Bursitis and Hearing Loss - Ask a Nutritionist

April 20, 2023

When a word ends in itis, think inflammation. That inflammation often times is coming from or exacerbated by the food we eat. Our ear health is another aspect of our health that can benefit from better eating. Tune into this week's episode of Ask a Nutritionist with Britni to learn all about how a proper diet can improve pain from bursitis and hearing loss.

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Hello and welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. Before we start the show, I have a question for you. Are you struggling with pesky food cravings that seem to derail your good intentions? Do you find it difficult to hold yourself accountable and stay motivated when adopting new habits while trying to lose weight?

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Welcome to the “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are thrilled to have you join us today as we discuss the connection between what you eat and how you feel, and share practical real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition. Now let's get started.

BRITNI: Good morning and welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's new midweek segment called “Ask a Nutritionist”. My name is Britni Vincent and I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. And on today's show, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness, I will be answering two nutrition questions that we have received from Dishing Up Nutrition listeners.

What is bursitis?

The first question today is, “Is there any connection between food and bursitis pain”? So first I want to just describe what bursitis is. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa, which is a closed fluid-filled sac that works as a cushion and a gliding surface to reduce friction between tissues in the body. And the most common causes of bursitis are injury or overuse, but it can also be caused by infection.

Which foods create inflammation in the body?

So bursitis ends in -itis: i-t-i-s, and anything that ends in -itis means inflammation. So if you are eating foods that create inflammation, that's going to exacerbate the symptoms of your bursitis and allow for a a much longer healing process.

So when we think about foods that create inflammation in the body, the biggest two would be sugar and processed carbohydrates. So the idea is if you can reduce your inflammation through food by eating more of an anti-inflammatory diet, then you should feel and see a reduction in your inflammation and pain caused by the bursitis and heal faster from it as well.

What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

So in anti-inflammatory diet, what that means is, you know, focusing on real foods, getting that protein in, meat, fish, eggs, seafood are, are really the best sources; healthy fats, meat, nuts, seeds, avocado, avocado oil, olive, olives, butter, heavy cream, which would all be healthy fats. And then the carbohydrates: this is a big one. So you want to focus on getting the bulk of your carbohydrates from vegetables. You're going to get a ton of nutrients from those vegetables, great fiber, and then vegetables will reduce the inflammation in your body. And then add some fruit in there as well.

So that means trying to reduce or eliminate those processed carbohydrates, the breads, the pasta, the crackers. All of those carbohydrates are going to turn to sugar in the body and that creates a lot of inflammation. And then of course, reducing or eliminating that sugar intake as well. Another piece here are the refined oils. And refined oils would be like soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, corn oil. All of those are highly processed and create a lot of inflammation in the body. So trying to avoid those as well.

Gluten can be inflammatory for some people

And by eating more of a real food diet, again, you're going to have a lot less inflammation in your body and pain and be able to heal a lot quicker. If you do all of this or you have already done all of this and you're still experiencing some symptoms and you want to take another step, I would try to eliminate gluten. Do an experiment for at least three weeks. Be a hundred percent gluten free. And for a lot of people that reduces inflammation even further.

So gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and kamut, and basically is in anything with traditional wheat flour, you know, breads, pasta, crackers, all of that. Nowadays you can find anything gluten free, but those are generally very high in carbohydrates and sugar as well. So the beauty is all of those real foods that I was talking about are naturally gluten free. And rice, quinoa, potatoes, squash, those are all naturally gluten free carbohydrates that you can replace those gluten containing foods with. You know, I know that's a big step, but again, for a lot of people that reduces inflammation and pain very significantly.

Connection between nutrition and hearing loss

So the next question I have is, “Is there a connection between nutrition and hearing loss”? You know, I, I knew that there was a connection, but I took a deep dive into the research in hearing loss and I was surprised to find how big of a connection there is between food and hearing loss.

