Dizziness: Causes, Symptoms & Support Strategies
We all feel dizzy or lightheaded from time to time. An occasional spell of dizziness is usually nothing to worry about. However, if you experience dizziness regularly, it’s important to uncover the underlying causes and address them.
In this article, you will learn what dizziness is. You will understand the major symptoms of dizziness. I will discuss the risk factors and most common causes of dizziness. I will explain when you need to seek emergency medical help for dizziness. Finally, I will offer some natural support strategies for dizziness.
What is Dizziness
Dizziness refers to a problem with spatial orientation. It may describe a range of various sensations. When you are dizzy, you may feel woozy, weak, faint, or unsteady. You may experience vertigo, which means that you feel like you or your surroundings are moving or spinning. You may experience dizziness when standing up, moving, standing still, sitting, or lying.
A dizzy spell itself usually doesn’t mean that you have a serious or life-threatening condition. However, regular dizziness may occur due to a variety of health issues. In some cases, dizziness may occur because of a serious condition, such as cardiovascular issues or a stroke. Sometimes, even a less serious dizzy spell can lead to a dangerous fall.
Major Symptoms of Dizziness
Major symptoms of dizziness may include:
- Feeling woozy
- Feeling lightheaded
- Feeling faint
- Feeling unsteady
- Loss of balance
- Vertigo (a false sense of spinning or motion)
- Feeling like floating or swimming
Risk Factors for Dizziness
Risk factors for dizziness may include some serious and less serious issues, including:
- Benign positional vertigo (BPV)
- Medication side effects
- Meniere’s disease
- Sudden drop in blood pressure
- Poor circulation
- Motion sickness
- Decrease in blood volume
- Heart muscle disease
- Excessive exercise
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Vestibular neuritis (infection of the vestibular nerve)
- Brain disorders
- Malignant tumor or cancer
Most Common Causes
Dizziness may develop for a variety of reasons. Here are the most common causes of dizziness:
Dehydration or Electrolyte Imbalance
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance are the most common causes of dizziness. They are especially common for athletes and low-carb eaters. Your body becomes dehydrated when you lose more water and electrolytes than your body can replace.
You may become dehydrated because of not drinking enough fluid, excessive sweating, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Exercise or physical work without proper hydration are the most common reasons behind sweating-related dehydration and electrolyte loss. A 2017 review published in Sports Medicine has found that athletes lose a lot of fluids and electrolytes due to thermoregulatory sweating (1). Being sick and being unable to keep nutrients and fluids down or taking certain diuretics can also result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
Low carb diets may also cause electrolyte imbalance. When you are eating a low-carbohydrate diet, such as keto, your body will release less insulin. While this is generally a good thing and can reduce insulin resistance, this will also cause your kidneys to release more sodium. As your body starts to lose more sodium, it will impact the balance of other electrolytes, such as potassium and magnesium as well.
Unfortunately, many people who follow a keto or other low-carb diet don’t pay attention to replenish their electrolytes through leafy greens, vegetables, and supplementation. This may not only lead to dizziness, but also headaches, muscle weakness, fatigue, and symptoms of the so-called ‘keto flu’. A 2018 review published in Peer J has found that symptoms of the ‘keto flu’ are common while people are still adapting to a ketogenic diet, however, nutritional supplementation may help (2).
Hypoglycemia is another common cause of dizziness. Hypoglycemia develops when your blood sugar levels are lower than normal. Hypoglycemia may develop if you are skipping meals, not eating enough, exercising too much without refueling your body, taking too much insulin or other diabetes medication, or drinking alcohol.
Beyond dizziness, hypoglycemia may cause shakiness, headaches, hunger, fatigue, weakness, irritability, and weakness. In more severe cases, it may result in confusion, slurred speech, behavioral changes, doubles vision, seizures, and loss of consciousness (3).
Dizziness related to hypoglycemia is particularly common in those with diabetes, prediabetes, and insulin resistance. A 2014 study published in Clinical Diabetes has found that dizziness, loss of balance, and vertigo are common among those with diabetes both with and without peripheral neuropathy (4).
Your brain relies on blood sugar for energy and function. If you have hypoglycemia, it can cause brain malfunction that can lead to dizziness and other neurological and brain health functions, such as headaches or confusion. Hypoglycemia also causes the release of two hormones epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which are important for raising your blood glucose levels. The quick release of these hormones can also cause further symptoms, including hunger, anxiety, and tremors that may also lead to dizziness.
