Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Understanding Chronic Ear Infections

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
For children unfortunate enough to suffer these painful and debilitating infections natural medicine offers a clear path to ceasing the vicious cycle.  Chronic ear infections are an indication of reduced numbers of beneficial bacteria in the Ear, Nose and Throat passages. This causes the immune system to be compromised.  Babies are born sterile and rely on the passage through the birth canal and the consumption breast milk to acquire their beneficial bacteria.  Babies also develop beneficial bacteria populations when they come into contact with other people such as dad or other relatives.  Children rely on these beneficial helpers for robust and appropriate immune reponses.  So what causes these bacteria numbers to be reduced?
Things that will reduce beneficial bacteria and increase numbers of pathogenic species include dietary sugar (either by itself or in the form of refined foods), unnecessary antibiotics and paracetamol use, (both of which are heavily sweetened with sugar syrups) and the advent of overtly sterile environments due to overuse of antibacterial cleaning products.  When pathogenic bacteria increase in number they compromise the immune response. In the case of chronic ear infections this may lead to recurrent episodes or other upper respiratory complaints like sore throats, tonsilitis and swollen glands.

When beneficial flora become low in number the body tries to compensate by producing excess mucous. This can be seen as a warning sign.  If your child tends to be constantly battling a running nose or sounds raspy or congested then this should be seen as the immune system struggling. It may also be related to food allergy and sensitivity. The recurrence of ear infections are often due to a condition called'"Glue Ear'". This is an accumulation of bacteria-laden fluid in the Eustachian tube.  It can affect hearing, speech quality, balance and co-ordination and learning. Glue Ear is highly common and unless resolved will result in repeat ear infection. This is one reason why antibiotic fails to help chronic ear infections.  The other is that the bacteria develop resistance partly because antibiotic syrups have a high sugar content which actually help the pathogenic bacteria grow stronger.  In order to successfully treat chronic ear infection the underlying cause must be addressed .

How Natural Medicine can help resolve these infections.
  •  Remove foods that create mucous: Dairy, Sugar and refined processed foods.  In some cases this alone has resolved glue ear and prevented the return of ear infections.
  • Give a therapeutic probiotic: Administer this by tipping the contents of a capsule onto the child''s tongue just befor bed.  It will provide a localised anti-bacterial effect allowing the immune system to fight back.
  • Reconsider antibiotic use: studies between children given antibiotic therapy verses no therapy for ear infection found the recover rate to be the same!
  • Seek to use alternatives to counter a fever greater that 38 degrees (100F) Herbal teas and  tinctures, homoeopathic medicines and mineral therapy are safe and work wonders. Unlike paracetamol they are not laced with sugar. Also, rmember that fever is a beneficial body response and should be encouraged unless dangerous.
  • Keep your child warm: Keep a hat on your child''s head and keep their chest warm.  Use warm fluids and offer soups.  French onion soup is particularly good for ear complaints.
  • A few drops of warm olive oil or Mullein oil can help ease the pain and reduce the inflammation.