Middle ear ache (otitis media) is one of medicine’s most common and overtreated conditions. But the medical literature shows that, except when symptoms such as pain, discharge and the like are severe, none of the conventional treatments do better t

Early bottle feeding has been linked to recurrent otitis media, whereas longer breastfeeding (for at least six months) has demonstrated a protective effect (Acta Paed Scanda; 1982: 71: 567-71). An allergy to cow’s milk may cause the infection, whereas breast milk contains copious amounts of two types of gamma linolenic acid, which convert to prostaglandins, offering powerful anti-inflammatory properties (Med Hypoth, 1984; 13: 161). Also, feeding babies on their backs via “bottle propping” produces aspiration via the eustachian tube into the middle ear, and ear infections usually follow.

As for homeopathy, two controlled studies demonstrated good results with Pulsatilla (J Am Inst Homeop, 1986; 79: 3-4; Allgemeine Homoeopathische Zeitung, 1985; 230: 89).

If homeopathy doesn’t work, investigating allergies well might. Secretory ear ache is more than twice as frequent in allergic children than in non-allergic children, according to a study of 540 patients (Laryngoscope, 1967; 77: 636). One study showed that significant pressure changes occur in the middle ear of children when their nasal passages are exposed to allergens (Ann Allergy, December 1984; 53 (6): 468-71); another study shows that in three quarters of cases, repeated antibiotic therapy may eliminate bacteria, but not middle ear fluid (TTK Jung et al, in Recent Advances in Otitis Media with Effusion, D J Lim et al (eds), B C Decker, Philadelphia, 1984).

Cow’s milk, cocoa, cane sugar, cola, grains, citrus, eggs and nuts are the most common culprits, according to one study of 1000 patients (F Speer, Food Allergy, PSG Publishing Co, Littleton, Mass, 1983). If children are allergic to milk they have a one in four chance of being allergic to soy. Besides food, sulphites and monosodium glutamate (MSG), both common food additives, can provoke ear ache. Supplementation molybdenum for sulphites, vitamin B6 for MSG can improve symptoms (J Orthomol Psychiat, 1984: 105-10; Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 1981; 100: 972-77). Airborne allergens, such as house dust components, tobacco smoke, animal dander and fungus spores, have also been linked to ear infections

( J Allergy Clin Immunol, May 1984).

Because a baby’s digestive tract is highly permeable, particularly during the first 15 weeks, it is advisable to exclude wheat, barley, rye, egg, cow’s milk products and poultry from its diet during the first nine months and to have no frequent repetitions of any other food. This will reduce the risk or even prevent the development of food allergies. Supplementing a child’s diet with bioflavonoids, vitamin C, beta carotene, zinc, omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, and thymus extract also prevents or minimizes allergies (J R Pizzorno and M Murray, Textbook of Natural Medicine, Bastyr University Publications, Seattle, 1992).

Occasionally, recurrent ear ache can be caused by a mechanical problem at the top of the neck (Manuelle Medizin, 1987; 25: 5-10). In this case, the child should be taken to a experienced, registered osteopath or chiropractor.

Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homeopath and osteopath.

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