Ear infections are far too common in our children. The standard, although inappropriate, approach in medicine today is to use antibiotics. While this trend may have slowed somewhat, it is still far too prevalent. What else can be done to help prevent ear infections in our children?
It is not uncommon for a distraught mother to present to my office with her little toddler in tow, scared because their pediatrician has told them that having tubes put into the ears (myringotomy) is the only option left. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In most situations, pulling the child off of common allergens like dairy and putting them on a course of probiotics completely eliminates the ear infections that had “no options left except surgery.” Overall, it’s really not rocket science.
So what else can be done? How about chewing gum? Who would’ve thought that chewing gum could prevent ear infections? Before you run out to the gas station and pick up a pack for your 4 year old there are a few things you need to know.
In April of last year, we were taking Keegan (5 years old) to Disneyland. We stopped to gas up and he wanted some gum. No problem, right? Went into the gas station and spent the next 10 minutes trying to find gum that wasn’t toxic. Just how many artificial sweeteners can you shove into a small stick of gum? Some has aspartame, sucralose AND acesulfame K!! What happened to good ‘old fashioned sugar?
Good thing that we had, for years, already been using xylitol based gums that he could have as much as he wanted of. Xylitol is believed to work similiar to the d-mannose in cranberry juice (which keeps bacteria from sticking to the lining of our urinary tract) but in the nasopharynx in the back of the throat. It would seem reasonable to believe that chewing xylitol based gum would reduce the amount of ear infections in our children because you will have less bacteria in the back of the throat to create the infection.
Sure enough, in this Cochrane (the brilliant thinktank worldwide research consortium) review, researchers found that 2 pieces of xylitol based gum used 5 times per day were able to cut down ear infection (acute otitis media) rates by 25% in children attending daycare. Couple this with dairy avoidance and probiotics and it’s pretty much a lock.
Our office actually has this gum available for patients to try as well as packs for them to keep with them. At first this may seem like an odd choice for a chiropractic office, but if it can help cut down on the rates of ear infections in our kids, it fits with our mission.