Meniere’s Disease, Zinc and Your Ears

Zinc is one of the sixteen essential minerals needed by the body.  Zinc is necessary  for wound healing, proper digestion,  appropriate immune function and normal growth.  It also serves as a powerful antioxidant fighting free radicals Maybe the most important zinc fact for us is that the highest concentration of zinc in the body is found in eyes and ears.  It is a crucial element of healthy ears and the reason why so many vitamin and mineral formulas targeted to helping Meniere’s disease and tinnitus contain zinc.

One tool that I have found very useful in researching health issues is Google Scholar.  Google scholar provides a simple way to research a subject and filter out all the commercial websites.  If you enter in a disease related search term, the search engine results page will contain links to papers and studies pertaining to that disease.  The searches are limited to scholarly sources.  When I wrote this post, I did a search at Google scholar for “tinnitus zinc” and there were 4,630 results.  I read half a dozen studies and they were all favorable in their support of zinc in treating tinnitus.  Go, give it a try yourself.

The RDA (recommended dietary allowances) for zinc is 15 milligrams per day.  Exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, pollution and aging all lead to zinc deficiency.  Signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency include poor digestion, slow healing of wounds, impotence, acne, hair loss, and bad breath.

If ear health is a major concern for you then maintaining proper zinc levels in your body should be a priority.  As you grow older, this becomes more of a challenge.

  • More than 90 percent of older Americans are not taking in the proper RDA for zinc.
  • One in three Americans over the age of fifty has a zinc deficiency.
  • Your ability to absorb zinc (and other vitamins and minerals) decreases with age.

Foods high in zinc include seafoods, whole grains, egg yolks, lima beans and mushrooms. Remember that the quantity of minerals contained in foods depends on the amount of minerals present in the soil where these foods were grown.  See the table below to get an idea of the zinc content in different foods.

Food Serving size Amount of zinc (mg)
oysters (raw) 6 76.3
beef 3 ounces 4.4
salmon 4 ounces 0.8
soy beans ½ cup 1.0
milk (whole) 1 cup 0.9
brown rice ½ cup 0.8
orange 1 (medium size) 0.1
butter 5 grams 0
barley 200 grams 4.26

Other things to keep in mind

  • Essential minerals and vitamins can be lost through transportation of foods over long distances, poor storage and through cooking.
  • Excess fiber in the diet slows the absorption of zinc.
  • The form of zinc preferred is zinc gluconate as it is less irritating to the GI tract than the more common zinc sulfate found in may supplements.  Also, zinc sulfate and zinc oxide are poorly absorbed.
  • Like all other minerals, you can take in too much zinc. Don’t take more zinc per day than you doctor suggests.

Keep your zinc levels up and keep your ears (and eyes) happy.

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Meniere’s Disease Diet and Circulation

Some doctors have tied poor circulation to ear problems such as Meniere’s disease and tinnitus.  I have written previously about both vinpocetine and ginkgo biloba as supplements to help circulation in the inner ear.  There are other things to consider.

Atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, is a common disorder. It occurs when cholesterol, fat and other substances build up in the walls of arteries.  This build-up can block the arteries and cause problems throughout the body–including in your inner ear.

Dr. S. Rosen, published the results of a study that followed two group of patients.  The first group was in mental hospital where they were fed a high saturated fat diet.   The second group was in another mental hospital that served a diet where  polyunsaturated fats were substituted for the saturated fats. After five years, a hearing test was administered to both groups.  The hearing in the second group was better than the first at all frequencies.  At that time, the diets were switched in the two groups.  At the end of four years, another hearing test was administered and the hearing in the high fat group had deteriorated and hearing in the other group had improved.  There are other tests linking circulation to good ear health.

I explained earlier that I did not see dramatic improvements coming from a low sodium diet but that I was sold on the overall health benefits of such a diet. For that reason, I adopted the low sodium diet.  The tenets of a heart healthy diet have also won me over.  I can eat a diet good for my veins and blood flow.  If I get healthy ears along the way, I will be forever grateful.

