Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ear Infections

"Who you are dictates what you see.”- John Maxwell

According to…Keeping Your Child Healthy with Chinese Medicine by Bob Flaws, the Chinese “understanding of what is a healthy diet, both for infants and for adults, is way ahead of us in the West” (91). Many children suffer from multiple ear infections here in the U.S., yet supposedly not in China. Flaws points out that it is not related to different anatomy. Diet and awareness of what is put into a child, whether given by shot or orally, could quite possibly be behind the mystery.

It is common practice for parents to take their children to a doctor for routine wellness checkups. The child feels fine, but the doctor will use what he or she sees through the otoscope, the instrument used to check ears, as the only evidence for prescribing antibiotics (94). Because of this, Flaws advises against the over use of an otoscope. As this practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) says, “When children are given antibiotics over and over again at a young age, it is my experience as a clinician that this can lead to many years, if not a lifetime, of chronic health problems” (94). Flaws observes that these children “are more prone than others to all sorts of allergies, including hayfever and allergic asthma. They are also more prone to sore throats and tonsillitis” (94). The suggestion is not to get started on the antibiotic merry-go-round.

Some children experience recurrent ear infections and make many unscheduled visits to the doctor’s office. Antibiotics can clear the heat accompanying the infection, but do nothing to address the food stagnation, which is most likely the root of the problem. “In fact,” says Flaws, “[antibiotics] contribute to its worsening” (91). In TCM thought, antibiotics actually damage the built-in mechanisms that assist us with all the aspects of digestion, physical and non-physical. In Western thought, antibiotics are equal-opportunity killers of bacteria in the stomach and intestines, even the helpful bacteria. Flaws says, “These [beneficial] bacteria help break down foods and the waste products of digestion. Others of these bacteria help keep populations of various yeast and fungi in proper proportions” (42). Parents and physicians usually become frustrated with the endless cycle of problems related to ear infections, such as food stagnation and perpetual antibiotic use, and finally suggest the procedure of placing tubes in the eardrums without ever considering Chinese herbal formulas.

From the onset of an ear issue, Flaws is an advocate of trying other procedures before starting on a course of antibiotics, indeed, saving antibiotics as a final effort to remedy the problem (41). TCM practitioners have a variety of remedies to try, taking the child’s constitution, age, diet and diagnosis into consideration. Flaws says, “Chinese herbal medicine is very effective for both treating acute earaches as well as preventing recurrent earaches” (92). The most commonly prescribed herbal formula for children, Xiao Chai Hu Tang, has been used for hundreds of years safely (92). Sometimes another herbal formula, Wu Ling San, is prescribed in the absence of inflammation or infections because it addresses excess fluids, which may cause “bulging eardrums” (94). Wu Ling San has also been in use for centuries successfully treating fluid leaking from the ear amongst other ailments. For cases when the eardrum has burst, Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang may be necessary. Flaws says, “Actually, this is the final stage of an ear infection and when this occurs, it [the bursting eardrum] marks the resolution of the situation” (94). Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang is used after inflammation and infection have been resolved. The formula, along with keeping “the child’s head out of water 4-6 weeks after the eardrum has ruptured,” are important for a quick and certain recovery because water entering the ear will cause pain and may cause another infection (94). All Chinese herbal formulas are prepared with harmony for the client in mind; therefore, additions and deletions of specific herbs may make a slightly different formula.

TCM practitioners recognize the importance of diet, especially where children’s ears are concerned. Not consuming dairy products, fried or spicy foods, candy or sugar, and frozen or raw foods, is a must. Flaws warns, “In children with recurrent ear infections, even yeasted wheat products, like bread, should be eliminated” (93). A bland diet for awhile will help the child considerably because diet and lifestyle are responsible for seventy percent of the healing process (93-5). Consuming fewer drugs, with more attention to food choices, is a sound practice for this future adult to learn now.

For more information on how to live drug-free and to have healthy ears, please read my articles at Sound Therapy: Ear Exercises on the Go (November 2009), Flower Essences for Balancing, Herbs for Kids Instead of Antibiotics, and Genuine Essential Oils (all from October 2009).