Treatment Options for Ear Infections: A Least Invasive to Most Invasive Approach

Ear infections (otitis media) are all too common among the pediatric population. And what is the status quo treatment? You probably didn’t even have to think twice on that answer. Antibiotics. There are different treatments of course, but antibiotics are the most common prescription for an ear infection. Why?
Antibiotics have been proven to have negative effects on our gut health due to their focus to destroy ALL bacteria, not just the bad bugs. And they are very effective at their job. Once they have kicked your ear infection to the curb, your gut is ready to rebuild with new bacteria. Bad gut bacteria are more than willing to step up and replenish the gut with bacteria that will feed a host of pathogens, fungi, and bacterial infections if not rebalanced by good bacteria. Maybe your gut will easily replenish the good-to-bad bacteria ratio. If you’re taking a high quality probiotic, avoiding processed foods, and getting plenty of direct sunlight daily, then your gut is likely headed to balance. If not, antibiotics have opened the door to a host of major issues. The CDC explains the issue,
“Ear infections will often get better on their own without antibiotic treatment.”
“Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful, and may lead to unwanted side effects like diarrhea, rashes, nausea, and stomach pain. More severe side effects may rarely occur; these include life-threatening allergic reactions, kidney toxicity, and severe skin reactions.”
“Each time you or your child takes an antibiotic, the bacteria that normally live in your body (on the skin, in the intestine, in the mouth and nose, etc.) are more likely to become resistant to antibiotics.”

pro-vs-anti-biotics

What’s a parent of a child with an ear infection to do?
Here is a hierarchy of treatments for Ear Infections. I am a parent, not a medical professional. Take any information learned here to your provider to create an individualized plan for your child that better reflects your wishes to use antibiotics as a last resort.

1. Prevention.
Well that seems simple and maybe irritating advice. Parents are thinking, “Don’t you think if I knew how to prevent ear infections I would?!” Well, have you tried these evidence-based otitis media preventers?
Risk factors: exposure to second hand smoke, bottle fed instead of breastfed, poor nutrition and wellness habits.

Mother nursing son

So, breastfeeding baby, keeping baby’s diet as organic and whole-food-based (i.e. not squeezy pouches), and avoiding exposures to well known toxins such as smoke will give you the leg up to maintaining baby’s wellness. Vitamin supplementation and probiotics have also been found to provide overall health benefit and reduce ear infection occurrences.

2. Treatment Options
The following have evidence-based literature to support their use in successful treatment of otitis media.
Homeopathy (This article can help you determine which remedy fits)
Osteopathic/Chiropractic manipulations
Xylitol
Probiotics
Acupuncture
Naturopathy

tug-in-ear So finding a good Bodyworker that will adjust your child at the first signs of ear tugging has research-proven benefits. Ask other parents which Alternative Medicine providers treat children regularly in your area.

More tried-and-true treatment options to look into:

onionwoman02Garlic Mullein Oil (excellent ear infection discussion and garlic Mullein info here)
Onion over the ear
Hydrogen Peroxide solution (sometimes referred to as Swimmer’s Ear– *for specific types of ear infections*)
Essential Oils (This article discusses which oils based on the research)
Colloidal Silver
Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET)

3. Managing Ear Pain
For a parent of a child with an ear infection, pain management is crucial because baby is miserable.

ear infection
“Treatment of the ear pain early in the course of [Acute Otitis Media] decreases both parental anxiety and the child’s discomfort and accelerates the healing process.”
This study concluded, “that in cases of ear pain caused by AOM in children in which active treatment, besides a simple 2- to 3-day waiting period, is needed, an herbal extract solution may be beneficial.” They found that the group randomly assigned to naturopathic ear drops had better pain management and resolution than the group assigned anesthetic ear drops with amoxicillin.
The Naturopathic Herbal Extract Ear Drops they used in their double-blind study contained “allium sativum, verbascum thapsus, calendula flores, hypericum perfoliatum, lavender, and vitamin E in olive oil. 5 drops 3 times daily.”
Other pain management options include essential oils, homeopathy, bodywork, and Garlic Mullein Oil.

4. Chronic Ear Infections
This beast deserves its own separate article. Please read Curing Recurrent Ear Infections to learn more.
An excerpt… “I keep treating my child, but their ear infections continue to reoccur.” The number one question that I believe gets missed too frequently and is critical to stopping chronic ear infections is: Why?
Your provider does a great job of identifying the ‘What’ –type and severity of ear illness. This article gives you resources to tackle ‘How’ to treat. But figuring out the ‘Why’ is going to require detective work on your part.
Chronic ear infections are caused by two things:
• structural abnormalities (i.e. babies with Down Syndrome or other genetic disorders have small ear structures that may be inverted and poorly move fluid out)
• environmental triggers that create inflammation resulting in increased fluid
Common environmental triggers include foods, pet dander, secondhand smoke exposure, and any other things that cause an increase in your individual body’s inflammatory response. An Audiologist and/or ENT would be the professional to diagnose structural abnormalities as a potential cause of recurrent ear infections.

 

“But my Pediatrician is strongly urging me to go with the antibiotics, what should I do?”

I can’t tell you what is best for your child, but this article can help you identify resources to give you confidence in your decision-making. Because it is ultimately your decision.
Does your child meet the *now stricter* guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics to properly diagnose otitis media and avoid antibiotic overuse?
“The [2013 revised] guideline provides a specific, stringent definition of AOM [Acute Otitis Media]. It addresses pain management, initial observation versus antibiotic treatment, appropriate choices of antibiotic agents, and preventive measures.”
Additionally, “The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery guidelines recommend topical medications as the first line of treatment for ear pain in the absence of systemic infection or serious underlying disease.”
Are you aware of the risks versus benefits of choosing antibiotics. I will repeat the CDC’s position statement:

“Ear infections will often get better on their own without antibiotic treatment.”
“Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful, and may lead to unwanted side effects like diarrhea, rashes, nausea, and stomach pain. More severe side effects may rarely occur; these include life-threatening allergic reactions, kidney toxicity, and severe skin reactions.”
“Each time you or your child takes an antibiotic, the bacteria that normally live in your body (on the skin, in the intestine, in the mouth and nose, etc.) are more likely to become resistant to antibiotics.”

