Many adults have experienced at least once in their life balance disorders. Balance disorders can be caused by medications, several health conditions like conditions related to the ear or the brain. One of the most common balance disorders is vertigo. (1)
What is vertigo?
Vertigo is considered as a symptom, rather than a condition itself. It's the sensation of losing balance, feeling that you, or the environment around you, is spinning or moving. Vertigo may be barely noticeable or very severe making you unable to walk properly and do everyday tasks. Vertigo attacks may occur regularly and can develop suddenly. Their duration may be a few seconds or they may last much longer, especially if untreated. (2)
What are the causes of vertigo?
Causes of vertigo can be classified into two categories: central and peripheral. Central causes of vertigo have a brain or spinal cord origin while peripheral vertigo occurs after a problem within the inner ear. (3) Causes of vertigo may include:
• benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – this is a condition where some specific head movements trigger vertigo.
• migraines – characterized by severe headaches.
• vestibular neuronitis – it is an inflammatory condition of the vestibular nerve. This nerve runs into the inner ear and is responsible for sending messages to the brain that play a role to control balance.
• labyrinthitis – an inflammatory condition of the inner ear, usually caused by infection. (2)
• Meniere's disease. Patients having Meniere's disease complain about experiencing a sense of full or blocked ear. Later they get a roaring sound in the ear and the hearing goes out followed by severe vertigo. The spinning usually lasts from a quarter of an hour up to half a day, with the average being 1-3 hours. (4)
Other vertigo causes are: stroke, brain tumors, head or neck injuries and certain medications that cause ear damage.
Symptoms of Vertigo
In case of severe vertigo, your symptoms may last for several days, causing several difficulties in everyday tasks. (2)
The typical vertigo symptoms are: tilting, spinning, swaying, unbalanced, pulled to one direction. Vertigo symptoms also include: vomiting, headache, feeling nauseated, abnormal or jerking eye movements, hearing loss, sweating, ringing in the ears. (5)
How is vertigo treated? Lifestyle and exercise tips to improve the disorder
Depending on the causal factor, there are cases of vertigo that improve over time without treatment. In case of regular vertigo attacks, there are specific treatments according to the cause of vertigo. For example, Otolaryngologists use head movements to treat BPPV. Additionally, medication may be necessary and help in the early stages or most cases of vertigo. (6) Many people with vertigo also benefit from vestibular rehabilitation training (VRT), which refers to exercises for people with balance and dizziness problems. A physiotherapist or hearing specialist may provide VRT (6)
Furthermore, there are things you can do yourself to help relieve your symptoms: avoid bending down to pick up items, do exercises to correct your symptoms, sleep with the head slightly raised on a couple of pillows, get up slowly when getting out of bed and before standing you are suggested to sit on the edge of the bed for a minute. Moreover, you should avoid extending your neck, try to move your head carefully and slowly. (2)
Supplements that may help the disorder
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a significant role for your body. Magnesium can be found in nuts, dark leafy vegetables, bananas, legumes and others. Deficiency of magnesium affects the brain and nerve function. People with low magnesium levels may experience vertigo attacks. In a study among hypomagnesemic patients, magnesium supplementation resulted to amelioration of the symptoms. (7)
Vitamin D is also known as the vitamin of the sun, because sun is its main source. Calcium and Vitamin D are closely related due to their role in bone formation. Additionally, these two nutrients are involved in benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. A recently published study has shown that Vitamin D deficiency and decreased calcium levels may increase risk for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo and increase its recurrence. This study also reported that the recurrences might possibly be reduced after supplementary intake of Vitamin D. (8)
B-12 Vitamin is mainly found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products and plays a key role in the brain health and in the production of red blood cells. B-12 deficiency can lead to anemia which often causes a feeling of light-headedness or vertigo. In case of frequent vertigo attacks, Vitamin B-12 may help you treat this unpleasant condition. (9)
Potassium is one of the most important minerals of the body. Cereals, beans, dried fruits and vegetables are the most common food sources of potassium. Potassium supplementation is used to treat Meniere's disease, which is one of the causes of vertigo. (10)
Ginkgo is a tree with fan-shaped leaves. Ginkgo is easily found and grown in Asia, especially Japan, China and Korea. (11) According to Mayo Clinic, Ginkgo oral supplementation is beneficial against vertigo. (12) Additionally, a literature review concludes that ginkgo extract is effective in cases of vertigo. (13)
Ginger is a plant that is widely used as a spice or a folk medicine. Ginger has been used as a vertigo treatment for many years, especially in Chinese Medicine. It is often recommended by dietitians for nausea during pregnancy. There is a study reporting that ginger can be used as antiemetic in vertigo attacks. Ginger can be consumed raw, in capsules, as a ginger oil, in tea and as a powder supplement. (14)
To sum up, vertigo is a condition that affects many adults and its incidence is very high among elders. Its severity and symptoms vary and it may cause several difficulties in everyday tasks, affecting the quality of life. Even though there are some exercises and medications used to treat vertigo, there are some supplements like Vitamin D, Vitamin-B12 and others, that can help you reduce the severity of vertigo or even reduce its recurrence.
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