Written by Dr. Sandra Miranda, BSc, ND
Over 3 million children in Canada are treated for ear infections every year. The goal of Naturopathic care is to safely and quickly remove the cause of inflammation and infection and to prevent future problems by building a strong immune system. Ear infections are more common in the winter when bacteria and viruses are out in full force. At this time of year, our natural resistance tends to be lowered by less exercise, fresh air and fresh foods. Indulging in sweets is sometimes the last push into an earache.
The underlying problem is often an immune system that has been weakened by diet, stress, inadequate early treatment of a minor cold or infection or an imbalance of the intestinal tract.
If ear infections are a recurrent problem, allergies are the #1 suspect. The root cause of allergies may be associated with food intolerances. These children may also suffer from other problems such as asthma, congestion, eczema, psoriasis, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, colics, diaper rashes, hyperactivity, recurrent sore throats, etc.
Antibiotics – the overkill treatment of choice
The problem with antibiotics is that they often have side effects (abdominal discomfort, stomach pain, and yeast infections) and they do not build the immune system. Antibiotics don’t only kill the bad bacteria (which is causing the ear infection) but they also destroy beneficial bacteria in our intestines, leaving fertile ground for the overgrowth of harmful yeast such as Candida. People not receiving antibiotics have less frequent recurrence of ear infections than people who receive antibiotics! The current belief is that antibiotics remove the opportunity for the immune system to develop itself in fighting current and future infections.
Treatments and Prevention
Nutrition – Breastfeeding is known to protect against ear infections. Studies have shown that the longer a baby is breastfed, the less likely they are to get ear infections. This seems to be partly because of the antibodies that mother’s milk contains, and also because it decreases the use of cow’s milk, a common food intolerance in young children.
If a child has been suffering with recurrent ear infections for a while and especially if s/he has taken antibiotics, eliminating dairy may not be enough. The child may need to re-establish a healthy intestinal flora to strengthen the immune system. During an earache, avoiding dairy products, refined foods and sweets will reward you with speedier recovery and a happier child. Keep the child well hydrated, providing water, teas and diluted fruit juices.
Hoemoepathic remedies are safe and gentle treatments for children. Their goal would be to strengthen the child’s immune defenses, and decrease their susceptibility for getting ear infections.