The Mayo clinic website lists five foods to eat to improve your cholesterol levels

  1. oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods
  2. walnuts, almonds and other nuts
  3. fish especially mackeral, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon
  4. olive oil
  5. foods with added plant sterols or stanols

It should be relatively easy to incorporate those foods into your diet.

A folk remedy found for both Meniere’s disease and tinnitus is apple cider vinegar.  I have seen it suggested to dissolve one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in one cup of water and drink that twice a day.  Interestingly enough, apple cider vinegar is also known for its ability to eliminate guanidine from the body.  When guanidine reaches high levels in the body, it causes calcium and other elements to block your circulation.  So the ingestion of apple cider vinegar helps your circulation.

Along with improving your diet, you should also make the lifestyle changes to help increase your circulation.  Topping the list should be exercise.  Exercise is has been shown to both lower the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol.

Other lifestyle changes to consider would be to lose weight and to quit smoking.

Here’s to a healthier heart and healthier ears.

How to Survive a Vertigo Attack

Vertigo is the most unpleasant of all the symptoms of Meniere’s disease.  I could deal with most of the issues but the vertigo attacks were unbearable.  The worst part about them was the completely unpredictable nature of them.  They would come without warning and at the worst times.  And then when they came, I was always unsure of how long they would last–sometimes eight hours and sometimes they would last over night.  When they were done, I was completely exhausted and worried when the next “big one” would hit.

If you are new to Meniere’s, you need to understand the difference between dizziness and vertigo.  Dizziness is a feeling of unsteadiness or loss of equilibrium.  Vertigo on the other hand has a whirling or spinning sensation.  Vertigo can affect you whether you are standing or lying down.  I also found that during vertigo attacks, I would suffer from the sensation whether my eyes were open or closed.  Although, I found I did better with my eyes opened.

Also, if you are new to Meniere’s, you need to come up with your strategy for how you will deal with vertigo attacks–at least until you get your Meniere’s disease under control. Here is my suggested method for surviving a vertigo attack.

  1. Quickly find a location where you can be comfortable for a while.  As I mentioned before, you don’t know how long this is going to last.  I always found it better to ride out the storm with little stimulus.  This meant a quiet, dark place.  I always found the smallest of noises to be very disturbing during attacks.  Even if you have to hug the wall or crawl to your ideal destination, it will be worth it.
  2. The next important thing is to not panic.  Vertigo attacks are some of the most miserable things I have experienced but they are not fatal.  You will live through them–although you first time, you may wonder.  Keep in mind that this is a temporary state and it will pass.
  3. This will be the toughest step.  Relax.  Yes, that is much easier said than done.  It is like standing in the middle of a burning house while someone is repeatedly yelling, “Remain calm.”  Stress during this time will only make your symptoms worse.  If you know any relaxation techniques, now is the time to put them into action.
  4. These next two steps will take some experimentation to determine what works best for you.  I found that shutting my eyes during a vertigo attack made things worse.  It was better to find an object in the room to focus on.  Some people do better with their eyes closed and it helps them relax. Learn for yourself what works best.  Maybe it will take a combination of the two depending on the severity of the vertigo.
  5. Keep breathing.  How best to breathe take more experimentation.  Some do well with short shallow breaths.  Others find that deep breaths help them relax more.  Learn what works best for you.
  6. Think of better days.  Again this is one of those “easier said than done” things.  But you will find that that naturally, you will find yourself thinking back on previous attacks and how long they were and how they turned out.  Give your mind something more positive to focus on.  Have it focus on a time when you were completely healthy and weren’t plagued with ringing ears and spinning rooms.

As you learn about Meniere’s disease, and specifically your personal symptoms, you can reduce the severity and eventually eliminate them from your life.

