Right now we are learning about the special sense organs: sight, hearing, balance, taste and smell. These are all senses that tend to weaken as we age, so it is important to do whatever we can to keep them healthy. And as you probably can guess, nutrition is one of the best ways to do this. I’m going to talk about ears, because I found the nutrition information particularly interesting.
Our ears have two main purposes: hearing and equilibrium. Both the external ear and the middle ear are involved purely in hearing; the inner ear, however, includes sense organs for both hearing and balance. The tiny bones of the middle ear absorb sound vibrations and send them to our inner ear, which then connects the sounds with our brain to receive a message. There are receptors in the inner ear that send information to our brain about the position of our head at certain times. Our brain then uses this information to keep us balanced.
These equilibrium receptors of the inner ear are called the vestibular apparatus. Vestibular training, then, means “exercising” or strengthening your vestibular apparatus so it is more effective in keeping you balanced. Kids tend to do much more vestibular training than adults – cartwheels, somersaults, headstands, and just general play. This helps them to develop their sense of balance and equilibrium, and gives them strong balance as they reach teenage years. Since most adults do very littler vestibular training, balance is more difficult for them. This is why things like yoga, pilates and other forms of balance training are so important. These activities are especially beneficial to elderly people, because falling is riskier for them. Their bones are more frail and they are more likely to break something if they fall.
Some people get wax buildup in their ears. Some amount of wax is normal and healthy – it protects your ear canal and ear drum from foreign substances that may enter the ear. Too much earwax, however, can cause hearing loss, pain, or other sickness such as a bad cough. Healthy earwax is fluid and soft, and should be easy to remove if it starts to build up. When earwax is thick or crusty and hard to remove, it may be sign that someone’s omega-3 to omega-6 balance is off because they have consumed too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3 fatty acids. Food sources of omega-6s include vegetable oil, other plant-based oils, and lean meats. Since so many of our processed foods are cooked in vegetable oil, Americans tend to get more omega-6s than omega-3s in their diets. Food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, soybeans, halibut, shrimp, tofu and scallops.
Many small children are prone to ear infections. Chronic ear infections are often a result of a diet high in foods that create mucus buildup, such as sugar, caffeine, dairy products, eggs, wheat, refined carbs, beer, and anything that contains food additives. Often times the child may be allergic or have an intolerance to one of these foods, and the earache is just a side effect of this. When parents remove wheat, dairy and processed foods from the child’s diet, ear infections often improve significantly.
Have you ever experienced a temporary ringing in the ears? This is often a sign of a B-vitamin deficiency. It can also be caused by a very low-fat diet. Since the nerves in our ears (and throughout the rest of our body!) must be wrapped in fat for protection, a low-fat diet can sometimes lead to hearing loss or ringing in the ears.
If you or someone you know has hearing loss, ear infections, or other ear issues, a mucus cleansing diet can be very helpful. This includes a large amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, and little or no processed foods, refined carbs, sugar, alcohol or caffeine. A lemon and ginger tea can also be helpful in clearing up mucus. Ginkgo biloba has also been used for hearing loss with some success.