Curing Vertigo: The Novel
Do you know anyone with vertigo? Or have you ever had it? I hope not. It is not only terrifying, but a major nuisance! Today I'm sharing my story and what I've tried in my journey to cure my vertigo. Spoiler: there's no real "cure" for vertigo, but there are ways to lessen its frequency and shorten the length of your episodes.
My first vertigo episode happened about five years ago and it was a doozy. I was sleeping on my back and I rolled over in the middle of the night and the room started spinning. I tried to lift my head off of the bed and I was slammed back down--as if some giant force was pushing me back to the bed.
I literally could not get vertical. It was terrifying. And worse: I really had to pee.
Joe had fallen asleep while playing video games in the basement two floors down and he wasn't answering his cell phone. It was a long 2-3 hours before he finally woke up and answered my call :)
He was able to force me vertical and I steadied myself and got my bearings, so that I could go to the bathroom (my knight in shining armor LOL).
I was unsteady while standing and walking, and would spin out if I laid down. I was pretty sure it was vertigo (my sister has had it for years and I recently discovered both of my parents have, too), but I wanted to be sure and decided to go to the doctor. Long story short, I was diagnosed with vertigo.
Not to brag or anything, but after 20 minutes of the Epley Maneuver (a common way to treat vertigo) to ease some of my symptoms, my doctor gave up and said it was the worst case he'd ever seen! I was so proud. Not.
It took weeks to get over that first bout of vertigo. He gave me a bottle full of Meclizine and I took it three times a day. Which meant, I slept all day long.
Meclizine is just Dramamine! I had no idea. I thought I was getting the magical cure in a pill.
When it hadn't cleared after two weeks, the doc told me he'd give it another week and then he'd send me for a brain scan to rule out a tumor. We both were convinced it was not a tumor, but he had to be sure. It cleared by the following week.
Vertigo is a PITA
The thing about vertigo is that it is not only scary, it is SUPER ANNOYING. As a mother of two young children, vertigo is a pain in the rear. And there is no cure.
Two Types of Vertigo?
I've heard conflicting information from different doctors, but after digging around on the internet, I found some answers.
1. Pressure in Ears and Head
My first doctor told me that I didn't have 'the vertigo where the crystals are moved in the ear", AKA: benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), but I had vertigo due to too much fluid and pressure in my head. Hence why he was unable to correct it with the Epley Maneuver.
When I mentioned this to my doctors here in Colorado, they looked at me like I was crazy. BUT, after living with this for so many years. I know there is a difference. And this article, "Pressure in Ears and Head--Causes and Treatment" validated my anecdotal experience.
Sinus congestion can build up pressure in your sinuses and the eustachian tube in your ear which affects your balance.
2. Peripheral Vertigo (or BPPV)
Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo occurs when small crystals move out of place and into the fluid of your inner ear and interfere with your ability to balance. It typically happens when you roll over in bed, tip your head back when you wash your hair, or when you lie back at the beauty salon.
3. Central Vertigo
Central vertigo is caused by brain injury, diseases, strokes, and migraines.
"While episodes of peripheral vertigo tend to pass quickly, central vertigo often comes without warning and may last for long periods of time. The episodes are generally much more intense than peripheral, and you may be unable to stand or walk without help."
Confused yet? Yep, I hear ya. I'm really lucky that I've experienced all three :) haha!
And I try to avoid vertigo (no matter the type!) as much as possible for obvious reasons. Over the years, after paying close attention, I have been able to target my vertigo triggers.
I have always had sinus congestion and infections and realized that my chance for vertigo goes up when I'm super congested or if I'm sick.
Sinus headaches have plagued me. I used to get three sinus infections a year before I went on a nightly Zyrtec regimen about 15 years ago. That definitely helped, but I still down two sudafed and two advil almost daily. And sometimes twice a day! (Before I met my chiropractor, anyway. See below.)
Lying flat on my back will never be an option as it's an instant trigger. Which sucks because I really like sleeping on my back. whomp whomp
I think lying on my back is when the crystals try to make their move for me, so I avoid it at all costs.
I also realized (the very hard way) that I am guaranteed to get a raging migraine and vertigo after being exposed to strong chemicals/fragrances such as mainstream cleaning products and paint. Ask me how I know :)
Not being able to paint is a problem in that I am the primary painter in the house! Luckily, I had almost finished painting every room in the house (and the dark wood trim) except one of the bedrooms, so there is no great urgency.
Here's what I've tried in an effort to clear up my sinuses and hopefully then, end my battle with vertigo.
Steps I've Taken to Cure Vertigo: What's Worked and What Hasn't
I buy into alternative medicine and the practice of placing needles into specific meridian points on the body that correspond with the pain or ailment to ease symptoms. I think because I didn't connect with my acupuncturist, it just never took. I only went 3-4 times.
