There are few things that cause as much consternation when they set in as unexplained dizziness. While most people associate the feeling with either childhood games and spinning around, or the much more adult feeling of intoxication, dizziness is something that can occasionally occur for other reasons. And when it does, the feeling can be very unsettling, not to mention irritating. So what causes it, and what can we do about it?
What exactly is dizziness?
Dizziness is generally described as any of a combination of feelings of light-headedness, faintness, and of the world spinning inexplicably. While these feelings are all known colloquially as ‘dizziness’, there are two distinct forms of ‘dizziness’ that the same word describes, and the distinction can be an important one to make when trying to address the cause:
- Vertigo, or a feeling of movement and of the world spinning around the person despite things being still.
- Light-headedness, or a feeling of faintness and sometimes nausea, minus the ‘world moving’ feeling of vertigo.
Vertigo is most often associated with an imbalance of or issues with the fluid contained within the inner ear, which send signals via the bones of the inner ear and vestibular system to the brain telling it exactly where the body is in space relative to the ground and to gravity. This essentially keeps us upright and balanced, so we can move around and walk without falling over. When there are problems with this fluid or its viscosity, we feel ‘dizzy’ and may lose our balance.
Light-headedness is commonly associated with low blood pressure, sudden movement from seated or lying to upright or standing (orthostatic hypotension), or low blood volume and bleeding.
What causes dizziness?And what can I do about it?
There are a number of things that may cause feeling of dizziness, ranging from the benign to the serious. Some of the more common reasons include:
Inner ear health
Any condition affecting the inner ear can potentially lead to dizziness, particularly if it affects the fluid that fills the inner ear canal. This is due to the mechanism involved in maintaining our balance, which is directly related to the fluid in our inner ear – and its viscosity – which when abnormal (such as present at ‘build up’ levels, or too thick or thin) may lead to vertigo and dizziness, which can range from mild to severe, alongside tinnitus (ringing of the ear) and potential hearing issues. This can be totally idiopathic, but is more commonly related to infection, injury or autoimmunity. Medical treatment remains largely symptomatic or focused on addressing any infection or underlying cause, though for those looking outside the square or for whom standard supportive treatments don’t work and who have chronic difficulties, some have reported that osteopathic treatment has been beneficial. Focusing on a clean, whole food diet rich in immune supportive nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc, selenium, and magnesium may assist in minimizing symptoms, as well as reducing stress and anxiety where possible. Herbal medicines that can support the immune response to infection and modulate the immune system, such as Echinacea, may also be of some help, as well as those that may help support circulation, such as Ginkgo biloba, ginger, and our native kawakawa.
Blood disorders and low iron
A number of conditions related to the blood have been associated with feelings of dizziness. Blood loss, generally from injury but also associated with heavy menstruation or childbirth, can cause feelings of lightheadedness, and obviously need to be addressed quickly to stop further bleeding, which in extreme cases can be fatal. Once blood loss is stemmed, supportive measures can be taken to assist recovery. These may include:
- Drinking plenty of water and resting – A diet high in iron-rich foods such as red meat, eggs, and other meat (haem iron, the most easily absorbed form) or spinach, dried apricots, dates, broccoli and other green vegetables (non-haem vegetarian iron).
- Iron rich supplements such as spirulina, either taken as a powder in smoothies or capsules.
- Similarly, iron deficiency can also lead to feelings of dizziness. This is usually caused by low iron stores, in which case the above measures will also help to raise iron levels. However, it can also be caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. Other symptoms of iron deficiency include breathlessness, fatigue, brain fog and mood changes, weakness, headaches, and pale skin. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be addressed with:
- vitamin B12 supplements
- B complex supplements
- Food sources of B vitamins
Food sources of vitamin B12 include meat, eggs, dairy, with few plant sources providing adequate amounts, if any, making this a deficiency vegans are prone to suffering. Some gut healing work may also be necessary due to the role of intrinsic factor, produced in the stomach, in absorbing and recycling vitamin B12.
Dehydration is another common cause of dizziness, and perhaps the most easily treated. Many people don’t drink enough water, and would benefit from increasing their intake of high quality water. Aim to drink at least 1.5L of water daily for optimal functioning.
Low blood pressure
This can be a difficult one to resolve if there is no obvious cause (such as pregnancy or cardiovascular and heart disorders) but may respond to circulation support. This may take the form of herbs that support the circulatory system, such as ginger, ginkgo, cayenne and kawakawa, as well as increasing protein-rich foods and including high quality fats in the diet, with minimal grains and sugars. Causes of low blood pressure can include simple dehydration, through to pregnancy, cardiovascular disease, stress, adrenal issues, some medications, and thyroid disease, thus it is important to understand the cause if you are suffering episodes of low blood pressure.
Low blood sugar
For those prone to blood sugar problems, such as diabetics and those in a pre-diabetic state, low blood sugar or blood sugar regulation issues can result in dizziness and vertigo. Opting for a low-GI diet high in protein and fat, and low in refined sugar and carbohydrate may help support the body in processing sugars adequately. The herb Gymnema sylvestre and mineral chromium may support the body in regulating sugar, and in cluding a good multi-mineral or multi-vitamin product may help provide good nutrition to support cellular function also.
As with most things, the key to resolving issues with dizziness is to figure out the underlying cause. Once you have an idea of where the problem is stemming from, you can work on a solution, whether that be through the use of herbal medicines, dietary change, lifestyle factors or other supportive measures, and wave goodbye to feelings of dizziness for good.
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Do you suffer from dizziness? Do you know what are the causes?