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. -A 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.
LOVE, Your Arlington Family Chiropractor & Doula Dr. Lauren Alvarado