Tonsils – to remove or not to remove

Enlarged tonsils – to remove or not to remove

Many children have enlarged tonsils and adenoids which can make them more prone to catching bugs at school and can also cause sleep issues for many kids.  Tonsil and adenoidectomy is one of the most common surgeries performed in children – but is it always necessary?  My advice is to delay and try all other options before resorting to surgery.

The tonsils and adenoids are an important part of the immune system which plays a role in developing tolerance to your environment and remembering previous infections.  They usually become enlarged because of acute infections, or chronic allergies.  Naturopathic management involves improving the immune reactivity and recovery which generally starts with good gut health and nutritional status, improving drainage of the ears, nose, throat and surrounding lymphatic tissue and most importantly identification of environmental or dietary factors which can be causing a chronic inflammatory immune response. 

Step 1: Identify environmental factors.

These are commonly grass, dust mite, fragrance, pollen, pets or mold.  A referral to an immunologist will help you identify which ones affect your child.  The approach is to then avoid these allergens as much as possible. 

Look around the home for water damage and address mold as a priority as the longer mold exists, the worse the problem becomes.  I recommend contacting a building biologist to assess the home for hidden mould if you exhaust all avenues and still have issues.

Avoid all artificial fragrances in the home.  The most common ones that children encounter are from laundry detergents and fabric softeners.  These artificial fragrances are very irritating to the skin and immune system and cause big problems with hormones.  They are not healthy, and no one should be exposed to them.  Switch to the Eco Store or Abode Brands in your laundry and for general household cleaning.  Throw out reed diffusers, scented candles, room sprays etc.  Switch all skin and hair care to nontoxic brands such as the A bit Hippy range which is available from Priceline Pharmacies and health food stores.

Reduce dust mite in the home by using eucalyptus oil in the laundry and while cleaning as eucalyptus is very effective at killing dust mite.  Wash your laundry over 60 degrees to kill dust mite and dry in the sun.  Switch all bedding and pillows to natural latex, as latex cannot house dust mite.  I recommend the Peacelily brand.  It may also be useful to use a HEPA filter in your child’s bedroom and upgrade the vacuum cleaner to a HEPA filter vacuum.  If possible, remove all carpets and curtains from the areas of the home your child spends time in, as these fabrics accumulate dust mite. 

Step 2: Manually drain the ears, nose, throat and improve lymphatic function.

The best way to do this is to regularly use a saline nasal spray – morning and night, such as FESS.  Studies find regular use of saline nasal sprays can shrink the tonsils and prevent surgery.  To improve lymphatic function, I love the herb echinacea which is safe for kids as well as the use of essential oil infused massage along the jawline, behind the ears and down the throat to manually drain the lymphatic tissue in these areas.  My favorite bled to do this is the Doterra Easy air blend which comes in a preformulated roller.

Step 3: Identify food triggers. 

The main one I see is dairy….and sadly, many of these kids LOVE cheese and/or yoghurt.  Switch to plant based alternatives for 6 weeks and see what happens.

Step 4: Improve the immune response via healing the gut and assessing mineral status. 

Metagenics makes a brilliant probiotic and prebiotic for this exact purpose in children.  If your child has sore tummies or constipation, these will need to be addressed in an appointment.  70% of our immune system is in the gut, therefore gut imbalances affect immunity. 

Another way to assess the health of the immune system is to look at your child’s overall mineral status.  I recommend hair tissue mineral analysis for this, as I commonly find mineral imbalances which affect the immune response in this test.

If you exhaust all these options, and still have issues with enlarged tonsils, speak to the surgeon about getting the tonsils and adenoids shaved, as this retains the lymphatic tissue.  There are no mistakes in the human body.  We need all the parts we were born with and should try to keep them whenever possible, as there is always a downstream affect of having an organ or tissue removed.

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