Did you know that there can be a correlation between dizzy spells and eating? Turns out that the gut and vertigo go hand in hand!

There are a few ways that digestion, or your gut, can affect symptoms of dizziness and vertigo. Dizzy spells correlated with eating can be caused by fluctuations in blood sugar, effects of alcohol, sensitivity to caffeine, food triggers for vestibular migraines, acid reflux, food sensitivities, and the gut-brain connection.

This blog is focused on food sensitivities, acid reflux, the gut-brain connection and other things associated with the gut and vertigo.

Acid Reflux

If you have acid reflux (or heartburn) and dizziness, I think this article may be interesting to you.

NOTE: The link offered by the author to the study is not working, so my assistant sent her a request for the information on the research article she is referencing. We have not received a reply from the author yet.

I think the author presents a very interesting idea that the “refluxed material” can be aggravating the Eustachian tubes which run from the middle ear to the back of the throat.

I’ve had patients with vertigo episodes related to acid reflux.

This association is called “acidic labyrinthitis” and can result in tinnitus, dizziness, and vertigo.

The refluxed food particles and the stomach acids can irritate the ear, though the eustachian tube which connects the throat to the ear.

Esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus, is often involved due to the throat irritation as well.

What to do?

Consulting with a Gastro-enterologist, or GI doctor, will be helpful in diagnosis and management of any acid reflux, heartburn, and esophagitis. You may also need to consult with an ENT, or Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor.

If the acid reflux is severe or frequent, your doctor may diagnose you with GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease).

Reducing spicy food and tomato sauce seems to be a good starting place to reduce reflux from your gut and vertigo.

It’s better to remove the triggers than rely on medications to manage acid reflux, if possible. The reason is that all medications have side effects and medications for acid reflux are notoriously difficult to stop taking once you start.

If you do need to use medication to manage the acid reflux, your doctor can advise you on the best medications for you.

Many of my patients are taking anti-reflux medication along with a nasal decongestant.

I have seen success with anti-reflux medications containing alginates. Your doctor can advise you if this is appropriate for your individual health situation.

Other strategies to reduce acid reflux include:

  • Sleep upright on a wedge
  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Stop smoking
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol intake

Gut-Brain Connection

The other interesting concept is the “gut-brain connection.”

There is evidence emerging that our digestion is very closely linked to brain function.

Have you ever noticed that you feel sort of depressed after eating a lot of sugar or junk food? This is due to the gut affecting brain chemicals.

Certain foods affect the chemicals in the brain and can even trigger dizziness or vertigo.

Episodic vertigo caused by vestibular migraine or Meniere’s disease may be affected by the gut-brain connection and certain food triggers.

What to do?

If you have been diagnosed with Meniere’s disease or Migraines, I suggest you learn about the food triggers for exacerbating your condition and avoid your triggers.

Eating a food that triggers a migraine episode or Meniere’s attack can set you back for days to weeks.

Food Sensitivities

Food allergies and food sensitivities, including alcohol, can both play a role when it comes to your gut and vertigo. Most testing is limited and only capable of detecting food allergies.

I personally have been tested, but some of the foods I’m “sensitive” to did not show up as “allergies,” since they were just “food sensitivities.”

I tend to track my level of gas, bloating, fatigue, and dizziness to see if I can correlate my food with my symptoms getting worse. Then I try eliminating the possible food offenders for a week or two and see how I feel.

It’s less expensive to try elimination diets than to continually getting tested for food allergies. Testing may not even detect food sensitivities!

A major challenge here is that food sensitivities can change over time and affect your gut and vertigo.

An integrative nutritionist, holistic dietician, or Naturopathic Doctor are likely the most qualified providers to offer you medical advice on this subject.

The idea of that type of specialty care would be to get tested for food allergies and food sensitivities. The next step is to avoid those foods as work with your provider to restore your gut microbiome.

It’s way “outside the box” of traditional care but I’m seeing it more and more often as a cause of dizzy spells. I believe this is often a missing link between the gut and vertigo.

This problem can even occur in people without indigestion or bloating after meals!

If you have a mystery case of dizziness, food sensitivities are worth investigating.

Hidden Glutens

As I was personally (and begrudgingly) transitioning to a “gluten free” diet, I discovered that there are a lot of hidden glutens.

Some ingredients that can contain hidden glutens include modified food starch, dextrin, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and so-called natural flavorings.

Gluten might also be hidden in certain foods like vanilla extract, or bleu cheese, where you would not expect it.

For people with extreme gluten sensitivity, even a minor exposure can take months to recover from. I personally take a gluten digestive enzyme anytime I am not 100% sure if there are any hidden glutens in my food, or I skip eating altogether to err on the safe side.

Auto-Immune Issues

I have met people with newly developed food allergies or sensitivities, like gluten, corn, soy, dairy, etc, that causes inflammation in your gut and vertigo.

Some people need to stay away from nightshades, like eggplants, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes, because they promote inflammation as well.

An inflammatory response to certain foods can even trigger an auto-immune response in certain people.

That is when the immune system also attacks the inner ear, the nerves in the feet, or the brain.

If the dizzy spells correlate with eating, then these are important factors to consider.

One thing is for sure, you have to be your own advocate with these types of health problems.

I learned that myself after living with a mystery case of dizziness and vertigo for over 25 years!


This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.

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