Every time she smiled at a stranger and they looked at me wonderingly. I wanted to explain that I wasn’t negligent . . . that my daughter had never even had a processed food, but truth is I agreed with their disapproving looks. How could I let this happen and not do anything about it?
I’m talking, of course, about my daughter’s tooth decay. Though I’ve told this story in bits and pieces, somehow I’ve never put it together in a way that shares our journey from beginning to end. Today I’m going to do just that, so let’s get started!
So, this may be an odd way to start a post on ear infections, but before we get into the nitty gritty of comfort measures and natural remedies, I want to take a moment to discuss one of the most common misconceptions about ear infections.
And that would be . . . the infection part. According to Dr. Allan Lieberthal, pediatrician and lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics new guidelines for diagnosing ear infections, the medical community has contributed to the “over-diagnosis of [ear] infection.” (source)
How does this happen? My good friend and former chiropractor, Dr. Haggerton, explains:
“For those of you who have . . . taken your child into the pediatrician because they are hurting, acting funny, and/or pulling at their ears and the doc looked in their ears with the otoscope and said ‘Yep, it’s red, little Johnny’s got an ear infection. I’ll write you a script for an antibiotic.’
Think about that for a minute, how did the doctor know just off of the color of the tympanic membrane that your child had an infection?!?
The truth is, a red and slightly bulging tympanic membrane can be a sign that fluid is not draining well, but it’s not necessarily a sign of ear infection. And even if an infection is present, according to CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton most ear infections are viral in nature and won’t respond to antibiotics anyway. (source)
So what will that course of antibiotics really do to help your child? If the earache has been misdiagnosed – absolutely nothing. Or worse, according to Consumer Reports it may actually cause future ear infections! (source)
So if ear infections are over-diagnosed, what else causes earaches? According to Dr. Haggerton . . .
“with children, the eustachian tube (ear canal) is not slanted down like ours as adults.. Their canal is straight across or horizontal, [meaning] your baby doesn’t get much help from gravity to get the fluid to drain out of the lymph nodes and the ears into the throat and out of their body. The problem comes when fluid and congestion build up in the lymph nodes in the neck and throat and cannot be moved or flushed out of the child’s body. That fluid has to go somewhere so if the fluid can’t go back ‘down’, then it will frequently back up into the child’s eustachian tube and cause fluid pressure on the back of the ear drum.”
Other than the natural shape of a child’s eustachian tube, misalignments in the head/neck area, teething and/or undiagnosed food sensitivities can cause swelling that prevents drainage. (source) In these cases, the irritation will often have the same symptoms as an infection. Left untreated, fluid buildup can eventually lead to a legitimate infection, but until that point antibiotics will do no good.
Obviously, the decision making process will be different for every parent. The AAP Guidelines now state that antibiotics should not be prescribed unless there is an obvious ear infection – a very bulging tympanic membrane. If fluid is present some parents might insist on a swab culture to confirm it is bacterial rather than viral before considering antibiotics. If they do, chances are the earache will resolve on it’s own before the results come back. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, that may be for the best anyway. Most ear infections clear up without any treatment, so they recommend the wait-and-see approach for:
Others may choose to support the immune system naturally while focusing on comfort measures. For those that prefer to avoid Tylenol and other pain medications that may delay the healing process, here are some natural ways to support the immune system . . .
*Safety Tip* from Creative Christian Mama: “If there is any puss coming out of the ear, that means the ear drum is perforated (it tore, due to the pressure). It will heal, but DO NOT put anything at all inside an ear that is perforated.”
According to a recent study conducted by Washington State University, garlic is 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics at killing bacterial strains related to foodborne illness. They also found that it often worked in a fraction of the time.
So what does this mean for ear infections? Nothing directly, but it does make me wonder how effective it is for other strains. Garlic also has been shown to inhibit some viruses, which some feel makes it a better choice than antibiotics, which only cover bacterial infections. (source)
Bonus fact: Garlic contains alliin and allinase. When a whole clove is chopped or crushed these compounds combine to form allicin, a natural anesthetic that can provide a measure of relief while garlic does it’s other magic.