 

10 Ways Friends and Family Can Support Those with Meniere’s Disease

The question is often asked, “How can I help one suffering from Meniere’s disease?”   For example, Suzy’s husband Larry may be diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and she is wondering how best to help him.  You may be a friend of Larry and wonder how to support him with his ordeal.  Here are some actions you can take to help.

  1. Meniere’s often operates with no pattern.  Larry may be fine one minute and in serious trouble minutes later.  When Meniere’s strikes, the equilibrium can vanish quickly.  Larry is laughing, dancing the polka and minutes later laying in a dark corner vomitting.  Understand that.
  2. Larry may just need someone to lean on-literally.  When Meniere’s strikes and Larry needs to leave an environment quickly, grab his arm and provide as much support as possible.  His equilibrium will get worse with each passing minute.
  3. If Suzy and Larry have kids, they need to explain what Meniere’s is and isn’t.  Meniere’s is a disorder that can disable someone but is not fatal.  No matter how upsetting it is to watch Larry suffer a vertigo attack, he will live to see better days.  Young kids especially need to understand this and it is better if they are told before they witness first hand the cruelties of Meniere’s.
  4. It is good for Larry to assign a secret meaning to a predetermined saying to help exit a social situation without causing alarm.  Something innocent but meaningless like, “your cousin Bernie called earlier today.”  It really helps if Suzy has no cousin Bernie.  Once the secret message is received, actions can be taken to get Larry home safely without causing a stir.
  5. After someone with Meniere’s suffers a few unexpected vertigo attacks, they become more and more resistant to leaving home unless they have to.  If you are a friend of Larry and invite him over, don’t be to offended if he turns you down.  Wish him well and try again in a few weeks.
  6. Also be aware that if Larry accepts the invitation to come over, he may not make it.  You may see him at work and hour before your big event and he may talk about seeing you there.  An hour later (and even two hours later) there is no sign of Larry.  He is home in bed with his room spinning all around him.
  7. Suzy needs to be prepared for a time when Larry might declare that “Life is just not worth living.”  Receiving that kind of declaration from a spouse can be disconcerting but understand the person making that statement really feels that way.  Most folks who have suffered through a succession of vertigo attacks over a short period of time feel that same way.  Life really does lose its luster when Meniere’s is at its worst.
  8. Learn as much as you can about Meniere’s disease.  Understanding what Larry is going through will help you empathize with him.
  9. Sometimes all that is needed is a shoulder to cry on.  Be there for Larry and let him vent a little.
  10. Honor Larry’s feelings.  He may want a shoulder to cry on.  He may not.  He may want to talk about what he is going through.  He may not.  Help him cope with it on his terms.

On a parting note,  no one knows what causes Meniere’s disease and there is no cure.  Once diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, one has it for life.  The best thing you can do for the Larry in you life is to help him learn what he must do to manage the symptoms.  The mechanisms to combat the symptoms of Meniere’s disease seem to differ with each person.  Don’t get discouraged if what works for someone does not work for your loved one.  Accept that that approach doesn’t work, scratch it off your list of things to try and move on to the next one.

I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease back in 1994.  Back then, the only thing my doctor recommended was the low-sodium diet.  Today there is so much more information available.  And not only can you learn about new treatments to try but you can also learn for different people what works and what does not.  Go.  Get busy.

Meniere’s Disease Success Stories: The Celebrities

Crucial to you overcoming the symptoms of Meniere’s disease is hope.  Deep down inside, you have to believe that you really can overcome Meniere’s.  One thing that helps build that hope is to see others overcome Meniere’s. In the future, I wish to share some stories of people who have done just that.  Today, I share the stories of a couple of folks who are a little more well-known than the normal schmo.

