Category Archives: vertigo

Natural Approaches for Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

Two weeks ago I woke up, sat up and almost fell off the bed because it felt as if I were spinning. (I promise I was sober.) As the day progressed, the dizziness occurred frequently. It became increasingly worse day by day. It took a few days before I realized I was suffering from what is commonly known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Vertigo and dizziness can have many different causes, some of which are serious and some of which are not serious at all. It is very important to seek professional assistance to identify the cause of dizziness, especially if the dizziness occurs repeatedly.

This must be said:  “Vertigo” does NOT mean a fear of heights; it means dizziness.

There are several different types of vertigo. Please note that this article is about Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). The information it contains pertains solely to that form of vertigo and is not applicable to most other forms of vertigo. Please work a trained health professional to identify the form of vertigo you have. Do not attempt self-treatment for vertigo, as several forms of it may be caused by serious health issues requiring medical attention.

BPPV is a vertigo that occurs when the head changes position. Deep within the structure of a normal ear, there are Spinning Man BPPVvery tiny hairs which have calcium carbonate crystals attached to them. When the head and body move, the hairs and their attached crystals send signals to the brain about the change in position. The body uses that information to maintain balance. BPPV occurs when one or more of the calcium carbonite crystals becomes unattached and floats into the fluid-filled tubes just outside of their correct location. Once they arrive in the wrong location, the crystals move when the head moves and wind up stimulating neurons erratically. The erratic neurological stimulation sends misinformation to the brain about the body’s position. That misinformation causes vertigo as the body tries to maintain balance using misinformation. The dizziness typically occurs when the head is tilted up or down, but may also occur when the head is turned to the right or left.

In the simplest terms, vertigo can either be the sensation that the world is spinning or that the person’s body is spinning. Sometimes the vertigo lasts for a few seconds, other times it can last for up to a minute. People who have frequent vertigo of a long duration often also experience nausea. Luckily, BPPV typically only occurs in one ear, which makes it easier to control the head movements that trigger the vertigo.

No one knows what causes BPPV, but all of the following have been found to have potential involvement:

  • A viral or bacterial inner-ear infection
  • A head injury or blow to the head
  • Poor calcium metabolism
  • A Vitamin D deficiency
  • Meniere’s Disease and other inner-ear conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Estrogen deficiency

What is is like to have vertigo? Imagine trying to walk down a flight a stairs having to look straight ahead because looking down at your feet causes dizziness so severe you have to sit down to avoid falling. Now imagine trying to drive without moving your head, or trying to give a presentation and not being able to use notes because the change between looking down at the notes and up at the audience causes dizziness so severe you become completely disoriented. Imagine trying to put dishes away and having to hold onto the counter to avoid falling down every time you look up to reach a shelf. Imagine falling and not knowing where to reach to break the fall because you can’t tell which way is up. Imagine knowing that every time your turn your face up to kiss your very tall husband you will wind up spinning in a way you never have before. If you were able to successfully imagine those sensations, then you have a slight sense of what vertigo is and how much it interferes with daily life.

Living with BPPV and having every daily activity affected took a toll. I began researching, but found very little help. Most of what I read said BPPV goes away on its own in a few days to a few months. That was not an acceptable answer!

I visited my doctor. She used a test called the Dix-Hallpike Maneuver (a series of head and body movements to measure the degree of vertigo that corresponds with each movement) to confirm the vertigo was caused by BPPV and not by physiological imbalances. She confirmed I had BPPV and recommended a set of home exercises. Unfortunately, those exercises made things worse instead of better.

For those who are seeking exercises for BPPV, the most common ones are the Epley Maneuver, The Semont Maneuver and the Brandt-Daroff exercises. The purpose of the exercises is to move the calcium crystals to locations in the inner-ear where they cause less disruption. Most of the exercises are supposed to be done one to three times daily. The hope is that the repetition of the exercises will gradually move the crystals to a location where they no longer cause problems. One problem with these exercises is that the same movements are used regardless of which ear is affected.

My biggest frustration with BPPV treatment approaches is that they all deal with diminishing the symptoms, not with addressing the cause. My goal became to figure out how to eliminate the calcium carbonite crystals instead of simply moving them around several times a day. In my case, I suspected the calcium supplement I had taken for my broken foot had not been metabolized well, leading to problems with the crystals in the inner-ear. I cannot definitively say the poorly chosen calcium supplement was the cause of the vertigo, but my gut instinct knows it was. I bought the synthetic calcium because the store was out of the whole food calcium I usually recommend. I thought my broken foot needed the calcium right away. I will never make that mistake again!

There are a few supplements commonly recommended for BPPV, such as Gingko Biloba, Hawthorne Berry, Omega 3s, etc. Unfortunately, I have never seen those remedies work quickly or efficiently. I was therefore determined to find a solution that brought quick relief. My doctor recommended a prescription called Antivert, which has negative side effects including drowsiness, constipation, persistent cough, dry mouth and others. Oddly enough, one of the ironic side effects of Antivert is dizziness. I filled the prescription in a moment of desperation, but it did not help, made me very tired and caused horrible constipation. I chose to never use it again.

I am happy to say I was able to completely resolve the BPPV using the following approaches:

  • The Foster Method:  The Foster Method is a set of exercises developed by an MD who developed BPPV. She designed the exercises after thoroughly studying the anatomy of the inner-ear and considering what would be required to move the crystals into a location where the body could eliminate them. She also created two distinct sets of movements, one for BPPV occurring on each side of the head. I am happy to say I got immediate relief using the Foster Method. I repeated the exercises three times daily until the problem disappeared. (You can find instructions on how to do the Foster Method here: The Foster Method.)
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  • Zeolite:  Zeolite is a volcanic mineral commonly used for heavy metal detoxification. Zeolite is incredibly effective because its molecules have a honeycomb shape that easily attaches to and binds with other mineral structures. Since heavy metals and calcium are all minerals, it occurred to me that taking Zeolite might help my body eliminate the crystals that were causing the problem. (Zeolite does not negatively affect bones and teeth, but is drawn to any minerals which are not where they should be.) I noticed improvement within a few days of starting to take the Zeolite. I continue to take it, but doubt I will purchase another bottle when this one is gone. I used Omica Organics Zeolite Capsules, but many people prefer the Omica Organics Zeolite Liquid. I cannot find any other site recommending Zeolite for BPPV, but it seems to have worked wonders for me.

I will add that while I had BPPV I ate a very clean anti-inflammatory diet, continued exercising and took good care of myself in every way possible. I am certain those factors contributed to my speedy recovery. 

Have you dealt with BPPV? What worked for you?

Photograph provided courtesy of Marco.