Treating Childhood Ear Infections with Antibiotics Increases risk for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A recent article in Pediatrics reports that exposure to antibiotics during childhood is associated with the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

IBD is a group of inflammatory conditions that affect the digestive tract. The major forms are Cohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. They are very different diseases but may both present with abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, intense abdominal cramping, weight loss, joint pain, and visually changes.

IBD is different then IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) which tends to be associated with milder forms of bloating, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea. Both IBS and IBD are generally associated with disruption of our intestinal flora –and a major cause of this flora disruption is exposure to antibiotics. The most common cause of childhood exposure to antibiotics is during treatment of ear infections. Childhood ear infections, however, can often heal on their own without antibiotics and can be treated with some very effective natural therapies.

I believe that a well functioning digestive tract is at the core of our health and wellbeing. Our entire digestive tract is coated with bacteria – good bacteria –that provide a natural barrier against undigested food, parasites, harmful bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Our good bacteria are essential for healthy digestion, strong immune system and the production of serotonin – our happy hormone. When the good bacteria of our digestive tract is disrupted we are susceptible to digestive distress, a weaker immune system, and even mood changes. Probiotics are “good bacteria” that help to replace the beneficial bacteria that are killed while taking an antibiotic. This article provides a strong reminder of the potentially deleterious consequences of indiscriminate antibiotic use in young children. When it is necessary to be treated with antibiotics, it is essential to supplement with a high quality probiotic.