by Catherine DeVos, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Newmarket, Ontario
If you’ve ever had to fill a prescription for antibiotics for your child’s ear infection, you need to know this: Middle ear infections in children have been linked to food allergies, and thousands, if not millions of children have been treated and damaged unnecessarily by harsh antibiotics when a simple change in diet would have been required.
Our family has been a victim of this ignorance. I have a son who had repeated soreness in the ears when he was about age 6. We finally found out at a walk-in clinic, that my son did not have the “ear infection” a few other doctors had suggested, but fluid in the middle ear. He suggested we see an ear, nose and throat specialist for further assessment. I had a feeling there was no real “infection” as his soreness was never terribly painful. But we succumbed to the suggestion of having my son go through day surgery to have a myringotomy or tubes put into his ears to relieve the pressure. We were told it was common that certain children have problems with the position of the eustachian tube and that the natural draining of fluid in the ear often malfunctions and can cause serious pain. The problem with this procedure however, is that the tubes eventually fall out, and follow-up surgery is often required to re-insert them. Doesn’t sound too good, huh? Who wants their kid going through surgery over and over again? Just doesn’t make sense to me. I found out much later, that myringotomy is the most common surgery performed on children.
Just after my son’s surgery in 2006, I started reading about dairy sensitivities and ear infections, so I kept my son off dairy as much as possible and gave him calcium supplements. His ear soreness returned but there was no way I was going to send him back to the surgeon for more tubes. It turned out that on one occasion when his ear pain was quite severe, I used Reflexology to relieve the pain, and within hours, his ears drained and we could see fluid flowing out of his ear…He never had pain after that, and I became a staunch believer in Reflexology!!
So what caused this ear infection that mysteriously disappeared after my amateur session of Reflexology? Well, the reading I’ve done since then shows a serious disconnect between us, the patient and the medical researcher, and the serious ignorance of the family health care provider or pediatrician.
It’s been known for quite some time that ear infections in children are linked to food allergies. In the U.S. it is estimated that otitis media (middle ear infections), occur in two thirds of children there, and it is probably very similar up here in Canada. These infections often occur again and again, despite the use of antibiotics. I found out that an enlightened Allergist at the Georgetown University School of Medicine (Washington, D.C.) and his team of researchers tested 104 children with recurrent ear infections and found that many had food allergies. Approximately one third had an allergy to milk. Another third were affected by wheat. When many of these children were examined after a diet excluding the offending food, many experienced relief from their ear infections. This study was published in the Annals of Allergy, in Sept. 1994. Wow, 20 years ago, and no one seems to know about this!!
Repeated use of antibiotics in autistic children has been a serious problem in the past, as many seemingly normal children receive a diagnosis of autism after several courses of antibiotics. There are other factors involved here, of course, but it often seems to be, that the key cause of this regression into autism, was the detrimental effect upon the natural biological flora of the intestinal system. Some, despite intensive probiotic therapy, have never recovered.
So why do so many family doctors and pediatricians continue to prescribe antibiotics for this simple problem that has been known to be triggered by food allergies? I figured it wasn’t in the interest of the Ear, Nose & Throat medical community, as it would cut into a major source of income for these surgeons. Why tell families how to prevent ear infections, when cutting into children’s ears is much more lucrative?
I wanted to know more about exactly who knew about this important research. Since it was conducted about 20 years ago, I figured the medical community had time to catch up. I did some digging into my own books that I had acquired since my son’s recovery in 2007. I was pleased that Carolee Bateson-Koch, DC, ND has a lengthy discussion of ear infections in her book Allergies: Disease in Disguise, one of my favourite books on the reading list at the school where I studied holistic nutrition. She emphasizes the error in term: that this is not really an “infection”, but an inflammation. She also points out a study conducted by David Hurst, MD that showed amoxicillin therapy to be very ineffective in the treatment of otitis media. According to Dr. Hurst, 28 studies on the efficacy of antibiotic therapy for chronic otitis media concluded that antibiotic therapy was no more effective than placebo.
So when ear infections present, what does Bateson-Koch suggest in her book? 1. Look to possible food sensitivities/allergies and get an assessment, 2. Encourage breast feeding, 3. Evaluate the necessity of formula over breast milk, and 4. Re-evaluate the need for antibiotics. She also points out the need to look at a possible infestation of candida albicans.
In my readings, I could only find a handful of practitioners in the medical community who seemed to be aware of the research I mentioned previously: Dr. M. Schmidt, Dr. Robert O’Connor, Dr. G. Shambaugh, Dr. P. McGovern, Dr. B. Epstein, Dr. W. G. Crook (the Yeast expert), Dr. William Shaw, Ph.D., the owner of Great Plains Lab, Dr. Z. Rona (a local Toronto holistic doctor). Rather shocking!
What never came up in my text readings, were the stories of successful treatment of ear infections with natural ear drop combinations that are available at the health food store or through essential oil distributors. Drops that contain diluted tea tree oil have been known to help eliminate these ear infections/inflammations, despite attention to diet. However, this anecdotal information is more often found in blogs and on the internet, not in medical journals or the current materia medica.
What about you? Have you had problems with recurrent ear infections in your children? What did you do to deal with it? I’d love to hear back from you. Please leave a comment below!
Blog Title: Is It Ear Infection or Food Allergy?
Nsouli, TM; Nsouli SM; Linde RE; O’Mara F; Scanlon RT; Bellanti JA. Role of Food Allergy in Serious Otitis Media, Annals of Allergy, 1994 Sept, 73 (3);215-9
John P. McGovern, MD, Founder of the McGovern Allergy & Asthma Clinic, Washington, D.C.
Dr. G.E. Shambaugh, J. Authority on Ear Disorders, Amherst College & Harvard Medical School, Professor of Medicine at Northwestern’s University Hospital & medical school.
Dr. Z. Rona, Childhood Illness and the Allergy Connection, Prima Publishing. 1997.
Carolee Bateson-Koch, DC ND, Allergies: Disease in Disguise, Alive Books, 1994.
Dr. W. G. Crook, The Yeast Connection Handbook, Alive Books, 1996.
Dr. William Shaw, Biological Treatments for Autism & PDD, 3rd Edition, 2008, Great Plains Lab.
Tea tree oil can be diluted in fractionated coconut oil or MCT oil: medium chain triglyceride oil.