You can often find garlic and mullein oil here, or you can at your local health food store, but to make your own check out make your own. (Note: The article mentions the possibility of adding certain essential oils to the ear drops. I would not recommend that.)
Tip from Creative Christian Mama: Use a dropper to put 2 to 3 drops in the ear. (Sing a song to keep the child distracted, since they will need to lay there for 30 seconds to allow the oil to get all the way in the ear canal.) The warmth of the oil helps to reduce the pain (as does the lavender oil) and can be used once an hour. Use at least four times a day, but preferably six or more, until the child is well.
Massaging the outside of the ear and face/jaw/neck area with diluted essential oils is thought to facilitate good circulation and drainage. “Massage in a downward direction behind the ear on the neck and apply gentle inward pressure in front of the ear toward the cheek (about where sideburns would be).” (source)
Oils often recommended for this purpose are eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, oregano, chamomile, tea tree, and thyme. Here is a guide to diluting oils for massage purposes. Please keep in mind that some oils should not be introduced until child reaches a certain age. There’s a list at the bottom of this post which compiles the opinions of several experts.
According to Dr. Michael Gerber, “Vitamin A deficiency disrupts the clearing mechanism of the ear.” Adequate levels of Vitamin A have also been found to diminish serious complications in other infectious diseases, such as measles. (source)
The majority of our immune system is found in the digestive tract, so supporting it with beneficial bacteria supports recovery from infection. If the inflammation is due to food sensitivities it can also be beneficial in helping to moderate and even reverse those sensitivities over time. (I talk about my favorite probiotics on the Superfoods & Supplements section of this page)
According to Dr. Haggerton, “The lymph nodes need properly functioning muscles to contract with your baby’s head movements in order to flush out lymph fluid and congestion that pools in the area. If the bones in the top of your baby’s neck become restricted (due to birth, or any other type of physical stressor), the muscles around that area cannot contract and work correctly. If the muscles don’t contract perfectly, then the body has a hard time flushing out the fluid in the ear canals. Adjustments also boost the immune system and help the body to function optimally. Read more research on chiropractic and ear infections here.” (source)
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, elderberry may have anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. Among the various natural remedies for ear infections, it is a favorite with those who want to support the immune system through an infection. (Buy it here or make your own.)
We’ve all heard about natural remedies for ear infections using fresh onions. This one is my favorite: “Use one brown or yellow onion, chopped in half. Bake it face down on the oven rack at 350 degrees until you can just start to smell the onion, and it’s just beginning to recede. You want it to be just hot enough that you won’t burn the ears – test by touching as you would formula. Have the person lie down on their back with their head supported by a pillow. Place the onions over the ears like ear muffs, and then wrap them completely using a natural cloth such as a 100% cotton towel, or 100% wool scarf. You do NOT want to have the chemical fumes from an acrylic fabric going into the ear canal. What you are doing is wrapping the top of the head, covering the onions, and then keeping it sealed by wrapping it loosely around the neck. This is why a wool scarf (if you or they are not allergic) works really well. Leave on for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until onion cools. Repeat again as needed. The theory is that the fumes from the onions – a natural cleanser – are going into the ear canal and helping to unblock them.” (source)
Whether it be via the onion remedy or the measures below, warmth does wonders for getting the lymphatic fluid moving and easing the discomfort of earaches. Fill a cotton or wool sock with rice or sea salt and bake until warm. Place it on the affected ear (testing first to make sure it won’t burn) until it cools. Repeat as often as desired.
Note: Salt is my preference because it has antimicrobial properties, but it’s also a lot more expensive. For that reason, rice works just fine for us.