Ryan Adams is a popular musician who has released 17 albums (see his discography).  He is set to release another one, Ashes and Fire, on October 11th this yer. He has released eight solo albums along with collaborative efforts with his various bands.  Ryan has worked with great acts like Willie Nelson, the Counting Crows, Weezer, and Norah Jones.  He is a prolific artist who has written songs for many movie soundtracks including Sweet Home Alabama, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Elizabethtown.  Ryan learned to play the guitar at age 14 and has spent a great deal of his life performing his music but on January 14, 2009, he announced that he was done with him music career due to his battle with Meniere’s disease.   I can imagine the challenges of being a professional performer with the unpredictability of Meniere’s disease.  Despite the protests of his fans, he quietly left the music industry. Ryan Adam conquers Meniere’s disease.

On April 21st of this year, at the El Rey theatre in Los Angeles, Ryan delighted fans in a surprise appearance with Emmy Lou Harris.  A few months later, he toured Europe, performing his music.  While being initially knocked out of the game by Meniere’s, Ryan is a great example of someone who has returned to live his life and share his talent with us.  He attributes his success at managing Meniere’s disease to acupuncture and hypnotherapy.

Kristin Chenoweth suffers from Meniere's disease

Kristin Chenoweth is an equally prolific artist in film, television and the theater world.  See her long list of accomplishments at imdb.  She won a Tony award for her portrayal of Sally Brown in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.  In 2009, she won an Emmy for playing Olive Snook in Pushing Daisies.  She had her own television series, Kristen, in 2001 and was nominated for Emmy awards in 2010 and 2011 for her role in Glee.

She had a great  interview with NPR back in 2009.  In it, she describes how miserable Meniere’s disease can be.  She also goes on to describe what she does to manage it.  Kristin emphasizes getting lots of sleep, reducing stress, and eating a low-salt diet.

Here are two high-profile examples of people with Meniere’s who have gone on live their lives despite their Meniere’s diagnosis.  I will share more in the future.

 

Hope for those with Meniere’s disease

When I was first diagnosed with Meniere’s disease back in 1994, it seemed like little was known about it or what to do to alleviate the terrible symptoms associated with it.  If someone had a friend with Meniere’s disease, all that they really knew about that friend was that they would drop out of existence for several days at a time and reappear looking pasty white and sicker than ever only to disappear for a few more days.  Those with the ailment wouldn’t tell their bosses what they were going through because it was not understood and was interpreted as some lazy person trying to get out of work.  There was very little people could do about it–even the doctors.  If a low sodium diet didn’t help you, you would continue on your way, spinning, puking, and falling down, only to get back up and do it again.

I think we have come a long way since then and there is indeed more hope for those suffering from Meniere’s disease.  Here are the big things I see

New Products

In 1994, you never heard of lipoflavonoids or Meniette devices.  These are products that have come about since then. Also, the technology behind hearing aids has improved dramatically.  Years ago, hearing aids consisted of some big blob you stuck inside your ear.  The blob was tethered to a supporting apparatus which hung behind your ear.  Both parts were extremely eye-catching.

 

You can compensate for loss of hearing from Menere's disease with a hearing aid

Now hearing aids come in much smaller sizes
Meniere's disease patients can use much smaller hearing aids now

And in most cases you cannot see them. In this picture, you can barely see the tube going into the ear canal.

Meniere's disease patients can use much smaller hearing aids now

Even from behind the ear, it is dificult to spot these smaller hearing aids
Even from behind the ear, it is difficult to see the hearing aid worn by this Meniere's disease patient

New Funding and New Research

This year, TechGROWTH Ohio, announced a $337,000 venture capital investment in Sanuthera.  Sanuthera is a company which is developing a medical device for the treatment of tinnitus using customizable sound therapy. The Sanuthera device will treat both tinnitus and hearing loss.

Imperial Innovations Group plc, of the UK, has committed to invest $8 million in Autifony Therapeutics Ltd.  Autifony is a spin-out from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) studying the treatment of hearing disorders, including noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.

