Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What You Wish You Knew About Ear Infections.... 

As winter comes and goes on almost a daily basis here in Arlington Texas, we notice an increase in "common colds" leading to ear infections in babies and children of all ages. I see a constant stream of worn out parents on Facebook venting over their recent one-three consecutive trips to their child's pediatrician for antibiotics that in their words "don't seem to be working at all." With the entire house on edge over missing work, high fevers that last throughout the night, and cranky babies parents are actively searching for any advice their fellow tired parent Facebook friends can give them. The advice I see given runs the gamet...everything from different medications to ask the doctor for, to soaking the ear with hot rags, applying oils of all kinds, and last but not least getting tubes put in to help the ears drain. The frustration and exhaustion is evident and the solutions running such a wide scope of home remedies to modern medicine are always a guessing game.  
Well, I am here to tell you that believe it or not your child has the ability to heal and prevent those terribly painful and aggravating ear infections on their own with no help from antibiotics. While hot rags and oils can help your child cope with the symptoms and in some cases be antibacterial and antiviral, they do not address the cause of the ear "infection." I came across this video I will share below from the founder of the Holistic Pediatric Association, Dr. Lawrence Palevsky, regarding the cause of ear infections and the overly used, unbeneficial, and even harmful use of antibiotics. My heart sings with joy as I see practitioners other than Chiropractors understanding and employing this EVIDENCE based approach to care for children. 
Dr. Palevsky states that ear infections are not actually ear infections but yet an inflammatory process. He is 100% correct. To fully understand this simple process see the diagram & explanation below. 
The cause of inflammation and pain in the ear is due to the following factors: 
The ear canal is unable to drain mucous created in the inner ear through the eustachean tube. This is due to dysfunction of the two things that mediate this process- the muscle and nerve attached to the tube.  
-A tiny little muscle called the tensor veli palatini contracts causing suction and drainage of the tube every time you swallow or yawn.
nerve called the median pterygoid, a branch of the mandibular nerve, supplies this muscle so that it is able to contract properly.                                                                                                    
Without proper nerve supply to this muscle the body has no way to contract the tube and the mucous has no way to drain out of the inner ear. This build up of mucous causes congestion, inflammation, and pain. 
So then what causes a compromise in nerve supply to this tiny muscle that drains the ear? 
The nerve supply to the muscle of the inner ear can be compromised by a misalignment in the upper cervical complex- including the cranial bones, mandible, and first two vertebrae in the cervical spine (neck). The illustration below shows how misalignment's in the upper portion of the neck can cause a decrease in nerve impulse from the brain, compression of the spinal cord, and therefore a decrease in the nerve impulse to the nerve that supplies the end organ; which in this case is the tiny muscle-tensor veli palatini. 
This applies to your entire body because every single organ and tissue, including your heart, stomach, reproductive organs, and muscles are supplied by nerves that receive information from the brain--> to the spinal cord ---> to the nerve ----> and to the end organ.
And how is it fixed so that my child has the full potential to heal and prevent ear infections?  
Misalignment's in the spine are corrected through very gentle and highly specific techniques known as chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractic care is adaptable to patients of all sizes and shapes allowing us to adjust every human being from the size of a newborn to the size of a linebacker. Often with children the adjustments are based on gently contacting and holding the bone until the body receives it into the optimal position. Newborns and babies tend to sleep through this while older children really enjoy being part of the entire process. It is incredible to witness the bonds of trust that is created between the chiropractor and the child as the child realizes and learns that Doctor's of Chiropractic are caring, respectful of their space and preferences, and provide gentle and effective care that allows them to express their life at their fullest potential- without interference to the system that runs and regulates their entire body- The Nervous System. 
In addition to Chiropractic Care, what else can I do to help prevent ear infections? 
Another common denominator among children with ear infections is the presence of highly inflammatory foods and a lack of highly nutritious foods in their diet. Many pantries today are full of what can be better referred to as "food products" instead of real whole food. Sugar, dairy, and wheat/gluten are in almost 100% of these foods unless of coarse you buy the gluten free and dairy free version of your kids favorite snack and even then most are still packed with sugar. Having a three year old who is allergic to dairy and gluten has caused me to be quite the entrepreneur of healthy kids snacks.
I suggest the following ideas that are still convenient for the parent and kid friendly: 
1. For packaged snacks to send in lunches or keep your kid from clawing your eyes out on a road trip check out Costco, Sprout's, and Whole Foods for gluten free vegan snacks because these don't have wheat, dairy, eggs, or milk.
These products are becoming increasingly popular and are much easier to find lately:  
-Organic apple sauce and other fruit packs with no added sugar.