If you have concerns regarding the results of your natural remedies for ear infections, there are times when contacting a doctor is necessary. According to Dr. Allan Lieberthal, whom I mentioned earlier is the pediatrician and lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics new guidelines on diagnosing ear infections, the “Basic rule of thumb for parents is: Don’t call the doctor for an antibiotic unless the child has a fever over 102 degrees or severe symptoms of cough, runny nose and ear pain, . . . Instead, a parent can safely wait 48 to 72 hours, giving pain medicine as needed, and watching to see if those symptoms simply go away. If the fever rises or the cough and runny nose last for several days, that’s when the child needs to visit the doctor for a full evaluation.”
photo credit: Darwin BellRead More »
But there was never a point in my life where I said to myself, “Gee, I think I’d like one of my best friends in the world to have a rubber-gloved, front row seat while I push my baby out.”
And yet, that’s exactly what happened. My good friend Dr. Cindy attended Katie’s birth as my chiropractor, then Micah’s as my chiro and primary midwife. Just for thematic consistency I’d love for her to act as chiro, midwife and maybe birth photog with Babypotamus #3, but unfortunately the prenatal visits would require a 12 hour trek back to our home state.
Needless to say, when I found out I was expecting babypotamus #3 it was pretty hard to pick up a (virtual) phone book and start calling random midwives in our new hometown.
But I found an AMAZING birth team on the first try. It was almost as if someone sprinkled fairy dust on my phone and said -Bippity! Boppity! Birth! -which annoyed me a bit. I like to make well-researched decisions, so even though I pretty much knew after our first conversation I created this checklist to make sure I had all my bases covered.
There are several types of midwives, some which have formal education and some who do not (such as lay midwives). The most common types who have completed training for midwifery are Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM’s) and Certified Professional Midwives (CPM’s). Most CNM’s practice in hospitals, while CPM’s have specific training and expertise in out-of-hospital births.
So what kind of birth do you want? A natural hospital birth? A waterbirth at a birth center? To birth at home? Don’t worry if you’re not sure, you can interview midwives who work in different environments. Ask them about the pros of working with them, and the cons of the other environments. Then ask the same question and see what the other side says.
Okay, don’t skulk exactly, but look around a bit. Check out potential midwives websites to read up on their overall philosophy, services offered, certifications held, what clients have to say about them, etc. If you have friends who have birthed with a midwife, have a similar birth philosophy to yours, and had a good experience ask for a recommendation. From this pool create a list of midwives you’d like to interview (usually 2-4).
Here are 50 questions to get you started, plus 44 more to pick and choose from. I personally would also ask about their position on using fetoscopes instead of dopplers and sonograms. (This is just my personal preference)
Though everyone I interviewed for Babypotamus #3’s birth was well-qualified, I just knew after talking with Jordan of Your Birth Midwifery that I’d found my team. It wasn’t just that she was the first to mention the Weston A. Price Foundation and asked my if I’d read Food Renegade’s new book, Beautiful Babies. It wasn’t even that her partner, Daphne, graciously accepted raw milk during our interview and didn’t flinch when I had a nice cold glass myself. Those things definitely helped, but it was more of a gut thing, which is something I deeply trust when making these kinds of decisions.
If at any point your original birth plan or choice of care provider feels like it is no longer the right choice for you, give yourself permission to alter the plan. Women who were 100% gung-ho about hospital birth have switched to a midwife at 40 weeks and vice-versa. Do what you feel is in the best interest of your baby.
But I imagine it’s a lot like watching the Vitamix leave the other May giveaway options in the dust. And why not? The Vitamix can easily do the work of a blender, food processor, hot pot (for soups), ice crusher, sorbet maker, meat grinder, coffee grinder and – with the right attachments – a grain grinder and dough mixer!
This month, I’m giving away a Vitamix 5200S with a 7-year full warranty, instructional DVD and recipe book. So what can you do with this thing if you win? I’m glad you asked! For starters, the Vitamix 5200S can . . . .
Photo courtesy of Lisa at Real Food Kosher. You can find her recipe here.
You want to add the dry container and blade to your list of kitchen tools you can also:
Oh, you’re grain-free? Grind navy beans into flour for cakes and creamy homestyle gravy!