Have you exhausted this hierarchy of treatment options?
Does your child show signs of a serious infection or illness that the ear infection is a part of?
The next step is Trust Your Doctor. You have followed the current best practice guidelines for ear infection treatment. Feel confident that you have done everything in your power to use antibiotics as a last resort. Some of you may get to the end of the list and need antibiotics. That’s what they were created for. Let them do their job, and feel confident and optimistic that you can replenish your child’s gut with good probiotic bacteria during and after antibiotics use.

Happy Healing!

Curing Recurrent Ear Infections

“I keep treating my child, but their ear infections continue to reoccur.”

The number one question that I believe gets missed too frequently and is critical to stopping chronic ear infections is: Why?
Your provider does a great job of identifying the ‘What’ –type and severity of ear illness. This article provides resources to tackle ‘How’ to treat, but figuring out the ‘Why’ is going to require detective work on your part.
Chronic ear infections are caused by two things:
•structural abnormalities (i.e. babies with Down Syndrome or other genetic disorders have small ear structures that may be inverted and poorly move fluid out)
•environmental triggers that create inflammation resulting in increased fluid
I am going to discuss environmental triggers. An Audiologist and/or ENT would be the professional to diagnose structural abnormalities as a potential cause of recurrent ear infections.
But how can a food allergy cause an ear infection?
Inflammation.
Eating an offending food will create inflammation in the body. One way inflammation is expressed is an increase of fluid and congestion. This can look like recurrent ear infections, puffy eyes, frequent runny nose, allergic shiners under eyes, excess phlegm, etc. snot bubble

“The middle and inner ear are immunologically responsive and this includes responsiveness to food hypersensitivities. Both chronic otitis media with effusion and Meniere’s disease can improve with treatment of food allergies.” ¹ Other common signs of inflammation include eczema, rashes, and asthma. Symptoms sounding familiar?
In a study that looked at the association between recurrent otitis media with effusion and its association to food allergies, “the most common food found to be associated was milk, egg, beans, citrus, and tomato.”²  They removed the food(s) for a few weeks; symptoms resolved. They added the suspected offending foods back in; symptoms returned. This practice is commonly referred to as an Elimination Diet.
So Milk and Eggs are top causes of recurrent ear infections in this study. They are also on the Top 8 Food Allergens list for the world.

topeight  Allergy to milk is THE most common food allergen in the entire world! This is not rare. So, why aren’t parents being advised to eliminate milk for 30 days as a Least Invasive, evidence-based approach to chronic otitis media?

This is how I observe it usually play out…
Ear infections begin around age 1. Round(s) of antibiotics resolves. Next month, new ear infection occurs. Repeat same antibiotics treatment. Following month, same thing again. Professional assures you that if it happens again your child is a candidate for PE Tubes (Do they expect us to start cheering?). Next month, guess what? Yep, ear infection again. PE Tube surgery is scheduled and completed under general anesthesia. You are relieved that this is over… Unless you have one of the thousands of children that go on to have continued drainage issues sometimes resulting in the surgically-placed tube falling out. No problem. They will surgically put the tube right back in under general anesthesia. Repeat the cycle of most invasive, symptom-focused treatment…
This story is far too common. As an early interventionist and a Hearing Specialist I can tell you that this same story is told to me monthly. Every time I ask the parent, “What did the professional say is CAUSING the ear infections?” ***crickets***
“They never talked about a cause…”

So I begin asking basic, non-medical questions.

Me: You said ear infections began monthly around age 1. What else changed around age 1?
Parent: I can’t think of anything. She wasn’t in daycare yet, no illnesses.
Me: What did she eat or drink around that time?
Parent: We switched her over from Breastmilk/formula to cow’s milk after her 12 month checkup. **ding ding ding**
Me: Does anyone in the family have food reactions?
Parent: Well I am lactose intolerant, but she hasn’t showed any negative reactions to dairy thankfully.

And this is the problem. Intelligent, well-intentioned, loving parents have ZERO clue that the #1 Allergen in the whole wide world can CAUSE ear infections. And they are led on a journey of pharmaceutical and surgical interventions, many times without any discussion of there being a  cheap, easy, and less invasive solution for the vast majority. And all the literature that clearly demonstrates the association is never discussed even with high risk families such as parents with a history of food intolerances.

Here is what I wish would occur…
12 month check up:
Pediatrician: Many kids start cow’s milk at age 1. Do you or anyone in your immediate family have a history of food allergies/intolerances, eczema, allergies, or asthma?
Parent: Yes, I am lactose intolerant, have asthma and allergies. My other child has eczema and allergies.
Ped: Well, dairy is the #1 Allergen and with your family history you may want to either wait to introduce dairy or observe for the following signs that a reaction is occurring…

Ear Infection Appointment:pediatrician-2
Pediatrician: Here is a list of Ear Infection treatment options. If there are no signs of other infections in the body, let’s pursue a Least Invasive to Most Invasive approach. This means we will save antibiotics as a last resort.

 

Recurrent Ear Infection Appointment:
Pediatrician: What new foods or environmental triggers has your child been exposed to?
Let’s try 6 weeks of an Elimination Diet of the Top Allergens to see if food is a factor. Let’s also review the treatment options so we can pursue a Least Invasive to Most Invasive treatment path. Read my other article, Treatment Options for Ear Infections: A Least Invasive to Most Invasive Approach.

