Dizziness is the feeling of being lightheaded, woozy, or unbalanced. It affects the sensory organs, specifically the eyes and ears, so it can sometimes cause fainting. Dizziness isn’t a disease, but rather a symptom of various disorders.
Dizziness is common and its underlying cause usually isn’t serious. Occasional dizziness is not something to worry about. However, you should call your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing repeated episodes of dizziness for no apparent reason or for a prolonged period.
Dizziness has many possible causes, including migraine, inner ear disturbance (where balance is regulated), motion sickness and medication effects. Sometimes it’s caused by an underlying health condition, such as poor circulation, infection or injury.
Dizziness is one of the more common reasons adults visit their doctors. Frequent dizzy spells or constant dizziness can significantly affect your life. But dizziness rarely signals a life-threatening condition.
Treatment of dizziness depends on the cause and your symptoms. It’s usually effective, but the problem may recur.
People experiencing dizziness may describe it as any of a number of sensations, such as:
- A false sense of motion or spinning (vertigo)
- Lightheadedness or feeling faint
- Unsteadiness or a loss of balance
- A feeling of floating, wooziness or heavy-headedness
See your doctor if you experience any recurrent, sudden, severe, or prolonged and unexplained dizziness or vertigo.
The way dizziness makes you feel and your triggers provide clues for possible causes. How long the dizziness lasts and any other symptoms you have also help pinpoint the cause.
Your sense of balance depends on the combined input from the various parts of your sensory system. These include your:
- Eyes, which help you determine where your body is in space and how it’s moving
- Sensory nerves, which send messages to your brain about body movements and positions
- Inner ear, which houses sensors that help detect gravity and back-and-forth motion. With inner ear disorders, your brain receives signals from the inner ear that aren’t consistent with what your eyes and sensory nerves are receiving. Vertigo is what results as your brain works to sort out the confusion.
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This condition causes an intense and brief but false sense that you’re spinning or moving. These episodes are triggered by a rapid change in head movement, such as when you turn over in bed, sit up or experience a blow to the head. BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo. People can experience dizziness, a spinning sensation (vertigo), lightheadedness, unsteadiness, loss of balance, and nausea. Treatment includes a series of head movements that shift particles in the ears.
- Infection. A viral infection of the vestibular nerve, called vestibular neuritis, can cause intense, constant vertigo. If you also have sudden hearing loss, you may have labyrinthitis.
- Meniere’s disease. This disease involves the excessive buildup of fluid in your inner ear. It’s characterized by sudden episodes of vertigo lasting as long as several hours. You may also experience fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear and the feeling of a plugged ear.
- Migraine. People who experience migraines may have episodes of vertigo or other types of dizziness even when they’re not having a severe headache. Such vertigo episodes can last minutes to hours and may be associated with headache as well as light and noise sensitivity.
You may feel dizzy, faint or off balance if your heart isn’t pumping enough blood to your brain. Causes include:
- Drop in blood pressure. A dramatic drop in your systolic blood pressure, the higher number in your blood pressure reading, may result in brief lightheadedness or a feeling of faintness. It can occur after sitting up or standing too quickly. This condition is also called orthostatic hypotension.
- Orthostatic hypotension, also called postural hypotension, is a form of low blood pressure that happens when standing after sitting or lying down. When standing from a sitting or lying position, gravity causes blood to collect in the legs and belly. Blood pressure drops because there’s less blood flowing back to the heart. Orthostatic hypotension can cause dizziness or lightheadedness and possibly fainting. Orthostatic hypotension can be mild. Episodes might be brief. However, long-lasting orthostatic hypotension can signal more-serious problems. It’s important to see a health care provider if you frequently feel lightheaded when standing up.
Occasional orthostatic hypotension is usually caused by something obvious, such as dehydration or lengthy bed rest. The condition is easily treated.
Chronic orthostatic hypotension is usually a sign of another health problem, so treatment depends on the cause. Usually, special cells (baroreceptors) near the heart and neck arteries sense this lower blood pressure. The baroreceptors send signals to the brain. This tells the heart to beat faster and pump more blood, which evens out blood pressure. These cells also narrow the blood vessels and increase blood pressure.
