Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tonsils, Adenoids and Ear Infections Why surgery is NOT the answer

I've noticed a large "my child is having surgery to..." on my friends status updates lately.  This scares me! When any doctor suggests that a child should have surgery some serious questions need to be asked, especially if it falls under the "oh it's routine we do it all the time" category.

I have to give some history here.  I personally suffered from recurring ear infections from the time I was 3 until I was 7.  That coupled with having tonsillitis about 10 times within a 2 year span, resulted in my parents having my tonsils and adenoids removed at age 7.  My parents were told, she'll never have a problem with sore throats, ear aches ever again after the surgery.  Wellllll that was a load of know what.

From age 7 to 9 I was ok, after that things started all over again.  Ear aches 2-3 times a year, sore throats same.  Fast forward to age 15 and I had tubes put in my years every year until age 20.  Due to the fact I hated the horrid sound of the drill and tube insertion being done under local freezing imagine dental work done in your ear), I had general anesthetic for all but the first surgery.  Because of all the scar tissue I now have a 30% hearing loss in my left ear and a 50% loss in my right.

Fast forward to now....and I have not had an ear infection in 10 years, my kids who when younger showed signs and went through a few themselves, have also not had an ear infection in 5-10 years (depending on which one).

So what do I know now, that my parents didn't know then......

Simple-if my ears are stuffy, if my kids tonsils or adenoids are swollen....then there is something going on that we can control from the outside in and the inside out.

So where to start.....let's look at the organ's that make up our immune system.

Here is a great diagram that shows were the adenoids, tonsils and the Eustachian tube drain are.  This will make it easier to imagine things as we talk.

Function of Adenoids and Tonsils

Our adenoids and tonsils are a vital part of our immune system.  When we breath in they trap the many toxins, allergens and bacteria that are in the air we breath-if these toxins, allergens and bacteria were to get deeper into our immune system then they could potentially cause more severe reactions.

Both are part of the lymphatic system and process lymphatic fluid in unison with the other lymphoid tissues found in the body.  Lymphatic fluid among other things contains lymphocytes which are at type of white blood cells.  This fluids primary role is  to filter and destroy germs and toxins. If these allergens and toxins skip the adenoids and tonsils, and enter through the skin, the antibodies are produced and travel to attack the invader.

Tonsils specifically produce antibodies that can neutralize respiratory infections.  These antibodies or immunoglobulins  are proteins that are found in the blood and other body fluids.  As our tonsils mature they produce five different classes of antibodies, including specific antibodies against staphylococcus, haempophilus influenzae, streptococcus pneumoniae, polovirus and diptheria.

Adenoids are specifically important to younger children who naturally have weaker immune systems.  As the child ages and their immune systems strengthen the adenoids have less work to do, but still continue to produce antibodies when allergens, toxins and bacteria enter through the breathing pathway.

Infection in the Adenoids and Tonsils

If there are large numbers of toxins, allergens and bacteria passing through the airway the adenoids and tonsils can become over worked and themselves become infected.  This is especially common in younger children who tend to have weaker immune systems as well as are more prone to "ingest" bacteria by putting things into their mouths.

It's very easy to see if your tonsils are swollen-but not the adenoids as they are not visible by simply opening the mouth.  On most occasions if one is swollen both are.

Symptoms of infection or swelling in the adenoids include, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, mouth breathing or difficulty breathing through nose, snoring, heavy breathing, and sleep apnea (extreme cases).

Causes of Enlarged Adenoids and Tonsils

The answer is  Sorry but it's the truth.  I've talked many times over about the effects of nutrition and toxins on children's health and this is again one more area.

Mouth Breathing

Another cause and effect is the presence of swollen adenoids and the child's inability to breath properly which has a domino effect into their immune system and overall health. Teaching a child how to breath through the nose is a very important way to help reduce the amount of substances that are passed by the tonsils and adenoids.  Our nasal passage is full of tiny hairs that help to collect the toxins, bacteria and allergens that we breath in.  This helps our adenoids and tonsils by lowering the amount that they need to filter.    If you notice your toddler mouth breathing frequently, small steps can be taken to teach them how to nose breath-obviously this gets easier as the child gets older, but can be done with little ones with time and patience.

