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Meniere’s and food intolerance


A woman wrote:

"I was told I might have Meniere's. My hearing is affected and it's awful ... If you have any information, success stories, etc. about this, please tell me where to look"

I sent her the information below.  Two weeks later, she wrote back:

“re Meniere's, the tinnitus has gotten much quieter and my ear hasn't felt stuffed …”

I have a particular interest in this topic because my father lost the hearing in one ear at age 39 due to Meniere's.  My memory of him is that he used to take heaps of Disprin for headaches that I now realise were almost certainly food related - like mine. Plus he suffered from constant dermatitis - but of course, we didn't know about food intolerance then.  Since then I have learned that Meniere's sufferers often come from a food intolerant family. 

Meniere's can involve:

-  repeated attacks of vertigo (dizziness, spinning head)
 - tinnitus (ringing or other noises in the ears)
-  hyperacusis (sensitivity to noise)
-  fluctuating but progressive hearing loss

The ototoxicity of salicylates has only recently been recognised

Otoxicity is drug-induced damage to the inner ear, leading to hearing loss and/or balance problems.

For a long time, the effects of salicylates on hearing loss were considered to be fully reversible, but it is now known that salicylates - e.g. aspirin and anti-inflammatories such as nurofen/ibuprofen - can trigger tinnitus and irreversible hearing loss (Sheppard et al, 2014).

Dietary salicylates - and other food chemicals - can be involved too

Some people with suspected Meniere's tell us that their doctors know nothing about dietary salicylates:

"sometimes the tinnitus is so loud and of course the doctor sort of laughed when I said I thought it was from food" - Ellie 

Others say their doctors recommended diet:

" ... I tried diet because of hyperacusis and tinnitus… I mentioned to my GP that strangely my ears hurt and rang more when I ate fruit by itself. He suggested that the salicylates in food may be causing my continuing reactions. I tried the diet and it has helped my ears enormously " - from our hyperacusis factsheet

One doctor who contacted us was pleased to see dietary salicylates recognised as a contributor to Meniere's symptoms.

However, he warned that the full salicylate challenge should not be attempted due to the risk of hearing damage. This is the reason for the following warning on our salicylates factsheet: 


"With Meniere's disease, too many salicylates can lead to irreversible hearing loss, so physicians recommend that challenges not be attempted. Instead the aim is to reduce salicylate exposure from all sources (drugs, skin creams, food) until symptoms improve, while at the same time eating as many salicylate containing foods as can be managed so that the diet is not unnecessarily restricted. This is not intended as medical advice – please consult your dietitian or physician."

Success stories

Dietitians, failsafers and a failsafe audiologist tell us that reducing dietary salicylates - and other food intolerance triggers - can reduce the symptoms of:



“just being low chemical I find I don’t hear the ringing anymore. If I overload on higher (mod-high salicylates) I get ear ringing when I lay my head down to go to sleep" – Serena from story [1477]

"... sals = tinnitus for me. I have been able to eat the odd moderate salicylate containing food without nausea ... " - Sally from story [1477]

"Salicylates can exacerbate this condition we have found at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit” – RPA Dietitian from story [1477]

"I'm an audiologist. There are a number of causes for tinnitus, it is a symptom not a disease. Even at uni we learn about aspirin potentially being a cause. Anything that puts the body under stress can cause or make it worse. Illness, food intolerance, stress. In my own experience yes food intolerance was a major cause. I remember failing amines challenge ohhh the noise. (Not the only trigger in my case but was the worst)” – Jackie from story [1477]



"My mother and I have known for years that we are allergic to aspirin. We both react with ringing in the ears, nausea, vertigo, lethargy, and I even lost consciousness once … on a low salicylate diet my mother and I have both been improving so drastically that everyone is asking us what is going on”  - from story [559]



 "I have always been very sensitive to sound ... I have noticed an improvement on failsafe and agree that it is probably related to sals. I also find that I am intolerant of noise when reacting to amines ..." - from our hyperacusis factsheet 

More info

Vertigo and salicylates blog

Hyperacusis symptom discussion factsheet

Tinnitus story collection

Salicylate factsheet  

Sheppard A et al, Review of salicylate-induced hearing loss, neurotoxicity, tinnitus and neuropathophysiology, Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital, 2014;34(2):79-93.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4025186/

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Food intolerance

Some of the many symptoms of food intolerance that can be helped by diet:

Airways: Asthma, Stuffy blocked or runny nose/ nasal polyps, Frequent nose bleeds, Catarrh, chronic throat-clearing, Sinusitis, Frequent ear infections, Frequent tonsillitis, Frequent colds and flu, symptoms of Samter's Triad, hayfever, allergic rhinitis Skin: Eczema, Urticaria (hives), Cradlecap, Other skin rashes, Angioedema (swollen lips, eyes, tongue), Geographic tongue, Pruritis (itching), Rosaceae, Allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes), Pallor (pale skin), Flushing, Excessive sweating, Body odour, Sore vagina in children, Alopecia (patchy baldness) Digestive system: Irritable bowel symptoms (IBS), Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), Recurrent mouth ulcers, Indigestion, Nausea, Bad breath, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Stomach ache, Bloating, Reflux in babies, adults, Constipation, Colic in babies, adults, Sluggish bowel syndrome (feeling of "more to come"), Encopresis, Soiling (sneaky poos), Dairy intolerance, Gluten and wheat intolerance, Eating disorders (ed), anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED)  Bladder: Bedwetting, Daytime incontinence, Urinary urgency, Recurrent inflammation (cystitis) Skeletal: Growing pains, Gout, Arthritis, joint pain, arthralgia Eyes: Nystagmus (involuntary movement), Blurred vision Muscles: Low muscle tone, Myalgia (muscle pain), Tics (involuntary movement), Tremor, Leg 'jiggling', Heart: Rapid heart beat, Heart palpitations, Cardiac arrhythmias, Pseudo heart attack (feeling of impending doom, chest pressure, pain down arm), Tachycardia (fast heart beat), Angina-type pain, HHT Central nervous system: Headaches or migraines, unexplained tiredness, Chronic fatigue, Feeling 'hung-over', Confusion, Dizziness, Agitation, Tinnitus (noises in ear), HyperacusisAuditory sensory processing disorder (ASPD), Paraesthesia (pins and needles), Dysaesthesia (numbness), Hypoglycemia, Salicylate-induced hypoglycemia, Epileptic seizures, Fits, Sensory symptoms of multiple sclerosis, Scents and perfume sensitivity, Symptoms of lupus Anxiety: Panic attacks, Depression, Obsessive ruminations (repetitively focusing on bad feelings and experiences from the past), Self harm, Suicidal thoughts, actions, teeth grinding (bruxism) Impaired memory: Vague or forgetful, Unable to concentrate, Won't persevere, Unmotivated, Disorganised, Easily distracted, Difficulty reading and writing Speech: Loud voice (no volume control), Speech hard to understand, Speech delay, Selective mutism, Stuttering, Repetitive noises, Talks too much (empty chatter) Coordination: Poor handwriting, Poor coordination, Frequent accidents, Vertigo Sleep: Difficulty falling asleep, Restless legs syndrome (RLS), Persistent night waking, Insomnia, Nightmares/night terrors/sleepwalking, Sleepless babies, Sleep apnoea Mood: Brain snaps, Mood swings, Premenstrual tension, Grizzly or unhappy, Cries easily or often, Irritable, Uncooperative Oppositional defiance: ODD, Loses temper, Argumentative, Refuses requests, Defies rules, Deliberately annoys others, Blames others for own mistakes, Touchy, easily annoyed, Angry, resentful Other behaviour: ADHD, ADD, Autism, Aspergers, Inattentive, easily bored, unmotivated, 'Unable to entertain himself', Restless, fidgety or overactive, Head banging, Hyperactivity, Fights with siblings, Difficulty making friends, Destructive, aggressive, Unreasonable, Tantrums, Demanding, never satisfied, Disruptive, Discipline is ineffective, Pervasive Development Disorder

Some causes of food intolerance:

Food additives: Artificial colours: (food dyes, artificial colors) tartrazine 102 (E102, FD&C Yellow No.5), quinoline yellow 104 (E104), sunset yellow 110 (E110, FD&C Yellow No.6), azorubine, carmoisine 122 (E122), amaranth 123 (E123), ponceau, brilliant scarlet 124 (E124), erythrosine 127 (E127, FD&C Red No.3), allura red 129 (E129, FD&C Red No.40), indigotine, indigo carmine 132 (E132, FD&C Blue No.2), brilliant blue 133 (E133, FD&C Blue No.1), green S, food green, acid brilliant green 142 (E142), fast green FCF 143 (E143, FD&C Green No.3), brilliant black 151 (E151), brown, chocolate brown 155 (E155)  Natural colours: (colors) Annatto (annatto extracts, bixin, norbixin, 160b, E160b) Preservatives: Sorbates: (sorbic acid 200, E200, sodium sorbate 201, E201, potassium sorbate 202, E202, calcium sorbate 203, E203) Benzoates, hydroxybenzoates, parabens: (including benzoic acid 210, E210, sodium benzoate 211, E211, potassium benzoate 212, E212, calcium benzoate 213, E213, ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 214, E214, sodium ethyl para-hydroxybenzoate 215, E215, propylparaben 216, E216, propyl 4 hydroxybenzoate 217, E217, methylparaben 218, E218) Sulfites, bisulfites, metabisulfites: (200-228, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sulfur dioxide 220, E220, sodium sulphite 221, E221, sodium bisulphite 222, E222, sodium metabisulphite 223, E223, potassium metabisulphite 224, E224, potassium sulphite 225, E225, calcium sulphite 226, E226, calcium bisulfite 227, E227, potassium bisulphite 228, E228) Nitrates & nitrites: (249-252, potassium nitrite 249, E249, sodium nitrite 250, E250, sodium nitrate 251, E251, potassium nitrate 252, E252 Propionates: (bread preservative, mould inhibitor 280-283: propionic acid 280, E280, sodium propionate 281, E281, calcium propionate 282, E282, potassium propionate 283, E283, 'natural' preservatives in bread, cultured or fermented wheat, dextrose, sugar, flour, whey or anything) Synthetic antioxidants: Gallates 310, 311, 312 (E310, E311, E312), tBHQ 319, E319, BHA 320, E320, BHT 321, E321 Flavour enhancers: (flavor enhancers) glutamic acid and all glutamates, MSG monosodium glutamate 620-625, yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable protein HVP, disodium guanylate 627 (E627, DSG, GMP), disodium inosinate 631 (E631, DSI, IMP), ribonucleotides 635 (E635, I&G, nucleotides)  Flavours: (flavors)  Natural food chemicals: Salicylates: salicylic acid, sodium salicylate, acetylsalicylic acid Biogenic amines: vasoactive amines (tyramine, phenylethylamine, histamine and others) Glutamates:  Natural foods: Dairy: milk, yoghurt, cheese, butter, lactose-free milks Wheat or Gluten: (wheat, rye, barley, oats) Soy: Sugar free sweeteners:Sugar free sweeteners: polyols, sorbitol, mannitol

On this website, failsafe refers to foods that are Free of Additives and Low in Salicylates, Amines and Flavour Enhancers. Note that copyright applies to the commercial use of the term "failsafe" in the food and health context so as to control inappropriate use by the food and health industries.