Update Jan 2021
While I’ve always thought I maintained a pretty healthy lifestyle, in August of 2019 my world, and everything in it, forever changed.
While dead asleep in the middle of the night I shot straight up in bed with the entire room violently spinning, not just in circles, not like you’ve gotten off a roller coaster, but like a falling into a deep black hole while spinning. I couldn’t feel the floor. I couldn’t feel the bed. And I was completely blind. It was terrifying. My arms shot straight out to my sides as I screamed “NO, STOP!” to try and find some balance.
I had no idea what had happened – I was sweating profusely while shivering cold. I was beyond nauseous and couldn’t move my head without violently spinning all over again.
This horrifying, violent spinning would last on and off for over a year and a half, with no warning, no predictability leaving me with extreme nausea. I couldn’t move my head or even turn my eyes without the entire room spinning. It felt like I got off a boat that was in the middle of a hurricane, all day, everyday.
Going to bed created the most anxiety for me. Most of my attacks would happen when I turned over from the left side to my right. And then all hell would break loose. Night after night. I became traumatized and was afraid to fall asleep. The day after an attack would provoke baby attacks through out the day without any warning whatsoever.
It left me scared, alone and without hope. I was afraid to drive. I was afraid to walk down the stairs. I was afraid I would roll over in the middle of the night. It was like waiting for your next seizure.
I wanted to die.
I felt a ‘fullness’ in my right ear. It felt ‘plugged’. I went to Doctors and ENTs who confirmed that I had experienced bouts of Vertigo. They prescribed Meclizine, which seems to be the drug of choice for this condition. From what I’ve read online, researched and experienced myself, it is ineffective when it comes to treating chronic vertigo.
By late Fall I was now seeing a masseuse who specializes in Craniosacral Therapy for vertigo 3 times a week. I simultaneously saw an acupuncturist who also specializes in vertigo 2 times a week. I saw a Chiropractor for neck manipulations. I was referred to physical therapy to attempt to the do the Epley maneuver, again, another common remedy prescribed by Doctors.
The Epley maneuver made me extremely sick and made things much worse. Instead we worked on simple balancing techniques to rewire my brain to find a new sense of balance.
With the lodged crystal dismissed as the cause, I continued on with my journey and therapy through the Fall and Winter, several times a week, until the Coronavirus shut everything down.
I was now at a loss.
I had spent thousands of dollars on all types of therapies, medications and accupuncture. Although I had not had a full blown vertigo attack in months, something still was not right.
I turned to the internet. I researched until my eyes hurt. I read every article I could find, watched You Tube videos, listened to seminars, subscribed to JAMA articles. I was doing ANYTHING to find out how to stop this.
Along my journey I learned that vertigo is merely a SYMPTOM. It is not a diagnosis. There are several reasons why a person gets vertigo. Many people get it due to a crystal becoming dislodged, which through maneuvers of the head can be readjusted.
This was not my case which is why my condition got much worse.
I have what’s called Vestibular Ménière’s Disease. Coping with Ménière’s disease is challenging because attacks are unpredictable, it is incurable, some of the symptoms are not obvious to others, and most people know virtually nothing about the disorder. People think you are just a little dizzy and it will pass.
Those of us who have it are thrown into the role of educating ourselves, our family, friends, coworkers, and unfortunately, even Doctors.
Then one day I discovered something not ONE Doctor mentioned – sodium. A common thread in people with Vestibular Ménière’s Disease is fluid in the ear. It sounds simple. But it is quite intricate, complicated and confusing. No two people’s symptoms, diagnosis or treatments are the same.
While there is no known cause, or cure for Ménière’s Disease, sodium can make it worse. Lowering your sodium intake can “prevent” attacks. In other words, food was the answer! Does sodium CAUSE vertigo? No. There is no known cause. Have studies shown that a diet consistently high in sodium can increase frequency, duration and intensity of attacks? Yes!
So …. if reducing my sodium to below 1500 mg a day will help decrease the amount of them, lessen the severity of one or PREVENT even ONE attack, then count me in!
There is sodium in almost EVERY SINGLE FOOD WE CONSUME besides fresh fruits and vegetables. The average piece of white bread contains roughly 200 milligrams of sodium! One piece.