I used examples citing cow’s milk as the culprit because it is the most common. However, any food can cause an inflammatory response. We are all individuals with individual responses. There are a variety of ways to identify food culprits. To read about Why and How to do an Elimination Diet to identify food triggers read Dr. Axe’s article.
Remember to assess your child’s environment for other environmental triggers as well. The Top 6 Environmental Allergies list.
Check products that you put on your child by using an app like Skin Deep to see the Environmental Working Group’s toxicity rating on skin products, foods, cleaning products, and more.

The most important focus of this article is empowering parents to ask Why questions and Cause questions. These are the questions that will Heal Our Little Ones.

  1. The role of food allergy in otolaryngology disorders. Ramakrishnan, JB. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Jun;18(3):195-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20168232?log$=activity
  2.  Recurrent otitis media with effusion and food allergy in pediatric patients.  Arroyave CM. Rev Alerg Mex. 2001 Sep-Oct;48(5):141-4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11759256

The Autism Intensive – Expert Interview Series

38 functional medicine experts expose the latest science about the gut microbiome, immunity, and methylation.
The Autism Intensive

And be sure to check out Dr. Thomas’ newly released book for additional tips on keeping your family healthy and protected.
The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health-from Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years

“You’re Just a First Time Mom”

“You’re Just a First Time Mom”

Have you ever heard this? How did it make you feel? Were you quietly seething inside or did this finally convince you that someone else knows your baby better than you?

This is one of the most dangerous statements I feel a professional can use. It’s dismissive. It’s belittling. Yet it’s rampant in our culture. Why?

mom-calming-crying-newborn

Is it us?

Are all of us new mothers accepting this statement and all it implies instead of politely correcting it?

Is it the professionals?

Have they forgotten their medical school training to trust the parent’s instincts and observations?

Is it society?

Too many social network blog articles that tell you how to be with your baby because you must not intrinsically know? Too much social sharing/emphasis on the What Could Go Wrong instead of an awareness of how the majority of babies are born healthy and thriving?

I would venture to say it is a combination of the three that has perpetuated this                      ‘First Time Mom = Idiot’ stigma. How can we abolish this inappropriate, inaccurate portrayal of motherhood?

First, let’s explore the history…

Since the dawn of civilization, mothers have been the direct caretaker of their newborns.  There was usually a support team of other women as guides during labor and breastfeeding, but they did not replace the Mother’s caretaker role. And babies know this. They have done countless studies to prove that babies can locate their own mother’s voice, heartbeat, and breast. Mothers are also able to identify their own newborn baby’s unique cry. Have you ever watched a Breast Crawl YouTube video? Amazing! That healthy newborn baby that doesn’t even have head control or open eyes just crawls to its mother—not the OB, or the nurse, or any other female hanging between your legs that also has breasts. Baby crawls to you, the mother. Your baby knows you have what he needs.

Second, let’s see where it goes wrong…

Baby is born and put skin to skin with Mom. You have a regular delivery and stay in the hospital 24 hours before heading home. How many times does a well-intentioned professional (doctor, nurse, lactation, the friggin hospital photographer) tsk tsk you and laugh if you ask a question or note a concern? Why are we dismissing moms who are concerned that their baby is crying? “Babies cry. You’re just a First Time Mom, you’ll get used to it soon.” Then you head home and a well-intentioned relative laughs when you bring up your concerns, “You’re Just a First Time Mom.”

Let me see if I understand… Mothers are dismissed and belittled over concern for baby crying because All Babies Cry. So how are we to distinguish the difference between a healthy crying newborn and one that is crying because of newborn encephalitis or severe reflux if not by their cry? Many a lawsuit has been won by a parent whose concerns were dismissed by hospital staff only to find out the child had a serious issue that could have been prevented or minimized had parent concerns been addressed in a timely manner.

From a Behavioralist viewpoint, we are conditioning mothers to stop voicing concerns.

Mother voices concern > Concern dismissed = reinforced that behavior (voicing concerns) to stop.

But Baby doesn’t stop causing concern for the Mother.

So Mother again voices concerns > Concerns dismissed= behavior is reinforced to stop.

Repeat until either a) Concerns acknowledged or b) Mother seeks new source to voice concerns.

Mother holding baby, using cellphone and laptop

Wonder why all these concerned mothers have taken to social media Mom’s groups? Do you think the recurrent theme is that their Pediatrician truly listens and pursues their concerns? No. And then the dreaded eye roll when we confess our source of information comes from a Facebook group of *gasp* mothers.

But we need our medical professionals’ trained eye. And there are tons of fantastic, highly-educated professionals that are also great listeners. We need to understand what appropriate expectations for our professionals are, and then hold our professionals accountable to them.

Ways to reshape our view from ‘First Time Mother = Idiot’ to ‘First Time Mother= Expert on her Baby’

  1. It should not be up for discussion or dismissal whether Mom should be concerned. She either is or she isn’t. If she is, it is the provider’s role to then identify possible causes in the mother-baby dyad. If it is beyond their skill set, refer to the most appropriate specialist. Using language such as, “I am concerned and need your help to get to the bottom of this” is more effective than questions such as, “Is this any cause for concern?”
  1. Mothers should be politely correcting any and all professionals that suggest we are something other than an Expert on our child. I am not a cardiologist. I am not a Lactation provider. But I have an advanced degree in My Child. I know how many farts he had this last hour. I know the color and texture of his poop. I know if the latch is right because only I can feel what my nipple feels like. How can someone presume to tell me it’s a good latch or ‘weight is not an issue because he is maintaining his growth curve’ when they are not the one feeding my child 12 times per day? We must understand the parameters of each expert’s scope of practice. Doctors should not be commenting on the latch just as Lactation should not be prescribing reflux treatments just as I should not be interpreting x-rays. Understand what your scope of practice as an Expert Mother is, and what your professional’s scope of practice as an expert in their field is.
  2. Give your professional the opportunity to identify their role on your baby’s team. After all, baby is new to them too. They may need a little time to find out how best to support you (caveat: babies with feeding issues need immediate supports). There are parents out there that want to be told exactly what to do by professionals. Some parents become defensive when being told what to do. Professionals are not mind readers. Clarify with them how you like to receive support best, and be clear in articulating what expectations you have about your role on your baby’s team. And if you have given your professional ample time and instruction to support your family best, but it’s still not working, cut your losses. Consider yourself lucky to have identified that you were paired with a Dismiss-er when your baby is still young. Go on to find a better match.
  3. Take some time to acknowledge the many ways you are an expert on your child. Use that to strengthen your resolve as your baby’s mother and advocate when issues arise. Feel empowered by the awesome role you have in Baby’s life.

