Try Xylitol for ear infections

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.  It has become very popular as a sugar alternative for diabetics and for children’s products as it does not cause tooth decay.  However, as a sugar alcohol, it is mildly laxative taken in excess, although this effect may wear off as the body adapts to it.

Xylitol’s benefits were discovered in Finland during World War II when sugar was almost unobtainable but birch trees grew in abundance. However, with xylitol’s use the Finns began to notice not only a substantial drop in tooth decay, but a signifcant drop in ear infections.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 857 children in 1998 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. However, neither lozenges nor xylitol syrup were found to be effective, nor was a dosage of anything less than the 8.4grams five times a day.

The researchers concluded that xylitol inhibits the growth of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae,  the two bacteria which cause the vast majority of ear infections.

For those concerned with the risks of excessive use of  antibiotics for ear infections, xylitol has proven to be a safe and effective alternative.


Uhari M, Kontiokari T, Niemela M. A novel use of xylitol sugar in preventing acute otitis media. Pediatrics. 1998;102:879-884.


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First Published 1998


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