People ask me how I can stand the summers in Texas. But, I tell them that it’s no problem for me because I have watermelon, and I have swimming.  I swim practically every day in the summer, usually in the late afternoon. And it completely relieves the oppression of the summer heat. I was a competitive swimmer in high school, and I have been swimming ever since.  Swimming is my favorite fitness activity- that along with bicycling.  And I swim all year long, although not nearly as much in the winter.  Here in Austin where I live, there are public pools that are open all year, including ones that are non-chlorinated.  My rule is that if it’s sunny and in the 60s, I’m good to go for swimming, whether it’s December, January, or February.

Swimming is surely one of the best exercises.  It sets your whole body in motion and uses all of your muscles- although the upper body much more than the lower body.  And, swimming is truly a natural movement.  Swimming is a primordial activity, meaning that it was something that prehistoric humans (who were anatomically the same as you and me) were doing tens of thousands of years ago.  It’s significant that American researchers found primitive people in the Amazon swimming the front crawl.  And, Australian researchers found primitive people on the Solomon Islands swimming the front crawl as well- half a world away.

Today, it is common to refer to the front crawl as the “freestyle” but that’s really a misnomer.  It started being called the freestyle because in competitive swimming, when you have  a race in which any stroke is permitted, the crawl is the stroke that everyone  chooses to swim because it is the fastest and most efficient stroke.  But, the crawl is a much better description of what the stroke involves.

Let’s pursue that idea of crawling through the water. We know that when a baby crawls, it is a natural activity that is mediated instinctively. No one has to teach a baby how to do it.  And it involves the same brain centers that control the natural cadence of walking.  Swimming the crawl is to aquatic locomotion as walking is to terrestrial locomotion. Am I saying that swimming the crawl is as natural and instinctive to a human as swimming the dog paddle is to a dog? Not quite, but close.

Swimming does good things to your body.  For one thing, it stretches you out, especially when you swim the crawl.  When you reach that arm forward, you are stretching the distance between your hand and your feet.  It’s the only common exercise I know of that does that.  There was an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer began swimming in the East River because the YMCA pool was too crowded.   And he said, “An hour in that chop, and I come out two inches taller.” That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the general idea is true.

And swimming does good things for your mind too. It’s a stress reliever.  When you swim the crawl, the natural cadence of the brain takes over.  You focus on the movement.  It  takes over your mind. And of course, your whole world is different. You’re in this aquatic environment which is very stimulating and very different.  Get into the water and start swimming the crawl, and do it earnestly.  I don’t mean strain yourself, but really try to cut through the water diligently.  Then see if you can worry, fret, and fume  about something at the same time.  You can't.  It's impossible. Swimming clears your mind.  You come out of the water mentally refreshed and renewed.

When I swim in natural water, such as a river or creek or lake, I feel closer to my  ancient human roots than at any other time.  In Austin, we have the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and with good Spring rains, the creek fills with fresh, soft rain water, and it’s fabulous to swim there.  The college kids go there to mix and mingle and drink beer.  But, I go there to swim. Sadly, there were no Spring rains this year, and the creek remained dry as a bone.  But, I am already hoping for next year.

I was prompted to write this piece after reading that the majority of Americans don’t see a dentist even once a year.  And if they are not seeing a dentist, it means they are not getting their teeth professionally cleaned.  I have my teeth professionally cleaned every 4 months, and I have the dentist examine my mouth once a year, which includes 4 bitewing x-rays, to see between the teeth.  The total cost of this care per year is about $350.

Americans need to realize that oral decay, and particularly chronic gingivitis, can ruin your health. The link between rotten gums and heart disease is proven.  The infective process in the gums leads to the dispersion of plaque-inducing, inflammatory molecules throughout the blood stream, causing heart attacks.  Gum disease increases your overall risk of dying- by a wide margin. You are a ticking time bomb if you have bad gums.

Obviously, prevention relies on sound nutrition and good dental hygiene at home.  Green vegetables, beans, and raw nuts are the best foods for teeth-building, and they comprise a big part of my diet. And although I’m a big fan of fruits, and I eat my share, the fact is that fruits do not serve your teeth as well. If your diet is too high in fruit, your teeth will definitely suffer. The sugars in the fruit are, obviously, an issue, and so are the fruit acids, which can dissolve dental enamel. In moderation, fruits are fine, but don’t eat fruits at the expense of vegetables and other plant foods.  Grains, too, are not considered the best for your teeth.  As I said: vegetables, beans, and nuts are where it’s at when it comes to building strong teeth.