-Gluten Free Pretzels
-Individual packets of almond butter or peanut butter
-Organic Raisins
-Cashews, pistachios, and/or almonds if your child likes nuts.
-Dairy free yogurts can be substituted but most contain a lot sugar. You could purchase a large tube of coconut yogurt and mix in blueberries or strawberries as an alternative to sugar.
-Gluten free bread such as Udi's brand when bread is unavoidable for sandwiches. I try to limit bread intake as it still contains sugars and is a processed food. 
2. For fresh food ideas you can use smaller foods that are kid friendly:
-Small separate packages of baby carrots
-Packages of hummus that come with 4 small ones in each pack.
Apples, pears, and bananas
3. To substitute milk, which is not necessary for healthy bones: 
Almond milk is a good alternative. Rice and soy are slightly controversial but it depends on what you can get your child to tolerate. If you choose to use soy milk make sure that it is organic.                  
4. Breakfast cereal or waffle substitutes are available as gluten free but once again they are still processed and increase inflammation: 
-Gluten free oatmeal is a great option. Add some raisins and almond milk and it makes for a sweet breakfast cereal that is not full of sugar and preservatives.
-Fruit and secret veggies shakes are a perfect fast option for on the go. You can find fun recipes online or make up your own. We use the basic banana, berries, almond milk, Garden of Life Vegan protein and a piece of kale (which is undetectable by the picky toddler once blended well).  
To Sum It All Up: 
Ear "infections" are due to inflammation caused by fluid collecting in the inner ear which is unable to drain properly. Antibiotics are proven to not be an effective treatment for ear infections. Ear infections can be resolved without the use of invasive drugs and surgery. 
The fluid is unable to drain because the muscle in the ear that contracts and drains the eustachean tube is not getting adequate nerve supply due to a misalignment in the spine. This concept applies to every function and organ in the human body. When misalignment's in the spine are present they decrease the nerve flow to whatever tissue or organ they go to leading to a decrease in health related to that organ or system in the body.  
Through gentle and effective chiropractic adjustments, the vertebrae can be placed back into its appropriate position, decreasing interference to the nerve allowing FULL communication of that nerve to its organ. A healthy nervous system is essential to the prevention and healing of all disease. Chiropractic care facilitates healing of the nervous system in order to restore function to the body.
Changes in diet to avoid inflammatory food and include healthy whole foods help to decrease inflammation and promote healing.   
I hope this blog has been enlightening to you while offering practical solutions to you and your families overall health and well being. 
Your Arlington Family Chiropractor & Doula
Dr. Lauren Alvarado 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I find it so ironically appropriate that as I make my first blog post here on our home site it surrounds the topic of birth and it's interventions- sometimes necessary and sometimes not necessary at all. This topic is incredibly near and dear to my heart because of my own personal birth experience, my calling to help women through their journey of conception, pregnancy, labor, and birth, and because I am currently almost 22 weeks pregnant with our second baby.
Since the emergency cesarean birth of our daughter Jordan, I have been soul searching and academically searching through the in's and out's of labor and delivery and why it can be such a struggle for some and an amazing act and experience of bravery, empowerment, and bliss for others. Throughout the past 3 and a half years I have read several books written by fabulous women and men on the science and spirituality of birth. Along my journey, I have uncovered what many women today are doing without; personal birth stories and scientific fact that illustrate the power of the human body and it's inborn/innate potential to bring forth a child with little to no input from the educated mind and little to no intervention from modern medicine. 
While investigating the difference between births with interventions such as cesareans and those without the facts that I uncovered were astonishing. The reason I say "uncovered" is because it is exactly that...these statistics are not disclosed in any way shape or form to expecting mothers by their OBGYN's, PCP's, Pediatricians, and or hospital faculty and staff. These statistics seem to only exist in the underground world of people like you and me doing their own research to find out the truth about birth.
Although we knew the risks and we tried our best to avoid a cesarean birth, there was an unforeseen complication that was not discovered throughout the majority of my labor and once this complication was resolved we were still left with no other option than to deliver our daughter via surgery. These circumstances do occur and in these cases intervention is necessary. However, after meditating on my labor and birth and retracing everything time and time again I know in my heart that had I been with a more competent and aware group of providers the outcome could have very well been different. I believe this is the sentiment of many women who are actually more of a victim of cesarean birth than a full informed and active participant in the decisions made on this incredibly special day. Never the less, I address this topic of cesarean with complete gratitude for it's existence and complete awareness that with the cesarean rate in our society rising due to the impatience of practitioners, the parents unawareness of the risk, and the windy road of intervention side effects created by pitocin and other artificial labor augmentations our children as a generation are in danger of being set up for failure in regards to their immune system and it's effect on their overall health. 