Here is a quick article that teaches an easy method to teach children how to nose breath.

Here is another article on why nose breathing is very important for our health.

Dr. K P Buteyko, has developed a program around mouth breathing that actually makes adenoid surgery obsolete


One of the functions of our tonsils and adenoids is to trap allergen causing substances from entering our body.  Another cause of swollen adenoids and tonsils can be seen as the constant presence of allergens entering and passing by the adenoids and tonsils that causes them to remain enlarged as they fight to remove these substances from the body.

A study done in Poland in 2004 ( showed that 28.6% of the children who had swollen tonsils, in fact had a major food allergy.  The tonsils and adenoids where full of the allergen that the body was attempting to trap and thus were completely aggravated and swollen.

Other studies have also come to this conclusion with environmental based allergies

Once the allergen cause was eliminated from the child's diet or environment (if possible) the tonsils and adenoids went back to a normal healthy state.

I can speak personally to the allergy factor.  I grew up with the constant runny stuffy nose.  My parents being much older did not believe in allergies.  That is until I was in grade 7 and broke out in hives all over my body.  Very quickly we began to investigate the allergy world.  Unfortunately I was allergic to just about everything in my environment, so it was difficult to eliminate everything.  We did go about reducing dust, my comfy feather pillow was quickly replaced...but my farm girl life continued, along with weekly allergy shots.

My allergist actually asked my parents why I had my tonsils and adenoids removed, and stated that my allergies likely worsened after their removal...which was obviously true as my stuffy nose had gotten worse within 6 months of their removal.

Food Intolerance's

Food allergies and food intolerance's are different sides of the same coin.  An allergy can result in severe reactions such as anaphylactic reactions, hives etc.  Intolerance's can show up in varying symptoms and have life long effects.  Both can cause adenoids and tonsils to react to the presence of the food causing the reaction both in short term and long term situations.

Testing for food allergies and intolerance's is fairly easy.  I recommend you do both.  The intolerance test involves a simple blood draw and for allergies a specialist in allergens appointment and one of two types of skin scratch tests either on the arm or back.

Ear Infections and Tubes

All of the above information can also lead to recurrent ear infections-which can lead many doctors to prescribe the insertion of tubes to help drain the excess fluids.......if we change the health and nutrition these too can be eliminated.

My hearing loss occurred AFTER the placement of 4 sets of was suppose to increase with the "relief of pressure"....

Natural Ways to Combat Adenoid/Tonsil and Ear Infections

Chiropractic Care

Vertebral subluxations can have huge life long effects on the health of a person.  Auto-Immune dysfunction is a huge part of that.  Each vertebrae in your spine is directly connected to the function of a series of  nerves that connect to function of major organs, and every other part of your body.  Basically in the simples of terms-if your spine is misaligned something is not working properly.

Ear aches/infections/drainage issues can all be greatly reduced and completely corrected with spinal adjustments.  As can the negative effects of swollen tonsils/adenoids.  One of the main reasons these three malfunctions occur can be linked to an inability to drain the excess fluid retention caused by the environmental factors talked about above (allergies etc).

Young children are especially susceptible to spinal issues right from birth (and in fact birth itself can cause a whole series of subluxations), and if not corrected will continue to cause problems into adult hood.  We've talked a bit about the fact that the tonsils and adenoids are part of the immune system, the ears are as well.  Ear wax is part of our immune systems way of draining the foreign invaders of toxins, allergens and bacteria in our body.

The tonsils and adenoids are a part of the lymph system like we've mentioned, if you take a look at the diagram showing their placement in the body, you will notice that the Eustachian tube from the ears drains directly near the adenoids and the fluid flows past both the adenoids and tonsils.

A vital part of the lymph system is the ability to drain away the "dead" invaders as waste products.  The drainage of the lymph system relies on the muscle groups located near each lymph node-for the adenoids and tonsils these are the muscles of the neck and upper body (think shoulder blades and up).  If there is a subluxation of the upper spine, the ability for these muscles to contract properly and allowing for the lymph nodes to drain can be blocked partially or completely which results in these areas swelling and ultimately becoming infected by the waste products.