Vertigo or Meniere’s Disease
Vertigo is a sensation of feeling dizzy, off-balance, spinning, or the world around you spinning. One of the common causes of vertigo is an inner ear disorder called Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease develops because of a buildup of fluid and changing pressure in your ear. Besides vertigo, it may also cause tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and hearing loss. Meniere’s disease affects around 615,000 people in the US (5).
The reason behind the symptoms of Meniere’s disease is a buildup of fluids in the labyrinth of your inner ear. Your labyrinth contains your cochlea, which is essential for hearing, and the semicircular canals and otolithic organs, which are necessary for balance. It is not surprising that when these areas are affected, it can result in balance problems (5).
The labyrinth has two parts: a bony and a membranous labyrinth. The membranous labyrinth is normally filled with endolymph, a fluid that triggers various receptors when you move. These receptors communicate with your brain about your body’s movement and position. In your cochlea, the endolymph also reacts to the vibration of sound by compressing and triggering sensory cells communicating with your brain (5).
If there is a buildup of endolymph, it can negatively affect both your sense of balance and hearing signals. This may lead to dizziness, vertigo, and other symptoms. If you have Meniere’s disease, you may experience sudden attacks of dizziness. You may also experience short dizzy spells after a short stunt of tinnitus or muffled hearing. Many people with Meniere’s disease experience longer periods of space between short, single attacks of dizziness.
Others may experience these single attacks much closer together, with only a few days in between. In more serious cases, dizziness and vertigo can become very severe, causing so-called vestibular drop attacks (VDA) or characterized by a loss of balance and falls (5). A 2021 study published in the Journal of Vestibular Research, 50.7 percent of the 602 participants with Meniere’s disease has experienced VDA. About 90 percent of these ‘drop attacks’ only lasted for a few seconds (6). Most participants (87 percent) only experienced single episodes of VDA, but some (13 percent) experienced clusters.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It occurs after a blow to the head, violent shaking or movement, or fall. You may lose consciousness, however, losing consciousness is not necessary for a concussion. Symptoms usually occur within 7 to 10 days of the injury. According to a 2003 review published in the International Reviews of Psychiatry, these symptoms usually go away within a month (7).
Post-concussion syndrome is also referred to as persistent post-concussive symptoms. Post-concussion means that your concussion symptoms may last longer than your expected recovery after the initial concussion. They can last for a year or even longer. Symptoms of post-concussion syndrome may include dizziness, confusion, memory issues, concentration difficulties, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, blurry vision, light sensitivity, and ringing of the ears (7).
The cause of post-concussion syndrome is not clear. They may occur due to structural damage that interferes with your brain’s nerves and messaging system. In some cases, they may also be related to psychological factors, especially when it comes to dizziness, anxiety, and sleep issues.
Sometimes the incident behind the concussion can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression that may cause similar symptoms. In many cases, a combination of physical damage and psychological factors are the reason behind post-concussion syndrome.
TIA or Stroke
According to a 2004 survey published in Neurological Sciences, dizziness and vertigo take up about 3.5 percent of emergency room visits (8). Dizziness usually doesn’t mean that you have cerebrovascular disease. However, according to a 2016 review published in the Annals of Neurology, strokes are responsible for some cases of vertigo and dizziness (9). Yet, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Emergency Nursing has found that 15.3 percent of ischemic stroke cases were missed during their initial ER visit (10). According to the study, symptoms often missed include dizziness, general weakness, altered gait, and altered mental status.
Transient ischemic attacks (TIA) are also referred to as mini-strokes. Its symptoms are very similar to a stroke but only last for a few minutes without causes any permanent damage. It may also be a warning sign of a stroke later on a large number of people with a TIA experience a stroke within a year. A TIA episode is a good opportunity to focus on improving your health and reducing the risk of a stroke.
TIA usually develops because of a buildup of oxidative stress and inflammation that damages the endothelial lining of the blood vessels and causes cholesterol-containing fatty deposits in an artery that decreases blood flow to the brain. This reduction of blood flow is the cause of your symptoms. Symptoms of TIA may include weakness, numbness, or paralysis of the arm, leg, or face, usually on one side only, slurred speech, double vision, blindness in one or both eyes, and vertigo. If you are experiencing a TIA, seek medical attention right away.
A stroke happens when the blood supply to a part of your brain gets reduced or interrupted. This prevents your brain from receiving oxygen and nutrients, causing your brain cells to start dying within minutes. This cut-off blood supply is responsible for the symptoms of stoke, including trouble speaking, trouble understanding others, paralysis or numbness on one side, headache, trouble walking, and vertigo.
A stroke is a serious issue and medical emergency. If you think that you or a loved one is having a stroke, call 911. Prompt action and early treatment are critical to decreasing brain damage and other health complications.
Vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis are disorders that can cause dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, fatigue, tinnitus, hearing loss, and even vision problems. Both disorders cause inflammation of your inner ear and the nerve that connects your inner ear to your brain (11, 12).
In most cases, both vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis are the result of viral infections, including influenza, herpes viruses, chickenpox, and shingles. In some cases, labyrinthitis is the rest of an untreated bacterial middle ear infection or bacterial meningitis. While these infections may clear up within a few weeks, in some cases, the inner ear may be permanently damaged.
According to a 2018 book, Skull Based Imaging, the damage from meningitis-related labyrinthitis can be detected on a CT scan (13). When such damage happens, the communication with the brain will become disrupted. Your brain won’t be able to compensate for the problem causing your symptoms, including chronic dizziness and vertigo.
Anxiety or PTSD
Dizziness can also be the result of psychological or emotional causes. Anxiety is one of your body’s natural responses to stress. However, if you are experiencing anxiety all the time, severe anxiety, or panic attack, you may have an anxiety disorder. There are many forms of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorders, and more.
Certain mental health issues, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders, may also be characterized by anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety may include worrying, fear, painful thoughts, racing heart, trouble sleeping, restlessness, trouble concentrating, rapid breathing, and stomach symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that starts after a traumatic event. A traumatic event may involve a real or perceived threat of danger, injury, or death. It may include military combat, natural disasters, sexual assault or abuse, physical assault or abuse, an accident, or any other event that may be a traumatic experience for the person.
Symptoms of PTSD may involve flashbacks, nightmares, emotional distress, trouble concentrating, irritability, bouts of anger, feeling on the edge, worry, guilt, anxiety, numbness, and depression.
Anxiety and PTSD can both cause anxiety attacks or panic attacks. This may lead to physical symptoms, including dizziness, lightheadedness, irritability, agitation, fainting, racing heart, pounding heart, shortness of breath, and headaches. Anxiety and emotional symptoms of PTSD trigger a fight or flight response in your body.
This contributes to physiological changes, including sudden changes in blood pressure which may lead to dizziness, wooziness, or lightheadedness. According to a 2012 review published in Frontiers in Neurology, the release of cortisol and adrenaline during stress, anxiety, or panic can impact the vestibular system of your inner ear (14). This may lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, and balance issues.
Mold is a fungus that can grow on almost anything and thrive under many conditions. It loves warm environments with high moisture the most. It can grow both indoor and outdoor. Inside your home, mold loves to hide in the bathroom, basements, under the carpet, and anywhere where it’s warm and moist.
Mold and mycotoxins can spread far and wide. Its tiny microscopic spores get released, they can travel far and grow elsewhere. As mold begins to reproduce inside your home, you become more and more exposed. Mold exposure is a serious health risk that can lead to a list of chronic symptoms and health problems, including respiratory symptoms, skin issues, fatigue, nausea, mucus membrane irritation, brain fog, and mental impairment.
A 2009 study published in Toxicology and Industrial Health has found that mold can cause neurological symptoms (15). A 2017 review published in Frontiers in Immunology has also found that mold illness may also lead to balance problems (16). This may include dizziness, vertigo, or lightheadedness.
Mold exposure can increase your risk of ear infections and sinus infections. These infections can affect your inner ear health, which can interfere with your sense of balance, causing dizziness or vertigo. The review demonstrated that mold exposure might also impact your cardiovascular health and blood pressure (16). In the next section, I will discuss how this may impact dizziness as well.
Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure is a common cause of dizziness. Low blood pressure is commonly caused by chronic mold exposure. Dehydration, heart problems, diabetes, endocrine issues, blood loss, pregnancy, allergies, prolonged bed rest, certain medications, and lack of nutrients may also cause low blood pressure.
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) may also cause low blood pressure when standing too long (17). A condition called orthostatic hypotension happens when you feel fine when you are sitting or laying down but you have dizziness when you initially stand up due to your body’s inability to raise blood pressure quickly enough to get adequate blood and oxygen to the brain when you stand.
A 1990 study published in BMJ has found that low blood pressure may lead to dizziness along with other symptoms (18). Low blood pressure can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, nausea, trouble concentrating, blurred vision. In some more serious cases, it may also cause pale skin, confusion, rapid pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing. Low blood pressure can often cause dizziness, especially when standing up or bending over.
A sudden drop in blood pressure may affect your inner ear and a sense of balance causing dizziness. A flight-or-fight response and problems related to the autonomic nervous system, including Parkinson’s disease may also cause low blood pressure and related dizziness (17).
