By Dr. Risa M. Sloves

Antibiotics can be life saving in numerous situations, but their indiscriminate use has led to the emergence of a number of a highly resistant bacteria.  Among the most resistant are Streptococcal Pneumonia and this bacterial strain is one of the leading causes of ear and sinus infections, meningitis, and other potentially serious illnesses in adults and children.

According to medical research, antibiotics are prescribed at an enormous rate in the United States.  Many doctors routinely write prescriptions for antibiotics ( in part due to pressure from their patients) for cold symptoms, bronchitis, and ear infections despite the fact that they know up to 90% of them are caused by viruses and therefore an antibiotic is totally ineffective and unnecessary.

In fact, according to statistics, pediatricians and family physicians prescribe over $500 million dollars worth of antibiotics each year just to treat ear infections and another $500 million each year for other pediatric illnesses.  When one considers conventional medical treatments for ear infections including antibiotics, antihistamines, and the surgical insertion of “tubes”, the total spent is approximately 8 billion dollars per year.

Ironically, researchers question whether the routine use of antibiotics is a contributing factor to increased incidences of ear infections and fluid in the ear.  Children in one research study who received Amoxycillin for chronic ear infections actually suffered 2-6 times the rate of recurrence. Other studies have shown that for most children, drugs and “tubes” are not only ineffective, but their costly measures may predispose children to recurrent ear infections.  Other researchers found that pharyngitis and tonsillitis are among the worst treated of all illnesses because of the overuse of antibiotics.  Many of theses infections are viral in nature in which case  the use of antibiotics is unwarranted and may lead to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

So, antibiotics are often misused, but they are often lifesaving.  All patients who are prescribed an antibiotic should discuss the prescription with their medical doctor and determine if they are definitely suffering from (or at least most likely suffering from) a bacterial infection in which case an antiobiotic would be the treatment of choice.  If in fact it is a bacterial infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics, then it would seem important to also address the underlying reason that we became sick in the first place.  Was our body physically, emotionally, or chemically stressed?  Were we deficient in important vitamins and minerals that weakened our immune system?  In other words, we have to treat the body as a whole and look for ways to enhance our immune system in order to improve the overall functioning of our body so we can heal and hopefully not get sick again.

The following are some natural ways to improve the functioning of your immune system:

  1. Consult a physician who is knowledgeable and open minded regarding natural health care and alternative treatments.  More and more medical doctors are even agreeing that it is sometimes better to treat a range of common illnesses without medicine and to let the body heal itself.
  2. Consult a Chiropractic Physician: Believe it or not, it is the nervous system that plays a crucial role in the functioning of the immune system.  Chiropractic Physicians are trained to detect and correct spinal misalignments (known as subluxations) that when present create stress to the nervous system.  Research has shown that through gentle chiropractic adjustments there is a direct and positive effect on neurologic function, lymphatic drainage, blood flow, and muscle tension.  In addition, chiropractic adjustments have been found to stimulate immune function.  In fact, Gottfried Gutmann, M.D., one of Europe’s most prominent researchers in the field of physical medicine, has found that one of the most common consequences of misalignments in the spinal bones of the neck are ear infections and upper respiratory infections.  His findings revealed that many common ear, nose, throat, and bronchial disorders in childhood respond more favorably to chiropractic adjustments than to medication.
  3. Improve your diet and nutrition:  Decrease the amount of refined sugars and flours; decrease hydrogenated fats and increase the essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 and Omega 6; increase your intake of fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables; increase water consumption.  Avoid sugars (even fruit juices) especially if you are sick!  Sugar slows down the white blood cells ability to function in your body and impedes the ability to fight off infection. Vitamin supplementation, such as Vitamins A and C, and the mineral Zinc may improve immune function, but all supplementation should always be discussed with your health care providers.  In addition, individuals who have been on antibiotics in the past have experienced a change in the normal bacteria level of the intestine.  It is critical to introduce probiotics, such as Lactobacillus Acidophilus or Bifidus supplementation in order to help restore the normal flora to the gastrointestinal system.  Please note: As with medications, all supplements should be discussed with a health care provider before taking them.
  4. Allergy Management:  Individuals suffering from chronic upper respiratory infections and ear infection often have allergies. The most common offenders include dairy, wheat, eggs, chocolate, citrus, corn, soy, peanuts/nuts, shellfish, sugar and yeast.  Allergy diagnosis may involve elimination/rotation diets, skin tests and blood tests.  Other new and non-invasive diagnostic and treatment methods such as the BioSET Allergy Elimination Technique as discussed in “The Food Allergy Cure” by Dr. Ellen Cutler are also possibilities and can permanently eliminate allergies without the use of medications or injections.
  5. Homeopathy and Herbal Medicine: The proper selection and dosage of a remedy is critical and should ultimately be determined by a trained and licensed health care practitioner.
  6. Acupuncture: Stimulating acupuncture points to improve the flow of energy (referred to as “chi”) in the body is often used with other treatments to enhance to functioning of the body’s immune system.
  7. Breast feed babies if possible: Breast fed babies have a lower incidence of ear infections and other upper respiratory infections.
  8. Hands on healing techniques such as massage therapy may also help to decrease stress, improve circulation and lymphatic drainage and enhance overall immune function.
  9. In general, think optimistically, learn to say “no”, laugh , increase your exercise, breathe deeper, play more, and most importantly give thanks and recognize the sacred nature of your body and its’ ability to heal naturally much of the time!