It’s simple! I have back-to-back giveaways planned for at least the next few months, but to be eligible to win you must be subscribed to my monthly newsletter. (I never sell or give your address to anyone – the only person you’ll hear from is me!)
Ready to enter? Here’s what you need to do:
1. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter
2. Make sure you are signed up for my newsletter (You can sign up in Rafflecopter)
3. Sign up for as many extra entries as you want.
The Vitamix will be shipped to U.S. residents only. Winners who are residents outside of the U.S. will receive an Amazon gift card for the lowest listed price on Amazon.Read More »
There is this one thing, though, can you guess?
A) We are all related to General George S. Patton
B) We’ve all wet our pants on stage
C) We have all been sawed in half by David Copperfield
Okay, okay. It’s none of those. Only Kate Middleton (Mountbatten-Windsor, Duchess of Cambridge) is related to General Patton, Fergie is the only one to wet her pants on stage (though I confess I have in private), and only the mysterious Penelope Cruz has been a lovely assistant for Mr. Copperfield.
We DO have something in common, though:
Update: Babypotamus is here! Read his story – A Frog, A Polar Bear, and a Bullseye On My BottomRead More »
If anyone figures out how please let me know. You see, I ♥ handmade gifts, but apart from making my own balms, soaps and shampoo, my crafty score is 0. With Mother’s Day around the corner, though, I decided to look for a homemade gift idea that doesn’t require sewing skills, decoupage, or, um, talent.
Fortunately, I came across this gorgeous photo of a flower pot decorated with butterfly footprints and thought “Hey, my five year old could do that . . . maybe I can too!“
And water-based acrylic paint, it turns out I CAN! I’ll bet you can, too. If you want to give it a go you’re going to need some kids to get started. I recommend using your own.
[Note: If no kids are available and you want to make this for your mom go ahead and use your own feet. Don’t forget to write your age on the back because she might get them confused with your earlier creations. I mean, sure, the size 7 print might help her keep things straight, but just in case . . . ]
The first step is to gain their cooperation. Promise them that they will get messy and hand them their own custom blend of colors. You should be good.
Now grab your supplies and follow these steps.
* The manufacturer says they’re non-toxic. I’m not sure we have the same definition of toxic, but the paint was on and off my kids feet in a flash. Judge me, okay?
Give the butterfly print to your mom. Or, if you’re like me, decide to keep them and send her this tutorial instead. Just kidding, Mom! I’m going back to the store tomorrow.
Read More »
YAY! I’m super excited about announcing the winner of the Branch Basics giveaway today, because mystery person “X” is a longtime reader who has been stopping by dish about everything from birth and motherhood to sunscreen and whether healthy kids get sick for years now.
Congratulations Kirsten V (kirstenvossl**@ . . . .), you won the 5 gallon pail of Branch Basics plus three 32 ounce spray bottles! Please email me at support at mommypotamus.com with your mailing address and your prize will be in the mail soon.
If you didn’t win, Branch Basics has created a coupon code that can help you save an average of 65% off your regular “green” cleaners. Store-bought “eco-friendly” cleaners – which often contain questionable ingredients – cost an average of $6.18 AND their uses are very limited.
Right now, though, Mommuypotamus readers can get the Branch Basics concentrate for 30% off with coupon code MOMMYP30. Let’s grab a calculator and see how that works out, shall we?
Click on the link below to order Branch Basics for 30% off right now with coupon code MOMMYP30 (offer expires May 1st!!!)
Or maybe you would describe it as being electrocuted by gnomes with tiny live wires? If either of these sound familiar, you may be one of the 12 million Americans who suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).
Doctors say there is no known cause or cure, but they can help you manage the symptoms with anticonvulsants, tranquilizers, opioids, and Parkinson’s disease medications. Watch out, though! You may need a few extra medications to manage the potential side effects: amnesia, the urge to binge on food or shop compulsively, breathing problems, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)
The worst part? RLS tends to flare up the most during pregnancy, and none of these medications are safe for baby.
