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 Teaoli.com have flavored vinegars that are divine!
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!