HOW TO: keep your child's gut healthy during antibiotic treatment
Last week, my daughter was complaining of a sore ear (again). In the last few months we have been surprised that she has suddenly developed a regular ear ache: neither of my kids have ever had ear trouble in the past, so it was confusing to me that now, while we are achieving so much healing, my daughter should develop a health issue.
I just want to run through how we have managed this, so that I might be able to pass some tools on to you for when you find yourselves in a similar situation: from the symptom management of having to treat a burst ear drum with the dreaded antibiotics (abx) without destroying your child's gut health, to the root cause analysis of working towards eliminating this issue altogether.
The first thing I did, when my daughter complained of a sore ear, was to use my tried and tested home-remedy to ease the earache.
I mix 3 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil with 5 or 6 drops of Oregano Oil and put it into a sterilised dropper bottle (you can get these on eBay, I ordered 12 and always fill them up with my potions and lotions! For more medicinal information, see my Pinterest Board: GAPS medicine cabinet)
The Oregano oil is a powerful natural antibacterial agent, but it must be mixed with a carrier oil, because it is so strong and it would burn on it's own. I lay my daughter's head on my lap and drop a few drops in her ear. I also tug gently on the lobe to remove any air bubbles. I then put a drop on her skin where the jaw and ear meet, and gently rub downwards, to ease the pressure and to drain the lymph gland.
This seemed to be working as usual, and the earache went away. But a couple of days later, we went swimming on a REALLY hot day, and by that night, the earache had returned. I applied the Oil mix again before bedtime, but she was up through the night, complaining and unable to sleep. I gave her some food and ibuprofen to ease the pain. The next morning, she was off her food, and while driving my son to school, she started to scream. I pulled over and shone my phone torch in her ear, and sure enough, there was the yellow puss, close to the exit. But the pain seemed to be gone. I phoned my medical mum, and she confirmed that this sounded like an inner ear infection that had caused her eardrum to burst.
So off we went to the doctors.
As I expected, the GP prescribed antibiotics. She explained that this wasn't really an optional prescription, even though there was no fever, and I had to agree with her logic. When an eardrum bursts, it is advisable to take antibiotics, because if the open wound becomes infected, there is a clear pathway to the inner ear, and the childs hearing is at risk.
I am so vehemently anti the over-prescription of antibiotics these days, especially without the good probiotic advice to go with it, but on days like these, I find myself being very grateful that we have something like antibiotics too! When they are truly needed, they are a Godsend.
I did grill the GP on whether we should use probiotics, and she answered with a disappointing: "No, there's no point, the antibiotics will just kill them." She laughed when I explained to her why this was terrible advice, and said to me: "It won't hurt, so if you feel strongly about it, take the bleeding probiotics!" I must admit, I love this GP, she really does take my tantrums well!
I at the same time, I am going to tell you why not taking probiotics during a course of ABX is BAD advice, and I will recommend what Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride says to do when you have to take antibiotics.
Symptom Management of an infection that requires antibiotics:
Candida is a fungus that is overgrowing in most of our guts at epidemic rates. This is because of the generations of humans who have now used hardcore antibiotics way too frequently, and our parents have passed down their shonky gut flora to us, and we have hardly improved things!
Candida, under a microscope, is shaped like a DRILL. When it is prolific, without any good microflora to keep it in check, it will drill holes in your gut lining. This allows toxins, undigested food and drink to escape directly into your bloodstream, and this causes your body to REACT. Maybe you get an allergic reaction, or eczema, or maybe you get insomnia or headaches. This is why there are so many adults reporting Adult-Onset allergies, or salicylate intolerance, or weird health issues: you will be able to trace it back to a bout of antibiotics where your gut health was wrecked and years later, your chronic health issues began. The kids who have these chronic health issues from birth were BORN with bad gutflora, passed down from their mum and dad, and generations back.
An example of adult-onset issues from antibiotic use: my husband got giardia when he was living in South America, and on his return to Australia, he was treated first with Flagyll, then with 6 months of hardcore antibiotics, and finally he gave up the pills and treated the giardia successfully with Chinese medicine. But the damage was done, without any advice on protecting his gut, and at 26 years old (5 years after the antibiotic sh*tstorm), he suddenly started to react to more and more food. By 36 years old, he was reduced to eating only baked meat and steamed veg: NOTHING else. It has taken us 14 years to realise what happened and to figure out how to fix it.
Back to Candida: If you take a course of antibiotics, it will kill all the bad bacteria as well as the good bacteria that keeps the fungus in check. Over a 2 week period, it will be able to proliferate to quite an extent.