 

I leave you with an affirmation:

“I am a First Time Mom. And that makes me brilliant. My maternal instincts are powerfully attuned to my baby’s body and needs. It makes me my baby’s voice. It makes me confident in my abilities to care for my child. First Time moms, like me, are amazing!”

5 Days in the NICU – A Mother’s Perspective

Greetings.

I recently received an Obstetrics Unit Survey inquiring about my experiences during a maternity stay with your hospital last month.  My personal care was largely pleasant and a significant improvement over my experience delivering my daughter at another local hospital.  However, it was my experiences during my son’s time in the nursery that have prompted me to write you this letter.

My son was born on 7/14/2016 12:10pm at 38 weeks gestation, and soon indicated signs of oxygen insufficiency.  The cord was quickly cut and he was whisked over to the exam cart, where he was put on oxygen.  Soon after, he was taken to the nursery with my husband following closely behind.  I joined the 2 of them in the nursery and learned that a chest X-ray had revealed nothing conclusive regarding the source of his oxygen problems, and they had put him on 2 intravenous, broad-spectrum, prophylactic antibiotics due to concerns regarding my 36-hour ruptured membrane, while awaiting the additional results of a 48 hour culture.

I expressed deep concern regarding the administration of any antibiotic, unless absolutely necessary.  I informed them that I was well aware of the infection risks associated with my ruptured membrane and took special care to mitigate the risks by limiting exams, etc.  However, my pleas went unheard and the intravenous antibiotics were continued.  It was explained to me that if his symptoms were the result of an infection, the 48 hour culture result window could prove too late to administer them effectively.  And since conventional medicine does not acknowledge the inherent risks of antibiotic administration, it is seen as a harmless preventative measure.

Please refer to the following PubMed references.

I spent nearly every waking moment at my son’s bedside during the 5 days he was in your care, and I overheard an explanation similar to ours conveyed to virtually every parent – that of the necessity of prophylactic antibiotics for their infant, regardless of the circumstances.  While I appreciate your fervor in proactively treating a potential infection, antibiotics are hardly innocuous and pose potential chronic, long-term health consequences that we arguably do not yet fully understand – especially when administered early in life.  (Incidentally, all of my son’s tests regarding an infection were negative.)

There were a number of other concerns I witnessed in relation to the care of infants in the nursery, which compelled me to spend every moment I could with my son and to personally introduce myself to the nurse who would be caring for him during their 12 hour shift, as well as the NP and neonatal MD currently on staff.  Suffice it to say that the level of care and attention he received varied greatly, depending on the individual assigned to him and their current workload.

My son was successfully taken off of oxygen the same day he was born, but kept in the nursery an additional 4 days while being weaned off of the IV and then treated for minor jaundice.  We have learned based on studies of babies born via C-section vs. vaginally that an infant’s early microbial environment strongly influences their subsequent intestinal colonization.  Such studies have also demonstrated the preferential species of Mom’s, Dad’s, and their home’s native bacterial diversity over that of a hospital environment (especially in cases where antibiotic administration has destroyed the colonization received during birth).  Consequently, I would expect an infant to be released to go home as soon as it is deemed safe, especially if Mom has already been discharged.  However, my experience did not reflect that standard and I witnessed another mother have a heated discussion with the NP and neonatal MD regarding the discharge of her daughter from the nursery.  Ultimately, your staff conceded and allowed the parents to take their infant home as requested.

In your effort to achieve a truly ‘Baby Friendly‘ status, I would advise you to thoroughly evaluate the likelihood of an infection and the associated risks of antibiotic administration before deciding on a course of action, and release an infant once the critical health issues are resolved.  In addition, you might explore opportunities for additional individuals to help with feeding and soothing the infants, in circumstances where the nurses are too overwhelmed to do an effective job on their own.

I appreciate your time and attention regarding these matters, and you are welcome to contact me via this email address or telephone at XXX-XXX-XXXX if you would like to discuss them further.

Warmly,

-Tracy Sterling

A Reflux Revelation

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

  • Sixty percent of the adult population will experience some type of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) within a 12 month period and 20 to 30 percent will have weekly symptoms. 1
  • Approximately seven million people in the United States have some symptoms of GERD. 2
  • In 2004, approximately 20 percent of the United States population reported reflux symptoms that occurred at least weekly. 3
  • Primary or secondary GERD diagnosis increased by an unprecedented 216 percent or from a total of 995,402 individuals diagnosed in 1998 to 3,141,965 in 2005. 4
  • Children with GERD symptoms who were hospitalized with a primary GERD diagnosis increased by 42 percent in infants and 84 percent in children between the ages of two and 17. 5
  • There are approximately 64.6 million prescriptions written for GERD medications in the United States on an annual basis. 6
  • It is estimated that worldwide, approximately 5 to 7 percent of the total population has symptoms of GERD, which is most commonly reported as heartburn that occurs on a daily or frequent basis. 7

gutinflammation
Ask the average person what they think causes heartburn, and they will probably tell you it’s stomach acid. While largely unproven, this conclusion has been widely accepted and likely derived from the ‘burning’ sensation, and success with treatment using proton pump inhibiting (PPI) medications like Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec. PPI medications reduce gastric acid by blocking the gastric pump of stomach parietal cells, so one would naturally assume the reduction in acid is to credit for the relief in our associated ‘burning’ GERD symptoms.

