, cold cuts and wieners.  I'll add Smoked fish too because my in-laws live in Alaska and they like to send me smoked salmon and I can't eat the stuff.  Too salty, which is a bummer because fresh smoked salmon out of the ocean is delicious!

GOOD Stuff:  I find that grilled steak takes away all desire for me to relapse on salt.  Cooking chicken without salt is very challenging, but with the right herbs and spices, even un-salted meat can be ultra yummy.  I'll post a few of my experiments with meat in future posts.

Potatoes and other Snacks:

To AVOID: Potato chips (my kryptonite!!!) and corn chips and all other prepared snack foods that are stinking everywhere!  All I do is flip over the bag to the nutrition facts and my ears start ringing.  Bagged snacks are notoriously salty.

GOOD stuff:  Whole Foods has a good no salt potato chip but they are bland as all get out.  I'm still searching for a good chip.  However, XO CHILIE has a 2% sodium corn chip that is so good, I have to pace myself when I eat them!  My saving grace is unsalted popcorn.


To AVOID: ALL canned soups and bouillon cubes along with regular chicken/beef broth and stock.

GOOD Stuff: I find low sodium gold nuggets in soups at the store all the time.  It just takes some careful hunting and keeping that dratted sodium under 4% per cup.  Make your own soup and cut the salt in half or quarter it.  For a 15 cup pot of soup you shouldn't put in more than a half teaspoon of salt (Kosher or sea salt preferably).


To AVOID: Sauerkraut

GOOD Stuff:  Go to town on the stuff and don't be stingy on the variety.  FYI celery is naturally salty and so is broccoli, but not enough for concern.


To AVOID:  All Salt.  AKA the crystalline stuff you sprinkle on your food.  Lock it up! Onion and Garlic salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Catsup, chili sauce, canned anything (beans, veggies, fruit etc), olives, pickles, relish, seasoned salts, Lemon pepper, soy sauce, meat tenderizers, Worcestershire sauce.

The list for miscellaneous is a lengthy one.  A good key to live buy is to flip whatever you have in your hand over and check out the sodium content.  If it is over 2%-4%, it's best to put it back on the shelf.  My doc said he got into the habit of automatically spitting things out if it tasted too good or wasn't bland enough.  Though he amended that by saying his wife has gotten so good at cooking with no salt that he can't tell anymore.  It's all yummy.

And lastly, smoking should be avoided along with hard core illegal drugs and whatnot, but that to me is just a no brainer.  The diet is hard and it is a diet that you will be on for the rest of your life.  The key to controlling your Meniere's is controlling your food intake.  The better you manage the consistency of food going into your body, they better you manage your attacks.  That means no skipping meals, eating at the same time daily and drinking a good 2 liters of fresh water every day.

Is it hard?

It's DAMN hard.  But the real key is if it is worth it.  Well... besides the fact that I dropped 20 pounds in three weeks and I've gone 30+ days spin free, I feel fantastic.  It's a long hard road, but I can't imagine going back to my old salty lifestyle.  It's just not worth it.  Not when I am driving, gardening, painting, walking, running and planning trips and vacations and ALL of it will be SPIN FREE.

So... on that note, I am going to go munch on some mangos and pineapple.  Ta Ta!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Tunnel of... Hope?

It gets better.

Life may suck now, but it gets better.

I have a good, very sweet friend who sent me a kind message of condolence for my situation.  Then, after commending me for being tough, proceeded to say that she felt guilty for complaining about her lot.  In the scheme of things, she felt my lot was worse and hers was less (thus causing the guilt for complaining about it).  This gave me a moment's pause.

Don't feel guilty.  It gets better.

When I was in the thick of raising a toddler and pregnant with a second, I complained.  A LOT.  I looked like a beached whale, I threw up everything I ate and my son was a handful.  Sweet friends near me would tell me, don't worry, it'll get better.  And you know what?  That made me feel better.  

A few years later, I had two young boys and so many health problems it was scary.  I was facing surgery and I wasn't keeping up with my kids.  I was sitting in pre-op, trying desperately to not hyperventilate and completely scared out of my wits when a nurse came in to prep me.  She was bluntly honest.  She told me I was going to hurt, a lot, afterwards and recovery might be bumpy.  But I'd feel better.  Better than before surgery.  It gave me hope.