All coffee drinkers who have missed their morning cup of joe or have tried to quit know that caffeine withdrawal can cause dizziness. Caffeine is one of the most popular stimulants. Caffeine is a chemical that gives you an energy boost. But once you are dependent on it, quitting can be difficult.
Caffeine causes your blood vessels to narrow. A 2009 randomized controlled trial published in Human Brain Mapping has found that only 250 mg of caffeine can decrease cerebral blood flow by 27 perfect (19). Therefore, decreasing your regular caffeine intake can suddenly open up these blood vessels and increase blood flow to your brain. This sudden change in blood flow can cause all kinds of symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms can begin within 12 to 24 hours of stopping, including headaches, fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, anxiety, trouble concentrating, tremors, irritability, and more. Your symptoms may vary in length and severity. Symptoms may peak at the 24 to 48-hour mark and gradually decrease.
Anemia or B12 Deficiency
Anemia means that your body doesn’t have enough blood cells to carry enough oxygen to your tissues. It often develops because of low iron levels. One of the major signs of anemia is fatigue which can also cause you to feel dizzy or faint. Anemia can also cause a lack of oxygen to your brain, which again, can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting (20).
Vitamin B12 is a critical vitamin for your brain health. Since it is difficult to meet your needs for food, and impossible if you are vegan, supplementation is necessary to avoid deficiencies. According to a 2019 review published in Acta Clinical Croatica has found that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause neurological symptoms (21). It’s not surprising that dizziness and vertigo are some of the major signs of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Besides iron deficiency, vitamin B12 and folate deficiency can also cause anemia. It causes your body to produce abnormally large red blood cells. Since these large blood cells cannot function properly, they can’t carry enough oxygen to your brain, which may cause dizziness (22).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chemical exposure can be an occupational hazard (23). Chemical exposure can, of course, happen in your home, for example, if you are using chemicals for cleaning or painting your home.
Exposure to chemical fumes can cause all kinds of symptoms due to chemically contaminated air entering your system. It can lead to dizziness, vertigo, coughing, shortness of breath, upper chest pain, eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, and nausea.
If you have experienced chemical exposure, it’s critical that you remove yourself from the situation immediately. In less serious cases symptoms will go away within about 24 hours with the help of breathing fresh air. In more serious cases, there may be lung damage that needs treatment.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Help
In most cases, dizziness doesn’t require emergency medical attention. If you are experiencing recurrent, prolonged, severe, or sudden dizziness, it’s important that you visit your doctor to understand the reason behind your dizzy spells and get appropriate treatment.
If you are experiencing any of these following along with dizziness, seek emergency medical help immediately:
- Sudden or Severe headache
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Double vision
- Numbness or paralysis of your arms or legs
- Difficulty waking
- Slurred speech
- Facial numbness or weakness
- Ongoing vomiting
Natural Support Strategies
If you are experiencing dizziness, there are some natural support strategies that may help you to reduce some of the underlying issues of dizziness. Here is what I recommend:
Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Plan
You may develop dizziness because of electrolyte imbalance, hypoglycemia, inflammation, and nutrient deficiencies (1, 2, 3, 4, 20, 21, 22). A nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory nutrition plan may help. Remove inflammatory foods that can cause inflammation or disrupt your blood sugar levels, such as refined sugar, refined oil, gluten, sugary snacks, sugary drinks, artificial ingredients, additives, junk food, deep-fried food, and highly processed foods.
Support your blood sugar levels by eating regularly, limiting sugar, and consuming nutrient-dense foods. Eat plenty of greens, vegetables, healthy fats, herbs, spices, low-glycemic index fruits, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and wild-caught fish. To support electrolyte balance, eat plenty of electrolytes and trace mineral-rich foods, such as leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, avocados, berries, cacao, sweet potatoes, nuts, seeds, organ meats, shellfish, and sardines.
Good Hydration Strategies
Since caffeine can be dehydrating, I recommend cutting back on caffeine. Eliminate energy drinks and caffeinated carbonated or sweet drinks completely. Reduce or eliminate coffee, black tea, and green tea. Since caffeine withdrawal can also cause dizziness, I recommend cutting back gradually if you drink a lot of caffeine (19). Start by cutting back only half a cup or a cup, then reduce it over a period of a few days or weeks.
Drink plenty of clean, purified water. Start with 16 to 32 ounces in the morning then drink 8 ounces every hour or so. If you are working out, sweating a lot, sick, or just thirsty, drink more according to your needs. Drinking water is not enough, however. You have to replenish those electrolytes you are losing by sweating. In fact, overhydration, can actually dilute your blood sodium levels, cause an imbalance, and lead to problems. Add hydrating vegetables, green juices, and smoothies for extra hydration, electrolytes, and nutrition.
