What the Amish can teach us about asthma and allergies

I was in my favourite coffee shop the other day and was doing a bit of people-watching (a favourite past-time of mine) and I was really surprised to see how many people were just sitting staring at a screen, whether that be their phone or tablet.

And I couldn’t help but to wonder: How much time do we spend outside? Have these devices made us hostages of the indoors?

We all know that being stuck inside for all hours of the day can’t be good for us, especially when we are young. And a new study proves just that.

Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, a recent study has shown that growing up in a traditional rural environment greatly reduces the risk of developing asthma and allergies.

The researchers examined the incidence of these conditions in two isolated North American farming communities, the Amish and the Hutterite. They found that children growing up in the Amish community were four to six times less likely to suffer from asthma or allergies compared to the Hutterite children.

Although seemingly similar communities in their day-to-day lifestyles, there are some striking differences that could account for these findings.

Firstly, the Amish are known for their rejection of all forms of modern technology, from household appliances like dishwashers and hoovers, to agricultural machinery meaning cows are still milked by hand. The Hutterites conversely are more developed and integrated, embracing aspects of modern day life, with widespread use of cars, computers and combine harvesters for example.

And while this has introduced the Hutterites to a more sterile environment, it means the Amish come into contact with a whole host of additional microbes and particles. Airborne dust was strikingly higher in Amish homes (6.8 times as high), as well as having four times the amount of common allergens present in the air.

Going on to analyse blood samples from the child populations, the researchers found that the Amish children had increased levels of certain white blood cells, known as neutrophils, involved in combatting infection, but lower levels of another white blood cell, eosinophils, which are involved in allergic reactions.

So it turns out that the conditions of a back-to-basics existence are in fact incredibly beneficial to a young and developing immune system as it learns how to fight off any potential infections from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.

While I’m not suggesting that everyone give up all ties to modern society and ride off on horseback into the country, I’m just saying that our immune systems probably aren’t as strong as they could be.

And living in a sanitary bubble is not helping either.

So, apart from spending a bit more time outdoors you can also boost your immune system by adding a daily probiotic to your regimen. This will help boost the “good” bacteria in your gut and bulks up your defence against “bad” bacteria.

Also you should consider taking a multi-vitamin with selenium, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin E, all of which have been shown to boost immunity.

But, just to be sure that you don’t add a supplement to your daily regime that might do you harm, check with your doctor first.

To a healthier life,

Thomas Smith

Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


Amish Farmers May Reap Immune System Benefit, medpagetoday.com/AllergyImmunology/Asthma/59504?

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  1. Let me add:

    1~ vitamin supplements need to be top quality, non-synthetic. Also to be the complete vitamin eg. vitamin E: containing all the tocopherols and tocotrienols. Notice most E contain Alpha tocopherol which is problematic by virtue creating artificial shortages in the natural mix rendering it useless at best.

    2~ Not all doctors you ask are knowledgeable

    3~ It is imperative that we also learn about our illnesses and become savvy selecting the alternative, effective remedies instead toxic medications.

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