Meniere’s Disease Diet: What to Eat for Symptom Relief
Meniere’s disease is an ear disorder characterized by hearing loss, vertigo, and tinnitus.
Some evidence suggests that these symptoms may be improved with lifestyle factors such as diet.
The article explains the link between Meniere’s disease and diet and what a Meniere’s disease diet might look like.
What is Meniere’s disease?
Meniere’s disease is a disorder that affects the inner ear.
The condition tends to occur more often in older, white females.
It causes various symptoms, including (1):
- hearing loss, in one or both ears
- ear pressure or a clogging sensation
- tinnitus, the sensation of hearing ringing or other phantom noises
These symptoms tend to progress slowly over time.
The exact cause of Meniere’s disease remains unclear, but an interplay between genetics and environmental factors is believed to play a role (1).
Migraines and autoimmune diseases — namely rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) — occur more frequently in people with Meniere’s disease and may represent risk factors for its development (1).
There’s no cure for Meniere’s disease, and usually, there is no recovery from hearing loss, but there are many treatment options available for symptom management.
Meniere’s disease is a condition of the inner ear characterized by vertigo, hearing loss, ear pressure or a clogging sensation, and tinnitus. There is no cure for Meniere’s disease but there are several treatment options available that can help manage its symptoms.
The link between Meniere’s disease and diet
Of the various treatment options available for Meniere’s disease, there is evidence that diet may have a role in improving symptoms.
In fact, as early as 1930 is when a low-sodium diet was proposed as the primary treatment option for the condition (3).
This is because following a low-sodium diet increases levels of the hormone aldosterone (4, 5).
Aldosterone may increase the absorption or drainage of a fluid called endolymph within the inner ear and relieve the pressure that is believed to be associated with Meniere’s disease symptoms.
Beyond this effect, aldosterone may also have protective effects on hearing, with higher levels reported to be associated with increased hearing sensitivity in older adults (6).
In one small study, people with Meniere’s disease who followed a low-sodium — limiting sodium to less than 3 grams — experienced fewer and less severe vertigo episodes while also improving their hearing (4).
Along with following a low-sodium diet, avoiding large amounts of caffeine and alcohol may also help improve symptoms through various mechanisms (7, 8).
Because there may be an autoimmune component to Meniere’s disease, you may be more likely to have a food allergy than someone without the condition, so you may need to make other dietary changes (9, 10).
For example, wheat is one of the most common food allergens in people with Meniere’s disease (11).
Therefore, you may consider getting tested if you suspect you have a food allergy as exposure to allergens may worsen symptoms.
A keto diet has also been suggested to improve Meniere’s disease symptoms.
This is because the keto diet lowers insulin levels, which in turn decreases sodium retention and raises aldosterone concentrations (12, 13).
Unfortunately, there are no studies examining the effects of a keto diet for improving Meniere’s disease symptoms.
Although there is no research to confirm this, it’s possible that following a low-carb diet in addition to a low-sodium diet may offer greater benefits compared with a low-sodium diet alone.
Most research defines a low carbohydrate as eating fewer than 26% of your daily calories from carbs (14).
For a healthy person who eats 2,000 calories per day, this translates to 130 grams daily.
A low-sodium diet remains the most common diet therapy for managing Meniere’s disease symptoms. Limiting caffeine and alcohol may also improve your symptoms. Consider testing if you suspect you have an allergy to wheat or other foods.
Foods for Meniere’s disease
Generally, a low-sodium diet restricts sodium to less than 2 grams (2,000 mg) or 5 grams (5,000 mg) of salt per day (15).
For reference, people worldwide consume an average of 3.6 to 4 grams of sodium daily (16).
Minimally processed, whole foods are naturally low in sodium and should comprise the majority of your diet to keep you within the 2-gram sodium limit.
Here are foods that are low in sodium:
- Fruits: apples, berries, peaches, melons, etc.
- Vegetables: asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, leafy greens, etc.
- Starchy vegetables: potatoes, corn, peas, parsnip
- Grains and beans: dried beans, oats, rice, unsalted popcorn, quinoa, pasta
- Meat and poultry: eggs, fresh beef, chicken, turkey, pork
- Seafood: unbreaded, fresh or frozen cod, salmon, tilapia, trout, etc.
- Dairy and plant-based alternatives: milk, yogurt, unsalted butter, swiss cheese, almond milk, soy milk
- Unsalted nuts and seeds: almonds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, etc.
- Condiments: vinaigrette dressings, low-sodium ketchup
- Seasonings: herbs, such as basil, bay leaf, paprika, parsley, sage, etc.
- Beverages: low-sodium vegetable juice, water, and in moderation, coffee and tea
Reading the nutrition labels can help you identify whether a food is low in sodium. Foods that provide 140 mg of sodium or less are considered low sodium.
Just remember that if you double your portion, you double the sodium it contains.
Grains, beans, some fruits, and starchy vegetables are rich in carbs but you can still enjoy them on a low-carb diet in small portions.
Minimally, processed foods are the best choice for Meniere’s disease since they are naturally low in sodium. Foods higher in carbs like grains, beans, some fruits, and starchy vegetables are OK for a low-carb diet in small portions.
Foods to limit with Meniere’s disease
Generally, the more processed a food is, the more sodium it contains.
Indeed, most of the sodium in people’s diets comes from prepackaged and processed foods — not the salt shaker (17).
Here are foods rich in sodium to avoid or limit:
- Baking mixes: pancake, brownie, and cake mixes
- Boxed meals: pasta and rice meals
- Dairy: cottage cheese, buttermilk, salted butter
- Frozen meals: meat and pasta dishes, pizza, etc.
- Pickled vegetables: olives, pickles, saurkraut
- Processed meats: bacon, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, lunch meats
- Snack foods: salted pretzels, chips, nuts, crackers, etc.
- Salted, canned products: soups, tuna, beans
- Sauces and condiments: barbeque sauce, hot sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, salad dressing
- Seasonings: all forms of salt, including sea, kosher, onion, and garlic, taco seasoning
- Beverages: regular vegetable juice, sports drinks, alcoholic beverages, energy drinks
There isn’t a specific recommendation for the amount of caffeine or alcohol that you should limit yourself to, but if you’re a heavy consumer of either or both, cutting your intake in half may be a good place to start.
Avoid or limit prepackaged and processed foods as they are rich in sodium. Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol, especially if you consume large amounts.
3-day sample Meniere’s disease diet menu
Here’s a 3-day sample Meniere’s disease diet menu that is low in sodium and carbs:
- Breakfast: no-sodium-added cottage cheese over toast
- Lunch: grilled fish taco with a side salad
- Snack: celery and peanut butter
- Dinner: roasted chicken breast and sauteed green beans
Day 2 (vegan)
- Breakfast: oatmeal topped with berries
- Lunch: garbanzo bean salad
- Snack: unsalted almonds and apple slices
- Dinner: stuffed peppers and mixed garden salad
- Breakfast: spinach and egg scramble
- Lunch: grilled chicken avocado salad
- Snack: Greek yogurt and air-popped popcorn
- Dinner: baked salmon and roasted carrots
Use this sample Meniere’s diet menu to guide your menu planning and food choices.
The bottom line
Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear characterized by vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus, and pressure in the affected ear.
A low-sodium diet is commonly recommended for improving these symptoms. Restricting alcohol and caffeine may also provide relief.
While more research is necessary, limiting your carbs to around 130 grams per day may also improve symptoms in combination with a low-sodium diet.