As regards dental hygiene at home, I try to brush after every meal, and I floss thoroughly at least once a day.  Sometimes, I will floss twice a day. For instance, if I have had oatmeal, I will floss immediately afterwards because oatmeal tends to accumulate a lot between the teeth.

Keep in mind that I have a goal: to live a long life and never require dentures. Dentures are one aspect of aging that I would like to skip. To do that, it’s going to take superior nutrition and diligent dental hygiene.  But, knowing how important it is, I am up for the task.

A recent study found that not only do millions of Americans forgo dental care, but millions live in areas that are underserved by dentists.  “A severe shortage of dentists in rural and minority areas is contributing to the persistent and systemic barriers to oral health care,” the report noted. The economic downturn is also taking a toll. It is estimated that 5 million American children are not seeing dentists at all because of their parents’ lack of money.  And, the report said that two-thirds of American seniors do not obtain adequate dental care due to insufficient income. This is really a tragedy. And yet, they keep telling us that we are the richest country in the world.

"We have the lowest ratio of dentists to population that we have had in 100 years," says Shelly Gehshan, who directs the Pew Children's Dental Campaign. "This is a serious problem that leaves 40 to 50 million people out of reach of a dentist at any given moment."

I urge you to make your teeth a priority. The few hundred dollars I spend each year on professional dental care is worth every penny, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a paltry sum, so why worry about it.  Besides, I economize in other ways; for instance, I don't buy medical insurance. I say, get your priorities straight, and your teeth are a priority.

My figs are in. They started earlier this year, around June 20 instead of the usual first week of July, and that’s because of the relentless sun we’ve had since April. Presently, I am harvesting the Celeste fig, which is the most popular Southern fig.  It is small and round and very sweet, and very easy to grow, being cold-hardy, drought-hardy, insect-hardy, and disease-hardy.  I also have a late fig called the Green Ischia, which is from the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples off the coast of Italy, where my maternal grandparents were born and raised. The Green Ischia stays green on the outside even when ripe, but inside, they are a beautiful strawberry red, and even the flavor reminds me of strawberry.

If you are living in zone 8 or lower, meaning as far north as Oklahoma, Arkansas, and in a line across to North Carolina, but much further north in California, you really should plant a fig tree.  They are easy to grow and do not require good, rich soil.  I live on the fringe of the Texas Hill Country where the soil is very shallow. It goes down about 2 inches, and then you get to this hard, white, caliche rock. And from that point on, it’s more like mining in a quarry than digging in the dirt. Yet, the figs will grow in it.

The fig tree is really an amazing tree. It can freeze all the way down to the ground in the winter, but then come out again from the root in the spring and replace itself within two seasons. The resilience of the fig tree is unbelievable.  Here in Austin, Texas, a lot of people will plant a fig tree, but in many cases, that is the last time they do anything for it. They don’t water it, feed it, prune it, shape it, or protect it in anyway.  Despite that, the tree will often deliver some fruit.  But, a fig tree responds well to any help you give it, and when you give them as much help as I give mine, they really take off. My fig trees are 25 feet tall, which is too tall for me to harvest the higher fruit, but I don’t mind sharing with the birds and squirrels.

Nutritionally, figs are not particularly high in vitamins, but they are very high in minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and iron.  And, that may be why they thrive in Central Texas because our calcium-based, caliche soils have an inexhaustible supply of calcium and other minerals.

There was an old saying in the South, “I don’t give a fig,” an expression of disregard and contempt, and what it was based on was the profusion of figs during the summer that were so plentiful and abundant that they were considered free for the taking.  I know the feeling.  I invite friends and family to come over and pick figs, and I wouldn’t dream of charging anybody. I’m just glad to see the fruit not go to waste.

So, if you have a sunny yard, front or back, by all means plant a fig tree. It is a life force you will definitely enjoy having in your living space.

A study in the journal Neurology found an association between olive oil consumption and a lower risk of stroke. This was a French study involving 7,625 participants.

Cécilia Samieri, PhD, of the University of Bordeaux and her associates analyzed data from 7,625 participants aged 65 and older in the Three-City Study involving Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier, France. Olive oil consumption frequency was determined from dietary intake documented upon enrollment between 1999 and 2000, and was categorized as no use, moderate use, or intensive use (characterized by the use of olive oil multiple times daily, both as a dressing and in cooking).