Orthostatic hypotension occurs when something interrupts the body’s process of dealing with the low blood pressure. Many conditions can cause orthostatic hypotension, including:
- Dehydration. Fever, vomiting, not drinking enough fluids, severe diarrhea and strenuous exercise with a lot of sweating can all lead to dehydration. Dehydration decreases blood volume. Mild dehydration can cause symptoms of orthostatic hypotension, such as weakness, dizziness and fatigue.
- Heart problems. Some heart conditions that can lead to low blood pressure include extremely low heart rate (bradycardia), heart valve problems, heart attack and heart failure. These conditions prevent the body from quickly pumping more blood when standing up.
- Endocrine problems. Thyroid conditions, adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease) and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can cause orthostatic hypotension. So can diabetes, which can damage the nerves that help send signals that control blood pressure.
- Nervous system disorders. Some nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, Lewy body dementia, pure autonomic failure and amyloidosis, can disrupt the body’s ability to control blood pressure.
- Eating meals. Some people have low blood pressure after eating meals (postprandial hypotension). This condition is more common in older adults.
Protein provides amino acids, the building blocks of lean tissue. Protein also helps stabilize blood sugar levels and may prevent or reduce dizziness caused by skipping meals, under-eating and hypoglycemia associated with diabetes. Increased dietary protein, as part of an overall balanced, nutrient-rich diet, can reduce symptoms of hypoglycemia. Optimum protein sources are low in saturated fat and include legumes, tofu and other soy products.
Whole grains are grains that have not been stripped of important nutrients during food processing. They supply dietary fiber and nutrients, such as iron and B-vitamins. Whole grains in place of refined grains will help to prevent dizziness and other symptoms of hypoglycemia. People with anemia, a form of iron deficiency characterized by dizziness and fatigue, may also benefit from regular consumption of whole grains. Examples of nutrient-rich whole-grain foods include brown, black or wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, pure buckwheat, corn, cornmeal, popcorn, millet, gluten-free oats, sorghum and teff.
When blood sugar drops dramatically, it may cause sudden, intense dizziness. Though such drops can affect most anyone, they are a common complication of diabetes and diabetes treatment. In addition to regular blood glucose monitoring and an overall healthy, doctor-approved diet, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends a snack containing 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates as a means of remedying sudden blood sugar decline. Examples of foods that contain 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates include four ounces (1/2 cup) of pure fruit juice, and two tablespoons unsweetened raisins or other dried fruit. If dizziness continues after a carbohydrate-containing snack, check in with your doctor.
Sumac is a variety of flowering shrub that belongs to a family of plants known as Anacardiaceae. Other common members of this family include cashew and mango plants. Sumac thrives in subtropical and temperate climates and grows all over the world.
There are more than 200 different species of sumac, all of which belong to the genus Rhus. However, Rhus coriaria, or Syrian sumac, is the variety people most frequently cultivate for culinary use and herbal medicine.
Sumac is characterized by the large, dense clusters of bright red, pea-sized fruit it produces. It can be steeped to make tea, but more often it is used as a powder for an herbal supplement or in cooking.
The sumac spice should not be confused with poison sumac. Though poison sumac is related, it’s distinctly different. Poison sumac produces white-colored fruit and can cause allergic reactions similar to those from poison ivy or poison oak.
The berries are turned into a coarse powder and sold as a ground spice; the berries are also available whole, although this is much less common in the U.S.. Sumac is a versatile seasoning that adds a bright red color and a tartness, similar to lemon juice, to a dish. One of the most common uses for sumac is in the spice blend called za’atar. Once the berries are fully ripe, they are harvested, dried, and ground. The processed sumac takes on a dark red-burgundy color and the texture of ground nuts. It has a similar smell and taste to lemon but is not as sour. Sumac is similar to salt as it brings out the natural flavors of the foods it is cooked with. Before lemons made their way into Europe, the Romans used sumac to add a tanginess to dishes.
The name sumac comes from the Aramaic word summaq which means “dark red.” As far back as 2,000 years ago sumac was noted for being a diuretic and anti-flatulent by Roman Emperor Nero’s physician, Pedanius Dioscorides.
In North America, indigenous peoples and early pioneers used sumac to treat a variety of ailments, from coughs and sore throats to stomachaches and wounds.
Sumac has fiber, healthy fats, and some essential vitamins. Sumac contains at least trace amounts of several essential nutrients, including vitamins C, B6, B1, and B2. A 2014 analysis found that nutritionally dried sumac is made up of approximately 71% carbs, 19% fat, and 5% protein. The majority of the fat in sumac comes from two particular types of fat known as oleic acid and linoleic acid.
