Farm Life and Allergies
Updated: May 27, 2020
Before we started our own little farm, we used to seek out farms to visit for the purpose of exposing our children to animals. Our two youngest children struggled with eczema and food allergies and I came across studies suggesting that exposure to animals may actually help them.
In the late 19th century it was the upper classes that always seemed to have a bit of hay fever. It was actually thought of as an indicator of refinement as the farmers who came in contact with pollen and animal dander and dust were the least likely to sneeze.
In the late 1990’s in Switzerland this observation became noticeable again. Children who grew up on small farms were between one-half and one-third less likely to have hay fever and asthma, compared with non-farming children living in the same rural areas. What became known as the “farm effect” hinted that livestock, particularly dairy cows, fermented feed and raw milk consumption were protective. European scientists argued that the abundant microbes of the cowshed stimulated children’s immune systems in a way that prevented allergic disease. Sounds good to me. Where can I get some?
More evidence of this theory being accurate was found a couple of years ago when researchers in America found that children from an Amish community in Indiana had an even lower prevalence of allergies than European farmers. They then went further and made a comparison between these Amish children and those of the Hutterites. These two groups share genetic ancestry and are both of German decent… but unlike the Amish, the Hutterites, who live in the upper Midwest, are as allergic as your average American. The reason seems to be in the location of the farms.
The Amish tend to have small farms, with cowsheds located right next to their homes, the communal-living Hutterites house their livestock miles away. Amish kids and pregnant women come in contact with animal dust and dander all day long, kids running through the area sometimes with bare feet and right into the house resulting in a microbial load nearly six times higher than that found in Hutterite house. Now that is not to say their houses aren’t as clean. Both communities keep clean homes, these microbes can’t be seen but they are necessary for optimal health.
When we first introduced our daughter to raw milk we noticed a difference in her skin immediately. Since then we introduced more animals, probiotics, and fermented foods into our lifestyle and the change in her health has been astounding. The realization that, for us, these changes really did have an effect, pushed us toward this lifestyle and we are never looking back.
There is such a thing as being too clean. What the upper classes started to see in the 19th century and what continued on thru into the era of antibacterial everything, is that we need to back to nature and get “dirty”. So visit our farm and hug a goat today!