ALLERGIC REACTIONS: MÉNIÈRE'S SYNDROME. MENOPAUSE PROBLEMS
The symptoms of the ear disorder called Ménière's syndrome (or Ménière's disease) are: ringing in the ears (tinnitus); extreme sensitivity to loud sounds; gradual loss of hearing; headaches; and vertigo (a spinning sensation), sometimes accompanied by nausea. Some attacks last only minutes, others continue for hours. Episodes of Ménière's can occur frequently or several weeks apart. Strangely enough, the syndrome affects mostly men between the ages of forty and sixty. In nine out of ten cases, only one ear is affected, and it can lead to total deafness in that ear.
Ménière's seems to result from fluid retention in the cochlea, the spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear that helps control hearing. Doctors don't know exactly what causes Ménière's syndrome, but, among many possibilities, allergy is one.
Ménière's resembles migraine headache in many ways, and seems to be triggered by some of the same foods. In other cases, Ménière's may be part of an allergic reaction to drugs, iodine, house dust or dog dander, according to the late Albert H. Rowe, and Albert Rowe, Jr (Food Allergy).
If allergy is in fact a contributing cause of Ménière's syndrome, it's important not only to avoid allergy triggers but also to cut down on salt and high-sodium foods. Sodium promotes water retention in all body tissues, including the inner ear, and aggravates Ménière's syndrome.
Along with allergy, other possible causes of Ménière's should be investigated: viral or bacterial infection, sinus infection, hardening of the arteries or anaemia.
Hormone changes can affect allergies - and vice versa. Sometimes hay fever or eczema or hives suddenly disappear when menstrual periods dwindle. Or, more rarely, allergies first appear at that time. Or unsuspected exposure to foods or airborne allergens aggravate the sweating and warm flushes that make menopause so trying for millions of women.
Menopausal sweating and flushing are routinely blamed on the drop in ovary activity that occurs naturally between age forty-five and fifty-three (give or take a few years). And for many women, that's the sole cause. But William H. Philpott, a psychiatrist from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, feels that those symptoms won't disappear until any foods or chemicals to which the woman is allergic are avoided. Dr Philpott thinks that allergic reactions can suppress oestrogen production, particularly in menopausal women. In fact, Dr Philpott recommends that a doctor investigate and treat any allergies before prescribing oestrogen replacement.