And according to the World Health Organization, the incidents of auditory disorders in general is increasing at an alarming rate, and hearing impairment is one of the most prevalent health conditions in the elderly. And a lot of this in the elderly can be tied to nutrient deficiencies, which I'm going to touch on in a little bit. More than half of the people in the United States older than 75 have some degree of age related hearing loss. So that is a huge chunk of of the population.

And we know that hearing loss is associated with depression and anxiety. And in the elderly specifically, hearing loss is associated with increased cognitive dysfunction and dementia. And causes of hearing loss can be noise exposure, genetics, a buildup of earwax ear infections, ruptured eardrum, nutrient deficiencies as I mentioned earlier, and diabetes.

Link between diabetes and hearing loss

So I want to touch on the diabetes part a little bit more because according to the CDC, hearing loss is twice as common in people who have diabetes than it is in people at the same age who don't have diabetes. And even people with prediabetes have a 30% higher rate of hearing loss than people with normal blood sugars. So getting those blood sugars under control can make a big impact because elevated blood sugars cause nerve damage in the body, including the nerves in your ear.

And when we think about keeping your blood sugar balanced, that goes to the combination of eating protein, fat and carbohydrate together. We know that carbohydrates spike our blood sugar the most. Protein does a little bit and fat does not at all. So let's say you eat, you know, even an apple. The carbohydrates from that are going to be enough to create some blood sugar spike. But let's say you had an apple with, you know, a few hard-boiled eggs and some peanut butter for the healthy fat. That fat and that protein are going to reduce the blood sugar spike from that apple.

So eating the three together and really, especially that fat, is going to anchor your blood sugar and prevent that blood sugar rollercoaster where you're going high and low all throughout the day. And also the processed carbohydrates and sugar, those create the largest blood sugar spike. So really limiting those or eliminating those completely will greatly improve your blood sugar.

Nutrient deficiencies associated with hearing loss

I want to talk about those nutrient deficiencies that I mentioned earlier. Vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies of those have been shown to increase hearing loss or cause them. I read a cross-sectional study that found an association between lower dietary calcium and magnesium intake with hearing loss. Another study I looked at found dietary intakes of antioxidants and magnesium were associated with lower risks of hearing loss.

And magnesium specifically is well-documented in both prevention and treatment for hearing loss. And it's pretty cool. Magnesium is able to cross the blood inner ear barrier to offer neuroprotective properties as well as vasodilation.

And then low levels of vitamin D have also been associated with hearing loss. The great thing is by eating real food and a variety of real food, you're going to get all of those nutrients that I just talked about. You know, vitamin B12 you're finding in meat. Folate: the best food source is leafy greens. You know, antioxidants are the most prevalent in fruits and vegetables, and the more variety of color that you get, the more nutrients you get. Magnesium is found in nuts, seeds, beans, dark leafy greens, and meat also does provide us with some magnesium.

I have a really wonderful success story to share with you all. One of the other dietitians at Nutritional Weight and Wellness told me about one of her clients that she has seen. And when he came in, he has had some hearing loss to the point where he needed hearing aids. And at that time he was eating a lot of processed foods and sugar.

And by switching to a real food diet, like I've been talking about, his hearing loss improved, which is verified by an audiologist, and he was able to get rid of his hearing aids. So it's a pretty amazing story and it really just goes to show the power of of real food. You know, both of these questions today are conditions that don't necessarily have an obvious nutrition connection to them. But I think this is a great example that even if you don't think nutrition can impact your health conditions, I would argue that nutrition can improve the vast majority of health conditions, or at least provide some improvement in symptom management.

So thank you for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition’s “Ask a Nutritionist”. If you have a nutrition question that you would like us to answer, we invite you to join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook group by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook. This private group is moderated by Nutritional Weight and Wellness nutritionists and nutrition educators, and provides our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners with a safe, supportive community to ask questions, share ideas, and get inspired. And once you're a member of our community, we invite you to join the conversation. Share your questions with us. So please don't be shy. If you have a question, let us know. We look forward to hearing from you.

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