If you have kids, you've probably suffered through at least a couple (if not many) rounds of tears and sleepless nights because of ear infections. An estimated 10 million children in the United States come down with ear infections every year, so they must be an unavoidable part of growing up — right? “Not necessarily,” says Bernie Noe, ND, a naturopathic physician in Montpelier, Vermont, who specializes in chronic disease. “The occasional ear infection is sometimes inevitable. What's not inevitable are recurring ear infections — three, four, five times a year — that end in surgery. Those are preventable.” Try these drug-free tricks to keep your kids' ears healthy.

Try xylitol, a natural sugar that has been proven to inhibit bacteria growth and ear infections. In a 2000 study published in Vaccine, a dose of 8.4-10 grams per day, given in five divided doses, reduced the risk of acute ear infection by up to 40 percent. Xylitol is available at most natural products stores in the form of gum, syrup, or powder. Also try increasing your child's consumption of plums, strawberries, and raspberries, which are natural sources of xylitol as well as antioxidants and other immune-boosting nutrients, such as vitamin C.