Just last week, as I sat on the chiropractor's table, wondering if my life was going to be forever spinning, living a half existence with a disease that won't kill me, but make my life miserable for many long years, a massive presence of a man bound into the office.  A man who is almost completely deaf and suffers from Meniere's sat across from me with a smile and told me... I'll never recover, but it gets better.  


It gets better.

I may never recover, but I can put years between attacks.  It takes a lifestyle change, but guess what?  It made me feel better.

Don't despair, dear readers.  And don't feel guilty for feeling the way that you feel.  Notice I never said that I felt better when someone commiserated or pitied me.  I felt better because they had given me hope.  They'd been through the trenches and KNEW it would get better.  Knowing it gets better, that glimmer of hope, is a powerful tool against despair.  Is whatever you are going through hard?  Of course it is!

But it gets better.

Monday, April 8, 2013

It's the little things

Good food makes a person happy.  It's common knowledge.  No brainer stuff, but when you are on a diet restriction, certain foods make me do weird things.

Like chicken stock.

I love cooking with the stuff, but regular stock is LOADED with sodium.  The absence in my food is proving difficult on may taste buds.  I've been searching around for a good low sodium version.  So when I went to the store and actually found a good low-sodium stock I nearly scared the bajeezes out of the old dame standing next to me with my yelp of triumph.  My mashed potatoes and chicken noodle soup are saved!

My other happiness?  Sautéed fresh salsa and noodles.  I know that sounds odd, but fry up a little onion, garlic, chive, corn, and mushroom with a fat ripe tomato in olive oil (sprinkle with italian seasoning) and it's like eating a perfect summer day topped with sunshine.  The great part is that the sodium content is near nil and I can eat as much of it as I want.  Now THAT is sheer happiness.

Meniere's Disease Survival Tip: Buy a high quality memory foam or TempurPedic pillow.  Does wonders for relieving the feeling of pressure on your head while you sleep and ease Meniere's headaches, which can be unbearable.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Cure for Pain is at Tiffany's

"Expecting a trouble free life because you are a good person, is like expecting a bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian."

Isn't that a great quote?!?!  I wish I had ben the one to think that one up, but it wasn't me.  It was Jeffery Holland.  The first time I read it, I laughed.  It's funny and incredibly true.

Today, I ventured downtown with a good friend of mine (MISS ROBIN SPAHR!!!) who got my butt off the couch and into the mall.  It was at the mall where the first order of business was to go to Tiffany's.  That place is girl nirvana and I wasn't complaining.  In fact I'd like to have one of everything, please!  We went to a few other stores in the mall, but there came a point where I needed to sit down.  The pain was unbearable.

Benches didn't cut it.  But I remembered there was a couch back at Tiffany's.  This couch was heavenly.  Soft, plush and in a quiet store where my ears weren't thumping from brain vibrating music, that couch was my saving grace.  I sat down and stayed.  The store clerks weren't upset I had taken over their sitting area.  Instead they started bringing me rings to try on and necklaces to look at.  Could the day not have gone better?  Talk about feel the love.

Anyway, there may seemingly be no point to this post, but while life feels like a charging bull, there are good times too.  Even when I am in pain.  But for being in epic pain, I got to try on some half a million dollars worth of jewelry.  Can't complain about that!

Meniere's Survival Tip of the Day: Caffeine free herbal Ginger tea and honey.  Fixes even the most vertigo stricken nauseated stomach.  I discovered it the other day and I am back to zen with my gut!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Don't Mock It...

Never judge until you've been there.  It's just good common sense.  I, for one, used to do a smirky eye roll when folks in the news "got God" after discovering they had a major illness.  I used to think to myself that it was too bad they didn't find Him before then.  It seemed to me that if we all got a little God in our lives on a regular basis maybe the transition between good and hard times wouldn't be so bumpy.

No so, my friend.  Boy, was I wrong.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  Not just figuratively either.  My head was spinning, everything ached and my brain felt like it was being pushed through a juice press.  The result was a way-to-early morning followed by a major bout of blues.  Now, I am not normally a depressed person.  I get a little impatient with people when they say they just don't even want to roll out of bed.  It always seemed to me that getting out of bed and facing the day would be just what they needed.  Like I said, don't judge until you're in the mire with them.