However, what most people don’t realize, is that PPI medications can also serve as powerful anti-inflammatories. 8 In fact, a published study review concluded that PPI medications potentially have beneficial effects in any number of inflammatory diseases, gastrointestinal or extra-intestinal, in which acid has no role, and a positive clinical response to PPIs should not be interpreted as proof of an underlying acid-peptic disorder. 9 The review goes on to suggest that patients may be mistaking their symptom improvement on PPI medications as acid reduction, when in fact it is a reduction of inflammation within their gastrointestinal tract. 10

And there is further compelling evidence bringing into question the presumed etiology of GERD, from a recent study done on 12 patients being treated with PPI’s for their reflux esophagitis. 11The study concludes that the damage done to each patient’s esophagus was not caused by stomach acid, but by an inflammatory immune response. 12

So, let’s review: For some of us, the pain we know as ‘heartburn’ potentially has nothing to do with the gastric acids produced by the stomach, and instead is the result of immune inflammation and aggravation within the upper gastrointestinal tract/esophagus. PPI medications are anti-inflammatories so they are potentially reducing the inflammation, thereby eliminating the associated pain. Sounds like the perfect treatment solution, right?

That is, until you consider the risk of side effects – especially with long term use of PPI medications. Adequate stomach acid is a necessary and relevant part of the metabolic process, and there are adverse consequences to habitually reducing/eliminating it. PPI use has been linked to the predisposal of certain infectious diseases, dementia, kidney disease, heart attacks, stroke, vitamin deficiencies, bone fractures, and gut dysbiosis – just to name a few. 13 14

But there is an alternative option: Determine what is triggering the immune inflammation in your GI tract and eliminate it. It will cost you nothing, except some time and effort, there is no risk of any adverse side effects, and you may end up eliminating other cryptic inflammatory symptoms you did not even realize were associated to the exposure.

My advice? Start by removing some of the top allergen offenders from your diet one at a time, and see if you notice a difference in your GERD symptoms. And start paying attention to what you’ve been exposed to recently when your symptoms are at their worst. Did you suffer with heartburn all night after eating a bowl of ice cream? That should raise dairy up to the top of your suspect list. With time and practice, your allergen detective skills will improve, but try to keep it simple initially. And bear in mind that there may be multiple allergens contributing to your symptoms, and the sources may potentially include environmental triggers (lotions, detergents, soaps, pollen, cat dander, etc.), in addition to food or medication.

InfantGERDThere is another chapter to this story we have not yet explored: Infant gastrointestinal reflux disease, and this is where things become slightly more complicated. There is no question that the use of PPI medications in infants and young children is skyrocketing. One large study of about 1 million infants revealed prescriptions for one of the PPIs, made in a child-friendly liquid, rose 16-fold between 1999 and 2004. In addition, there was an overall 7-fold increase in prescriptions for PPIs for infants, and of the prescriptions written for children under 1, about half of those were for infants younger than 4 months of age. 15

But – what exactly are we treating our infants for, with PPI medications? The clinical symptoms associated with infant GERD (depending on who you ask), can range from excessive/inconsolable crying, frequent vomiting/spit up, trouble latching and swallowing, loss of appetite, failure to thrive, diarrhea, blood/mucous in stool, gas, constipation, etc. Those hardly seem like a list of symptoms that can all be attributed to acid ‘burns’ resulting from regurgitation, and not all babies with GERD symptoms regurgitate (a condition known as ‘silent reflux’).

Not surprisingly, there is mounting evidence demonstrating that a wide range of gastrointestinal pain, motility and oral motor dysfunction symptoms, including those listed above, can all be attributed to various stages of gastrointestinal immune aggravation and inflammation. 16 17 18 19 20 21

In addition, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that identifying and eliminating food and environmental sensitivities is as effective as medications for treating gastrointestinal immune inflammation symptoms in children (with one particular study indicating cow’s dairy, soy, and wheat at the top of the list of offenders). 22 23 24

A few pointers regarding identifying and eliminating allergens in infants and young children.

  • You may find that most pediatricians will focus on cow dairy as the sole problematic component, and recommend a partially hydrolyzed (hypoallergenic) or fully hydrolyzed (super hypoallergenic/elemental) infant formula. However, nearly all powder infant formulas use corn as a sweetener so you may inadvertently end up replacing one potential allergen with another.
  • Given the extensive list of ingredients on the average can of infant formula these days, you will probably find a trial and error elimination of allergens from a breastfeeding mother’s diet to be easier and more accurate. (Not to mention, you get the added benefit of the immune modulating properties inherently found in breastmilk to potentially help battle the underlying hyper-immune conditions). 25 26 27
  • Research has demonstrated that gastrointestinal immune inflammation and activation can contribute to dysphagia (trouble swallowing), neuro-muscular dysfunction, intestinal motor abnormalities, and GI dysmotility. 28 29 Consequently, you may find that seemingly unrelated issues with latching, nursing, and the bowels may magically improve and/or resolve once the underlying immune inflammation is addressed.
  • Infant and young children’s metabolism is much faster than an adult’s, so you will typically see clinical improvement quickly once you identify and removing the offending allergen(s).

Allergen Sensitivity

  • According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, sensitization rates to one or more common allergens among school aged children are currently approaching 40%-50% worldwide.
  • One in five people in the U.S. currently have allergy or asthma symptoms.
  • 55% of Americans test positive to one or more allergens.

But for all our efforts to subdue the villainous stomach acid, the statistics are not getting any better. But perhaps that’s because we have been chasing the wrong villain. We know that This study, published just last month, strongly suggests that acid is not the underlying cause for the ‘burn’ in heartburn. Instead, an inflammatory immune response is. That’s right – your undiscovered dairy, gluten, corn, egg, or soy sensitivity may be entirely to blame for those pesky GERD symptoms you have been popping Nexium to treat. 30

But that does bring up an interesting point, if acid is not causing the burn then why are PPI (Proton Pump Inhibitor) medications like Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec so effective at treating the symptoms? We know that PPI’s reduce gastric acid by blocking the gastric pump of stomach parietal cells, so we would naturally assume the reduction in acid is to credit for the relief in our associated ‘burning’ GERD symptoms. However, it turns out that PPI medications have another, more relevant function in this scenario.