Relieve of these symptoms can be found by having a chiropractor adjust these subluxations releasing the blockages.   Relief can if the condition is somewhat minor happen almost immediately.

This is a great article outlining a bit more in terms of the explanation I have given above as well as a case study of an 8 year old girl with a surgeons recommendation to remove her tonsils:

Homeopathic Treatment of Infections

When an infection in the tonsils, adenoids and ears is present the normal course of action is to prescribe an antibiotic.  BUT the over use of antibiotics can have significant health issues especially in younger children.  Antibiotics are unable to target the infection only and kill off both the good and bad bacteria found in our entire body.

First of head to the chiropractor so that you can ensure that the tonsils are draining properly, this will also help to jump start the immune system by helping with any further blockages in the lymph system.

If a fever is present do not treat the fever unless the child is prone to fever seizures.  The fever is the bodies way of fighting off the infection and is a vital part of the immune system function.

Dr. Lawrence Palevsky has the best checklist for handing a fever and illness in a child, it can be found here  The fever guidelines are about 1/2 into the article.

Oil of Oregano-for children under age 5 rub 2-3 drops of diluted Oil of Oregano onto the child's feet. Children 5-12 if they can tolerate it the best way is to directly ingest the Oil of Oregano, put 2-3 drops into a teaspoon full of strong flavoured juice (orange, apple cranberry) and have the children swallow the juice quickly to avoid the taste of the OoO.  If the child can swallow gel caps, place 2-3 drops in the gel cap and have them swallow that.  Also applying 2-3 drops diluted directly onto the child's throat area will help to reduce the infection quickly.

Vitamin C-is vital to proper immune system function.  Unfortunately the RDA(recommended daily amount) is set way to low for optimal health.  For children under age 5-use 2000mg divided over 3 doses, age 5-12 3500mgs, 12-adult 5000mgs.  If diarrhea occurs don't worry, just lower the amount by 500mgs until symptoms stop.

Sea Salt, Garlic and Fenugreek Gargle-Works wonders!  These three things combined all have antibacterial and pain reliever and help with swelling.    Take 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds and simmer in 1 litre of filtered water for 20 minutes-add 2 cloves of crushed garlic and simmer for 10 more minutes.  Strain seeds and garlic bits.  Add 1 tsp of sea salt, stir to dissolve.  Cool until water is at a temperature you can gargle with.  Use 1 teaspoon of solution at a time-gargle frequently.  If it hurts to actually force the gargle sound, let the liquid sit at the back of the throat for as long as possible.  This solution is totally safe to swallow.

Dietary Changes 

I can't talk about it enough....crap in equals crap health out...simple as that.  Issues with tonsils, adenoids and ears do not miss out on this, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN!

You can visit the other blog posts about sugar, as well as the top foods that are killing us, but I will touch briefly on a couple of things that can have immediate effects.


In small children (and big ones too) milk products can produce significant mucous and inflammation.  This mucous attempts to get out, and one major source of mucous removal is the sinuses-which are you guessed it directly related to ears, nose and throat.  All of which drain past the adenoids and tonsils causing aggravation and leading to infection.

Dairy is also one of the things that is high on the list of food intolerances that many people don't realize are causing internal issues.  Not everyone exhibits lactose intolerance but we are ALLLLLLLL unable to digest lactose after age 7 +/- when our body stops producing lactase to digest the milk (breast milk) that we are designed to digest as infants and toddlers.  Ingesting large amounts of milk causes our body to go into remove it mode and the mucous is added as a way to flush it out of our system.

If you or your child have a constant stuffy nose, post nasal drip and recurring ear infections, remove dairy from the diet for 10 days and see the difference it makes.  ** Note not all dairy causes issues, greek yogurt because of the presence of the bacteria is much less likely to cause issues, butter is not truly a diary product as it's actually a byproduct, goat and sheep milk is much better tolerated in young children as it contains lower levels of casein and lactose.**


High ingestion of sugar in our children is a SERIOUS epidemic in North America.  On average young children aged 1-3 ingest 12.5 teaspoons; ages 4-12 ingest 25 teaspoons; ages 13-18 ingest 34 teaspoons and adults 22 teaspoons of refined sugar a day.

