Kids raised on farms are more likely to have stronger immune systems and fewer allergies.
A new study offers direct evidence that growing up on a farm lowers your risk of allergies.
It has long been suspected that this was the case, but up until this point there had been no direct evidence. Researchers have long been curious of the link between industrialized Western society and the rise of immunological diseases such as food allergies, eczema, and asthma.
The study’s researchers raised two groups of piglets—one group in a farm environment with all of the various germs and dirt this entails, and one group in a very clean, hygienic environment (the way many kids are raised now). Additionally, the farm group was nursed by their mothers, while the non-farm group was fed formula milk.
The researchers found that being raised on a farm boosts the body’s number of regulatory T-lymphocytes—cells in the immune system. This means that the body’s immune responses to its environment will become limited and inflammation will be reduced. This is how allergies work: an allergic response is generated when the body incorrectly identifies a certain substance as a harmful substance and responds to it with various symptoms.
Similarly, previous studies have revealed that children who have grown up with pets also have fewer allergies, eczema, and asthma. The same mechanism is thought to be at work—when kids are exposed to dirt and allergens that come with having pets, their immune systems become stronger.
More research needs to be done to determine the exact mechanism at play, but overall it looks like the moral of this story is to let kids be kids—playing with animals and being exposed to dirt once in a while won’t hurt.