Irish start-up MuteButton has recived a $190,000 investment from Enterprise Ireland to accelerate large-scale clinical trials of its tinnitus treatment device . MuteButton has created a non-invasive device that treats the effects of tinnitus.

Na Zhu of Wayne State University received a $10,000 award from the American Tinnitus Association.  Zhu, a Ph.D. student, is developing a 3-D computer-aided diagnostic system to locate the locations of the tinnitus-related neural network activities in the brain’s auditory structure. The results of this study may lead to breakthrough treatments for tinnitus.

New Companies

Besides the new companies mentioned above, the creation of a new company, Tinnitus Music Lab, was announced this past June.  This new company sells a “notched music” system  and claims that when used correctly, it will cure tinnitus. Their research tested music that had been altered to eliminate the sound frequency that a tinnitus sufferer was lacking. This customized music increases the activity of neurons adjacent to the ones responsible for causing ringing in the ears. Therefore it restores balance in the auditory system, and eventually eliminates tinnitus. The really innovative part of this system is that the patient provide the music of their choice and can provide more and more music to be customized for their treatment.  I suspect their pocketbook is their only limiter.

Hope Overall

Below is a plot from Google Trends showing the number of Google searches performed for “menieres disease” (apostrophe excluded) over the past five years.

Internet interest in Meniere's disease is on a downward trend

As you can see, the number of searches has gone down every year since 2006.  I believe this has to do with the fact that Meniere’s disease is tormenting fewer and fewer people.  More people are actually finding the help they need and the need for doing one’s own medical research online is diminishing.

If you have not found help yet, I believe that the evidence supports that you will in the near future.  Good Luck.

 

We Become What We Think About

In 1956, Earl Nightingale recorded a famous speech titled “The Strangest Secret.” It was wildly popular then and has been quoted again and again over the years. In the speech, he repeats a couple of famous quotes:

Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor, said: “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.”

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale put it this way: “If you think in negative terms, you will get negative results. If you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results.”

He then goes on to make his point, “Every one of us is the sum total of our own thoughts. We are where we are because that’s exactly where we really want or feel we deserve to be — whether we’ll admit that or not. Each of us must live off the fruit of our thoughts in the future, because what you think today and tomorrow — next month and next year — will mold your life and determine your future. You’re guided by your mind…You’re in the driver’s seat. You see, the very law that gives us success is a double-edged sword. We must control our thinking. The same rule that can lead people to lives of success, wealth, happiness, and all the things they ever dreamed of — that very same law can lead them into the gutter. It’s all in how they use it … for good or for bad. That is The Strangest Secret!”

So we become what we think about.

I am not naive enough to think that someone inflicted with Meniere’s disease can just think themselves well-although maybe there are people who can do that.  I am, however, convinced that alot of people hold themselves back from getting well due to the things they think about and that is an obsession with their ailment.

Early on, when I was first diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and was repeatedly hit with those terrible vertigo attacks, I read the book The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, by Joseph Murphy. There was a chapter on autosuggestion that was so convincing that I figured I would try it. The idea is to program your body for something you desire by mentally focusing on a phrase repeatedly. So for one day straight, I repeated in my mind: “Meniere’s disease, Meniere’s disease, Meniere’s disease…” Well what do you know? The next day, I had an attack far worse than anything I had experienced before. In fact, I had fits of vomiting long after my stomach had been emptied. I quickly found out that there really was something to autosuggestion. From then on, I figured that if I were to repeat anything to myself, I should be much more positive. I decided that “Perfect hearing, healthy ears” was a far better mantra.

If you wish to overcome a disease, mentally you need to move to higher ground where you are not giving that disease any thought or attention.  This is one reason why I am skeptical of reading most Meniere’s disease forums.  I tried that initially in my quest to get better and found a similar pattern

initial post:  Hi I’m Larry and I have Meniere’s disease.  I tried treatment X and it didn’t work for me.

commenter #1: Suzie here, I’m so sorry Larry.  Hang in there.  I tried treatment X also and it didn’t work for me either.  I am more miserable than ever.

commenter #2: Treatment X didn’t work for me and I’m even more miserable than Suzie.

