SHERYL AFONSO e D’SOUZA
CLINICAL NUTRITIONIST (NORBERT’S FITNESS STUDIO) & ASST. PROFESSOR (POST GRADUATE DEGREE STUDIES, CARMEL COLLEGE)
Dizziness is a term used to describe a range of sensations, such as feeling faint, light-headed, weak, or unsteady, and in the simplest of cases, is related to food deprivation or a feeling of hunger that sets in when the body and the brain are devoid of glucose (energy). Dizziness that creates the false sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving is called vertigo, and in this case, dizziness is often accompanied by nausea, and may last days or it may recur. When dizziness is complemented with double vision, irregular heartbeats, a sudden change in hearing, or chest pains it is advisable you contact your doctor immediately. Medication and poor circulation are other reasons for dizziness in individuals. Sometimes, you may simply stand up too fast after sitting a long time, and this sudden shift in fluid volumes and blood flow can cause temporary dizziness. Do note the time period that the dizziness lasts for and any other symptoms to help pinpoint the exact reasons for your dizziness. Deciphering the reason/s for your dizziness should be the first step before you consider dietary modification to deal with dizziness.
In an older population, the most common medically-related causes of dizziness include Inner ear problems, Vestibular neuritis, Labyrinthitis, Meniere’s disease (caused by an excessive buildup of fluid in the inner ear), and Orthostatic or Postprandial hypotension (low blood pressure). Food-related causes of dizziness include Migraines, Anemia, Hypoglycemia, and Dehydration.
Eating usually helps to reduce dizziness by boosting blood sugar, especially when the time between meals is too far apart. In diabetic populations, increased insulin dosage or intake of hypoglycemic drugs not supported with adequate carbohydrate in the diet can cause dizziness. Eating a simple carbohydrate food such as a juice or a chocolate or a teaspoon of sugar can help in such instances.
Postprandial hypotension, which occurs after eating, is caused by an increased blood flow to the stomach and intestines. As a result, the heart rate speeds up to pump more blood through the body. The blood vessels also tighten. Both factors can cause a person to feel dizzy after eating. People with high blood pressure are at risk for postprandial hypotension, and dizziness caused due to this can be kept at bay by choosing high-fibre containing foods at each meal (whole grains, vegetables, fruits). Drinking plenty of water, especially before a meal, can also increase the amount of blood volume in a person’s body so that their blood pressure is less likely to drop.
Some foods – alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, dairy, pickles, nuts, and foods containing MSG – can, in susceptible individuals, trigger a migraine that makes one feel dizzy. People with conditions like vertigo or Meniere’s disease may also find their dizziness gets worse after eating certain foods, especially those with a high salt content and alcohol. Including dietary sources of vitamin B6 (pistachio, fish, apricots) can also help keep dizziness at bay in people with these medical conditions.
Dehydration is another common cause of dizziness in the older population, especially because of their decreased thirst perception which causes them to drink less amounts of water. If anemia (low Hb levels) is the cause of your dizziness, make sure that you increase your intake of iron-containing foods such as leafy vegetables, beans, sprouts, lean meats, and dried fruits, and top each serving of the former with good quantities of vitamin C foods (citrus fruits, bell peppers, berries).
Maintaining a diary that lists the foods causing a spell of dizziness can help you identify the exact reason for your condition, and you can then have your personalized list of foods to counter dizziness.