She did, however, get me to do a candida cleanse that I think helped my overall health.
Acupuncture could help you gain overall better health, but I wouldn't say it's a cure for vertigo in the purest form of treatment.
The candida cleanse was prescribed by the acupuncturist I saw. Her theory was that I had candida overgrowth in my intestines and that the excess was being "sent" or stored in my sinus cavities.
This made sense to me as I've suffered with candida related ailments all of my life. (And why I avoid taking antibiotics unless I'm knocking on death's door LOL)
The candida cleanse is not too complicated, but you have to be dedicated and willing to drink a very gross drink right when you wake up in the morning :)
The cocktail roto-roots your digestive wall to kick up the candida that has been living there and then some supplements in your drink basically feed off of it, thus ridding it of your intestines.
I didn't feel some earth shattering shift, but I felt good that I was starting with a clean slate.
Candida overgrowth is a real thing and can lead to symptoms like: digestive issues, chronic fatigue, skin irritation, depression, headaches, etc.
The candida cleanse didn't clear my sinus congestion, so I wouldn't say this helped cure my vertigo, but if you've long suffered from vague symptoms and you are sick and tired (literally), you may want to research candida overgrowth. There is a very simple candida saliva test that you can do to determine if you have it.
Ear Nose and Throat Doctor for Allergy Testing and MRI
The first ENT I went to did an MRI to make sure there was nothing structurally wrong with my sinus cavity. I have to tell you, I thought for sure that the MRI would show major swelling in my sinuses, or some structural blockage, but the scan was as clear as you can get!
That was followed by the skin prick test of all tests. They tested me for everything they could and everything came back negative. How is that even possible?
The blood tests also came back negative, too.
This was a bust for me, but I've heard there are ENT's who specialize in vertigo, so that might be something I need to consider.
Diet Changes and Clean Eating
Whole30 much? I've done a couple and when I'm not eating squeaky clean, I eat a Paleo diet.
This approach to eating has helped me feel better in so many ways. I have more energy, less brain fog, less headaches, better digestion. I highly recommend it for everyone.
Eating paleo helps keep my overall health and energy in check, but it wasn't a cure for my vertigo.
Give Up Alcohol (gasp)
This goes along with clean eating. Honestly, I never have been able to tolerate alcohol very well. Don't get me wrong: the side effects can be relaxing and fun, but drinking always immediately made me stuffed up and my toes would get itchy and red. SO ANNOYING. Plus, I never woke up after a night of drinking without feeling gross.
Bottom line: I want to feel good. And alcohol makes me feel bad. It was an easy choice.
Giving up alcohol definitely lessened my sinus congestion, so I'd say this helped with my vertigo symptoms and frequency.
Food Sensitivity Testing: The ALCAT
Despite eating clean, I had a sneaking suspicion that there was something I've been eating on the regular that has given me this constant sinus congestion.
And when you test negative for every allergen in the skin test and blood test at your allergists' office, you opt to have the Alcat.
The Alcat is a test done in a lab where different foods are introduced to your blood and the lab watches to measure cellular activity when they are together.
NOTE: this doesn't mean you have an allergy to the food. It's just one indicator. The true test is always a food intolerance test. That's where you don't eat the food for one month and then eat it with every meal the day after to flood your system.
If you have no symptoms, you are in the clear! If you do have symptoms, it's best to assume you should avoid the food.
It takes about a month to get the results and mine are in: I have a moderate "allergy" to egg whites, cumin, white potatoes, radishes, dill, almonds, peppermint, mango, turnips, and vanilla. A HA! That's why I have an itchy throat after drinking my very favorite tea on the planet: vanilla chai tea. I had already given it up after doing a recent Whole30 because I had noticed how I react to it.
I'm on my third week of no egg whites. It's easier since I can still eat yokes--let's face it, those are the best part!
I also gave up white potatoes. Another thing I eat ALL THE TIME. I'm also on week three of no chips, fries, hash....all of my vices (so that's been fun).
Alcat testing can be very helpful in narrowing down foods that trigger sinus congestion, so I'd say, "try it" if you are at your wits end. Food is powerful and knowing what foods you are sensitive to could be the missing link in your vertigo journey.
Chiropractic care is not a cure for vertigo, but it truly does help you maintain optimal health. Plus, getting adjusted helps once you become congested. My chiropractor and I joke that I come it for him to give me a "flush" when I'm all clogged up. I won't go into more details than that, but let's say you may need extra tissues. (so gross, sorry!)