Recent research has demonstrated that PPIs also serve as powerful anti-inflammatories, independent from their function of blocking acid production. A published study review concluded PPI medications potentially have beneficial effects in any number of inflammatory diseases, gastrointestinal or extra-intestinal, in which acid has no role, and a positive clinical response to PPIs should not be interpreted as proof of an underlying acid-peptic disorder. 31

Notes:

  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005 – HCUP-US Home Page. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb44.jsp
  2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). (n.d.). Office of Medical Informatics – College of Medicine – University of Florida. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://medinfo.ufl.edu/~gec/coa1/gerdfaq.html
  3. Digestive Diseases Statistics for the United States – National Digestive Diseases Information Clearninghouse. (n.d.). Home – National Digestive Diseases Information Clearninghouse. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/statistics.aspx#specific
  4. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005 – HCUP-US Home Page. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb44.jsp
  5. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005 – HCUP-US Home Page. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb44.jsp
  6. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hospitalizations in 1998 and 2005 – HCUP-US Home Page. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb44.jsp
  7. GERD Costs America Nearly $2 Billion Each Week in Lost Productivity – International Foundation for Functional Gastrointenstinal Disorders. Retrieved March 5, 2012, from: http://www.iffgd.org/site/news-events/press-releases/2005-1125-gerd-costs
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035917
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035917
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035917
  11. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2521970
  12. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2521970
  13. http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/news/20160608/proton-pump-inhibitor-health-risks
  14. http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/news/20141125/could-popular-heartburn-drugs-upset-your-good-gut-bugs
  15. http://www.livescience.com/16636-acid-reflux-drugs-overused-babies.html
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26022877
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17053446
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18713339
  19. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25808260
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25845555
  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26194403
  22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26022877
  23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25808260
  24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25845555
  25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27183772
  26. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20485331
  27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21444329
  28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18713339
  29. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26194403
  30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26022877
  31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035917

Healing My Kiddo – Lessons from the Field

suport
  1. You are not alone. While traveling for work a few months ago, I sat next to a mom and her 11 year old daughter. They were headed to a children’s hospital for some experimental surgery, hopeful that it would help her daughter walk as she was losing more and more movement with each passing week. Over the course of the hour and a half flight, we discussed her daughter’s history, medical mysteries, the challenges, the heartaches, the successes. I shared some of my own with my daughter, and what had worked for us. We exchanged numbers and she texted me shortly after parting ways that there had been a mix-up and they were going to have to wait for the next hotel shuttle. I immediately offered come back to the airport and give them a ride to the hotel in my rental. She insisted they would be fine, but thanked me profusely for my unexpected kindness.
    I have met a lot of parents via social media and some in real life that are on a similar journey of healing their children, and I have found that there is almost always an instant, unspoken bond between us. We are rarely at the same places in our journeys and may have strong differing opinions on certain topics, but I will still vigilantly assist and defend this virtual stranger simply because I know how much it means to them. It is strange and amazing, like 2 veterans who have witnessed the same horrors that others simply cannot relate to or understand. Many of us have little to offer in the way of assistance except to share our collective wisdom and support in the form of our words, so that’s what we do. I would not wish our experiences on my worst enemy but I have found an unexpected comfort in the knowledge that at any given moment, thousands of other parents and caretakers are out there fighting alongside me in this epic battle.
  2. Take care of yourself. The truth is that I’m not a person who handles adversity well, I’m more of a ‘fixer’. If there is a problem, I don’t tolerate it – I ‘fix’ it. Perhaps that’s why software engineering is such a good vocational fit for me. I remember at one point early on my husband said to me, “Tracy, you cannot debug an infant the way you debug a computer program.” (He was partially correct.)
    At any rate, I must have had at least a dozen or so different people say these exact words to me, “Remember to take care of yourself”. I always nodded enthusiastically, but internally I thought to myself, “Oh, I will – just as soon as I get my kid’s health problems worked out!” But that’s not how this process works, it’s a journey. You will cross the finish line a thousand times and never at all. In the words of Amy Yasko – it’s a marathon, not a sprint and you will make it farther if you recognize and honor your needs along the way.
    Don’t get me wrong, there have been periods during my daughter’s life that did not afford any ‘me time’, when we were simply doing everything we could to survive until the next day. But it does get easier, you will find a rhythm amid the chaos and those are the times when you need to fill up your own bucket. I used to think I was being selfish when I did so; how can I possibly go work out or sit and meditate when my child is physically hurting herself?! But that’s just it, I have more patience and tolerance for the terrorizing realities if I take some time to care for me, and I find it easier to recognize and appreciate those precious, happy moments. (Not to mention, I have had some of my greatest ‘AHA!’ moments regarding my daughter’s conditions while meditating or praying.)
  3. Every child is unique. As a parent, when you have those breakthrough moments with a treatment, I think it’s natural to want to scream from the mountaintops that you’ve ‘finally found the answer!’ What I have learned, is that the answers for my child are not necessarily the answers for other children. There are countless variables that effect how and why a child (or person) arrived at this exact point in their health. (I believe ‘Bio-Individuality’ is the current buzz word of choice.) It is a perfect storm that you could not possibly duplicate, even if you tried. I’m not even certain that our own ‘breakthrough’ treatments would have been as profound, had they not occurred after the other treatments we had already implemented and at the time we tried them.
    I think it is our instinct to want to help every single parent and heal every child we encounter, but it’s important to remember that everyone is at a different place in their journey and we are all dealing with our own unique struggles at any given time. I try to remind myself that even a gentle and subtle suggestion might plant a seed that will blossom when the time is right.
  4. Keep a log. If there was one single piece of clinical advice I could give parents, it would be to keep a log for their child (and even themselves). Our environmental and food allergy testing has come a long way, but my guess is that it’s still only in the 70-80% range of accuracy – at best. And there are no labs to account for chemical sensitivies, occurring in individuals with metabolic or detoxification shortcomings. The single best way to determine one’s tolerance to anything is through trial and error. (Dave Asprey calls it ‘Bio Hacking’ oneself in his book “The Bulletproof Diet”.) Our daughter’s log consists of a spreadsheet that I’ve modified as she’s grown and currently accounts for her daily food, supplements, and any behavioral or physical anomalies (extreme hyperactivity, rashes, extreme defiance, fussiness, sleep troubles, diarrhea/constipation, etc.)
    I don’t know how we could possibly have unraveled some of the medical mysteries about my daughter without that log. For example, we discovered she cannot tolerate purines. Purines are a natural food chemical found in large amounts in certain foods such as liver and cauliflower. Her symptoms of purine intolerance are largely behavioral in nature, which makes it particularly difficult to identify vs a consistent physical symptom such as a rash or stomach upset.
    I would wager to guess that virtually everyone is battling with at least one unknown environmental, food, or chemical sensitivity – contributing any number of symptoms.
  5. Ask for help. Some of us are excellent at recognizing and communicating when we are in need of assistance, I am not one of those individuals. To be honest, I never really needed much help before – not like this anyway.
    I inadvertently stumbled onto a mother’s blog early on in this journey (one of many). She had a young, teenage daughter who suffered with severe ASD, and the child often became physically violent with her. Her husband worked long hours, and she was responsible for caring for her daughter along with their other children. Aside from sharing her own story via her blog, she participated heavily in a grass-roots community effort to help other parents in similar situations navigate the state and health insurance paperwork and get the medical and financial assistance they so desperately needed. The last post on her blog was written by a dear friend, asking readers for support to help the family in their time of greatest need. She went onto explain that the mother was in prison after trying to take her own life and that of her daughter’s by lighting a charcoal grill in an enclosed vehicle with the 2 of them. Both were found, survived, and treated for smoke inhalation.
    I remember sobbing for weeks, every time I thought of that poor woman and her daughter. Even now, I cannot help but tear up. Caring for a seriously ill child will take EVERYTHING out of you. The stress, the sleep deprivation, and the trauma are enough to turn even the most hardened individuals inside out. Know your limits, and honor them. When it gets to be too much, screw your pride and ask anyone and everyone for relief. I found that the help was rarely where I expected it to be, but it was there nonetheless.

