Hydrops & Suggested Meniere’s Diet Patient Information
Why do hydrops symptoms occur?
The fluid-filled hearing and balance structures of the inner ear normally function independently of
the body’s overall fluid balance. In the normal inner ear, the fluid is maintained at a constant
volume and contains specific concentrations of sodium, potassium, chloride and other electrolytes.
This fluid bathes the sensory cells of the inner ear and allows them to function normally.
With injury or degeneration of the inner ear structures, independent control may be lost. The
volume and concentration of the inner ear fluid may fluctuate with changes in the body’s fluid
balance. This fluctuation can cause symptoms of hydrops. Hydrops symptoms may include
pressure or fullness in the ears, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hearing loss, dizziness and imbalance.
How do I control hydrops symptoms by diet?
Your inner ear fluid is influenced by certain substances in your blood and other body fluids. For
example, when you eat foods that are high in salt or sugar, your blood concentrations of salt or
sugar increase. This can then affect the concentration of substances in your inner ear and make
your symptoms worse.
People with certain balance disorders must control the amount of salt and sugar that is added to
food. Awareness of hidden salts and sugars in foods must also be considered. Limiting or
reducing your use of caffeine and alcohol will also help reduce the symptoms of dizziness and
ringing in the ears.
What are the dietary goals to manage hydrops?
The overall goal is to ensure stable fluid balance so that secondary fluctuations in the inner ear
fluid can be avoided. In order to achieve this goal, the following steps are recommended:
- Distribute your food and fluid intake evenly throughout the day. Eat the same amount for
each meal and do not skip meals. If you eat snacks, have them at regular times.
- Avoid foods which have a high sugar or salt content. Aim for a diet which is high in fresh
fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in canned, frozen and processed foods.
- Drink adequate amounts of fluid daily. Such fluid should include water, milk and low sugar
fruit juices. Coffee, tea and carbonated soft drinks should not be counted as part of this
intake. You should try and anticipate fluid loss that will occur with exercise or heat and
replace these fluids before they are lost.
- You should avoid caffeine-containing fluids and foods such as coffee, tea and chocolate.
Caffeine is a diuretic that causes excessive urinary loss of fluids. Caffeine also has stimulant
properties that may make your symptoms worse.
- You should reduce or eliminate your alcohol intake. Alcohol can affect the inner ear
directly and change the volume and concentration of the inner ear fluid. This can result in
an increase in symptoms.
- You should avoid foods that contain MSG (monosodium glutamate). This is often present
in pre-packaged food products and in some Asian food. It may increase symptoms in some
What drugs need to be thought about in regards to hydrops?
Certain drugs can make hydrops symptoms worse. In order to minimise symptoms, the following
steps are recommended:
- Unless required for a medical condition, avoid aspirin and medications that contain aspirin.
These medications can increase dizziness and tinnitus. Discuss with your health
practitioner if necessary.
- Avoid caffeine-containing medications
- Pay attention to over the counter medications as well as some drugs prescribed by health
practitioners or alternative medicine therapists for other problems. Such medications may
increase your symptoms.
- Avoid cigarettes. The nicotine present in cigarettes constricts blood vessels and will
decrease the blood supply to the ear. This may make symptoms worse.
Concerns or questions?
You can contact your ENT Specialist at the Melbourne ENT Group (MEG):
Your GP is also the best contact for ongoing care and concerns.