Attacking Tinnitus: First Steps

Rehabbed Recipes posts are dedicated to the battle with tinnitus, aka ringing in the ears. Gluten and salicylate free foods make a difference. 

551_245 Roast Loin of Pork with Fennel
Ina Garten’s Roasted Pork and Vegetables

Hands down, one of the most significant steps for Jim in reducing the symptoms of tinnitus was a visit with an integrative and functional medical doctor. Here Jim learned what to eat to lessen the ringing in his ears. (We haven’t found a cure; it never really goes away.) The doctor’s most helpful suggestion was to avoid the food chemical, salicylate. This pesky little acid is in LOTS of foods. Once home from our visit, an internet search brought us to This site has become our go-to food guide for meal planning. But I think this website should come with a “warning label.”

Warning: reading this site can create great anxiety and discouragement.

I imagine you are wondering how avoiding a food chemical could bring such angst.

Well, take a moment to visit the salicylate sensitivities site by clicking here. Ready? Go.

Now you understand the warning. Food restriction is not fun. Good-bye favorites and so long variety.

Our initial reaction to “foods to avoid” was to gape at the list with our jaws dropped. My first thought was “how in the world am I going to cook for my husband?” JIm’s response was a little more concrete: “What, I can’t have green peppers? No tomatoes? Carrot sticks? Corn on the cob?” And then it dawned on him. This meant no catsup– one of his favorite. Gone were his favorite meat loaf recipe, stuffed peppers, and turkey dressing. And no traditional pizza, most Italian dishes, Mexican cuisine, or fast food.

But Jim was desperate. As I shared before, he’s had some pretty low moments with the volume of noise in his ears. He was a willing patient; depending upon me to nurse his ears back to some normalcy with meals of little or no salicylic acid.

So we cut out what seemed to be a major part of our weekly menus, started cooking according to what was on the “demons list,”  kept a food journal of how his ears were doing, and slowly reintroduced foods guilty of being laced with the nasty stuff. I charted the impact of dietary changes daily. At the end of every evening for several weeks, I asked Jim to give me a number on the scale of 1-10 to indicate how badly his ears were ringing.

Lo, and behold, diet did make a difference. Corn was a killer. Most seasonings (absolutely no pepper!) drove his ears nuts. Oh, and nuts were aggravating so we waved good-bye to peanut butter. Sayonara licorice, his favorite treat, because flavorings produced more ringing.  Juice with breakfast was axed. And on and on the lack of eating options continued. Yet Jim was grateful. I took classic recipes and adjusted them to accommodate Jim’s needs. I call my new recipes, rehabbed recipes. These recipes were worth it, such as Ina Garten’s pork roast shown above. I just switched up the marinade and left out the carrots. The “rehabs” were a huge victory.

As for me, I felt a little anxious. The big question became, how am I going to maintain my diet plan and Jim’s as well? The same doctor that clued Jim in to changing his food choices prescribed the Mediterranean diet for me to lower my cholesterol. It was working so I really didn’t want to give it up. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve finally developed dinner plans that satisfy both of us. Some days we eat totally different foods, other days we eat the same things.

Jim and our four year old grandson, Owen


If you, too, are on a mission to attack the effects of tinnitus, follow these initial steps.

  • Begin with dietary changes. Refer often to the salicylate sensitivities list.
  • As much as possible, eliminate foods in the “moderate” and “high” lists of salicylate for a month.
  • Serve foods that are considered “negligible” and “low” (refer to list on the website) in quantity of salicylate acid.
  • Keep a journal. Track the impact of foods on the noise level in the ears.
  • Make notes on the foods that exacerbate ringing in the ears. Eliminate those from meal planning.
  • Reintroduce the eliminated foods foods in the “moderate” and “high” categories. If ringing follows consumption of a certain food, make a note to remove that from your meal planning.

I kept a food journal for about a month.  I know Jim appreciated the effort and time I took to figure out our plan of attack. Support and encouragement are important ingredients to managing food sensitivities. People with tinnitus feel like there is something wrong with them. They keep the intrusion to themselves. Talking about it and addressing it is important intervention.

Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you. Jim’s doctor tested him for food allergies. We discovered Jim has sensitivities to yeast, wheat, and gluten. So all my rehabbed recipes are gluten free as well.

Would love to hear from you and your own experiences with food sensitivities and tinnitus.

Next up: a shopping list of ingredients you can use in tinnitus-friendly, gluten free meal planning.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s