Oleic acid is a type of monounsaturated fat commonly associated with heart health. This is the primary fat found in other common plant-based foods, including olives and avocados. Linoleic acid is a type of essential polyunsaturated fat that’s involved in maintaining healthy skin and cellular membranes.
Sumac is rich in multiple antioxidant compounds, including tannins, anthocyanins, and flavonoids. Antioxidants work to protect your cells from damage and reduce oxidative stress within the body.
Some research suggests sumac may be an effective tool for managing blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. A 2014 study of 41 people with diabetes evaluated the impact of a daily 3-gram dose of sumac on blood sugar and antioxidant levels. At the conclusion of the 3-month study, the group that received the sumac supplement had significantly improved average blood sugar and antioxidant levels compared with those who took a placebo.
Another similar study asked a group of 41 people with diabetes to take a 3-gram dose of sumac powder every day for 3 months. The sumac group experienced a 25% reduction in circulating insulin, suggesting their insulin sensitivity may have increased as a result of the sumac supplement.
A 2016 study gave 40 healthy people a sumac beverage or a placebo to investigate the potential for sumac to relieve muscle pain. At the conclusion of the 4-week study, the group that received the sumac drink reported significantly less exercise-induced muscle pain compared with the group that received the placebo beverage. The sumac group also experienced significant increases in circulating antioxidant levels.
Sumac has no adverse reactions reported in available clinical research. Because sumac is related to cashews and mango, people with allergies to those foods should avoid sumac to avoid allergic reactions. Sumac may lower blood sugar, so be watchful if you are taking medications that lower blood sugar.
How to Buy
Ground sumac can be found in the spice aisle of supermarkets or in the international foods section along with the Middle Eastern products. Specialty grocers and Middle Eastern markets should carry ground sumac and may have the whole berries in stock. You can also find both forms of sumac online. When possible, buy the whole berry as it has a much longer shelf life.
How to Store
Ground sumac can last for several months, and whole sumac can last for upwards of a year. Store sumac in an airtight container away from heat and light.
How to Cook
Sumac blends well with other spices such as allspice, chili, thyme, and cumin. Ground sumac can be used as is, straight from its container, as a flavoring in vegetable dishes (such as eggplant), and is the perfect seasoning for homemade hummus.
Similar to a squeeze of lemon juice over a finished recipe, sumac is at its best when sprinkled over a dish right before serving. Sumac is also a good choice when looking to add a lemon flavor to a dish but don’t want to add a liquid to the recipe.
Sumac Ginger Tofu with Quinoa, Broccoli, and Mushrooms
Kathy Patalsky/ Healthy Happy Life
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups oyster mushrooms
- 2-4 Tbsp olive oil
- 7 one-inch rectangle planks of firm tofu, pressed and patted dry – you can replace the tofu with any soy-free meat substitute
- 2 Tbsp sumac
- 3 Tbsp tamari
- 1 Tbsp minced ginger – you can use a paste product (Ginger People brand)
- 1/2 tsp fine black pepper
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
Coconut Ginger Quinoa:
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 2 Tbsp coconut milk
- 3 Tbsp inced ginger paste
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
salt to taste
Garnish: 1 small orange, sliced
- Press and dry your tofu (or meat substitute). Slice into planks.
- Mix together the tofu marinade. Soak the tofu in the marinade for at least 30 minutes.
- Turn stove to high heat and add a few tablespoons olive oil to pan. Add tofu. Allow to cook for a few minutes, then flip. You may want to add some of the leftover marinade to keep the sauté pan moist.
- As the tofu cooks, add in the broccoli. The broccoli will begin to absorb the leftover marinade so that the tofu can firm up a bit and finish cooking.
- Add in the oyster mushrooms. Watch so you don’t overcook the veggies – just let them char and steam in the leftover tofu marinade sauce. You should eventually use up all the marinade.
- When the tofu and veggies are cooked, remove and set aside. Sprinkle a few pinches of sumac on top of the tofu.
- Toss the quinoa with the coconut milk, golden raisins and ginger – salt to taste.
- Plate and add garnish of fresh orange slices to play up the zestiness of the plate.
Serve with: hummus and pita bread.