For me, seeing a chiropractor has reduced my hopelessness about it all. Knowing that I can rely on him to help not only my sinuses, but my back pain, or any other pain I'm having is such a relieve. Everything is connected to the nerves in our spine, so keeping it aligned and healthy is one way to maintaining good health!
Having hope and faith that I can feel better is a gift.
Seeing a chiropractor has so many benefits for overall health and for me, it has definitely helped me keep my sinuses moving and open which lessens my sinus headaches/pressure. I'd definitely recommend seeing a good chiropractor to help you with your vertigo symptoms.
The Epley maneuver is very effective when it comes to the Peripheral or BPPV vertigo. It can make you very nauseous, so remember to do it on an empty stomach.
There is another newer maneuver, The Half Somersault, that was created by Colorado native, Dr. Carol Foster, who suffered from BPPV vertigo and figured out a new way to fix it.
These maneuvers definitely help with BPPV symptoms and I highly recommend them! You can't prevent vertigo, but these can help shorten their length and intensity.
Sudafed is the greatest invention ever created. I probably take way more than is recommended, but it does help reduce the sinus pressure and helps me less woozy on those days when I'm clogged up, but not spinning.
I also use a nasal spray, which also helps!
Definitely try sudafed to help with vertigo--I guarantee it will help you.
I bought an oil diffuser and a blend of oils specifically to help with congestion from my chiropractor (I believe they use Young Living Oils.). I'm sure it's helpful and getting extra moisture into our house is a benefit for everyone. But I just could never remember to do it before bed.
I moved it downstairs into the entry to see if that would help, but I've only run it once.
I know many people who swear by essential oils, but I guess it's just too high maintenance for me right now--I am high maintenance enough as it is LOL
If you have the discipline, essential oils could work to help your congestion and vertigo symptoms.
Removing Toxins from Skincare and Makeup
1. Beauty Products
There is a lot of debate about how much of the cosmetic chemicals we are absorbing through our skin, our largest organ, when applied. This article, "Can Cosmetics be Absorbed Through Your Bloodstream?" was a fair and balanced look at the ingredients we are putting on our skin and how they get absorbed.
I think our skin does a pretty good job of protecting us and removing harsh chemicals before they reach our bloodstream--that's part of its job! But I don't know for sure, so I err on the side of caution.
For me, the biggest thing I like to avoid (in my entire life, really) is fragrance. And fragrance is in most mainstream beauty products.
I can't do fragrance. It immediately inflames my sinuses. Fragrance turns me into a dreaded "mouth breather" :( I've learned to hide my mouth breathing when I walk past a perfume counter at the mall or God forbid, a Bath and Body Works (the worst).
As a general rule, I'm trying to use products that are plant-based. Most non-toxic, or "green beauty" products don't use artificial fragrance. They rely on essential oils. And sometimes those are too potent for me, so I have to get picky.
I landed on Primally Pure for most of my skincare needs and I haven't looked back.
I've been a fan of Laura's Natural Life for years and really connected with her health story. She got very sick as a result of off-gassing from materials used in building her brand new home.
I started devouring her materials and even purchased her toxic-free beauty course, Clean Beauty Academy. I highly recommend it.
Thankfully, there are tons of toxic-free, clean skincare and makeup lines available. That wasn't always the case! I'll do my next post soon about what I've tried and what I'm loving.
2. Household Cleaners
Removing household toxic filled cleaning products--this is a tough one since I have a bad clorox wipe addiction. Wipes are just so easy! But they are bad for multiple reasons. And kicking the habit wasn't as hard as I thought.
Good ol' vinegar and water is an easy cleaning solution and there are a lot of non-toxic household cleaning lines now: Honest, Seventh Generation, Planet, Bon-Ami, etc.
Removing toxins from my life definitely is helping keep my sinuses in check, so I'd say this is a strategy to use when trying to cure your vertigo.
Present Day Vertigo
Aside from a few middle of the night mini-vertigo's as I turn to sleep on my left side, or when I wash my hair, I have been somewhat vertigo-free for months. I did get cocky last month and did a quick 10-minute spray paint job in the basement and that put me out of commission for most of the next day.
Joe bought me a ventilator mask and that really helps! I had to paint the bathroom walls recently and I used Low-VOC paint and wore the ventilator mask the entire time. I didn't wake up with vertigo!! Game.Changer.
If you are struggling with vertigo and want to chat or ask me about anything I've tried, please message me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It can feel lonely and depressing when there is no one cause and treatment varies for everyone. I've felt helpless and frustrated at times and it would be so much easier if there was a way to talk about it with other people who are struggling.
I hope this information helped you if you are suffering from vertigo and looking for answers--and that it helps get you on the right track toward managing your symptoms :) Good luck!