Updated: Dec 9, 2020
An ear infection, also known as acute otitis media, is common in both children and adults. The eustachian tube inside of the ear can trap bacteria and viruses and fill with fluid and mucus leading to an infection. This can cause uncomfortable, painful, and frustrating symptoms.
Dr. Natasha explains that in a person with abnormal gut flora, they also have abnormal flora living in the nose and throat. This causes chronic inflammation in the eustachian tube, which is a tiny tube connecting the nose to the middle ear. The inflammation causes the eustachian tube closes up and the middle ear then fills with mucus. This can lead to muffled and impaired hearing, feelings of fullness in the ear, pressure and pain. An infection can develop and result in a fever. To remedy this in the long-haul the answer is the GAPS diet protocol. As we heal and seal the gut and rebalance the microbiome, we are also able to balance the flora in the nose and throat as well.
Dr. Natasha advises that when one is suffering from an ear infection, it is important to populate the throat with good flora. She recommends doing this by using homemade kefir or a probiotic supplement. Kefir should be used after every meal so that the beneficial microbes can do their work. Kefir should also be taken before bedtime or probiotic powder placed on the tongue so that the beneficial microbes can work on the mucous membranes during the night (420).
The CDC states, “Antibiotics are often not needed for middle ear infections because the body’s immune system can fight off the infection on its own” and that “For mild cases of middle ear infection, your doctor might recommend watchful waiting”. It is clear, most cases of outer and middle ear infections do not require treatment and will commonly resolve on their own.
There are natural methods to help manage an ear infection and to help manage the symptoms. I am not a doctor and do not make medical claims, I can only provide you with some tools we have used to help in this situation in our own family. We know that antibiotics can wipe out beneficial gut flora and allow pathogenic bacteria to overgrow and we should avoid the overuse of antibiotics when they are not appropriate. At the end of the day, there are certain situations where antibiotics are necessary. Always do your own research and seek the advice of a medical practitioner when needed.
Common Symptoms of Ear Infections:
· Ear pain
· Tugging at the ears
· Difficult sleeping
· Sore throat
· Decreased hearing
When to call a Doctor:
· Fever above 102 degrees F or if your child has other concerning symptoms like a stiff neck
· Sudden hearing loss, dizziness, or severe pain
· Pus or discharge draining from the ear
· Redness, swelling or pain behind or around the ear
· It is commonly recommended for under 6 months of age that those with an ear infection and/or fever should see their pediatrician
Here is a list of natural remedies that may be helpful for managing an ear infection at home:
Kefir and Probiotic Rich foods
Dr. Natasha recommends supporting the mucous membranes with kefir to rebalance the flora in the nose and throat. You can also consume other probiotic and beneficial bacteria by having other ferments such as kombucha, kimchi, vegetable medley, etc. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Certain strains of these "good" bacteria, which occur naturally in the body, may help prevent ear infections in infants and children.”
Drinking plenty of liquids and warm fluids like meat stock and filtered water can help to thin and move mucous while also keeping you hydrated. Herbal teas may also be soothing.
Cold or warm compresses
Using a warm or cold compress can help to provide some pain relief for the ears. You can alternate between a hot and cold compress or wash cloth on the affected side for 10-15 minutes.
It can be helpful to sleep with your head elevated to allow the fluid from the ear to drain more easily. Try to avoid sleeping on the affected ear as this can aggravate the pain more. According to WebMD, “Resting or sleeping sitting up rather than lying down can help fluid in your ear drain. This could ease pressure and pain in your middle ear. Prop yourself up in bed with a stack of pillows, or sleep in an armchair that leans back a bit.”
Seeing a chiropractor for an adjustment may help to alleviate ear pain and to release tight muscles around the area to allow the fluid from the ear canal to drain more easily. One research study reported, “…study's data indicate that limitation of medical intervention and the addition of chiropractic care may decrease the symptoms of ear infection in young children.”
I have read mixed reviews on this subject. Some moms swear by this and have poured it directly into the ear canal with benefit and have found complete resolution in ear infections with this alone. Others recommend only rubbing a tiny amount on the outer ear canal and not getting it into the ear canal itself. If you decide to instill peroxide into the ear canal, it is normal to have bubbly foam coming out from the ear. It is important to note to not put anything into the ear if there is concern for a ruptured ear drum and you should contact your physician if this is the case.
Garlic is a natural antibiotic and powerful remedy. Garlic also acts as an anti-inflammatory. There are pre-prepared garlic oils available and sometimes come with other herbs like mullein. One study with children who had ear pain from middle ear infections, found that naturopathic ear dops containing herbal ingredients, including garlic, was just as effective as over-the-counter ear drops.
Colloidal silver is a natural microbial antibiotic. The concept behind colloidal silver is that it cuts off the oxygen supply to infections so it is difficult for them to spread and helps to kill it off. Only use 2-3 drops of colloidal silver in the infected ear. Keep in the ear canal as long as tolerated (around 10-15 minutes) before allowing the liquid to drain out. Healthline states, “The exact way colloidal silver works is not fully understood. However, it’s thought that silver can bind to bacterial cells and damage their cell walls and DNA, resulting in cell death.” Healthline also reports that there have been studies supporting that colloidal silver has both antibacterial and antiviral properties.” Colloidal silver should be used as one of those last resort situations when an ear infection is not improving. Colloidal silver is a metal and can accumulate in the body. It is also a metal that cannot be removed from the body. In the situation of an ear infection, when applying to the ear canal, the metal will not be absorbed as much as it would be had you taken it internally.
Cod Liver Oil
Dr. Macciochi states, “As well as EPA & DHA, cod liver oil contains an impressive amount of vitamin A and vitamin D. Vitamin A and D play quite key roles in the immune system, and our bodies don’t produce it so we must get it from an outside source.” In the winter when colds and ear infections are more common and sunbathing is not a great option for many to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D, cod liver oil can be a great supplement to add in the mix and to aid the immune system in fighting off any potential invaders.
Homemade fermented sauerkraut can provide high levels of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is also known to help boost the immune system and fight off infections. Sauerkraut is full of beneficial bacteria which can also be beneficial. Many articles affirm that when you ferment sauerkraut, “its vitamin C and antioxidant levels skyrocket” and “Besides boasting high levels of vitamin C, sauerkraut also contains other antioxidants that protect against stress and fight disease. The beneficial probiotics in sauerkraut inoculate the gut and further fortify the immune system. Sauerkraut and other raw, fermented foods made with cabbage, like Kimchi, are true superfoods that have a long history of protecting the body...”
Ear infections are not uncommon in people with GAPS. The GAPS nutritional protocol is the answer in the long-run. When an ear infection comes on suddenly, we need to support the body to fight off the infection and to manage painful symptoms. There are many natural remedies that may be helpful that are listed above. My hope is the best for each and every one of you on your journey of healing!
**I do not make any commission off of the products shared in this post.**
· Campbell-McBride, N. (2020) Gut and Physiology Syndrome. Medinfom Publishing.