For the majority of my young life, I suffered from bad allergies to cats, dogs, grasses, pollen, and mold; my younger brother had to deal with all the same, but in addition to allergies, he had bad asthma. When we reached a certain age, our parents elected to have us go through immuno-therapy, which through weekly shots, helped our bodies to have greatly reduced allergies, and build up antibodies to our allergies. I’ve always heard the saying, “eat your pound of dirt”, knowing very well that it has to do with your immune system. In addition to eating dirt, Dr. Remo Frei from the University of Zurich, and some immunologist colleagues believe that you should also play with farm animals and eat farm fresh animal products, to help prevent asthma and allergies.
According to Dr. Frei’s study, out of 1000 children whom he collected blood samples from, the children who were exposed to a farm environment early on had antibodies to a sialic acid called Neu5Gc, which is present in most vertebrates, but not humans. According to the samples Dr. Frei collected, and testing conducted on mice, Neu5Gc ingested with food improves respiratory function when exposed to common animal allergens, like those found in dust and dander. When ingested, Neu5Gc can be integrated into the glycoproteins in the organism, and will provide a suppression of allergic reactions and asthmatic reactions in the lungs.
To further investigate the mechanism of this denial of asthma, Dr. Frei and his team investigated common immune system cells to note their reactions. The reaction of the Immunoglobin E, which is primarily responsible for allergic reactions, was not reduced, however the Neu5Gc did initiate an anti-inflammatory response in the rest of the immune system. This anti-inflammatory response was due to the presence of T-cells which were activated due to the Neu5Gc presence.
Though this research is only another step towards understanding the complexities of allergies, it provides great scientific evidence that can be conveyed to the general populace. By learning more about healthy versus unhealthy interactions with animals, people may become more accustomed to interacting with our fuzzy friends, and how much they really offer us.