Michelle Perro, MD, Executive Director, GMOScience
- A recent visit and conference with members of the Amish community in central Pennsylvania revealed surprising health challenges facing Amish children
- I spent time researching and discussing issues regarding Amish children’s health directly on the farm with their community
- Although faring better than their age-matched American counterparts, Amish children still displayed evidence of gut issues, neurocognitive dysfunction and prominent dental problems
- Dependence on chemical farming as well as the consumption of ultra processed foods were largely responsible for the disappointing health report card
- The culprit can be traced back to food contamination, GMOs and their associated pesticides, due to the fact that Amish children are largely protected from the other typical environmental hazards experienced by their American counterparts
A Visit to Mill Hall
Daniel and Lydia Allgyer, regenerative farmers and parents in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, and owners of Prairie Foods, have spent years transforming Daniel’s father’s 200 acre farm into an organic, regenerative oasis. Spurred by his own health journey, Daniel self-educated himself on how to move away from conventional GMO/pesticide farming towards sustainability, with a focus on grazing his cows, pigs, and chickens. Additional challenges not experienced by the typical American farmer, such as no gas/electric equipment, all work done manually and no outside help, Daniel stood beside beautiful, lush farmland, rich with microbes and worms.
Daniel expanded his work to a community-based business, selling a potpourri of meats, dairy, grains, eggs, soap, etc., on his website, (with the help of a non-Amish friend since they do not use technology on his farm). The success is evidenced by his own vibrant three healthy children, and the reclamation of his own health which he shares on his website and with his community.
…In 2017, we began a new journey. We installed a great deal of fencing, and we brought animals back on the land. Two changes then occurred – our soil health improved, and our health issues began to diminish!
We have since gone a long way in healing our soil and bringing it back to life. Though we don’t yet have the dark, rich, high-organic-matter soil that once formed this country (before man mined the soil), we have headed in that direction. We plan to continue improving our soil in the years to come.
Daniel and I met at an ACRES farming conference, leaders in Eco-agriculture, in 2021. He was passionate and authentic. He asked me to come speak with his Amish community since he had grave concerns regarding the state of the health of their children. This came as a tremendous surprise since I assumed that the Amish were of course utilizing organic and sustainable methods and their children were not prone to the ills presently being experienced by typical American children. This turned out not to be the case.
With no clinical experience to rely on, I extensively researched the status of the health of their children. One particular comprehensive analysis and review of the literature, the authors reported and summarized the following findings regarding the overall health status of the Amish:
- Amish utilize western medicine, but prefer integrative healing modalities
- Have distrust over the present medical system and pharmaceuticals
- Utilize herbs and supplements, such as echinacea and vitamin C
- Support each other during sickness
- Prefer midwives and home births whenever possible
- Children have 1/3 less obesity than non-Amish children
- Families may be large and children have sibling playmates
- Children participate in working and are very active
- Children experience lower rates of asthma and cancer than American children
- Families are less likely to vaccinate
From the report, it appeared that the Amish children were overall doing better than non-Amish American children (the majority dealing with an avalanche of chronic diseases). Not sure what was fueling the concerns of this regenerative farmer, I went to the source. I queried the community members regarding the findings of this study and they strongly concurred with the assessment. However, what the authors did not report on was the growing concerns from the parents regarding a decline in their children’s overall wellness and that they were not as healthy as previous generations. Reports of stomach issues, learning challenges (such as focus issues), a broad range of dental complaints and infant feeding concerns reminded me of where American children were 25 years ago, just when the introduction of glyphosate-based herbicides and GMOs were making the scene. (Dr. Adams and I published our book on the decline in American children’s health in 2017.) What was also surprisingly revealed was that their diets were heavily made of processed, non-organic foods, very typical of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Here was the opportunity for education and real change. Six hours of lectures and many conversations later, with a promise to return to Amish Family Day the next summer, a spark was lit to ignite the switch in their eating patterns, away from white flours and ultra-processed foods they were purchasing in the local Walmart, towards the types of whole, organic, regenerative foods being promoted by members of their own community. As customary, I asked that they use their own families as a scientific experiment; make the change to an organic, whole foods diet and report back to me at least 4 weeks later on their own health status. A deal was struck.
A Happy Ending?
Sadly, there are reports of Amish farmers practicing regenerative, organic farming being harassed, by the US government as well as their own communities. Amos Miller, an Amish farmer, has been threatened for his organic farm practice. Not only are his products free from GMOs and pesticides, but he doesn’t utilize fertilizer or gasoline, and is unaffected by toxic solvents or high gas prices. According to the Organic Consumers Association, federal agencies have resorted to using force and steep fines regarding some of Mr. Miller’s farming practices.
Unfortunately for Daniel and Lydia Allgyer, they have also received pressure to resort back to conventional farming, in order to be aligned with their community and to turn a quicker profit. The Allgyers are courageously defending their beliefs and may relocate so that they may continue to regenerate themselves, their business and their community.
As regenerative healthcare practitioners, the time is here and now to support families and communities to care for their own, with an emphasis on diets from locally grown, plant-forward, organic, regenerative meals, free from chemical inputs, with a focus on minimal to no processing. Our mission and direction is to educate families, teachers, political leaders and eaters that only a food as medicine approach will help restore the vitality of our most precious assets. For more information on how to begin to achieve this goal, visit Regeneration Health International. A parents guidebook on Making our Children Well will be released in 2023.