Fortunately, managing RLS naturally might be easier than you think. I’ve struggled with this sleep thief off and on since I was about 8 years old, and was taking tranquilizers to manage it by my early twenties. Fortunately, through a little trial and error I’ve been able to eliminate it without the help of medications. Here’s what I’ve learned about the possible causes of RLS, and how I’ve managed it naturally for the past 7 years.
Magnesium is needed to push excess calcium out of cells so that smooth muscle can relax. A deficiency can cause muscle tightening, twitches, involuntary jerks, and charlie horses.
What to do: It’s difficult to get adequate levels of magnesium through food for three reasons:
The good news is, magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin! You can supplement with magnesium oil (here’s where to get it), epsom salt baths, or pico-ionic magnesium (a highly bioavailable form taken internally)
I also make sure to get other minerals that are known to be helpful for calming restless legs, such as potassium. My favorite “supplement” is homemade bone broth with a pinch of unrefined sea salt, which is an excellent source of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and trace minerals. Here’s how to make it.
But what about the 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium intake I’m supposed to have? Won’t this mess me up?
Experts often suggest that people need to consume twice as much calcium as magnesium for bone health. According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, the supposed “ideal” ratio is a myth. Apparently, the recommendation goes back to statements made by French scientist Jean Durlach, who warned that calcium intake should never dip exceed twice the amount of magnesium consumed. New research indicates why he made this suggestion – without adequate magnesium, calcium can calcify soft tissue and contribute to heart disease. (source)
According to Dean, “A hundred years ago we enjoyed a diet high in magnesium with a daily intake of 500 mg. Today we are lucky to get 200 mg. However, calcium in the diet has never been higher. This high-calcium, low-magnesium diet, when coupled with calcium supplementation, can give a calcium to magnesium imbalance of 10:1 or even higher — which constitutes a walking time bomb of impaired bone health and heart disease.” (source)
Dr. Dean recommends getting a 1:2 or at least a 1:1 (calcium to magnesium) ratio in the diet.
Other considerations: LOTS of drugs – from Maalox to Ritalin to the birth control pill – deplete magnesium. Here’s a partial list. Also, some drugs interact with magnesium, so caution should be used when supplementing.
This actually relates back to magnesium. “Too much estrogen can lead to magnesium deficiency and vitamin B deficiency, according to Dr. John Lee. A deficiency in magnesium causes muscle tightening and that causes people to experience the leg spasms common in RLS. The deficiency in vitamin B can cause neurological problems, which is what causes the creepy, crawly sensations.” (source)
According to this study, “Patients with RLS have lower levels of dopamine in the substantia nigra and respond to iron administration. Iron, as a cofactor in dopamine production, plays a central role in the etiology of RLS.”
Low dopamine can cause neurological problems such as the creepy crawly sensations described above. That’s why Parkinson’s drugs work – they boost dopamine levels with a synthetic version.
Before you rush of to supplement with iron, though, there are two things to consider. First, iron and magnesium compete for receptor sites in the body, so taking too much can affect your magnesium stores.
Second, according to Dr. Campbell-McBride iron supplementation can actually make anemia worse under certain conditions:
Most people with abnormal gut flora have various stages of anaemia. It is not surprising. They not only can’t absorb essential for blood vitamins and minerals from food, but their own production of these vitamins is damaged. On top of that people with damaged gut flora often have a particular group of pathogenic bacteria growing in their gut, which are iron-loving bacteria (Actinomyces spp., Mycobacterium spp., pathogenic strains of E. coli, Corynebacterium spp., and many others). They consume whatever iron the person gets from the diet, leaving that person deficient in iron. Unfortunately, supplementing iron makes these bacteria grow stronger and does not remedy anaemia.” (Gut & Psychology Syndrome)
As mentioned under the thyroid section, a deficiency in B vitamins can cause neurological issues which result in tingling sensations.
So that’s it! Everything I’ve learned about Restless Leg Syndrome and a bag of chips (fried in coconut oil, of course!)
Disclaimer: None of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA. The information on this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. You can see my full disclaimer here.Read More »