I blubbered.  And cried.  And felt altogether sorry for myself.  I didn't want to get the laundry done, the bathrooms cleaned or the dishes washed, but apparently I needed to get the weepy gunk out of my system.  The transition to normal healthy, to abnormal is a rocky road.  What does it feel like?  Let me enumerate what's going on in my head...

It's dark.  It's lonely and feels as if the world has moved on without me.  I don't want to get out of bed, but it hurts, physically, to be in bed.  I feel like throwing up, but I know that if I do, it'll make the spinning worse.  I want to sleep but can't.  I'm tired, achy and sore everywhere.  I don't want to face the day.  I don't want to face tomorrow or the next, because I feel incredibly stuck.

The space in my head can get scary dark.

How do you feel less alone?  How can you cope?

I've always had a loving Heavenly Father in my life.  I've always known he was there.  I say my prayers and I go to church (and I do love it too).  Where is God in all this?

He's there.  In my darkest night, He comforts.  Why?  Because He is the ultimate loving parent.  Think of it; the all knowing, all powerful creator of the universe cares about the most insignificant human on earth as a doting mother cares for her helpless babe.  How can you not feel special, needed or loved?  How can I not cry out to Him when I feel most like giving up?

Did I "get God" after my diagnosis?  Frankly, I always had, but I "got Him" anew.  I cling, in fact.  And because of it I got out of bed and got my day throttled!  Now, who can smirk at that?

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Two Bite Trout

I am hungry.  As in, all of the time.

You'd be amazed about how a major shift in diet can do this to a person.  And it's not like I can just treat myself with a fattening meal at the end of a week well starved.  Nope, this is my life and I have to eat accordingly.  A Meniere's diet is pretty lean and it's hard... nay... impossible to feel full on fresh veggies and fruits.  My waistline is not complaining, nor is my shrinking butt.  My growling stomach is another matter.  It reminds me of leaner times.

If ever I am asked what I remember about growing up, I would automatically say that I felt hungry... ALL of the time.  We were poor and there were a lot of mouths to feed.  Food was revered, prayed over, and worshiped.  It sounds sacrilegious, but I'll not lie.  Meal times were not missed in my house and the punctuality of eight children to the table was staggering.  It had nothing to do with the quality of the food, but quantity.

And that is just the way it was.  It wasn't a bad thing either.  By the time I hit sixteen years old, I was still very much hungry.  I had other habits too, like I am not a morning person.  Which, one summer morning I was tossed awake by my mother when a boy showed up at my door to take me fishing at the crack of dawn.  I usually forget morning appointments, purposefully.  I like my sleep, but for him I dashed out and went fishing.

Now, this boy was nice.  We'd been friends for many years and I loved to fish and so did he.  We went down to the river behind my house on a (if I remember right because I was still half asleep) gloriously perfect summer morning.  My pole was broken, so I spent the majority of the morning stomping through bull rushes, cat tails and under brush.  Nice Boy had waders, so he would call out to me where he was in the water and I would try to follow by land.  It was a very arduous game of Marco Polo, the all time low being when I fell waist deep in a beaver's den.  Regardless, my loyalty meter was still staunchly in his favor.  I must have liked him more than I fully realized.  At the end of the fishing trip, he found a shallow bank and handed me his pole, where, if I am permitted to brag a little, I cast out several perfect flies into a deep pool under some trees across the river.  On my third cast, I caught a minute specimen of brown trout.

My first thought was: FOOD!

Nice Boy was primarily a catch and release kind of fisher, but I insisted we keep it.  I didn't see a wriggling slimy fish gasping for water in my hands.  I saw it as fried up, slathered in butter with a crust of roasted almonds all over it.  I remember he cleaned it for me and chopped off the head and tail and handed it to me with the most incredulous look on his face as if to ask: what on earth was I going to do with two bites of trout?

Eat it, my dear boy.  I am going to eat it!!

And now, this bright morning, with my tummy grumbling, my vision swirling and feeling mostly nauseated, I can almost smell the cooked trout and I salivate.  Here's to hunger!