With Peace & Love,
~Tracy

Dear National Institute of Health,

baby
Not long before I conceived my now 2 year old daughter, a dear friend of mine told me a story about her 16 year old, non-verbal, ASD goddaughter. She said that prior to receiving her 2 year round of vaccinations, she was a healthy, happy little girl who could sing nursery rhymes in both English and Czech (her parents are both Czechoslovakian). In fact, she said they had videos of the little girl singing that had long since been discarded because they were a sad reminder of what used to be. Within a few weeks of her 2 year vaccines, all that changed as she slowly became socially despondent, developmentally delayed and lost all speech.

I vividly remember my corresponding internal monologue, “Oh, that’s so sad – those poor parents and that poor little girl. Maybe it was the vaccines, but more likely it was an inevitable event that they mistakenly associated with the vaccines”. As the new parent of a vaccine injured child, my perspective on the issue has changed somewhat.

According to the CDC, overall national vaccine rates are high but misleadingly conceal pockets of ‘non-vaccinating communities’. In addition, recent statistics show that 40% of U.S. parents of young children have delayed or denied at least one vaccine on the CDC recommended schedule. Who are these parents? They are individuals who largely believe in the notion of herd immunity and support vaccinations as a mechanism for infectious disease prevention. However, they may find themselves questioning the necessity of each one of our ever-growing number of vaccines and boosters, and wondering, “Is more always better?” I don’t anticipate that the vaccine debate will subside, or that the vaccination rates will improve anytime soon. On the contrary, I suspect that things will become much more heated as the CDC’s mandatory schedule grows, more parents like myself share their experience and concern, and more U.S. parents continue to opt out of vaccinations.

Most vaccines developed today include just small components of germs, such as their proteins, rather than the entire virus or bacteria. Consequently, the vaccinations must also include an adjuvant to stimulate the immune system and elicit the necessary response. Adjuvants help activate the immune system to ensure the body produces an immune response strong enough to protect the patient from the germ he or she is being vaccinated against. Currently, aluminum is the adjuvant of choice for nearly all US vaccines. According to the CDC’s current recommended vaccination schedule, children will receive 16 doses of aluminum adjuvant before the age of 2. Incidentally, aluminum is also among the adjuvants used to deliberately evoke an autoimmune/inflammatory response in lab animals when necessary for testing purposes; a concept commonly known as ASIA (Autoimmune/inflammatory Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants).

Does our current vaccination schedule have the potential to ‘overstimulate’ our immune system, and induce allergies and autoimmune conditions? That is the question you should be closely examining, given the current (growing) statistics.

  • According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, sensitization rates to one or more common allergens among school aged children are currently approaching 40%-50% worldwide. In addition, one in five people in the U.S. currently have allergy or asthma symptoms and 55% of Americans test positive to one or more allergens.
  • As of 2011, over 40% of American men and women are expected to develop cancer within their lifetime. (Many forms of cancer are autoimmune in origin.)
  • The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) estimates that 20% of Americans (63 million people) are affected by autoimmune disease.
  • The percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis continues to increase each year, from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 and to 11.0% in 2011. (ADHD is suspected as an autoimmune condition.)
  • As of 2010, 1 in 10 adults has diabetes and that figure is expected to double or triple in the next 35 years. (Diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease.)
  • The number of children with Autism has more than doubled since 2000, to 1 in every 68 children. (Autism is suspected as an autoimmune condition.)