I embarked on this journey whole heartedly, along with a taking a prescribed daily diuretic, Vitamin B and Sudafed to help with the fluid in my ear.
Within a week I felt better. I still contend daily with the erratic symptoms of Ménière’s – and most days my ear still feels a little full. I have yet to sleep on my right side, although the thought at least is re-entering my mind. These are all positive steps, and if nothing else, gives me some hope.
Living with Meniere’s is basically a learning process. You do your best to identify triggers for your attacks, and then you avoid them. So far the low sodium diet has worked miracles. I am slowly reworking my recipes to stay within my daily allotment.
Stress. I noticed when my stress level went up, my anxiety went up and I was more prone to attacks. Why? I have no idea. But I know it happens.
Alcohol. What do sodium and alcohol have in common? They both affect the inner ear and also the brain cell signals, causing vertigo symptoms. When alcohol causes dehydration, it can lower the amount of fluid in one ear more than the other, which will produce different signals of motion of the left versus right side, and cause vertigo.
By managing my stress with daily meditation, eliminating alcohol and strictly watching my sodium I am finally seeing the light at the end of this very dark, lonely, scary tunnel.
The point of all this?
- Hopefully, to be a beacon of hope for others who are suffering with severe, depilating vertigo.
- To share with you that all recipes from February 2021 on our site will be low sodium.
Although my practice of limiting packaged foods has not waivered, as a chef, I ‘salt the water like the sea’ as Anne Burrell would say. I have never measured the amount of salt or pepper I put in a recipe. Come to find out my sodium averaged over 3000 mg per day, some days much higher!
That has all changed.
I now accurately measure salt so I can determine the per serving count. I figured since I’m taking the time to do it for myself, I would be happy to include in our our recipes for any of you who may be facing this awful condition. Oh, and even if you don’t suffer from this, it certainly can’t hurt to lower the amount of sodium in your diet.
Being healthy is worth all the salt in the world.
ORIGINAL ABOUT ME PAGE:
Happily Unprocessed is a website that was launched in 2012 as a result of Debi’s undying passion for cooking and sharing her recipes.
Well hello there! My name is Debi and I’m so glad you found us!
Many people have asked me how a person goes from a career in law enforcement to becoming a full time successful food blogger. Well, let me start from the beginning …
Like most parents, I wanted the best for my family. I ate well during pregnancy, I breastfed, I exercised and made a lot of my kids baby food in the blender. So what happened? Well … life happened. I was working full time. I had 2 kids 18 months apart and before I knew it, I too was feeding my family a lot of the prepackaged ‘food’ for dinner. Why? Mainly to save time I guess. It was easier to throw chicken nuggets in the oven and make mac and cheese on the stove then to make something from scratch.
But was it really? Was it really ‘easier’? And at what price? Well my scale was providing that answer!
It was about this time that word was really starting to spread about the additives and preservatives that were in our food supply now. Food isn’t food anymore. It’s processed. We are eating more processed foods now than ever!
I realized I needed to make a change. We needed to “UN” process. I needed to get back to good ol fashioned cooking, which wasn’t a problem because I love food! Anyone who knows me knows I loooove to cook. I love to create. I am in my happy place when I am in the kitchen with a glass of wine, the music going and burners on!
I left my job in 2008 when we moved to the Midwest and I found myself with more time on my hands. I began throwing a lot of parties … dinner parties, holiday parties, football parties and I realized how much I really do love to cook. I was losing myself in cookbooks for hours at a time! I soon had a TON of recipes built up in my arsenal and constantly had people asking me for them.
So I finally decided during a very long cold winter in January 2012 to launch a website and share my recipes. I get it when people say they are too tired after a long day at work to come home and cook a meal, which is why our recipes are made for busy families. I get it and I’m here to help!
Fast forward to the end of 2019 and this website has kept me more than busy. It is now my full time job! How lucky am I??? We have over 240 recipes under our belt, with many more to come!
We even gave our website a facelift over the summer. We’ve streamlined our recipes breaking them down into even more categories, reshot some photos, and we’ve even started adding videos!
It has been my absolute dream come true to own this website, to create recipes and meals that have been made by hundreds of people and even made it on the front page of Google! The only thing better than living your passion is MAKING a living DOING your passion.
