5 Natural Treatments for Ear Infections
If I can show you 5 natural treatments that are proven to work for ear infections especially in kids, would you be interested? I’m willing to bet you would be and that’s what I want to share. Today, if I look at the incidence of visits to doctor’s offices for kids, one of the most common reasons that kids visit doctor’s offices is for ear infections. In fact, it is probably the most common infection seen in kids today. That’s significant!
What are the standard treatments for ear infections? The most common intervention is antibiotics. Antibiotics are not without their problems, especially when you look at a couple of the facts here:
- If we look at ear infections as a whole, within 24 hours, 60% of ear infections resolve on their own. That means they are self-limiting within 24 hours.
- After 72 hours, 80% of cases of ear infections are self-limiting. So 80% of ear infections, within 3 days, are self-limiting. That’s significant and simply says that there may not be as much need for antibiotics as is probably recommended.
The Most Common Treatment and the List of Problems it Creates
Nonetheless, these antibiotics are still being recommended so we have to take into consideration what are their effects. One of the most common side effects of antibiotics is that it destroys the natural bacterial make-up in the gastrointestinal tract. This has a significant bearing on our nutritional status, given that our B vitamins and our vitamin K are produced in significant portions by the probiotics in our gastrointestinal tract. Not only do they produce those, they also produce chemicals that help support our brain health. That’s extremely important especially when we’re talking about kids and their developing brain to make sure there is a good balance of activity in the brain. Antibiotics also inhibit the natural development of the immune response and over time weaken the immune system.
Probiotics – The Go-To of the 5 Natural Treatments for Ear Infections
To shift direction here, let’s talk about the first of the 5 natural treatments for ear infections. #1 at the top of the list is going to be probiotics. It seems logical, especially if someone has been on antibiotics. We actually want to utilize these probiotics to not just rebuild and repair the gastrointestinal tract but also to help modulate our overall immune function. Probiotics are extremely beneficial in terms of helping with upper respiratory infections. They are very good for ear infections as well. Probiotics should be a consideration. The lactobacillus and the bifidobacterium strains that are common have been well researched. This is a great primary intervention, especially given that most kids probably are not getting good administration or ingestion of probiotics routinely.
Additionally, they have important immune-modulating effects. When we talk about probiotics, if you’re having a cold or if you’re having a more chronic, infectious state, normally, individuals that don’t have a good balance of probiotics in their gut are more prone. Interestingly, this is one of the conundrums of utilizing antibiotics for an ear infection, especially in repeated courses. We may actually be setting up the predisposition for additional ear infections with the chronic use of antibiotics.
Use Sugar to Solve the Problem
The second of the 5 natural treatments is going to be xylitol. Xylitol is not commonly utilized for ear infections. Probably the most likely reason for that is it’s not really known by parents. If more parents knew about xylitol, they would most likely utilize xylitol with their kids. One of the things that xylitol does is it inhibits the adhesion of different streptococcus species. Just like when we talk about a strep throat, that’s a streptococcal species. Xylitol inhibits strep species from finding their way in and adhering into the eustachian tubes in the ears, into the sinus cavities, in the different sinus regions as well as in the mouth. Xylitol has been used as a treatment for dental caries / cavities for some time and it has really good evidence behind it.
The key with xylitol is making sure we have a good dose. A good dose is usually around 5g about 3 times a day in spread-out dosages. Xylitol comes from different sources. It can come from corn. It can come from hardwood trees such as the birch tree. My recommendation: avoid the corn; find a good birch wood or hardwood source for xylitol. Most kids aren’t going to have a problem with this. It has a nice sweet flavor to it, much like sugar. It is a sugar, but it’s just different from what we commonly know as table sugar. It doesn’t have the same negative impact. Yet, as a sugar, it inhibits the growth of these different streptococcal species.
Baby Humans are NOT Baby Cows
The third of our 5 natural treatments for ear infections is going to be remove dairy. There is a pretty clear stream of evidence that shows that if an infant consumes dairy especially within the first 3 months of life, probably better stated — within the first 6 months of life, that infant is going to have a higher likelihood of developing ear infections. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise when you think about dairy and it being listed in the FDA’s Top 8 Allergens. It’s right in there with wheat, soy, and corn. Dairy is going to be one of those risky foods, especially in the early stages of life where the immune system is a little more vulnerable and the gastrointestinal tract hasn’t developed competently yet. Definitely take dairy out. Keep dairy away from infants and it will help reduce their incidence of ear infections.
Mother Knows Best
Pretty logical along with the removal of dairy comes the fourth of the 5 natural treatments for ear infections. That’s going to be breastfeeding. It is no secret the benefits of breastfeeding are huge. We know just from a nurturing level, it enhances the bond both physically and hormonally between the mother and the baby. This alone creates less stress for the baby and secondarily promotes a healthier immune system. There are obviously important connections on that level. Also, what we know is that there are numerous compounds in breast milk. It’s not just the milk, the protein, and the nourishment. There are actually immune-modulating compounds in breast milk that are going to have a significant impact on the overall potential for development of ear infection. You also get anti-microbial effects so some of these compounds actually inhibit the growth of the bacteria. You’re going to have anti-inflammatory effects as well. Certainly, no matter what age you are, keeping inflammation down can always be of benefit.
It has actually been shown that if a mother can breastfeed for at least 3 months, then the number of ear infections or the likelihood of a child developing ear infections is dramatically decreased. Most of the evidence on this in part shows that if the time frame of 6 months or greater than 6 months can be reached, the benefits are that much higher. Certainly, we want mothers to try to reach those time frames, if possible.
The last of our 5 natural treatments for ear infections is going to be chiropractic. This seems a little bit different given that we’re looking at a manual therapy as compared to nutritional or bio-chemical interventions. There has been shown to be good benefit in this. Let me make just a couple of points on this. In some studies that we’re going back and looking at the benefits of chiropractic, it has been shown that
- 93% of those individuals who received chiropractic care experienced benefit or experienced complete resolution from ear infections; 93% — that’s a significant number and that’s a number you want to pay attention to.
- 75% of the total individuals saw complete resolution within 10 days or less — another significant number.
- 43% only took 1-2 treatments to achieve complete resolution. Those are not numbers that you want to snuff at; those are important numbers.
These are numbers that should have you thinking about seeking the help of a chiropractor next time your child has an ear infection.
Why am I telling you all this? At the end of the day, what I want you to know is that there are not just 5 natural treatments for ear infections — that’s important and I want you to know that. But I also want you to know that you as a parent for your kids, have options. You don’t have to just go the antibiotic route. There are other proven, scientifically valid options that you can intervene with. I didn’t just pull these out and these are not just things that I randomly use in my practice. These are things that have a very nice evidence base behind them. You can put confidence in these and utilize them with your children. Think about these 5 natural treatments for ear infections before looking at doing some other type of intervention, especially given that 80% of cases are self-limiting within 72 hours.