Ear Infections and Chinese medicine
Ear infections are one of the most common pediatric conditions that bring a child into the doctor for a sick visit. Ear infections are more common around the time of teething or when starting solid foods. This timing can be explained by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there is an internal connection between the stomach and intestines (the digestive tract) and the inner ear. Inherently, young children have weak digestive systems, when introducing new foods according to Chinese medicine, food stagnation can occur. This stagnation, combined with the heat (fever) of teething, is a contributing factor to pediatric ear infections.
The standard Western medical treatment for ear infections is a course of antibiotics that can cure the disease. Antibiotics are inherently cold, according to Chinese medicine, which further damages the already immature digestive system. The root cause isn’t corrected; the infection quickly returns. When the infection reoccurs enough, the next step is more antibiotics and, eventually, the surgical insertion of tubes into the ear.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Luckily there are very useful, kid-friendly Chinese herbal medicinals that treat ear infections while strengthening the digestive system. They come in a glycerine based liquid tincture, which is slightly sweet and sometimes flavored with natural fruit flavors like orange or cherry to make them easier to administer to children. In addition to the internal herbs, Mullein Garlic oil can be applied topically to the infected ear with a dropper and covered with a cotton ball. Garlic is naturally both antibacterial and antiviral, and it helps fight the infection at its source. My favorite brand is Herb Pharm. We carry this in our office, and it in health food stores or online; it is a staple in my kids’ medicine cabinet.
Digestion Plays a role
The digestive tract is a primary causative factor in pediatric ear infections according to TCM, and diet is essential in both the healing process as well as preventing the infection from returning. Continue breastfeeding as it helps to build immunity. Children need a bland diet to treat the infection. Limit or exclude sweets, dairy, yogurt, cheese, bananas, and tofu due to their dampening (or mucous producing) nature. Foods to include are berries, meats, orange vegetables such as sweet potato & carrots, as well as green vegetables. Warm, cooked foods are preferred over raw and cold foods as they are easier to digest. If the child is drinking milk, there are good milk alternatives available. A few examples are unsweetened almond milk, hemp milk, or even goats milk due to it being the closest in composition to human milk.
When your child has been on antibiotics, it is essential to replace the good bacteria in the gut with probiotics. If breastfeeding, mom can take them, and they delivered via the breastmilk. Garden of Life also makes powdered Children’s probiotics that can mix with water or other foods such as pureed vegetables.
We can Help
While there are some instances that antibiotics are needed, they shouldn’t be overly used to prevent resistance. Often, taking a gentler whole-body approach is an effective treatment. Children react very quickly to acupuncture and herbal medicine – feel free to call our office to get more information or to book an appointment for your child.
We offer Chinese herbal formulas in our office. Our products are trusted, and GMP certified.
Source: Flaws, Bob. (2006). A Handbook of TCM Pediatrics. Boulder, CO: Blue Poppy Press.
By Jenna Ferraiolo L.O.M. Dipl. O.M.