The Farm Effect

Asthma, allergies, auto-immune disorders . . . . all have been on the rise over the past several years.  Of course, there is never just one reason for anything, and these conditions are no exception.  But one big contributor may be what’s been called the “hygiene hypothesis.”  This theory says that our over-emphasis on a hyper-sterile environment may be coming back to bite us in the bum.

Just as the  overuse of antibiotics has created “superbugs,” our fascination with things like hand sanitizers has resulted in another unintended consequence:  unhealthy immune systems.  Researchers are now realizing that our immune system needs to be tried and tested in order to function properly.

A 2002 study in Germany found that people who were born and raised on farms were less likely to have allergies and asthma.  Further studies have agreed with those findings.  Being exposed to the many microbes on a farm seems to have beneficial effects on one’s immunity.  In other words, the immune system needs to have a chance to learn how to defend itself against attackers, and then also learn how to simmer down when it isn’t being attacked.

To me, the take-away message is that into each life some rain must fall.  We can’t avoid the heartbreaks, the tears, the sniffles, the failures.  Our quest for perfection can only end in more suffering.