Author Archives: Dr. Merry Harris, DC, DACNB

I've been treating a different woman who also has Disembarkment Syndrome (Mal de Disembarquement Syndrome - MdDS) (a specific type of vertigo).  After approximately a month of treatment, her symptoms were about 50% improved. Then, as she was driving in the mountains, a deer jumped out from seemingly nowhere and it ran into the drivers' side of her car! She didn't seem to have symptoms from the car accident. But, 7 days later the symptoms of the vertigo were worse again. Sure enough, an exam revealed that her brain was injured from the whiplash in the accident. I'm optimistic that she will be well again soon.

Please know that all car accidents above 6mph cause neurological problems. Just because a person is symptom free within a couple days of an auto accident does NOT mean they were not injured.

Her young daughter was also in the car. She too, was injured. I'm happy to say that it's only been a month of treatment for her daughter and she is almost pre-accident status.  I wish my mother had known to bring me to a functional neurologist when I had a devastating car accident when I was 7 years old.  This is what triggered my scoliosis.  Get checked!

Well, I've expected this to happen.

Hashimoto's is a disorder of the thyroid gland. It is considered to be an autoimmune disorder. The body gradually destroys its own thyroid gland. It affects energy, weight gain, bowel dysfunction and attitude. I've read several articles that have been linking Hashimoto's to gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity?? Could autoimmune disorders be linked to one of the most inflammatory molecules in our diets (gluten)? Of course. It's just a matter of time before scientists link many autoimmune disorders to inflammatory foods.

However, because of this link, can we undo an autoimmune disease? I think, "Why not?" I've been treating a woman with Disembarkment Syndrome (a specific type of vertigo). She also has had Hashimoto's for years. I've been treating her for approximately 3 months. She had recent blood work done and said her thyroid hormones were now 3 times normal! She bubbled, "My thyroid disorder is in remission!" I'm so thankful. Not only is her vertigo 60% improved, but her autoimmune disease is being corrected. Isn't the body amazing?

When I start treating a patient, I take them off of gluten.  I was hoping that someone soon would have positive changes in their thyroid hormones because of a decrease in inflammation in their body.  I expect this will happen more and more!

There are 3 areas in your head that must integrate so a person can feel balanced.   When one of these areas does not work well, sometimes people have vertigo.  Other times, people have the sense that they are on a boat when they are on unmoving land.  This condition is called Mal de DeBarquement Syndrome or Disembarkment Syndrome.  Yes, the term for 'getting off of a boat' syndrome.  As one patient said, "I cry every day."  This can be debilitating and ruins lives.

The first area to evaluate is the visual system.  If vision is fine, then we move on to the next potential problem area. The second area is the inner ear, which houses the semi-circular canals.  These canals send information to the brain about direction, change in direction and speed of movement.  Sometimes an infection is the culprit here.  However, once the infection clears up, the symptoms should resolve quickly.  The third area which must integrate these other 2 areas is the cerebellum.

The cerebellum does many things, including receiving information about where the body is in space (proprioception).  It then integrates your body, head and eye movements to make you feel stable.

I've treated many patients with vertigo and have had the pleasure to examine 3 people with MdDS.  In all but one of these patients (one did have an inner ear infection), the cerebellum was the culprit.  The cerebellum should have equal signals in and out.  When there is a physiological asymmetry of signals, people have vertiginous symptoms.  All patients whom I have treated have felt improvement within 3 weeks, the amount of time it takes for neurons to grow and make connections.  Making neuroplastic changes in the deficient side of the cerebellum is the goal.  There are many modalities that can be used to do this, including optokinetic work and vibration.  However, an examination is necessary to determine the fatiguability of the cells in the cerebellum and which side is the problem.  People are not usually fixed within 3 weeks, but it is a great start.  Neuroplasticity takes time and the new connections need to be nurtured.  Treatment as well as homework is recommended.

I recommend finding a doctor who holds a Diplomate in Neurology Degree, DACNB, in your area.  Or, call me...425-802-4501.  Yours in health,  Dr. Merry Harris


This has been the most amazing and crazy month. I took a vacation in late September. I wanted to have peace and quiet to begin writing my book about people with difficult neurological conditions who have become well. A couple of hours into the 10 hour flight from Seattle to Frankfurt, I heard the surreal announcement....."Attention all passengers: If there are any doctors or nurses on this flight, please make your way to the main cabin as soon as possible." Does this really happen? Is this real? A universe of thoughts/possibilities and choices went through my mind. Within 3 seconds, I was heading to the front of the aircraft. Although I'm not a medical doctor, I thought I may have something to contribute.

A German nurse was walking ahead of me, a German nurse behind me. When we approached the main cabin, there was a limp man, completely unconscious, slumped forward in his seat. His legs and left arm were covered in vomit. The aisle to his left and the floor in front of him also was covered in vomit. At this point, the nurse behind me turned right around and went back to his seat. I thought, "It's the 2 of us left."

The head flight attendant told me that if I couldn't do anything to wake this man up or make him improve somehow, they would probably have to land the plane before reaching Frankfurt.

I fired off questions to his wife. What happened? Is he on medications? Does he have a heart/lung condition? Is he dehydrated? Has he had any alcohol to drink? He had been in excellent health, very fit, no significant medications. However, he was dehydrated and had twice as much alcohol with the plane meal as he usually has at home. I called for an oxygen tank. Most people on the flight were dehydrated, so why did this man vomit? I thought he probably had a cerebellar deficiency on one side or a brain stem deficit, but how could I determine that while he was unconscious? I also had no tools with me.

The nurse suggested that we lie him face up in the aisle. I said, "I don't think that's a good idea because he's been vomiting and we don't want him to aspirate on his own vomit." Thinking... That's how Jimi Hendrix died. I gently pushed his head from against the seat in front of him to sitting upright. Now he was breathing from an oxygen tank. It could have been 2 or 30 minutes. I don't know which, but eventually his eyes opened. Although he didn't know his name, his body was limp and he was dazed and confused, eventually he was well enough for me to do a simple eye exercise to determine if he indeed had a cerebellar deficit. He did have a left cerebellar deficit. I rolled up my sleeves, stepped in front of him, in the vomit, and began moving his left hand, then left elbow in circular motions.

The oxygen levels in his blood, as determined by a pulse oximeter (pulse O2), were in the mid-70s. This is a critical situation, as a low level would be 94%, and within normal limits would be 98-99%. His brain was starving for oxygen and he was losing cells every minute.

Within a few minutes of passive left body movement, his pulse O2 went to the mid-80%. His face became a bit more animated. The nurse wanted to shine a big flashlight in his pupils to see if there was a response. I recommended against that, as the flashlight was not small or gentle or specific enough. Too much light with a brain that fragile could kill more cells.

For approximately 4 hours of that flight, I was taking care of this man. The amazing details go on and on. I will write all the details of his ordeal in a chapter in my book. I used the medical kit to invent some treatments and continued to gently stimulate his left cerebellum, a couple hours before the flight landed, his pulse O2 was 99% on both sides of his body.  It just seems that I was in the right place at the right time with the right set of tools in my head to help this man.

When we landed in Frankfurt, my one check in luggage bag had been lost. When I finally got my luggage 4 days later, I had never been so happy to see my pair of nail clippers.

Keep up the encouraging lifestyles! Dr. Merry