During a median follow-up period of 5.25 years, 148 strokes occurred in the study population. Adjusted analysis of the data revealed a 41 percent lower risk of stroke among intensive olive oil users compared to those who reported no use. The protective association was found for ischemic stroke, but not hemorrhagic stroke.

In a secondary study of 1,245 subjects for whom plasma fatty acid measurements were available, those with the highest levels of plasma oleic acid (a biological marker of oleic acid intake from olive oil) had a 73 percent reduction in stroke risk compared to those whose levels were lowest.

American Academy of Neurology member Nikolaos Scarmeas, MD of Columbia University remarked in an accompanying editorial that "Although the Mediterranean-type diet shares many features with many other healthy dietary patterns, it is distinct in its high fat content, mainly from olive oil."

"Our research suggests that a new set of dietary recommendations should be issued to prevent stroke in people 65 and older," commented Dr Samieri, who is affiliated with the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Bordeaux. "Stroke is so common in older people and olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it."

It’s noteworthy to me that this protective effect from olive oil was observed without any kind of dietary restrictions. This is France we’re talking about,  and French cooking.  Besides using olive oil, they also use vast amounts of butter, meat, and other foods that are suspected of being atherogenic. Yet, without limiting anything else, the inclusion of olive oil made a startling difference in stroke risk.

However, I believe it makes a big difference whether you use olive oil as a dressing on a big green salad or if you fry lamb chops in it. Imagine if, in addition to using a high quality extra-virgin olive oil, you largely steer your daily diet towards unrefined plant foods, including many fruits and vegetables, plus leafy greens (both raw and cooked) and legumes, whole grains, etc. I dare say that you are going to do fabulously well.

I use extra-virgin olive oil every day, and it is the only oil I use.

 

American children are the most vaccinated in the world. The US government recommends 26 vaccine doses in the first year of life. I’ll say it again: that’s 26 vaccinations before the candles on the first birthday cake are blown out. Yet, 33 nations, all of whom administer fewer childhood vaccines, have better (i.e. lower) infant mortality rates than the United States. Even Communist Cuba has lower infant mortality than the USA.

 

So, two highly respected researchers did a scientific analysis of the question using a technique known as “linear regression analysis,” and they found a solid, statistically significant correlation between higher number of vaccine doses and higher rates of infant mortality. It was published in the highly reputable Human and Experimental Toxicology Journal, which is indexed by the National Library of Medicine.

 

Of the 10 nations with the lowest infant death rates, 7 of them have among the lowest childhood vaccination schedules in the world. For example, among developed nations, the ones with the lowest number of standard childhood vaccines, as ordained by government, are Japan and Sweden, and they rank 1 and 2, respectively, in having low infant mortality.

 

What does it mean? Does it mean that vaccinations are killing children? That is certainly what it looks like. I’m sure vaccination defenders would be quick to point out that statistics do not prove causation.  They may not prove it, but they certainly do suggest it. But why are we even talking about a higher death rate among the more vaccinated? Vaccinations are supposed to prevent diseases, and even common childhood diseases, such as the measles, have a certain mortality. For instance, the United Nations says that in the year 2000 alone, approximately 733,000 children worldwide died of the measles. If vaccinations are effective, should not the more vaccinated have a markedly lower death rate by virtue of avoiding the ravages of deadly diseases? Isn't that the whole purpose of vaccinating?

 

Therefore, I believe the next step should be to compare death rates between vaccinated  and unvaccinated children.  And when I say unvaccinated children, I do not mean children who go unvaccinated because of poverty, neglect, and inadequate care. That would introduce a whole different variable. I am referring to children who go unvaccinated because their parents deem that it would be injurious to their health to vaccinate them, that is, they forego vaccination out of informed conviction.

 

So far, the medical establishment has refused to do such a study.  But, the medical establishment has also long refused to do a study such as the one that was just done, and it, much to their dismay, did get published.  So, to the researchers who did that study, Gary Goldman and Neil Miller, I urge you to next look at infant mortality rates and health status between vaccinated and unvaccinated children in developed countries- and again, where not vaccinating was an informed choice and not the product of adverse home circumstances.

 

Again I’ll say that I had only one child, a boy, and he never received any vaccinations. Today, he is a robust 37 year old man, and he has never had a needle stuck into him.

 

I deny the evidentiary basis for vaccinations (although, since they refuse to do double-blind, placebo-controlled studies for any vaccine, there really is no evidentiary basis), and I deny the whole theoretical and technical paradigm for vaccinations as well.  And if any immunologist wants to debate it, I am available.