After reading that kind of stuff for an hour, I felt worse than ever.  The most destructive part of that activity is that it dashed any hope of getting better.  I realized that a daily diet of discouragement was not helping.

So evaluate the value of information that you are feeding your brain.  If what you are reading is uplifting and helpful, by all means continue on.  If it is not, stop.

The purpose of this blog is to help people find what they need and move on.  My goal is very different from most blog owners in that I really don’t want lifelong subscribers. I would hope that readers would “graduate” from reading these postings, conquer Meniere’s and spend time reading something more fun.

Here’s to moving on.

RTC

Do Meniett devices work?

Meniere’s disease manifests itself in many different ways to different people.  Also, different treatment work for different sufferers of Meniere’s.  Treatment X may work wonders for Billy while it does nothing for Bobby.  The Meniere’s community does not lack for controversy over what does and does not effectively help.  The Meniett device is one of those things that seems to work for some and not work for others.

Meniett therapy centers around a small device that pumps air into your inner ear via a surgically placed tube.  The typical patient administers three treatments a day.  If results are to come, they will manifest within six weeks.  If no improvement is seen during that time period, the patient most likely has a form of Meniere’s which will not respond to that therapy.

If you would more information on the Meniett device, check out Medtronics website.

Studies have been done over the years as to the effectiveness of the Meniett device.  One was done at the school of medicine at the University of Washington in December of 2006. They followed the results of 58 Meniere’s patients using the Meniett device over a two year period.  Vertigo conditions improved in 39 of the 58 patients.

If you have had personal experience with a Meniett device, please share your experience in the comments section below.

 

 

The Furstenberg regimen and what it means to those with Meniere’s disease

Sometime in your study of Meniere’s disease, you may come across some mention of the Furstenberg regimen or diet.  Who is Furstenberg and what is his diet?

Albert Carl Furstenberg was born in 1890 and showed an interest in medicine at an early age.  He would accompany local physicians on house calls when he was only eight years old. He received his B.S. and M.D. from the University of Michigan.  Albert practiced medicine in Ann Arbor specialized in otolaryngology.   Doctor Furstenberg had a keen interest in Meniere’s disease and served as the dean of the University of Michigan for 24 years from 1935 to 1959.

Doctor Furstenberg promoted a regimen which consists of a low sodium diet and diuretics–both of which are still common treatments today for Meniere’s disease.  Back in 1975, a study was done to determine the effectiveness of the Furstenberg regimen.  The study declared that “the Furstenberg regimen has been quite satisfactory in relieving the most disturbing symptoms of Méniére’s disease in the vast majority of cases.” The study also mentions that the degree of success was largely tied to the strictness of the patient to adhere to the low sodium diet.

You can find the study here.

The Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA) dietary considerations for those with Meniere’s Disease

The Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA) has published dietary considerations for those with Meniere’s disease.  Many of the things I have discussed here are mentioned in the publication:

  • low-sodium diets
  • avoiding too much sugar
  • avoiding nicotine
  • avoid caffeine
  • limit alcohol consumption

Other things that the report suggests that I have not mentioned before are

  • distributing fluid and food intake throughout the day. I have personally found this useful.
  • emphasizing adequate amounts of fluid intake throughout the day.
  • avoiding migraine triggers like the amino acid tyramine or foods that contain nitrites and nitrates.
  • eating more foods with complex sugars than simple sugars.  These foods with complex sugars includes vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

In one of my blog posts, I spent a considerable amount of time talking about inspecting food labels for sodium content.  This VEDA publication goes through a similar exercise with sugar.   The report also has some tips on what to do when eating out–covering such topics as restaurant selection, where to sit in the restaurant and lighting sources to avoid.

The report is worth checking out.  Find it here.