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.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

Elaine Magee, a registered dietician with WebMD.com, wrote an excellent article defending potatoes,  and I applaud her for it.  She got the idea from attending a nutrition seminar in which speaker after speaker maligned potatoes, disparaging the lowly spud against other vegetables, saying “vegetables are good- except for potatoes.”  But worse than that, there have been moves afoot to ban potatoes from school lunch programs, as if they were a junk food contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic.  If they are, it’s only because of the likes of French fries.

Ms. Magee points out that a single medium-size white potato has more Vitamin C, B3, B6, and magnesium than a whole head of iceberg lettuce.  If you include the skin of the potato, it has almost as much fiber as the lettuce.  As for calories, that medium potato delivers 124, which isn’t bad, versus  116 for the lettuce.

Let me point out a few more things in defense of potatoes. Potatoes are one of the highest dietary sources of lipoic acid, which is an important antioxidant and detoxicant.  Besides halting free radical damage, lipoic acid, by virtue of its sulfur content, helps chelate heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, and excrete them from the body.

Are potatoes fattening? Experiments have been done putting people on potato diets for extended periods.   Each and every time, the potato diet has proved to be slenderizing.  Last year (2010) Chris Voigt, the Executive Director of the Washington Potato Commission, went on an all-potato diet for 60 days.  He ate 20 potatoes a day, and without toppings, such as cheese or sour cream or bacon bits.  That’s 1200 potatoes over two months, totaling 400 pounds of food. The result was: he lost 17 pounds.

But what about all that easily-digested potato starch turning to sugar? Doesn’t that cause diabetes? Let’s examine it. Type I Diabetes is an auto-immune disease that is certainly not caused by potatoes.  Genetics are believed to be involved.  Allergy to cow’s milk protein has been implicated as a triggering factor.  Infections have also been suggested as triggers, and nutritional deficiencies, such as gross Vitamin D deficiency, may set it off.  But again, it has nothing to do with potatoes.

Type II Diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, where the cell receptors to insulin just aren’t working.  Insulin resistance is caused by obesity, and potatoes fight obesity- unless you fry them or top them with unhealthy fats.  Insulin resistance has also been related to Vitamin D deficiency, chromium deficiency, and perhaps other deficiencies.  However, no whole, unrefined, properly prepared vegetable, including potatoes, contributes to the development of insulin resistance or diabetes.

But, what if you are already diabetic? Couldn’t potatoes pose a problem then?  There is a kernel of truth to that one.  You do have to be careful about your entire food consumption once you become diabetic , but I would not eliminate potatoes even from the diet of a diabetic.  For instance, a plain potato digests very quickly, but if you combine it with a wholesome fat such as avocado (which is a delicious combination) blood sugar spikes can be avoided.  The important thing is to keep your eye on the big picture, and the big picture is that whole, natural, unrefined plant foods, including potatoes, support good health and good metabolism. If you don't want to eat white potatoes because they are white, then do as I do and buy the gold potatoes, which are available yearround. They taste great too.

It has been reported widely that watermelon may have an effect similar to the drug Viagra but without adverse side effects.  Watermelon is high in the amino acid citrulline. The rinds are particularly high, but even the flesh contains 150 mgs of citrulline per 100 grams. Citrulline is a precursor to arginine, and arginine boosts nitric oxide,  which is the main vaso-dilator in the human circulatory system.

Watermelon is truly an extraordinary food.  First, it tastes sweeter than it is. The average watermelon has only 6 to 7 percent sugar by weight, which is less than grapefruit.  But, most people find it tastes much sweeter.   It’s almost like getting something for nothing.  Second,  red watermelon is very high in lycopene.  You actually see the lycopene because it is the lycopene that makes the melon red.  And lycopene, like citrulline, has been linked strongly to male sexual health. Third, watermelon is one of the highest dietary sources of glutathione, the sulfur-containing triple-amino acid that protects us from all kinds of free radicals and toxins.

What amuses me is how the mainstream sites, such as WebMD, have been disparaging the whole idea of better sex through watermelon.  One doctor said that hoping watermelon will improve sex is like dropping a bottle in the Mississippi River at Minneapolis and hoping that it will have an impact in New Orleans. That is a very unfair and exaggerated analogy, and especially for people like me, because when I sit down to eat watermelon, I make a meal of it.  We’re talking about some major flooding of my system with watermelon goodness.  I really don’t know how much impact the citrulline model holds, but when you look at the entire phytonutrient content of watermelon, it is truly awesome. But, I understand why they have to disparage watermelon- because they don’t want men rethinking their need for Viagra, Cialis, and/or Levitra.

