Xylitol has been shown to have many health benefits, yet few know of its healing power to prevent ear infections in children by inhibiting bacterial growth thus helping to avoid the use of dangerous antibiotics.
Xylitol is a natural low-calorie, low-glycemic sugar substitute produced from the fibers of fruits, vegetables, and trees such as plums, raspberries, corn, and birch. Xylitol is as sweet as sugar and can be used safely by diabetics. As xylitol is a mild sugar alcohol, excessive consumption over 30 grams per day can cause a temporary laxative effect that disappears with continued use as the body adapts. It is also important to find a source of xylitol that is GMO free if made from corn.
The health benefits of xylitol were discovered during the sugar (sucrose) shortages of World War II in Finland where xylitol was produced locally in abundance from birch trees. The Finns began to notice a substantial drop in tooth decay as well as ear infections. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 857 children it was found that those using xylitol chewing gum reduced the incidence of ear infections by a full 40%. A daily amount of 8.4 grams of xylitol was divided and given five times per day for two months. The study concluded that xylitol inhibits the growth of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenza, both of which are the primary bacteria that cause ear infections. Lozenges or xylitol syrup were found to be ineffective as was a dosage of anything less that five times a day at the specified amount.
In the United States, ear infections are treated aggressively with antibiotics. Use of antibiotics can lead to numerous health complications such as the creation of "super bacteria", recurrent infections, the destruction of friendly flora in the intestines leading to an overgrowth of fungi and yeast, and a compromised immune system. Antibiotics may also intensify, or sometimes create, symptoms of autism by aggravating Candida albicans overgrowth. Ironically, antibiotic treatment does not prevent complications associated with ear infections such as serous otitis, pneumococcal meningitis, or hearing loss.
For those concerned with the risks of using antibiotics for ear infections, xylitol has proven to be a safe and effective alternative.
Sources for this article:
Uhari M, Kontiokari T, Niemela M. A novel use of xylitol sugar in preventing acute otitis media. Pediatrics. 1998;102:879-884.
Kontiokari T, Uhari M, Koskela M. Anti-adhesive effects of xylitol on otopathogenic bacteria. J Antimicrob Chemother. 1998;41:563-565.
Ear infections: researchers study chewing gum as "preventative medicine," allergies as cause. Autism Research Review International. Volume 11, Number 1, 1997;7
Butler CC, Van Der Linden MK, MacMillan HL, et al. Should children be screened to undergo early treatment for otitis media with effusion? A systematic review of randomized trials. Child Care Health Dev. 2003;29:425-432.
Kaleida PH, Casselbrant ML, Rockette HE, et al. Amoxicillin or myringotomy or both for acute otitis media: results of a randomized clinical trial. Pediatrics. 1991;87:466-474.
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Schmidt, Michael. Beyond Antibiotics: Strategies for Living in a World of Emerging Infections and Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria North Atlantic Books, 2009.
Hence, it appears that xylitol must be used at least 5 times a day in order to effectively reduced ear infections (Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2007 May;26(5):423-7).