Less Allergies Found in Amish Children

AmishA Swiss study of nearly 29,000 families with children in the 6-12 years age group was done with a modified questionnaire and skin prick tests being done for Amish children.  The rate of asthma was 5.5% for the Amish children compared to 6.8% in the Swiss farm children and 11.3% in the non-farming children.  More significant were the allergic sensitization rates, which were 7.2% in the Amish compared with 25.2% in the non-Amish farm children and 44.2% in non-farming children. This represents a 600% increase in allergies when comparing typical non-farming children from the Amish children.  The explanation being given is the hygiene hypothesis which is that the exposure to allergens in early life (farm kids would have more exposure to hay, grass, dirt and dust and animals) would result in a less allergic state.  In other words, being in a clean environment makes you more prone to allergies.  


I agree that this study does show the hygiene hypothesis to be true, however there is something else going on here.  How else do you explain allergic sensitization of 7.2% in Amish farm kids and 25% in non-Amish farm kids? That’s a 350% increase in allergies for this similar group of farm kids. One can only speculate as to why this huge difference, but there are a few obvious candidates.  The Amish tend not to seek health care as often which would result in lower rates of antibiotics use. Antibiotics are known to alter the flora in the gut with resulting immune issues including increased allergies. Probiotics (the good bacteria) will reduce allergies. Might the Amish be eating a natural diet higher in probiotics (natural fermented foods)?  I suspect the Amish are not vaccinating as much or at all, and there are known issues with vaccines and the immune system. The Amish diet would likely be very whole-food based and organic, thus minimizing exposure to pesticides and GMO foods (though I believe that all GMO is now banned in Europe). 


The take home message is that you can make a huge difference and improve your family’s health by making a few important changes (learn from the Amish):

1.  Expose your babies to normal environmental dirt, grasses, hay, trees, and animals.  Get outdoors – try to mimic the farm experience as much as possible.

2.  Eat organic whole-foods and avoid the packaged foods found in your stores. These have no pesticides or GMO.

3.  Consider vaccinating prudently. For example, no Tdap during pregnancy, no Hep B for babies if mom doesn’t have Hep B. 



Dr. Paul



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