Anyone who has ever had a child with earache knows all too well the relentless discomfort caused by ear infections.  As a mother of two,  I’ve had my fair share of sleepless nights, last minuted trips to the doctor or chemist as I became an expert in the symptoms of when one of my kids has an earache – i.e they cry all night!


How Painful is Earache?

My son was diagnosed with his second earache infection and ‘glue ear’ when he was 4 years old.   His first diagnosis had been about six months earlier, he had been treated with a trip to the GP and the usual round of antibiotics for the infection and Calpol for the pain, but in the usual UK 5 minute appointments which we are so used to, there is no opportunity to discuss how or why and how can we protect and prevent in the future.

We were living temporarily in Dubai at the time of the second diagnosis and it really hit home the difference between our health management system in the UK and the difference in paying for the time of a functional medicine practitioner.  We were left knowing in no uncertain terms, how painful earache infection was for a child, but also how important it was to not only manage the pain, but prevent re-occurrences in the future which could lead either more serious problems such as loss of hearing or the need for a physical intervention such as grommets.    I now look back on it as another one of those little blessings in life and even though it was prior to my own journey back to a future I was meant to live, it was one of the first sign posts on the way.

It was years later when it finally crystallized the extent of the treatment my son had received when I came across the work of the amazing Natasha Campbell-McBride and the world of GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome), by then I was researching everything to do with dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, add and ADHD as it had become apparent that my son was not reaching his targets in reading and I was looking for answers to the reasons why.

Earache and GAPS protocol

Dr. McBride has a whole chapter in her book about earache, ear infections, or ear glue, and when I read this chapter I was reminded of how this had effected Jack as a child and the difference between the UK and Dubai method of treatment.   The advice from Dr.  McBride is a nutritional rather than a medical solution which I have adopted into my own practice and successfully treated a number of children using the same protocol.

“Thanks so much Kirsty, I am delighted with the results so far. You have helped us get to a much improved stage in 3 weeks, where the GP’s and hospital consultants have struggled for 3 years! Much appreciated”.  S Goldsmith.

When you child has earache they are in pain and you know about it, they wake in the night screaming and the most recent case I had was a twelve year old girl, who five nights out of seven couldn’t go to sleep at night before 10pm and when the Calpol had taken effect.

You can imagine the knock on effect on her ability to function during the day, it was also affecting her moods and her weight was also on the increase.  It was a really all natural fix, to reduce the harmful bacteria causing the pain and must the microbiome which had been literally wiped out with too many antibiotics and now she is thriving.

Following on from this client, more recently, a twelve year old boy this time with a history of earache and other ear problems, he was struggling with appetite, energy levels and his very concerned mum was worried about how pale and thin he was.  Again, the history of antibiotics has taken its effect on the gut lining, and what I call Leaky gut being the main contributing factor.

He is now back to bouncing around after a four week program to support the integrity of the gut tract, but what every parent needs to know about the effects of antibiotics is really well covered off by Dr McBride – see except below.

Natural Remedies for Earache

The best home remedy for your earache depends on the cause.  Always check with a dentist in case it is a cavity. However, if it is an ear infection, they can go away without antibiotics and using a natural remedy could make the earache bearable as your body fights off the infection naturally. However, if you are really concerned, your child is under 5 or if the earache is accompanied by a fever, then you must check with your GP.  Whilst they now generally prefer being conservative in prescribing antibiotics, they can provide guidance on whether you should try home remedies first, or consider an antibiotic.

Acidophilus or other quality probiotic,  the capsule can be opened and poured onto the back of the tongue before bedtime.

Colloidal silver has many applications and is easy to apply. It has no adverse side effects. It leaves beneficial bacteria intact.  Colloidal drops can be used for ear infections without any harmful side effects.

Olive oil or coconut oil, by putting a few warmed drops of oil in the ear, it can soothe pain from earache.  Warning don’t allow children to put anything in their ear such as a cotton bud in case it causes damage to the ear drum.

Garlic is an analgesic and a natural antibiotic which can help reduce earache caused by an infection, put the extract of juice from a few cloves of garlic into olive or coconut oil and put into the ear that hurts

Onion is also one of the most readily available natural remedies for an earache due to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties.  The easiest way to apply is to crush a fesh onion and wrap it tightly in a piece of cloth and hold the cloth over the infected ear for about 5 to 10 minutes and repeat a few times per day or add the juice from an onion to the olive or coconut oil and apply in the the ear

Hot water bottle with a cloth wrapped around and placed next to the ear with earache can help as a great pain reliever.

Ginger has strong anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful as an excellent natural painkiller for earache.

Essential Oils Lavender, peppermint or Tree tree oil which must be diluted to a minimum of 50:50 in a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil.  Apply a few drops to a cotton swab and apply to the skin around the opening of the ear, but not in it or place on a piece of cotton and put careful over the ear opening and leave overnight.

