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Health: Does caffeine affect Meniere's disease?

First of all, what is Meniere's disease?

Ménière's disease is a condition of the inner ear that causes sudden attacks of: feeling like the room is spinning around you (vertigo) a ringing noise inside the ear (tinnitus) pressure felt deep inside the ear.

The cause of Meniere's disease isn't known, but scientists believe it's caused by changes in the fluid in tubes of the inner ear. Other suggested causes include autoimmune disease, allergies, and genetics.

There is no cure for Meniere's Disease. Meniere's Disease cannot be treated and made to “go away” as if you never had it. It is a progressive disease which worsens, more slowly in some and more quickly in others. Some patients experience periods of remission (absence of some or all symptoms) for no apparent reason.

Does caffeine affect Meniere's disease?

A lot of forums and health website counsel avoiding caffeine in coffee, tea and chocolate as it has stimulant properties that may the symptoms of Meniere’s disease worse.

Indeed, some health professionals believe that caffeine also may make tinnitus louder, as well as trigger migraine (migraine can be difficult diagnostically to separate from Meniere's disease).

What does the science say about caffeine’s effect on Meniere’s disease?

It seems the scientific jury is out on this one and more research is needed on this subject.

The best research so far conducted was by scientists,  led by Kiran Hussain of the Faculty of Brain Sciences at University College London, who conducted a study entitled “Restriction of salt, caffeine and alcohol intake for the treatment of Ménière's disease or syndrome” in 2018.

This was a very basic study. It did not involved tests or volunteers, but was simply a search for high‐quality studies (randomised controlled trials) of dietary changes (salt, caffeine and alcohol restriction or substitution, or both) compared to no restriction in adult patients with Ménière's disease or syndrome.

What was the result of this search?

  • The scientists did not identify any randomised controlled trials that met the inclusion criteria for the review.
  • There is no evidence so far from randomised controlled trials about the restriction of salt, caffeine or alcohol intake in patients with Ménière's disease or syndrome.
  • They concluded that high quality research in this field is needed if this question is to be answered.
  • They recommended that a study be made that uses rigorous methods (for example, randomisation and blinding, or careful use of patient registries) and carefully recruits only patients that meet accepted Ménière's disease diagnostic criteria.

In short, this study simply concluded that there has not been enough research in this area and more research is needed. Let’s hope a scientist takes up the call!

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