We've all seen about a million television shows or movies where it seems like the villain is about to get caught, and then he somehow makes a daring escape.
I'm often reminded of that frustrating plotline when I read medical research. Sometimes the researchers are so close to understanding a fundamental truth… to uncovering the real culprit behind a disease… that it breaks my heart when they don't.
Case in point, researchers from the West Virginia School of Medicine recently took a group of kids with allergies and asthma and moved them from an Italian city to the countryside for a week of camp.
After just one week in the countryside, they all improved. They were able to breathe easier, and their lungs functioned better in clear and measurable ways, according to the results published in the March issue of Pediatrics.
Unfortunately, the researchers were achingly close to making a conclusion that would have helped an awful lot of asthmatics… but they didn't. Instead, they concluded that we need to improve air quality in cities and reduce pollution so that our children can breathe better.
That's an admirable goal – but for all the folks suffering from asthma right now, it's not going to be of much use.
The real message of this study should be that asthma is an autoimmune disorder, triggered by allergens. So if you live in a city and have asthma, there may be some allergens in the air (or just in your home, for that matter) that are helping cause it. Get yourself away from those allergens, and you could start to feel better.
Now, as a longtime resident of Montana, I have to say I'm a little biased towards fresh air and open skies. But we have folks here who suffer from asthma and other illnesses because they're allergic to ragweed pollen. Or all the timothy grass you'll often find on the vast ranches and prairies. Or the majestic elms that dot our great state.
See, battling asthma isn't about urban areas versus rural ones – it has more to do with identifying the specific allergens in your life, and removing them. In this case, rather than remove the allergen, they removed the people. That can work, too, as long as the allergen is not present in your new location – but it's not really a practical solution for most people.
So for the rest of us, we need more accurate and thorough testing for our allergies, so that we can better understand what is triggering our symptoms. Then, rather then moving away, see if you can remove those allergens.
Much like the kids in this study, I think you'll see improvements, and relatively quickly. Our bodies have an amazing capacity to heal themselves when given the chance, and you don't need a vacation in the Italian countryside to enjoy that everyday miracle.