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Vertigo linked to vitamin D deficiency

Posted on: November 23, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


Vertigo can be a terrible affliction. If you have never had it, count yourself lucky. Vertigo is almost a hallucination; it is the sensation that the room is spinning around you or the sensation you are in motion when you are still. Turning the head is usually what triggers it. Episodes of vertigo become more and more likely as you age, especially in women.

The most common form of vertigo is benign positional vertigo. Benign simply means the vertigo is not caused by a tumor, a concussion, a severe migraine headache, or other known causes. Positional simply means it comes on when you move your head in a certain way. It is caused by disintegration or displacement of the calcium crystals that fill the chambers of the inner ear. Vertigo can be associated with nausea and vomiting and can cause difficulties standing or walking, explaining why it accounts for about 6 million clinic visits every year in the USA.

A research group in Korea recently discovered that vertigo was associated with osteoporosis. Reasoning that the chambers of the inner ear are filled with calcium crystals, and that the vitamin D receptor has been found in the cells lining the inner ear, the same group thought that vitamin D may have some kind of association in vertigo.

Led by Dr. Seong-Hae Jeong, the Korean team measured the vitamin D levels in 100 patients with benign positional vertigo and compared them to controls that had vertigo or dizziness during the previous year. This choice of control group was very deliberate, to try to rule out the possibility of reverse causation; that is people with vertigo or dizziness tend to stay inside and thus have lower vitamin D levels.

Jeong SH, Kim JS, Shin JW, Kim S, Lee H, Lee AY, Kim JM, Jo H, Song J, Ghim Y. Decreased serum vitamin D in idiopathic benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. J Neurol. 2012 Oct 25.

The researchers found that people with current vertigo were much more likely to be severely vitamin D deficient compared to people who had vertigo in the previous year. In fact, the odds ratio was 23 for severe vitamin D deficiency (<10 ng/ml), meaning that people with vertigo were much more likely to be severely vitamin D deficient.

When you think about the inner ear, the calcium crystals that help us sense balance and motion are probably maintained by vitamin D, in its role as the “repair and maintenance” steroid hormone.

If you have vertigo, see an ear nose and throat doctor. They can do certain maneuvers with your head that help vertigo a lot and will know if brain imaging is required. At the same time, get your vitamin D levels up to natural levels. This study at least opens the possibility that vitamin D may help your vertigo, and it will likely help the osteoporosis associated with vertigo.

3 Responses to Vertigo linked to vitamin D deficiency

  1. [email protected]

    Extremely interesting. Wonder about vitamin K2.

    Vitamin K2 is known to keep Calcium out of arteries.

    Might Vitamin K2 also keep Calcium crystals out of the inner ear?

  2. [email protected]

    Low levels of Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, and Magnesium might all cause vertigo.

    See: http://www.vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=3460

    Note also: some people get vertigo when taking vitamin D without balancing the cofactors of Vitamin K2 and Magnesium

  3. Brant Cebulla

    Henry, what is the evidence of people getting vertigo with taking vitamin D? I would be cautious in making that claim if it’s just anecdotal.

    Pills, no matter what’s in them, makes people nauseous and “sick to the stomach.” In a recent randomized controlled trial using vitamin D, a participant dropped out because they said the intervention was making them sick and weak. They were taking placebo.

    Recent PHS II study published in JAMA reported no adverse events like nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue, etc in a population of 15,000 taking a daily multivitamin for 10+ years with just about every kind of vitamin and mineral in it, including vitamin D.

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