Not jeans, genes!

I made a new friend the other day who studies genetics and she got me thinking. Most people have heard the phrase ‘you are what you eat’. If you eat things which are good for you, your body should grow healthy and strong. Genes play a large role in who you are too, and as you grow and develop, your cells, genes included, are affected by diet. Then, as you procreate, these genes are passed on to your offspring. Are they passed on healthy, or do you pass on adversely affected cells? What condition were the genes you got from your parents? Offspring generally tend to follow the same path as their parents, at least in their early years. If you pass on adversely affected genes, then your kids tend to aggravate their genetics even further creating a downward spiral in their inherent capabilities. If, on the other hand, you do your very best to eat well and take care of your body, a upward spiral can be created.

You might be asking yourself about now, how does this relate to me and the swamp I grew up in and currently reside? The answer is simple. There are many things which can enter your body other than through your mouth. This is especially true in my swamp. I grew up in and near the Guadalupe River delta and have always been exposed to dangers. Most have resulted in chemicals, bacteria and germs injected into my body in one fashion or another.

I tramped around in the marshy area and also a creek which ran through the property. There was a lot of stagnant water around. Much of the time I was barefoot just as I am most of the time now. I was constantly poked by all sorts of thorny trees, shrubs, vines and other plants. I also got cut on a regular basis. Thorns injected me with their poisons and the punctures and cuts provided an easy entry point for all sorts of germs prevalent around horses, cattle and numerous wild animals. Then there were biting insects of numerous varieties which were a constant bother. On top of these, there was poison ivy mostly, but also poison oak and sumac. Lastly, off the top of my head I can remember getting finned by freshwater and saltwater fish, bitten by crabs and stung by a variety of jellyfish.

When I got old enough to help my dad do chores, my body was subjected to a whole new set of chemicals. Among these were cattle spray, brush and insect control sprays, oils and leaded gasoline to name a few. These had to be absorbed into my body. What was their effect?

I worked hard, ate hearty, though maybe not quite as healthy as I should have, but probably not as bad as many people. I do eat a lot more vegetables now than I have most of my life, but it’s probably a little late to be concerned with genetics. I’m not, however, in such a poor shape as many people my age. I’m strong and still work harder than most in my age group.

So, what does all this mean for my health? I seldom get sick. I’m never depressed. I feel good most of the time. Maybe a little arthritis here and there, and a little joint pain occasionally due to injuries I’ve had. I should have at least had skin cancer a time or two, since for most of my life I worked and played in the sun from daylight to dark with no sunscreen and wearing only a T-shirt at most. I have gone to bed more times than I can count, feeling like a microwave cooked potato, radiating a days stored up energy.

I do know one thing, I don’t worry about a few mosquito bites or fire ant bites which I get on a regular basis—daily at times. They don’t bother me much or for long. Ellen, my significant other, on the other hand gets a few ant bites and they really get nasty. They even make her a little sick often if she gets very many. Mosquito bites make big whelps on her skin and often bother her for days. She was a city gal and not used to all the biting things she now has to deal with on a regular basis.

I think my body has been so accustom to fighting off this and that, few things bother me anymore. Killer bees twice, a copperhead in the A/C condenser which bit me on the hand, and it seems like every time I turn around, I’m bleeding. Very little seems to bother me like it does Ellen.

I should have died from skin cancer years ago. I should be in pretty bad shape, but you know what? I never get a cold or other sickness. I feel strong and healthy and get around about as well as I did 20 years ago. I don’t want to live forever and I may very well die tomorrow, but today I feel good, I’m active, I work hard and I don’t seem to have any health problems. In fact, the opposite seems to be the case.

So what does this tell you about what you eat and are subjected to, and your genes? I’m not proof of anything, but I think that “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” I think you need to keep your weight at least close to normal, work hard at manual labor even if it’s only in your backyard and eat the best you can. Then, with a little luck you should live a long, healthy and happy life. A lot of people move all over the country and out of the country. They are then subjected to a whole new set of dangers. This can adversely affect your health, but remember, if it doesn’t kill you, then sooner or later you will become stronger. But that’s just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions!

We are as a people evolving and changing. That is after all what life is ultimately about. If we don’t kill each other off or destroy this planet, we will ultimately all end up as little gray men and women with shiny black eyes and flying around in our tiny little spaceships. Something to look forward to, huh?