One of the great parts of having this site is hearing from all of you! I love reading your comments, answering your questions and hearing how a recipe worked for you.
If you’d like to contact me directly you can email me at email@example.com. You can also find us on facebook and pinterest.
Jackie La Rose
Where can I find nutrition information for recipes? I need to reduce my sodium to under 2000mg/day. Your recipes sound delicious, but it is difficult to estimate sodium content.
Hi Jackie – I am currently working through my older recipes and adding the nutritional information. Keep in mind, however, sodium content is very hard to calculate on recipes unless you specifically use the same exact ingredients I use. For example, if a recipe calls for diced tomatoes and I use Hunts which as 20 mg per serving and you use Kroger brand which has 30 mg, our sodium content will be different. Not to mention if you add ‘a little’ more of something to recipe because you prefer that recipe to have more of it than I used. With that being said, you can always use a recipe builder calculator online before making the recipe.
Possible Additions to your No HFCS lit:
DelGrosso Joe Joe’s Sloppy Joe Sauce Sweet Smoky
Stonewall Kitchen Sloppy Joe Sauce
I say “possible additions” because I’m not clear what other names HFCS hides under!
Hi Deb ~ I knew your grandfather (Charles) and personally witnessed his affliction to Menier’s Syndrome (1963-1970’s). His affliction wasn’t as serious as yours but did result in his ability to hold a job leaving his wife having to be the bread winner for the balance of his life. His symptoms were instability leaving him bedridden for long periods. He would press his right ear continuously for relief.. Good diagnosis in those days and remedies were scarce . Fortunately he was able to know & enjoy you and your sister. My wife and I find your site to be a “public service” . Best regards
Please sign me up for your newsletter. Tried to usr the signup button but its not loading properly
Hi Tessa – can you tell me what page the link was on? I’d like to fix that. Thanks!
Teresa S Drake
In 2004 after experiencing several spinning room episodes and almost fainting after I got up and walked a few feet I saw my Primary. He asked me if I noticed any hearing loss. I said I got a free hearing test when my Mom got her hearing aids and was told that I’d had tonal losses in my right ear. He told me I had Meinere’s disease and immediately put me on Dyazide. I watch my sodium intake and pretty much followed what everyone else says they were told to do. That cleared up all my dizziness except for lowering my head to spit out my tooth paste every time I brushed my teeth. He then put mee on Valium 5 mg and that cleared that up.
The use of Valium is the first thing I’ve not seen anyone mention here and wanted to share. It’s in the literature that I’ve read and maybe it good help someone else. Two years ago I came off the Valium and found I didn’t need it.
In 2012 while driving home from physical therapy post orthopedic surgery I had a major attack that lead to a panic attack. Worse thing I ever experienced in my entire life. I was so out of it that I had to crawl up the 3 steps into our home, throwing the crutches to the side. At the last step I couldn’t breath. My husband was about to call 911 and I was layer there shaking my head no. I was finally able to tell him I was having a panic attack.
That experience lead me to the second thing I want to share with you. There is the relationship of the pollen count in our atmosphere and Meinere’s attacks. I live near Augusta, GA. We literally have pollen storms here in the spring. Everything is cover with yellow pollen and the sky looks overcast. We get daily ozone level forecasts from our news station during the spring. Have you not experienced the popping or clearing of your ear like on a plane? It was while talking to an health care insurance representative i learned about the pollen connection. I started taking Benadryl 25 mg morning and night and that helped tremendously. I stopped the Benadryl just last month when I learned of a connection it has to developing Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease after long term use.
I’m a retired RN. I retired after my first son was born to be a full time Mommy. I’m now 68 years of age and have started to experience not being able to remember as good as I used to. Everyone seems to be having that problem when I mention I’m having it.
I found your site looking for a ham tetrazzini recipe. I’m making it tonight and I will be following your site to explore your recipes. I actually love reading cookbooks from cover to cover. I’m an old fashion Mom who always cooked meals from scratch except for the use of canned soups when called for. My favorite comfort meal is Hamburger Beef Stroganoff!!! I never bought in to all the boxed food fast food meal life style.
God bless you and your family.
In Him always,
Found your site while researching MSG as I am allergic to it(Irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea). Also have a friend who has rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, Parkinson’s Disease, and Meniere’s Disease. I have found possible connections between migraines and Parkinson’s and MSG. Just wondering two things:
Have you found a connection between Meniere’s and/or RA and MSG?
