A spell of vertigo can give you a run for your money and can all but shut down life for hours or days until it passes. Vertigo is the sensation that the room is spinning, or it can look like the room is an old film reel stuck and glitching, moving the room around while you’re perfectly still. It can come with or without a migraine, and sometimes all it takes to trigger it is leaning your head a certain way or tilting—and I’ve even had episodes of vertigo that were triggered by coming out of sleep and jumping out of bed too soon.
Vertigo is basically caused by an imbalance in the inner ear. Ear infections, allergies, and sinus infections can set it off, as well as some inner ear diseases like Meniere’s disease. Other people have a non-disease specific type of vertigo called “benign paroxysmal positional vertigo” (BPPV) which is the type of vertigo brought on by changes in your head position. It’s relatively harmless, though seriously bothersome, and is caused by the tiny calcium crystals in the inner ear being shifted from position changes.
For BPPV, the way to fix it is often to try a series of head movements designed to put the crystals back in place. This is called the Epley maneuver (more about that below), and it can be done at home or in a doctor’s office. It can offer quick relief, but sometimes it doesn’t work, and you (or I) are left just trying to wait it out, clinging to whatever position is the most bearable.
Now, a new study in the journal Neurology is offering up some new hope about a combination of Vitamin D and Calcium supplements which can help those who are suffering with BPPV.
The researchers at the Seoul National University of Medicine in Korea recruited 957 adults with BPPV. About half of the participants had a blood test performed to measure their level of Vitamin D, and those who were found to have low Vitamin D (less than 20 ng/ml) began Vitamin D supplementation (400 IU daily) and calcium supplementation (200 mg daily). The other people in this half of the group who had Vitamin D levels above 20 ng/ml did not start any vitamin therapy, while the rest of the participants neither received supplements nor had any blood testing performed.
The intervention group saw a 24% decrease in vertigo episodes over the course of a year. Those people who were starting off with a Vitamin D deficiency seemed to have the most significant change for the better: those with blood levels lower than 10 ng/ml almost halved their episodes. People whose Vitamin D level was between 10-20 ng/ml reduced their episodes by 14%. Nearly half of the participants in the observation group which had no supplementation still experienced episodes of vertigo.
For vertigo sufferers, it’s worth considering checking your Vitamin D level with your doctor to correct a deficiency and incorporate these supplements. It may not completely eliminate episodes of BPPV, but it could help—and that’s music to my ears.
For immediate relief, try the Epley maneuver:
1) Sit straight up in bed with your legs straight in front of you, and rotate your head to the left by 45
2) Keep your head tilted to the left. Now lie back down (still not moving your legs.) Stay here for 30 seconds.
3) Still lying completely on your back, turn your head to the right side by 45 degrees. Stay here for 30 seconds.
4) Roll your entire body to the right side and sit up.
Prevention of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo with Vit D Supplementation: A Randomized Trial. Seong-Hae Jeong, Ji-Soo Kim, Hyo-Jung Kim, Jeong-Yoon Choi, Ja-Won Koo, Kwang-Dong Choi, Ji-Yun Park, Seung-Han Lee, Seo-Young Choi, Sun-Young Oh, Tae-Ho Yang, Jae Han Park, Ileok Jung, Soyeon Ahn, Sooyeon KimNeurology Aug 2020, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000010343; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000010343