"The largest study of its kind confirms yet again that the Cesarean epidemic in the U.S. deserves more attention. Two-million full-term births over 35 years in Denmark show that children born by Cesarean had “significantly increased risk” of developing certain chronic disorders such as a 20% greater chance of asthma, a 10% greater chance of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a 17% greater chance of leukemia, and an over 40% greater chance of developing immune deficiencies, as well as higher chances of systemic connective tissue disorders and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)," states Improvingbirth.org. These conditions along with many others that are presented to us as Chiropractors such as a mother's inability to produce milk, aversion to breastfeeding, torticollis, tmj disorders, cranial bone malpositioning, thoracic outlet syndrome, and numerous other neurological and musculoskeletal disorders can change the entire dynamic of the babies entrance and existence into this world as well as the health and bond between the mother and baby. 
With these facts in mind, women should know their choices and the real weight that those choices carry for the future health of their children. Although Cesarean birth serves a great purpose in the case of an emergency, it does not deserve the main stage in childbirth practices as it has today.  
There are several ways cesareans can be avoided. 
1. Find a health care provider and birth setting with low rates of intervention. When interviewing providers over the phone or in person it is perfectly acceptable to ask what their current cesarean rate is. It can be intimidating questioning a Doctor or Midwife about their practices, but remember there is only one way to find out...and that is to ask. If given the cold shoulder or treated badly, this passive aggressive behavior should be seen as defensiveness and give insight into what type of provider they are. Most midwives have a cesarean rate of approximately 3% or less and OBGYN's tend to range from 10-50%.
2. Find a Chiropractor you trust. Chiropractic care for the pregnant mother helps to insure that the mothers pelvis has adequate nerve supply, full range of motion, and is ready for the dynamic transition it takes before, during, and after labor. Chiropractors with a special interest in prenatal care are skilled in providing safe and specific spinal adjustments that allow the mothers body to better harness the ability to birth naturally. Chiropractic care is statistically known for decreasing the length of labor, the pain experienced during labor, as well as decreasing the overall recovery time therefore decreasing the risk of unnecessary intervention. 
3. Add a Doula as part of your birth team for labor support. The loving support of a Doula helps the laboring woman have a safe, memorable, and empowering birth experience where her boundaries and wishes are respected by healthcare providers. Studies show that having a Doula decreases the overall cesarean rate by over 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of pitocin by 40% and requests for an epidural by 60%. Doula's also assist you in creating a flexible birth plan which allows you to have a plan in place that covers all of your basic requests and boundaries as well as a plan for situations if your birth escalates in intensity. This creates a symbiotic relationship between you and your birth partner, Doula, and provider where everyone will be on the same page and working toward the same goal.
3. Educating yourself & your birth partner. Although most people trust the norms of birth in our society because after all if that's what everyone else is doing these days it must be best... this is not always the best approach. The days of living in villages and even assisting in other women birthing their babies is long gone. Most first time moms have no experience to lean on in making the decisions that surround the modern birth such as what type of facility and provider to choose, what your wishes are in regards to c-section, epidurals, pitocin, vacuum distraction, forceps, early cord clamping, and any other potentially harmful modern birth "protocol." I recommend taking a birth class from a well respected childbirth educator in your community, reading books such as the Well Adjusted Baby, Spiritual Midwifery, Ina Mayes Guide to Childbirth, and doing research through documentaries such as the Business of Being Born and/or websites such as improvingbirth.org. All of these resources are great!
4. Avoiding Induction. Studies show that induction can greatly increase the likelihood of a cascade of unnecessary intervention. Induction causes stronger than normal and irregular contractions putting additional stress on the baby. This stress causes the babies heart rate to increase, reasonably so..resulting in the most common cause of cesarean birth- fetal distress. Avoiding induction by choosing a practitioner who understands that normal gestation can range anywhere from 36-42 weeks and having a plan for natural or alternative methods of induction will be helpful. Building a relationship with a Chiropractor who is certified in Acupuncture and other methods to encourage your pelvis and baby into a proper position as well as encouraging the onset of labor may serve you well if you are drifting toward the 42 week mark. 
My hope is that women will increase their knowledge on this topic and be able to make fully educated decisions based on their awareness of the benefit and risk of any intervention- in particular cesarean. However, one fact remains the same- getting your baby here safe & sound is the number one goal and that may not include our dream birth, but taking an active role in your labor and birth will definitely increase your chances of having a positive outcome :-) 
Please share this article in order to elevate the awareness about this topic.
Love, Your Chiropractor & Doula- Lauren Jessup-Alvarado