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Intracranial Hypertension Diet

Intracranial hypertension or pseudotumor cerebri occurs when the pressure within the skull, known as intracranial pressure, increases for no evident reason. The symptoms are similar to those of a brain tumor. It occurs most commonly in obese women during their childbearing years but it may also affect children and adults. Intracranial hypertension causes a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid. This in turn causes swelling in the brain.

The blood volume in the blood vessels surrounding the brain also increases. While most people with this condition can continue leading normal lives, others need to take certain precautions such as avoiding certain sporting activities and keeping a check on their diet.

Foods to include

Foods that are good for intracranial hypertension include:

  • Fruits – Fruits contain fiber and vitamins and form an important part of any diet for weight loss. Keep a bowl of fruit handy and eat at least 5 helpings every day. They make a wonderful snack between meals and help to keep the hunger pangs at bay.
  • Lean meat – poultry and fish have low fat content and can help to keep the calorie count low while supplying your body with the proteins it needs.
  • Low fat dairy products
  • Olive oil, canola oil and other sources of monounsaturated fats will help keep cholesterol levels under control.
  • Oats
  • Whole grain bread

In addition to these foods for intracranial hypertension, it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly.

Foods to Avoid

Certain foods lead to an increase in intracranial pressure and should be limited or avoided altogether. Your doctor may suggest certain changes to your regular eating habits. Some of these restrictions include:

  • A limit your intake of salt. Salt causes water retention within the body and causes an increase in blood pressure.
  • A limit your intake of fats. Excessive levels of fat in the diet hinder weight loss that is advisable for this condition. Avoid red meat and processed meats like pork, bacon and beef.
  • Foods that are rich in vitamin A and tyramine may have an adverse impact on intracranial hypertension. Tyramine is a compound formed during the breakdown of tyrosine, an amino acid and can cause blood vessels to dilate. For this reason, foods rich in tyramine should be avoided. These include preserved, dried or aged foods such as pickles, pickled foods, salami, pepperoni, sauerkraut, olives, fermented soy products, nuts, aged cheese, beer and wine. Foods with high levels of vitamin A should also be avoided. These include liver, carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables.
  • Alcohol – If you must drink make sure you consume enough water to prevent dehydration.
  • Coffee – This includes drinks containing caffeine.

Intracranial hypertension and obesity

The exact relationship between intracranial hypertension and weight is not known. Many people with intracranial hypertension however, report a decrease in symptoms such as papilledema, with a reduction in weight, while in some instances, remissions have been known to occur. For this reason, reduction in weight is very important for those who are overweight and have intracranial hypertension. A correct diet for intracranial hypertension can help people lose weight and may lead to a decrease in symptoms associated with this condition. Studies show that a low energy diet is very effective in losing excess weight and reducing the symptoms of intracranial hypertension.

There are also certain activities you need to avoid if you have intracranial hypertension. . These include activities such as somersaults, bungee jumping, judo, rugby, high g-force rides at amusement parks, and twisting and stretching exercises. Avoid excessive exposure to the sun as intracranial hypertension can cause problems with body temperature control. You should also quit smoking. Intracranial hypertension may also affect your ability to judge distances and speed.

Additional intracranial hypertension info


Symptoms of intracranial hypertension include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Episodes of blindness in one or both the eyes that last for a few seconds
  • Headaches originating behind the eyes which get aggravated with eye movement
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Difficulty in seeing to one side
  • Double vision
  • Seeing light flashes
  • Pain in the neck, shoulder or back


In most cases the causes of intracranial hypertension remain unknown. It may be linked to an excess of cerebrospinal fluid within the skull as well as to a narrowing of the transverse sinuses. In the latter case it is uncertain whether the narrowing of the transverse sinuses is a caused by or an effect of the condition.


Treatment of intracranial hypertension begins with medications that control the symptoms. These include:

  • Glaucoma drugs – Acetazolamide (Diamox) is the drug of choice. It cuts the production of cerebrospinal fluid by at least 50%
  • Diuretics – If acetazolamide alone proves ineffective, it may be combined with a diuretic such as furosemide which helps reduce liquid retention
  • Migraine medications – These are sometimes given to treat the severe headaches caused by intracranial hypertension.

Surgery is sometimes necessary to reduce intracranial pressure or pressure on the optic nerve. Surgical procedures include:

  • Optic nerve fenestration – A cut is made in the membrane surrounding the optic nerve allowing excess cerebrospinal fluid to drain away.
  • Spinal fluid shunt – A thin long tube or shunt is inserted into the brain or lower spine which helps drain away excess cerebrospinal fluid.


There are three stages intracranial hypertension. In stage 1, the intracranial pressure increase is minimal. Stage 2 is characterized by a drastic increase in intracranial pressure. In stage 3 the increases is so severe that it causes a reduction in cerebral flow, eventually leading to ischemia and brain infarction.



Submitted on January 16, 2014