100 grams of sugar or 8 teaspoons has been shown to suppress the production of white blood cells (the immune heros of our body) by 40% for upwards of 5 afters after ingestion.  The effects of this suppression start as early as 30 minutes after ingesting the sugar.\

This is a great video that shows the direct effect ingesting sugar has on our blood

Soy Products

One of the leading issues in children under the age of 5-is the use of soy products, especially soy based formula. Soy can wreak havoc on a child's immune system, endocrine system and lead to life long health issues.  If you are using a soy based formula for your infant-stop!!!! Even with the issue of dairy a milk based formula is much safer.  Even better is breast milk.  If your child is 1 or older take them off formula completely and move into solid foods.

Soy is also one of the top 10 items that is a known food allergy in children.  Just like nuts, eggs, and fish, any soy based product should not be given to a child under age 4.

End of the Story you can see surgery needs to be the last resort in the fight against tonsils, adenoids and ear infections.  There are several ways to control theses issues as well as treat them naturally.

Some stats:

  • Only about 25% of kids who have their tonsil and or adenoids remove show significant health benefits. 
  • Other 75% return to illness within 3 months of removal.
  • 50 % of adenoids regrow-this jumps to 75% if removal is done before age 3 (our body knows we need them, so it regenerates them)
  • 45% of tonsils regrow-our tonsils continue to grow until we hit puberty so the younger the age at removal the higher the chances of regrowth-which in fact is just normal growth
  • Regrowth of tonsils and adenoids is linked to the continued presence of allergens and or toxins that were the cause of the issue in the first place! Remove the cause and there is no need to remove the tonsils.
  • Children who have tonsils removed have a weaker immune system especially for the 6 months after surgery.
  • Removal of tonsils has been linked to risk factors for obesity in adult hood.
  • Surgical removal of adenoids and tonsils has dropped significantly in the past 20 years as doctors realize that they are actually an essential part of the immune system.

Just like any part of your child's health....enlarged tonsils, adenoids or recurring ear infections are a sign that something is WRONG in the immune system.  Look for the why before you jump into the surgical removal of a vital part of a child's immune system.

Was asked to include the research that lead to this blog...hoping it's listed correctly, I am horrid at writing out the spot, page etc.  Not full list-have to read through all my chicken that's scary

British Medical Journal September 11, 2004;329
Journal of the American Medical Association November 17, 2010;304:2161
Viral Immunity by James E Williams
Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, June 2010, June 2008
Journal of Pediatrics, December 2006
Effect of Adenoidectomy on Respiratory Function: A Randomised Prospective Study Mary V. Lasley


  1. I already got mine removed and I don't believe anything could have prevented it. When tonsils block the airway of an asthmatic it becomes a serious problem.

  2. I said before, you have some serious health issues going on in your body. There is a reason, and there is a way to prevent them. Asthma is highly about diet, as well as spinal issues. For a teenager to have issues with tonsils is very odd as well.

  3. So glad to see your post on FB today. My 2 year has had horrible sinus issues for over a year. Constant running nose. We had him tested for allergies and he was negative. We eat paleo so no grains, processed food and we recently gave up dairy. (I won't say we never have sugar because I do allow them to have treats at parties and such, but it is pretty rare). We also see a chiro regularly which I believe is why we haven't had any ear infections and only 1 sinus infection.

    He is also on Nasonex (generic) and while his runny nose has stopped, he is still a mouth breather (not sure which is the cause & effect)and I think he has sleep apnea. I have an ENT appt on the 11th and I am going to insist on a full structural picture - I don't want to just be told that his adenoids have to come out. We'll see....glad to have found your blog! Do you know where the citation about adenoid regrowth comes from?

    I too had my adenoids out and have major continuing sinus issues so I don't buy it as a solution either - just want to find something to help my son though. Have you had any experience with the Buteyko method?

    1. Sarah...find me on FB much easier there!!

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  5. You are totally right! My toddler is 3 years old, and I believe milk is causing his enlarged adenoids. As a baby he had eczema, which worsened every time he drank milk. But the problem is he loves milk and sweets. It is a daily struggle to stop him eating them.

  6. yes, I really would like to know what are the possible causes that caused my daughter's adenoids to regrow after being removed 3 years ago when she was 9 years old.