If, however, you take a broad-spectrum probiotic as well as probiotic foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, every 2 hours after your antibiotic, then during the period between antibiotic treatments, your gut will have all that excellent bacteria to keep the candida in check. This pattern, repeated over the course of the antibiotic treatment, will mean that the candida albicans have not been given a free reign to grow to a level that will be much harder to control.
Once the antibiotics are finished, you need to then push as much probiotic food as you can for the next couple of weeks.
This is what we use:
- BioKult broad spectrum probiotics (3 tablets a day during ABX treatment, increase t 4 tablets a day 2 weeks after treatement, then back down to 2 tablets a day)
- 24 hr Fermented Yoghurt (Smoothie in the morning, yoghurt with fruit and nuts in the afternoon)
- Kefir yoghurt (a tolerable measure added to the morning smoothie and the afternoon yoghurt. My daughter can currently tolerate 2 Tablespoons a day. Kefir is powerful and can cause a strong die off reaction. Read about how to make your own here)
- Sauerkraut with lunch and dinner (again, however much your child can tolerate, recipe here). If you want to buy sauerkraut, make sure it is the unpasteurised version, so get the one that is sold from the fridge!
- Kombucha (make your own, or buy it in a health food store)
- Pickled Onion juice (I ferment my own pickled onions, and the kids are addicted to the highly probiotic juice that it ferments in. I add a Tablespoon of this to their broth, or they just drink it straight)
In addition, I have increased the amount of BROTH that my daughter is drinking, in order to speed up the healing process for her eardrum. Homemade organic broth has enzymes in it which cause the body to heal twice as fast, and it also protects and heals the gut from any damage that the candida might have caused.
If all of the above is waaaaay too much for you, cherry pick at least 2 of the recommended foods. I would say that you need at LEAST:
- a broad spectrum probiotic (GutPro, Klare labs, Custom probiotics or BioKult are the only ones I recommend)
- BROTH, at least twice a day. Make soup with it, or serve it straight.
SO that is my advice on how to best get yourself of your family through an antibiotic treatment without having to deal with chronic health issues as a result. But this is just the symptom management.
If you or your kids are having RECURRENT infections (sinus, chest, ears, throat, tonsils etc), then you need to figure out WHY, so that you don't have to keep giving your child courses of antibiotics, for the obove stated reasons. I read a statistic that shows that a child that has had more than 3 courses of antibiotics in their first 5 years is going to face gut health issues, so this is very important!
ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS:
My daughter started getting earaches about 4 months ago, but with the oregano oil treatment, it was not progressing to burst ear drums until now.
My husband and I sat down and thought about her other symptoms that are not clearing on GAPS, or are getting worse over the same period of time, and we came up with these two:
- Cradle cap on her scalp
- Car sickness
- ear ache
I did some research, and it turns out that persistent cradle cap is actually one of two things: Candida fungus pushed out of the skin and onto the scalp, just like eczema (what do you know???), or a reaction to food.
I know that car sickness has to do with imbalance in your inner ear, and in the GAPS book, the good doctor talks about how when people react to a food, it can cause an inflammation in the gut, and the body's response to inflammation is to create mucous. So some kids get this mucous settling on the chest, some in the nose, and sinus cavaties, some in the throat. If this inflammation and mucous get infected, we end up with ear infections, throat infections, sinusitis, rhinitis, tonsilitis, bronchitis etc etc, and they are chronic because they are REACTIONS to something the child is eating that is not being properly digested, because the gut is damaged. See how it always comes back to that?
I introduced cheese to my daughter about 4 months ago. She had passed yoghurt and kefir, so I felt it was time to try cheese. To my delight, there was no tell-tale swollen belly, extra wind, behavioural response to the cheese, so I felt it was a pass, and increased it quite dramatically. It is, after all, SO easy to cut a slice of cheese and feed it to a hungry child!
I now believe it is the root cause of our problems, causing inflammation and mucous build up in her sinuses and around her inner ear. While my daughter has healed SO much, her issues with dairy persist, and need more time. Sigh.
So we have taken the antibiotics with the correct probiotic protocol, and I have removed cheese from her diet. Hopefully this will solve the issue permanently, and hopefully she will continue to heal so beautifully, and I can try to reintroduce cheese again in the not so distant future!
If it turns out NOT to be cheese that is causing the issue, then we will look at other potential root causes (perhaps too much fruit and honey feeding her candida issues) but I have a good gut feeling (ba da BOOSH) about this solution.
Most importantly, I am inclined to believe that we will be able to avoid future ear infections and future antibiotic treatment for the same old issues.
Anyway, I hope you all find this post helpful as a way of treating symptoms, an antibiotic/probiotic protocol to keep in your pocket, and some help in how to identify the root cause of the issue so that it is gone for good!