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Why Are The Amish Immune To Allergies & Asthma?
Urban versus Farm Living
The differences in susceptibility to disease between urban and rustic agrarian peoples are connected to a lifestyle that includes close proximity with animals. The Amish live a simple farm lifestyle avoiding the use of modern machinery and electronics as much as possible Meaning they live and work closely with farm animals.
Those who are born into this community are consistently exposed to animal microbes and germs on a regular basis for their entire lives including during childhood years. Their environment simply has a lot more germs and just as muscles become stronger with use, their immune systems develop a stronger ability to withstand microbes and allergens in this environment.
Contrast this with the typical lifestyle of someone living in a modern, first world suburb. All the food in the grocery store has been cleaned and prepared according to government mandated health codes. Most people work in office buildings and live in homes that are regularly cleaned with chemical agents and vacuum cleaners. It is comparatively a very sterile environment. The immune system never has had to defend against many foreign microbes, and so becomes less well-equipped to deal with harmful elements in the environment. An allergen that a normal healthy immune system might suppress overpowers the immune cells of someone from the latter group, and the symptoms of an allergic reaction appear. It’s very common. Almost everyone who grew up in a city or the suburbs knows someone with some type of allergy or who needs to use an inhaler for their asthma. About 45 percent of the general population also displays some form allergic sensitivity to things like cat hair, pollen, etc.
Once again, let’s return to the Amish. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers found that the dust in the homes of Amish people had microbes not found in the household dust of the general population. These microbes conditioned the immune system of the Amish not to respond to their presence by producing an allergic reaction. Their bodies learned to understand at a very early age not to perceive these microbes as a threat, and thus they never experienced the unpleasant allergic symptoms a non-Amish person might.
The Amish keep their cattle in farms very close to their homes, and it seems the actual proximity to the animals can make a difference. A community similar to the Amish called the Hutterites lives in South Dakota. Unlike the Amish however, they keep their animals a distance away from their homes. Even this was enough to make a significant difference. The Hutterites have lower levels of asthma and allergies than the general population, but the Amish levels are still much lower.
Civilization has given us much, but rarely do we pay much attention to what we have lost. We have a slew of physical ailments which are directly linked to the overly sanitized lives we lead. This isn’t to say health codes are counterproductive. Many are absolutely necessary. We simply need to make an effort to reconnect with nature more and stop using the hand sanitizer so much. Taking up a small home gardening project and get some dirt under your fingernails. This can be the first step toward beefing up your immune system.