Taking Charge Of Your Family’s Wellness…Naturally

“Self empowerment” is the buzz word of our time. Yet, many feel disempowered when it comes to the care of their family’s health. Integrated medicine, taking the best of all worlds, is a sensible, responsible approach to healthcare. Grandparents recognize this as the medical approach of their youth: administer natural remedies at home unless the situation requires more professional help. Perhaps this is why grandparents seem to be the biggest purchasers of books on natural wellness for children, offering it to their adult children for the care of the grandchildren.

Turning to the health food store or even the kitchen pantry, and given a medical diagnosis, a parent educated in medicinal herbs can return a youngster to health or soothe discomfort until seen by the pediatrician. And what better way to empower a child about their own wellness than to engage them in their healthcare, creating an awareness that will stay with them for their entire lives. They learn that taking care of their bodies preventatively is every bit as important as consulting a doctor when they are sick.

Statistics indicate that 75% of children have at least three ear infections before the age of six. Most of us either have or know a child who repeatedly suffers from what we have tacitly come to accept as a common childhood illness. Doesn’t it make you wonder why, with all the advances of modern medicine, children seem to suffer from ear infections more, rather than less often, than they did even 20 years ago?

Some children respond well to antibiotics; others are put on a round robin of antibiotic treatments (sometimes for years); and others still require surgery. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that children given antibiotics for ear infections were two to six times more likely to develop a recurrence than children who did not receive the antibiotic treatment. I am not the only one asking the question: What long-term effects do antibiotics have on developing immune systems?

“We found that, in the case of ear infections, sometimes the prescribed medicines created other problems and occasionally didn’t even cure. We have had the opportunity to observe how effective, gentle and well tolerated these (herbal) remedies are in children.” (Larry Baskind, M.D., F.A.A.P., Riverside Pediatrics, Croton on Hudson, NY; excerpted from the foreword of Gentle Healing for Baby and Child (Simon & Schuster)).

In the case of newborns, all kinds of environmental factors can take their toll on the infant’s immune system. We parents take special care to ensure that baby’s nursery is cheery, safe, and warm, but fail to take into account the array of possible irritants. Just think–the typical nursery contains new carpeting; paint; furniture; linens; curtains; and stuffed animals. What do we have here? Although it’s quite the opposite of what you would ever want for baby, it’s nothing short of a mini-chemical factory!

Some infants will be able to handle the chemical onslaught. Others, depending upon their genetic predisposition, may respond with asthma, skin afflictions, ear infections, or some other challenge to their immature immune systems. In the case of ear infections, the Eustachian tubes narrow as an inflammatory response to these toxic substances. The narrowed tubes may cause a backup of fluids and consequently become infected.

So what’s a parent to do? Take charge of what you can take charge of. Make sure the nursery is the safest possible environment: dust- and chemical-free. Wash all clothes and linens before putting them near baby’s skin. Use the most natural products you can find on your child’s body, and be sure they are fragrance-free.

Consider eliminating foods that can cause increased mucus and inflammation, a precursor to many ear infections. The nursing mother should consider her food intake because the foods she is eating are passed on to her baby. Common offenders include dairy, wheat, corn, peanuts, chocolate, orange juice, and eggs.

I recommend the following courses of action at the earliest signs of ear discomfort:

  • Limit the intake of sugar. Processed sugar is a challenge to the body and feeds fungal, parasitic, and bacterial infections. Reduce fruit juice intake by diluting with water. Learn how to use echinacea, an invaluable immune system support found in health food stores, at the first sign of infection. Colds usually wind up in the ears of children predisposed to weakness in this part of their body. If you can prevent a cold from blossoming, you will have prevented another ear infection from developing.
  • If a cold does take hold, introduce an herbal decongestant.
  • Add garlic to your child’s diet. Garlic is naturally anti-bacterial, as well as anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic. A fresh clove can be chopped into mashed potatoes or put on toast with butter.
  • If infected fluid has settled in the ear, and there is no perforation of the eardrum (check with your physician to be sure of this) add a drop or two of anti-microbial garlic oil in each ear, along with a drop or two oil of mullein flower. Mullein flower is well known for its anti-inflammatory, decongestant action in the ear. The easiest time to administer ear drops is when a child is sleeping.
  • If there is pain in the ear, add a drop or two of St. John’s Wort oil. Its ability to calm nerve
    sensitivity may help to diminish the discomfort.
  • For many children, chiropractic adjustments have been instrumental in preventing recurrent ear infections. If there is a misalignment in the area of spinal nerves leading to the ears, chiropractic treatment could help by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the area.
  • Don’t be afraid to implement all of the above protocols even while your child is on an antibiotic (to maintain the integrity of the intestinal tract while on an antibiotic, be sure to give acidophilus, the active culture in yogurt). When a parent is courageous enough to take charge of the situation, I have seen even the most chronic ear infections turned around, indeed eliminated, from a child’s life.