Excerpts from The Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet (GAPS), Natasha Campbell-McBride

Dr. McBride attempts to answer the question, “Why do we have this ear infection epidemic?”.   When she explains the structure of the ear and how ear infections develop it really makes sense why ear infections are reoccurring.  As she explains:

“The mouth, nose, throat, Eustachian tubes and middle ear of a newborn baby are sterile.  Fairly soon after birth, mouth, nose and throat get populated by a varied mixture of microbes, coming from the environment, mum, dad and anybody else who is in contact with the child.  Just as it happens with the gut, due to various factors which we have discussed, many children develop abnormal flora in that area. 

This will do two things. First, the epithelium of the Eustachian tubes will start producing too much mucus in order to protect and clean itself.  Second, the tube tonsils will be in a chronic state of inflammation, blocking the entrance into the tubes and not allowing the mucus to drain out.  Fairly quickly the middle ear fills up with mucus.  This situation is called glue ear.  Mucus will not allow appropriate passage of sound through the middle ear, impairing the child’s hearing and hence development. 

A lot of children with glue ear do not become autistic, for example, but their general learning abilities suffer.  Speech delay is very common.  The mucus which fills their middle ear would provide a good growing environment for any infection which may come along from the back of the nose through the Eustachian tube.  When that happens the child gets the typical symptoms of ear infection – pain and fever, when antibiotics are usually prescribed. 

Antibiotics clear away the infectious agent, but do not remove the glue ear.  In fact, in the long run, they make the situation worse by altering the bacterial flora in the nose and throat even further.  So, with the middle ear still filled with mucus, a good medium for growing bacteria, predictably the ear infection happens again and fairly soon.”

This is exactly what had happened also with the children I have seen, in the most extreme, three years of GP visits had failed to solve the problem.  With the girl I mentioned earlier, following Dr McBride’s protocol, the ear pain stopped within a week.

Reading Dr. McBride’s chapter on ear infections was confirming, especially when she talked about a contributing factor to constant ear infections – ALLERGY TO MILK.  At approximately 3 years old, my son naturally took himself of milk based products including milk and ice cream so I already suspected lactose intolerance.

Dr. McBride further explains the damage done by antibiotics:

“A prescription of antibiotics.  It is the routine response of the medical profession pretty much everywhere in the Western world.  We have discussed in detail what antibiotics do to the bodily flora (in the gut, on the skin, on all mucous membranes, including the nose, throat and ears).  Though the course of antibiotics will clear that particular ear infection, it will also lay the ground for the next one to come. 

Apart from destroying the beneficial bacteria, antibiotics are usually given to small children in a syrup, which provides concentrated amounts of sugars and starches to encourage growth of pathogenic microbes in the throat, many of which are resistant to the antibiotic in that syrup.  As a result these pathogens start growing, even while the antibiotic is being administered. “

If you have a child with current or a previous history of ear infections, then the GAPS protocol for ear infections is a must as a natural approach to heal the health of the ear and strengthen the immunity for the future.

“First, the diet should not provide food for abnormal bacteria. As we discussed in other chapters these foods are sugars, milk and processed carbohydrates. It is amazing how quickly glue ear resolves, when these foods are taken out of the diet. Second, a strong therapeutic probiotic should be added to the child’s regimen.

The beneficial bacteria in the probiotic help to clear out pathogenic flora and re-establish normal healthy flora in the mouth, nose and throat, which will keep the child clear of ear infections. To do that, apart from adding a probiotic to the food, I routinely suggest to parents of children whom I see in my clinic that they open a capsule of probiotic and put the powder on the child’s tongue last thing before bed, after the child has cleaned the teeth and is not going to eat or drink any more.

This way the probiotic bacteria will have a chance to work on the flora of the mouth and throat all night. As the back of the nose and the back of the mouth both open to the same place, the probiotic bacteria have a good chance to reach the back of the nose, where the tube tonsils are, and deal with any pathogenic flora in that area.

On top of that, the stimulation of immune responses, which the probiotics produce, will subside and the tube tonsils will resume their normal size and not block the Eustachian tubes any more, allowing mucus to drain from the middle ear. This will resolve glue ear and the constant chain of ear infections. Another common contributing factor to ear infections is food allergies, particularly allergy to milk.

In the previous chapters we have discussed what role gut flora plays in development of food allergies. With the use of diet and probiotic we can improve the state of the gut flora and the immune system in the child’s body. Clinical experience shows that a lot of food allergies disappear as the gut heals. In the meantime it is a good idea to remove foods which the child may be allergic to, particularly cow’s milk”.

Should you have any concerns with any of the experience about earache I have shared, please feel free to book a time to talk with me at the following link.

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