I am finding that the quality of watermelon this year is exceptionally good, and I think I know why.  It’s because here in watermelon country (Texas) we are in the midst of a severe drought.  Normally, they grow watermelons in Texas by rain alone, but this year they have had to irrigate.  Our weather has not only been very dry but also very sunny.  Non-stop sun. We haven’t had a cloudy day in months.  And all that sunshine sweetens the watermelons like nothing else can.

Watermelon is probably the most popular food ever to spread out of Africa-unless you consider coffee a food.

I just received a mass e-mailing from a law firm about class action lawsuits against companies that make acid blockers, also known as proton pump inhibitors. There have been numerous birth defects in the children of women who took these drugs during pregnancy.  These have involved the heart, the lungs, the limbs, the kidneys,  and more. And among others taking these powerful acid blockers, the harms have included fractures, seizures, kidney problems, infections, stomach problems, bowel problems, and much more. What's really daunting is how widely these drugs are prescribed. Nexium (which is really just a tweaked form of Prilosec- a way to get around the patent expiration on the older drug) is currently the 3rd bestselling drug in the world. The only drugs generating higher sales are #1 Lipitor (a statin to lower cholesterol) and #2 Plavix (a very dangerous blood thinner).  And the fact is that, as we speak, there are massive class action lawsuits against the makers of those drugs as well.  What does this mean about the state of Modern Medicine? It means that Modern Medicine is engaged in dispensing very dangerous and harmful drugs and (with government collusion) selling them at such high prices that they can afford to absorb the burden of big financial settlements  to victims and still make money.  And where do doctors fit into this scheme? Doctors are merely the foot soldiers or pawns.  They do as they're told and write the scripts. And there isn't much thinking involved. For instance, how many doctors who write prescriptions for Nexium are aware that most heartburn sufferers have less stomach acid than normal, healthy subjects? The awful reality about Nexium is that besides being inherently toxic with numerous adverse side effects that even when it succeeds at neutralizing stomach acid, it is doing a very bad thing with serious health-destroying consequences.  How many doctors stop to think about the wisdom of destoying a person's stomach acid? Producing acidity is the most important thing that the stomach does.  When you neutralize a person's stomach acid, you are neutralizing their whole stomach.  They might as well not have one.  Their ability to digest proteins suffers severely, and that impairs not just the muscles which require protein, but the immune system,  the hormonal system, the digestive system, and much more.  It cripples functioning and renewal throughout the body. But, it also makes the person extremely vulnerable to infection because one of the jobs of stomach acid is to sterilize the stomach.  And when I say sterilize, I mean kill every living thing in it. You've been hearing about the latest E-coli outbreak in Europe from the cucumbers or the sprouts or whatever? Well, then pity the poor soul who gets exposed to it while taking Nexium. Hello glomerulonephritis.
So, what should you do about acid reflux? Well, there are any number of things you could try, but whatever you do, don't take acid blockers.  Do not take the proton pump inhibitors such as Nexium, and do not take H2 antagonists such as Tagamet. Hey, if you want to take Regular Tums, I am not concerned about that because it's just calcium carbonate.  But don't take the Dual Action Tums because it has an acid blocker added to the calcium.
To protect delicate tissues from the effects of acid reflux, you can take mastic gum. Another good substance for that purpose is deglycerated licorice.  We offer the two combined in a product called Ceasefire, but you can find them both separetely, including online.  Another thing that works well is peppermint, and we offer it as peppermint gum and peppermint mints. There are other home remedies that people swear by, that work for some but not others. But from the standpoint of addressing the cause, what appeals to me most is taking hydrochloric acid.  That's right,  if you increase the acid, the secreting stops, and the heartburn goes away. Remember what I said that most heartburn sufferers have too little stomach acid- not too much.
And then there are also all the lifestyle factors you can address. If you smoke, quit, because smoking causes acid reflux. If you drink alcohol, ditto, so cut it out.  If you are overweight, drop that excess body fat because it causes acid reflux. And if you are used to stuffing yourself  with food as a pastime, find another hobby because it isn't the acid that causes acid reflux: it is the pressure. And obviously, the more you fill your stomach- the more you stuff it- the more pressure there is going to be.  So eat moderately.  Eat to live; don't live to eat. Does eating spicy food contribute to the problem? Maybe a little, but I am more concerned about overeating than eating spices.
So what does Nexium really represent? The answer is: the crux of everything that is wrong in Medicine.  Nexium is bad medicine pushed on millions. 

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