Ear Infection: The Allergy Connection

Ear Infection: The Allergy Connection

Clinical studies show allergy plays a major role in middle ear infection. In a recent study of 448 patients with middle ear infection, 57 per cent had asthma, a known allergy-based problem, 95 per cent had allergic rhinitis and 16 per cent had skin rash. Another study showed there is immune deficiency in children with middle ear infection.

Antibodies against specific foods have been isolated in the serum and middle-ear fluids of ear infection-prone children. Of these allergy antibodies, the one for milk is most common, followed by egg, then wheat. Ear infections can be prevented and treated naturally by watching out for and addressing your children's food allergies, and by providing safe, wholesome nutrients to boost their immune systems.

Antibiotics Ineffective

Seventy per cent of all children suffer from ear infection at least once. More than half of these children suffer ear infection before their third birthday. Middle ear infection is the leading cause of deafness in children. Antibiotics are the standard treatment. However antibiotics provide only temporary relief and no protection against recurring episodes.

A recent study on the effectiveness of antibiotics for middle ear infection demonstrated that after treatment with amoxicillin, 69 per cent of the children still had otitis media (middle ear inflammation). Another study showed that amoxicillin administration gave no more protection against acute episodes than a placebo.

Commonly, the child is subjected to repeated doses of antibiotics until the recommendation for tympanostomy (tubes in the ears) is finally made. While this procedure is generally regarded to be safe, it usually involves a general anesthetic, which in itself carries some risk. The tubes stay in place from three to 18 months (six months being the average) before they are extruded into the ear canal. In some cases, the surgical procedure must be repeated two or three times. Scarring of the ear drum and loss of hearing are possible side-effects. At best, this is a symptomatic treatment.

What causes ears to become inflamed over and over, and why are antibiotics and surgery not a permanent cure?

Many causes have been traditionally recognized, such as a blocked eustachian tube -- the tiny tube that runs from the middle ear to the nose. Studies show that when this tube is blocked, the middle ear will accumulate fluid. When infections originate in the throat, nasal areas or tonsils, the pathogenic bacteria often travel up the eustachian tube to the middle ear. In an infant or younger child this tube is short, straight and horizontal, whereas that of an adult is more angular and closed, except when yawning or swallowing. This factor allows for easier infection in children.

Breastfeeding is Best Protection

New studies suggest that breastfeeding infants has a protective effect against infections of the middle ear. In 256 infants, the incidence of otitis media was inversely associated with the duration of breastfeeding. In other words, the longer the infant was breastfed, the less middle ear infection.

Why would breastfeeding make such a difference? There are several explanations:

- Allergy to one or more components in cow's or formula milk. It is well known that swelling of tissues is an effect of allergy. In this case the mucosa of the eustachian tube swells, closing the path from the nose to the middle ear. Once the tube is blocked, fluid begins to collect in the middle ear, often resulting in infection.

- Breast milk conveys immune-boosting factors to the infant which help prevent bacterial and viral infections. It contains immunoglobins and various types of white blood cells. Breast milk prevents the spread of pneumonia- and flu-causing bacteria.

- Breast milk contains natural enzymes to aid in its digestion, requiring little digestive effort on the part of the infant. Cow's milk and infant formulas have been heat-treated through pasteurization at temperatures high enough to kill all these good enzymes. In order to digest this milk, the infant must supply all of the enzymes from his or her own digestive fluids. If the immature digestive tract cannot supply the needed enzymes, incomplete digestion results. Partially digested protein particles can now pass through the intestinal lining and into the general circulation. This causes an allergic response.

The fact that allergy antibodies have been isolated in inner ear fluids indicates that the ear is a site for the allergic reaction. Cow's milk and infant formulas are also much higher in protein than breast milk, putting an additional load on the infant's digestive tract and allowing more potential for incompletely digested protein to enter the general circulation.

- Antibiotics used to treat middle ear infection can create candidiasis (yeast infection). Clinical studies show that candida is usually present in the middle ear after one or two episodes of infection. A baby can also be born with this condition if the mother has candidiasis. This chronic infection keeps the ear in a weakened state of lowered immunity and allows new infections of bacteria to occur.

Help Your Child Recover from Ear Infection

Clinical studies show that nutritional therapy helps prevent recurring episodes of middle ear infection. If your child has ear infection, there are specific things you can do to help. Keep in mind, however, that there are many individual differences and needs. Only the most commonly seen conditions are addressed here. If your child has had two bouts of ear infection in the first two years of life, all of the following can be helpful:

Supply lactobacillus acidophilus to the child. Good quality products are kept in the refrigerator at health food stores. They come in capsule, tablet or powder form -- for very young children the powder form is best. Administer daily for a minimum of one month in mild cases of ear infection, and up to six months to one year for severe cases.

Give concentrated plant enzymes each time the child eats. Protease should be the first ingredient listed on the label, along with amylase, lipase and cellulase. Capsules can be opened and the contents mixed with food if the child is too young too swallow them.

Eliminate dairy products. This includes all dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and others. Also eliminate all products containing refined sugars and peanuts. This alone will help the digestive tract improve function by eliminating the foods that place the greatest demand upon it. If the child has had severe and/or frequent ear infections, assume that any frequently eaten food, such as wheat, corn or eggs, can be involved allergically. These foods need only be removed for one month. The milk and sugar products must be restricted for several months and allowed only infrequently after that period of time. Homogenized, pasteurized milk should never be allowed.

Use mullein oil ear drops, available at health food stores, nightly for one week. Then use the drops only if symptoms of ear infection should reappear. A good ear drop formula contains mullein oil, hypericum oil and garlic oil.

This program covers only the usual or common case. If your child still demonstrates symptoms after six weeks of this program, additional professional advice should be sought.

Nearly all children with ear infection will show improvement on this program, but some children have idiosyncrasies that must be addressed. This program has been successful with hundreds of children with no negative side-effects.

Recommended Reading:

Allergies -- Disease in Disguise by C Bateson-Koch (sc) 208pp $17.95

Childhood Ear Infections by M Schmidt (sc) 310pp $18.95

The All Natural Allergy Cookbook by J Martin (sc) 200pp $116.95

Canadian Health Reform Products Ltd.

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By Carolee Bateson-Koch

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