Farming As Medicine
We get so many good things from farms such as food and fiber. Medicine may soon be another. The exposure to farm animals and other agricultural work can boost your immune system.
Scott Heiberger is a rural health communications specialist with the National Farm Medicine Center. He says we’ve known for a long time that kids who grow up on farms have fewer asthma and respiratory issues. A study is being done on exactly what those immune-strengthening microorganisms are, and when they kick in.
"We are recruiting pregnant mothers, half from farms, half from town environments and following those children through the first two-years of life when most of those microbiomes will get onto our bodies, and see when it is that this immunity really starts to kick in," he says. "And sort of the over-simplified idea of it would be if we could find out exactly what it is and when it kicks in, we can “bottle it” and give it to everybody if it’s shown to be helpful."
This research is expected to be completed within the next year-or-two. Heiberger says another study is comparing microorganisms in the mouths and noses of dairy farmers with those of office workers.
"As you might expect but had never been documented in a study before, the dairy farmers had more microorganisms in their nose and mouth. And one of the things that they found, when you have more microorganisms, it tends to crowd out something that could be harmful like staph," says Heiberger. "If staph doesn’t have as much of a foothold to grab onto because it’s being out-competed by all the other microorganisms, this study is showing that can be a protective thing from an organism that could be a little bit harmful."
Learn more about the studies and how farming might make you feel better