If you are an athlete, doing physical labor, sweating a lot, or transition into a low-carb keto diet, improving your electrolyte levels is particularly important. I recommend LMNT, a great-tasting and energizing electrolyte mix. It’s a healthy and nutritious alternative to sugary electrolyte drinks on the market.
Reduce Stress & Optimize Sleep
Stress, anxiety, and PTSD are common emotional causes behind dizziness (14). Stress and poor sleep can also increase the risk of inflammation and poor immune health, which can further contribute to the risk of dizziness and other health issues. I recommend working on reducing your stress and optimizing sleep.
Reduce stressful situation and interaction with people that bring your down as much as possible. Check the news and social media once a day instead of scrolling all day. Practice meditation, breathwork, mindfulness, visualization, journaling, gratitude, and prayer. Seek a supportive community. Spend plenty of time in nature.
Aim to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day to support your natural sleep-wake cycle. Avoid electronics, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and heavy foods close to bedtime. Develop a relaxing nighttime routine that works for you. Invest in a supportive bed, mattress, and pillows, and a blackout curtain or sleep mask for better sleep.
Reduce Mold Exposure & Improve Air Quality
Mold exposure and poor air quality can contribute to dizziness (15, 16). To reduce your risk of dizziness, reduce mold exposure and improve air quality. Check your home for mold. If you have mold, get it professionally removed or move if possible.
Use a HEPA air filtration system or an Air Doctor air purification system to improve your indoor air quality at your home and at work. Get some house plants to improve oxygen at your home. Spent plenty of time in nature and outside of polluted city environments to get some clean air and oxygen.
Test for and Address Anemia and B12 Deficiency
Since anemia and B12 deficiency can both increase your risk of dizziness, it’s important that you get tested for both (20, 21, 22). To reduce your risk of anemia or improve your iron levels, eat plenty of iron-rich foods, including grass-fed red meat, shellfish, turkey, liver, organ meats, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.
If you test low for iron, you may benefit from supplementation, such as Iron Power. Vitamin B12 supplementation is critical for everyone, especially if you are deficient or a vegan or vegetarian. I recommend B12 Power daily for optimal vitamin B12 levels.
Optimize Magnesium Levels
Electrolyte imbalance can cause dizziness and magnesium is one of the major electrolytes that you may be deficient in (1, 2). A 2016 meta-analysis of randomized trials published in Pain Physician has found that magnesium may help to improve migraine, thus may help migraine-related vertigo as well (24).
Foods that are rich in magnesium include greens, nuts, and seeds. However, food alone is often not enough for optimal magnesium levels. I recommend Brain Calm Magnesium.
Improve Detoxification Pathways
Chemical and toxin exposure are among the major causes of dizziness (23). To reduce your toxin load, I recommend improving your detoxification pathways. Follow a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet as outlined earlier. To further support digestion, I recommend taking probiotics.
Try Activated Coconut Charcoal and BioToxin Binder to help remove toxins from your body to be eliminated through bowel movements. Hydrating well, doing regular exercise, sweating, deep breathing, intermittent fasting, rebounding and grounding your body are all important strategies to help support detoxification pathways.
If you are dealing with constipation, you may want to try Bowel Mover to support detoxification through bowel movements. Support your liver and kidneys to help move toxins out of your system.
Practice dry brushing to support your lymphatic system. Try oil pulling to pull out toxins and improve your oral health. Use an infrared sauna and exercise regularly to support detoxification through the skin.
Consider Chiropractic Care and Acupuncture
If you are experiencing dizziness, you may benefit from trying chiropractic care and acupuncture. Chiropractic care is a form of therapy that uses bodywork to manipulate your spine to regain health and balance. Acupuncture uses the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture therapists use tiny needles placed strategically at specific points in your body to improve flow, balance, and health.
Both chiropractic care and acupuncture may offer benefits for those with dizziness. According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, chiropractic care may help to improve dizziness, neck pain, and balance issues (25). A 2015 study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies has found that acupuncture may help to improve dizziness and vertigo (26).
Dizziness is a common health complaint. Getting dizzy occasionally is usually nothing to worry about. However, getting dizzy regularly may mean that you have an underlying health issue going on. Understanding the causes of your dizziness is critical for improving your health. I recommend that you try my natural strategies for dizziness as outlined in this article.
If you want to work with a functional health coach, I recommend this article with tips on how to find a great coach. Our website offers long-distance functional health coaching programs with our world-class team of health coaches. For further support with your health and other goals, just reach out—our fantastic coaches are here to support your journey.
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