Why do so many of these emerging epidemic conditions share the origins of a dysfunctional immune system? We are the most heavily vaccinated, developed country in the world and also among the sickest when it comes to non-communicable, chronic illnesses. It would seem ignorant and irresponsible to not at least consider that the single most influential and widespread medical procedure affecting our immune system might be playing a role. But that is the reality of our current situation, there are no significant epidemiological studies examining the potential association between frequency and volume of vaccinations, and immune dysfunction.

Aside from Autism, I am concerned with vaccines contributing to my child’s propensity for developing allergies, Celiac disease (also an autoimmune disorder), ADHD, Diabetes, etc. and I want to know the statistical likelihood for such an event. In fact, as a parent – I have a right to know the risk involved in choosing to vaccinate my child with the current recommended schedule. This is not a tall order. Epidemiological studies to substantiate the safety of a drug or procedure are commonplace, and there are plenty of non-vaccinated children to serve as controls in such a study.

Furthermore, what is the acceptance criteria for additional vaccines and boosters being introduced into the current schedule? Typically, studies to establish safety will test the effects of only the one isolated vaccine in question, but that is not representative of how vaccinations are delivered according to the current schedule. It is imperative that each additional vaccine be studied as part of the total administered, so that any potential cumulative and aggregate effects can be properly evaluated. Researchers have observed the immune-stimulating effect that aluminum has on the immune system, but they do not fully understand the mechanism behind how it produces the response. How then are they able to determine how much adjuvant might be ‘too much’, as we continue to pile more vaccinations onto the schedule, year after year.

If you want parents to adhere to the current recommended vaccination schedule, then do your due diligence so we have peace of mind. Until then, you have only yourselves to blame for the inevitable dissidence.

In Truth,
-Another Anxious Vaxxer

lyme2

4 Common Lyme Disease Myths

1.  Lyme disease is uncommon.                                                                                                            
In 2013, the CDC acknowledged that the number of Americans afflicted with Lyme disease each year is roughly 10-12 times the number of actual reported cases.  “This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention.” 1

2. Lyme disease can only be contracted through a bite from an infected tick.
Lyme disease is congenital (mother can pass it to child), and possibly sexually transmitted according to new research. 2

3. Lyme is indicated by a red rash surrounding the offending tick bite, followed by joint pain.
At least 25% of reported cases do not develop a rash, and symptoms of Lyme disease can range from fatigue to muscle pain to insomnia. 3

4.  Conventional Lyme disease testing is accurate.
Multiple studies have demonstrated Borrelia burgdorferi’s propensity to morph into forms potentially immune to various antibiotics, and unrecognizable by our immune system. 4, 5  The CDC’s current testing methods rely on the presence of relevant bacterial antibodies for diagnosis, which may or may not actually exist if the bacteria has transformed into a state no longer recognizable by our immune system.  Other independent lab testing (including IGeneX and Immunosciences) both utilize the presence of the offending bacteria itself, for a more accurate diagnosis.

Consult the following links for help finding a Lyme Literate (LL) practitioner.
http://tbdalliance.org/diagnosing-tbds/find-a-medical-professional
<http://www.lymenet.org/contact.shtml
http://ilads.org/ilads_media/physician-referral

 

Pay the Grocer, or Pay the Doctor.

Crop

Hot off the press of Current Microbiology journal’s March 2015 issue, a study evaluating the effects of glyphosate (trade name Roundup), a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide.  Thanks in large part to crops genetically engineered to be glyphosate-resistant (including corn and soy), glyphosate now makes its way into an estimated 75%-80% of the food lining grocery store shelves today.  But what effect does glyphosate have on us?

“In conclusion, glyphosate causes [gut] dysbiosis which favors the production of [neurotoxin] BoNT in the rumen. The global regulations restrictions for the use of glyphosate should be re-evaluated.” 1

Gut dysbiosis is effectively an imbalance of the microbiota within our gut.  But what are the health implications of this effect?  In a word:  Infinite.  We have an entire ecosystem of microbes outnumbering our cells 10 to 1, with a collective genome at least 150 times larger than our own.  This ecosystem exists primarily in our gut, specifically the large intestine.  Researchers are just beginning to uncover the many implications of the complex and intricate balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbes, especially in the context of our immune system. 2, 3  In order to properly frame just how rudimentary our knowledge is within this arena, a recent study has suggested that our appendix is responsible for producing microbes to influence our critical microbiota balance. 4  You may recall the long withstanding hypothesis for the appendix as a useless organ inexplicably left behind by evolution; supporting its frequent surgical removal in the case of inflammation.

GlutenFreeInternational research has identified a particular group of microbes that seem important for gut health and a balanced immune system, dubbed the ‘Clostridial Clusters’.  Of particular interest is the apparent direct relationship between certain members of this cluster and cells that prevent immune overreaction, called regulatory T cells, or Tregs.  Studies have demonstrated that without these Treg cells, mice are unusually prone to inflammatory disease.  Inflammation mediates and is the primary driver of many medical disorders and autoimmune diseases (including cancer 5), as well as many cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and infectious diseases. 6   One of the questions central to microbiome research is why people in modern society, who are relatively free of infectious diseases, a major cause of inflammation, are so prone to inflammatory, autoimmune and allergic diseases.  Many now suspect that society-wide shifts in our microbial communities have contributed to our seemingly hyper-reactive immune systems. 7

Given the recent and dramatic rise in chronic inflammatory conditions and the uncanny statistical correlation with the introduction of glyphosate, I would say it’s time to reconsider our position on the subject.  I know I have.

(Incidentally this is only one of additional published studies currently available on PubMed demonstrating the effects of glyphosate on the microbiota of animal models.)