(NaturalNews) The Amish, it seems, place themselves at risk every day of their lives. They refuse to vaccinate their children, exposing themselves to disease. They drink raw cow's milk, exposing themselves to salmonella. They even - and this is really disturbing - favor natural food, exposing themselves to tomatoes that contain cracks. Given these eccentric practices, isn't it inevitable that their communities become breeding grounds for allergies and asthma? Not according to Dr. Mark Holbreich, an allergist who has been treating Amish families in Indiana for over 20 years.
Holbreich was inspired to investigate the allergy rates among Amish children when he began researching the so-called 'farm effect' (the notion that children raised on farms demonstrate lower allergy and asthma rates than their urban counterparts) in central Europe. Keen to investigate whether the farm effect also manifested itself in the United States, Holbreich assembled a team of German researchers to compare farming and non-farming children in Switzerland with Amish children of Swiss descent in Indiana.
Altogether, Holbreich's team assessed the health of 157 Amish children, approximately 3,000 Swiss farming children, and almost 11,000 Swiss non-farming children between the ages of six and 12.
Holbreich found that a mere five percent of the Amish children were diagnosed with asthma, versus 6.8 percent of the Swiss farming children and 11.2 percent of the Swiss non-farming children. Moreover, only seven percent of the Amish children tested positive for predispositions towards allergies, versus 25 percent of the Swiss farming children and a whopping 44 percent of the Swiss non-farming children.
While Holbreich did not investigate why children raised on farms were healthier than non-farming children, he has his suspicions:
"This [study] would suggest that if you have early life exposure [to allergens], then somehow it drives the immune system away from developing allergies," said Holbreich. "Large animals are part of it, and the straw bedding animals sleep on. [Also] what [the Amish children] eat and the fact that their mothers are in the barn when they are pregnant."
Holbreich's study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Natural lifestyle, natural health
Holbreich's study provides an interesting but somewhat predictable conclusion. The Amish lifestyle, while imperfect, does offer children one significant benefit that is denied to most non-Amish children: It forces them to live in the real world. From a very young age, Amish children are taught essential life skills such as gardening and farming, sewing and knitting, making natural remedies, carpentry, and construction. These skills, aside from ensuring their continued self-reliance and independence from the state, foster an environment that is conducive to superior health. The children are physically active, routinely exposed to dirt and grime, hardened by the elements, and shielded from allopathic poisons. These facts, coupled with their avoidance of vaccinations, explain why the Amish are putting many of us to shame in the health department. Sources for this article include:
About the author: Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website, Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world's healthiest foods.