The dirty little secret behind building your microbiome

It never ceases to amaze me how circular life really is.

Case in point: I recently stumbled upon some “new” research, showing that infants raised on farms have richer microbiomes… and a lower risk of allergies and asthma because of it.

And yet, I explored this phenomenon years ago in my first book, Feed Your Kids Well, and in a subsequent book, The Allergy and Asthma Cure. (You can find these books by clicking here.)

So needless to say, I’m hardly surprised by this latest finding. But I want to share it with you. Because for present-day kids in today’s clean, modern world, the message is more important than ever.

Farm-raised allergy prevention

This latest study looked at stool samples from just over 200 infants enrolled in the Wisconsin Infant Study Cohort (WISC)—roughly half with farm exposure and half without.

Researchers collected samples when the babies were two months old, and sequenced the DNA to evaluate their microbiomes. And they found some striking differences.

Specifically, infants with farm exposure had higher populations of specific bacteria—ones that, notably, protect against allergy and asthma. In fact, the researchers went so far as to say that simply being raised on a farm is correlated with changes in the gut.

But there’s a twist. As it turns out, the type of farm an infant is exposed to—and more specifically, the diversity of animals and environment—is also an important factor in the development of the gut microbiome.

In fact, bacterial populations were significantly different according to three key exposure categories:

  • Highly diverse environment and animal exposure
  • Highly diverse environment but only moderately diverse animal exposure
  • Minimally diverse environment and animal exposure

In other words, infants with exposure to many varieties of farm animals—and many diverse environments, such as hay, silage, and raw milk—had proportionally richer microbiomes.

And when you think about it, this makes perfect sense. We are a product of our environments—and that includes our microbiomes. And while we are what we eat, in a lot of ways, that’s because our health is a reflection of our gut’s bacterial population.

This is just further proof that your formative years are of utmost importance. (Though interestingly, this team didn’t find any significant microbiome differences with birth method, birth season, or breastfeeding—all factors that previous research has revealed to be influential.)

Get outside—and get dirty

Here’s where things get frustrating: After years of analysis and data collection, all these researchers really seem to care about is whether it will yield a patentable probiotic cocktail or fiber supplement.

They went on to say, and I quote: “It may be up to our partners in the pharmaceutical industry to see where we can have an impact.” And this blatantly exposes Big Pharma’s entire research strategy in modern American medicine.

This behavior infuriates me.  I became a doctor to help people—and I’m committed to using whatever resources I can to do so. That’s why I actively combine the best of what conventional medicine has to offer with the most effective nutritional medicine in developing treatment strategies.

Needless to say, patents are the last thing on my mind, except insofar as they limit my patients’ access to the medicine they might need. So I simply can’t imagine why these researchers would even mention the drug industry when the facts here have a pretty clear (and notably drug-free) practical application already.

The bottom line: We are all way too clean for our own good. And that people who use hand sanitizer at every turn. If that sounds like you, stop now! And by all means, keep your kids away from it, too.

Obviously, we can’t all pack up and run away to go live on a farm. But there’s clear value in letting your kids get dirty—especially if you’re raising city kids. Do them a favor and take regular daytrips to some nearby farms.

Because as this research shows, they need more than just sunshine and fresh air to really grow up right.

P.S. In the March and April issues of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter, I show you how to build a better microbiome. These step-by-step instructions can reduce chronic inflammation that can lead to illness, and improve your quality of life. After all… Your gut generates roughly 80 percent of your immune cells, so keeping it in tip-top shape is absolutely necessary to overall good health.

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“Children raised on farms avert allergies.” Medscape Medical News, 02/25/2019. (