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Helen's Mulberry Lane Farm Journal

Asthma On The Increase

My husband, Gerald, reads Science magazine for bed time reading. (Right now I'm wading through Paradise Lost by Milton. It puts me right to sleep!) Gerald will occasionally read to me something from Science that he knows I'll be interested in.

Some time back he shared with me some interesting new research on asthma. None of my children have asthma or allergies, but it was the reasons for the increase in asthma that got my attention.

"Babies born via Cesarean section, who experience a more sterile entry into the world than those born vaginally, are more likely to get asthma. So are young children treated with many courses of antibiotics. Along with animal studies, these observations suggest that the balance of bacteria and other microbes help guide immune development---and that when the balance is disrupted, disease may follow." *1

Its all about bacteria---the good kind. When babies are born vaginally, their gut and lungs get the good bacteria (flora) existing in the vagina. This good bacteria makes for a strong immune system which helps keep things like asthma at bay.

Don't get me started on c-sections! Here is another reason to add to the list of a gazillion reasons to avoid c-sections, if at all possible.

More children than ever before are now in institutions; day care, pre-school, public school, etc. These children are exposed to high levels of sickness which is then "fixed" by antibiotics. All of these antibiotics mess up the natural flora in the body. This in turn messes up the immune system, which in turn makes these children more susceptible to things like asthma and allergies. Makes sense to me.

Oops....just a second while I take my bread out of the oven.

Does environment play a role in asthma? "For years it's been known that children raised on farms are less likely to develop asthma and allergies than others." *1 This is called the "hygiene hypothesis." This is the idea that the relatively sterile, germ-free "bleach everything" way we modern women live, disrupts the development of the immune system. No wonder farm kids are healthier.

I have a few farm kids of my own. (They are currently somewhere on the back forty. As I type I hear the sound of Smack! Bang! Smack! ZZZZZZZZZZ!; that means they are cutting wood with their Dad.) Anyway, my farm kids are often outside doing chores in the dirt, working in the dirt, playing in the dirt and when they come inside they bring the dirt with them; on their clothes, boots and even in their hair which ends up, you know, everywhere imaginable.

Timothy out on a recent canoe trip with his Dad.

When I was growing up, I didn't know one kid who had asthma. Now it is an average of one out of every 10 school-aged child that has asthma.*2 When I was a kid, after we were unchained from our desks at school, we played outside. We played in the dirt, played kick the can in the park, played hide and seek in the field with a creek which we often ran through in our bare feet, played street hockey....all those wonderful "fresh air" things that were so good for me and my friends.

In our current culture kids rarely see the light of day. After they are unchained from their desks at school, (is there an echo in here?), they "play" by staring at LED screens and/or with buds in their ears, never getting the necessary sunshine (every wonder why they put vitamin D in milk?) and, apparently, not getting a good healthy dose of outdoor microbes.

I always thought that having my kids at home for school and playing in the dirt during play time was healthy. Now Science tells me so!

So relax you already over-burdened moms! Let the kids go outside and run through the leaves and puddles and get dirty. While they are out there, cook something yummy for them and your hungry husband. It is so much more fun and memorable for you to cook (try Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake with Homemade Whipped Topping) than it is to bleach door handles and light switches!

Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake

(copyright 2002, The King Arthur Flour Company.)
(my comments are *)


1/3 cup (2 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (*any flour will work)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine (*we only only use butter in our home)


2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (*you know.....)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) butter or margarine (*ditto)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, well drained

First: Preheat your oven to 375F.

Making the Topping: Mix the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut or rub in the butter or margarine with the side of a fork, two knives or your finger tips until it reaches a crumbly state. Set aside.

Making the Batter: Blend the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium sized mixing bowl. In a large bowl cream together the sugar, butter or margarine, egg and vanilla. Alternately add the milk and the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, ending with flour. Stir only enough to blend. Fold in the blueberries.

Assembling & Baking: Pour the batter into a well-greased and floured, 9-inch cake pan. Sprinkle the topping over the batter and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a cake tester or knife comes out clean. (*While baking, make the whipped topping below.)

Let the buckle cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a knife or spatula. Holding the cake pan in your left hand, gently tip the cake out onto your right hand, remove the pan, and gently right the cake onto a serving dish. (*Serve warm with whipped topping; just takes a second or two.)

Whipped Topping


(Better for you than Cool Whip and who has time to run to the store NOW to buy it?)

3/4 cup white sugar
1.4 tsp cream of tartar
1 egg white
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp. vanilla

Add all ingredients together and beat at high speed until it reaches proper consistency. Store in refrigerator. May be frozen up to six months.

The only sounds I hear when my family eats this is "mmmmmmmmmmm" which is another word for "Thanks Mom!" I don't think any of my ten children, ever, not even once, thanked me for bleaching the bathroom.


*1 -
*2 -

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