What is your source for determining the other hidden names for MSG like Calcium Caseinate, etc.
I can relate to your Meniere’s story because I had a lot of the same vertigo experiences you mentioned about two years ago. I was lucky in that I was losing hearing in my right ear and my left ear was slower to decline in hearing so I went to see an ENT. I had periods where my hearing in one or both ears would suddenly drop off to where I could not understand people. The quick hearing loss lasted for days and my hearing would slowly recover, but not to the same level. The ENT I was seeing for the hearing fluctuation problems said that I was a candidate heading toward Meniere’s. He had seen it before. He told me to reduce the sodium to below 1500 mg per day and to avoid chocolate or anything with caffeine in it. Caffeine drinks increases tension and anxiety that increases the vertigo attacks and intensity. Even though I reduced the sodium, which helped my hearing fluctuations , I still had the major vertigo attacks followed by milder attacks for about 4 months and they gradually subsided to mild dizzy spells after 6 to 9 month.
I still have the mild short period dizzy spells, but they are tolerable. Reducing sodium to less than 1500 mg/day, reducing stress, and relaxing facial and neck muscle tensions, and getting plenty of sleep ever day have helped me reduce the vertigo and Meniere’s symptoms. The Neuro Otologist that I see had me tested for Meniere’s after I had the horrible vertigo attacks and I was diagnosed with bi-lateral Meniere’s. Both of my ears were triggering my vestibular problems. I have lost the hearing in my right ear this past year, so it has ‘burned out’ and I required a cochlear implant. As you stated, Meniere’s is not well understood and you have to identify your triggers. My triggers are sodium, lack of sleep, anxiety, and facial or neck muscle tension/stress. Cutting the sodium to less than 1500 mg/day, eating healthy, (lot of fruit and veggies and water) and getting plenty of exercise help with keeping Meniere’s in check. The brain is also amazing in that it will remap itself over time (years) to help deal with the vestibular issues that come with Meniere’s.
I love your recipes and and I’m definitely going to try the red pepper hummus and the chicken chipotle bowl to start. I’m trying to avoid process foods that use chip oils that are bad for me and my heart. Thank you for sharing your story and your difficult journey. Blessings to your family and you
Hi Debi. As soon as I started reading your “About” section, I said, “Poor girl’s got Meniere’s.” I feel for you. I was diagnosed about 20 years ago, after many many many trips to doctors and specialists. I’m here to tell you that it CAN get better. It’s scary as hell, completely debilitating, and very few people no about it, much less understand it. That includes doctors. I was very lucky that after years of suffering, I found a doctor who prescribed medicine that was a lifesaver for me. I still had attacks, but they were less frequent. I’m happy to say, that I stabilized about a year and a half ago, and I went off my meds! (In a good way, ha!). There is hope. I’m happy I found your page. I was looking for ziti recipes (don’t tell my Italian mother), and will be using yours tomorrow. I wish you all the best. I don’t mean to sound weird, but please know there is someone out there (that would be me) who totally understands what you’re going through. Be well!
I love, love your website!!!! Thank you!! I’ve had panic attacks that increase the fullness of my ears and they’re really scary. Maybe you finally helped me figure out why. You’re a phenomenal cook, Any plans for a cookbook?
Aw Audrey – thank you so much. I do not have plans for a cookbook at this time, they are very time consuming to make. But you are not the first to ask. I am, however, slowly going through my recipes an reworking them to include the sodium content in the nutrition card. PLEASE, I implore you, to go loso. It can’t hurt ANYTHING. As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite. We consume WAAAAYY too much sodium in our diets and once you go loso you will see what I mean. The more time that passes where I keep my sodium between 1200-1500 mg the better I feel. I use my FitBit to keep track. I can’t remember a time when I felt this good. The ‘fullness’ is completely gone. I still have a little ‘clicking’ almost in tune with my heartbeat that I can still hear, but it’s minimal and I will take that ANYDAY over a full attack. Please email me if you have any questions. I have an arsenal of recipes that I’ve made that have not made it to my site yet that I live on. They are wonderful and I’m happy to share them with you. Thanks again so much for writing and I hope you feel better soon! Deb