Prolonged antibiotics or ventilation tubes rarely cure recurrent ear infections (“otitis media”). Surgery does allow the middle ear a chance to drain, and if the only obstacle to relief is that the mucus has become so thick and “glue-like” it can not be resorbed or drain, then a “cure” may be achieved with surgical drainage. Of course, there are many other factors that promote otitis. Unless these are addressed, the underlying problem will remain. The analogy is like a fire that has set off a smoke detector. Surgery only unplugs the fire alarm. Correcting the causative or contributory factors puts out the fire. My approach is identify and correct (as possible) any of the contributing factors:
Allergies – are important in 85-93% by causing the lining of the eustachian tube and middle ear to swell and produce more mucus. The result is stagnant and excessive mucus, which is perfect for bacteria to overgrow. In one study, 14% had food allergies, 16% had inhaled allergies, and 70% had both. Skin tests are excellent for detected allergies to things that are inhaled but are not as helpful for detecting food allergies. There are many ways to try to assess food hypersensitivity. Each has limitations. Allergy skin tests can be helpful when positive but do not include non-IgE mediated immune reactions to foods or other ingested agents. Blood tests include methods to detect allergies caused by IgE or IgG antibodies. Drawing blood is required, they can be expensive, but have the advantage of having a wider array of foods available than skin tests. Tests using IgG may help identify foods that cause delayed reactions but may only indicate recent or recurrent intake or poor digestion rather than allergic or hypersensitivity reactions. Other immunologic tests include the ELISA/ACT, Sage, or AlCat method that reportedly reveals other types of immune reactions. None of the above procedures identifies foods/items that cause metabolic reactions without an immune basis. Muscle tests or other Applied Kinesiology techniques can help but are dependent on the skill of the tester and are considered controversial by traditional medical doctors. Electromagnetic and resistance type tests use a similar basis for finding intolerances but also depend on the skill of the tester, the device being used, and are controversial. A diet diary with food avoidance of “high-risk” foods or by use of defined rotational diets often provides the most convincing information and is without any financial expense. Proper food avoidance works in 92%!
Immunodeficiency – allow even the weakest of viruses and bacteria to overgrow. May not always be associated with serious infections.
Re-infection – repetitive exposure to infectious individuals raises the risk of infection. Wash your hands!
Gastrointestinal – as an outgrowth of the embryonic gut, the ears, nose and sinuses share innervation with the gut. Mucus secretion is a natural response to gastrointestinal irritation and may involve the middle ear and eustachian sinuses reflexively.
Membrane irritation – irritants that injure the mucus membrane give microbes an entryway past the primary defense barrier into vulnerable tissues. A healthy mucus membrane is key to resisting infection.
Metabolic – an over-stimulated parasympathetic nervous system may create congestion & excess mucus.
There are three main goals in treating otitis in the short run while the real problem is addressed:
Decrease eustachian tube congestion to allow the mucus to drain from the middle ear. A decongestant can be helpful.
Drain the infected mucus. Leaving mucus will allow the infection to hide from the antibiotic and allow the bacteria a place to re-grow. Decongestants and mucus thinners may be required.
Eradicate the infection itself. Anti-microbials drops (available from our nutritional pharmacy) that penetrate through the ear drum or prescription anti-biotics may be required. They never are the entire solution if the problem is recurrent.
Other supportive measures include fresh lemon juice drops put into the outer ear can often provide relief from pain. Since antibiotics also kill good bacteria in your gut, acidophilus and/or an anti -yeast product is advised. Nutritional support to fortify the immune system, help the mucus membranes heal, and fight the infection can prevent recurrence. Brush down on the opening to your Eustachian tube at the sides of the back of your throat to promote drainage.