The inflammation of the middle ear (behind the eardrum), known as otitis media, is a veritable epidemic among our children, although adults can also get it. This condition is commonly treated with antibiotics, even though when these problems are treated with drugs they recur time and again.
A review study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in September ’93 found no significant difference between placebo and antibiotics in at least eight studies of long term outcome, and concludes that antibiotics are of “limited” short-term usefulness in treating acute middle ear infections, and that the data do not show them to confer any long-term benefits for draining middle ear infections. If we add the known data about the damaging adverse effects of antibiotic use, we find that, in the case of ear infections, antibiotics may do little good and much harm. The agency for Health Care Policy and Research recommends “watchful waiting” instead of antibiotics as the first step in treatment of non-acute otitis media.
Ear problems may be dry, congestive, and painful; or they may be moist, when the eardrum may break open to allow the inflammation to drain naturally. Once the process is over, the eardrum will heal again. When natural drainage does not occur, the medical treatment technique consists in placing tubes in the eardrum to allow for it. This procedure (myringotomy) is associated with permanent ear drum perforations in about 1% of the ears treated, requiring further surgery to repair the perforation, and as many as 70% of the ears studied had recurring infections throughout ear-tube treatment.
Possible causes: From my observations, these include a) regular use of cow’s milk products in the diet of both mother while expecting and the child itself once born, and b) possibly by the use of ultrasound and amniocentesis during the pregnancy. If the mother eats plenty of milk products and cheese while pregnant, her child may discharge the mucus caused by excess dairy through the ears once it’s born. Let’s remember that milk is a high-nutrient food, intended by nature for the baby, not for the mother; the nutrients in cow’s milk are excessive for human beings.
This relationship was made clear to me by painful personal experience. When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, I craved lots of melted cheese, and ate it daily on English muffins and pizza. After she was born, I stopped, so she and I both had what I consider a “dairy discharge” when she was about five months old. She developed a dramatic ear infection, with plenty of mucus. I wasn’t seriously worried, because I felt I understood the cause, which had been my diet: I could just see all that melted cheese coming out of her ears! I treated her with herb teas, washing out her ears with herb teas and honey (a natural antiseptic), putting a small cold compress behind her ears (to keep the infection from spreading), and a warm compress over her kidneys on the back of her waist. The latter technique was based on the Chinese concept that the ears and the kidneys are related, so that any problem with the ears also indicates a problem with the kidneys. Thus, when the kidneys are attempting to eliminate the byproducts from dairy metabolism, sometimes they may become over-stressed. The ears may reflect that stress in the form of inflammation. The hot compress on the kidneys stimulated them to increase their detoxifying activities.
I was breastfeeding my daughter at the time, and made sure to eat low fat and plenty of vegetable soups. Every time I put the compresses on her, she nursed well, slept four hours, and did not seem to be in pain, so I felt healing was proceeding. The process took three weeks, but she had no other ear infections after that for years, except for a mild earache about once a year, easily handled with a hot compress on the ear. When she was eight she had another ear infection with drainage. At first I treated her with juices, the expansive, Vitamin C approach, but it didn’t help. Then I switched to the salty, contractive remedies and gave her miso soup and the #1 kuzu drink, as well as a hot compress on the kidneys: she rallied in a day.
Prevention: For children prone to ear infections, the best policy is to remove all milk products, sugar, and, in some cases of allergy, wheat products from their diet. The problem will then usually abate in two or three months, after the body goes through one last clean-out which is best treated naturally, without antibiotics.
Treatment: Alexa Fleckenstein, MD, a Boston-based specialist in European natural medicine, strongly suggests drinking plenty of warm water, and rinsing the nose with salt water to help in the drainage. Sezelle Gereau-Haddon, a pediatric otolaryngologist with Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, recommends homeopathy for treating ear infections. Here are some other home remedies you can apply.
For dry and painful earaches, try
Cold socks: take a pair of cotton socks, wet with cold tap water, wring out, and put on the feet. Put another dry pair of socks on top of the first pair. Do this before bed time, and sleep with the socks on.
Hot compress on the ear to reduce the pain: washcloth folded in four, wet in hot tap water and wrung out, placed on the ear as hot as you (or the patient) can stand it, with a woolen cap over all. Use on the ear only on dry earaches; for wet and draining earaches, use the hot compress on the kidneys.
Keeping the ears warm and covered
Warm olive oil drops: warm a bit of olive oil until a test drop on the wrist feels pleasant, place two or three drops in each ear, then put in a cotton ball to keep the oil from running out too soon.
Food and drink: as with all inflammations, it’s best to keep away from sweets, milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Plenty of warm liquids, including teas, soups, soft grain dishes such as oatmeal, polenta, or soft barley, and cooked vegetables such as carrots, squash, or zucchini. It’s best to go easy on protein foods until the condition subsides.
Alarm symptoms: If home remedies do not help, if the ear aches persists for more than three days, or if there is a fever with listlessness, pain in the neck, or any other worrisome symptoms, see a health professional.
For my favorite remedy for any infection, try this
Garlic Miso Soup
1 whole head garlic, all cloves peeled
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons light miso paste
Simmer the cloves in 2 cups of the stock for 10 minutes. Puree in a blender with the miso. Pour back into the pan, add the rest of the stock, and heat. Serve hot, or if to children, warm.