Monday, July 21, 2014

Circumcision and MTHFR: When a little snip is a genetic nightmare

Everyone knows one of my favourite rabbit holes is the discussion of epigenetics, especially MTHFR. For those new to the topic, MTHFR is an abbreviation, not a cuss word, for a gene that handles an enzyme tasked with managing the methyl cycle in the body. The complexity of the body is such that a genetic mutation in this area will influence every part of the body, slowing down functions, impairing processes and encouraging deficiencies in vital areas.

A person with MTHFR has trouble converting, processing, and excreting various substances. They also might have altered immune responses, a tendency towards gut damage, and comorbid (co-existing) conditions such as blood clotting disorders. Their bodies react poorly to liver-burdening substances such as acetaminophen and they have difficulty with synthetic supplements.

With this in mind, drugs and medical treatments present an increased risk for someone with MTHFR. One area that needs discussion is routine infant circumcision and its role in triggering a cascade of interventions in the baby with MTHFR.

Routine infant circumcision as it is performed in the United States, consists of removing the prepuce organ from male infants, typically soon after birth, and typically without sedation or anesthesia, or only local and mild forms.

On its own, before considering genetic conditions and underlying defects, it presents all the basic risks of surgery, such as hemorrhage, heart attack, hypovolemic shock, increased cortisol levels, infection, scar inflammation, readhering skin, etc.

Within the discussion of MTHR, however, parents have specific connections to consider when trying to decide whether or not to perform this surgery on their children.

Cardiovascular events

Due to the epigenetic influence of MTHFR mutations on the mother and fetus, midline defects are a common byproduct during pregnancy. Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) are a common midline defect that can range from moderate to severe and usually require some kind of intervention. Often, CHDs are overlooked during pregnancy and only some hospitals are beginning to encourage routine screening for CHDs after birth.

As such, an infant born with an undiagnosed CHD who is subjected to circumcision has an increased risk of experiencing a cardiovascular complication such as a heart attack during the surgery. If the staff is unaware that the child has heart defects, they might be unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the specific needs of the baby, reducing response times to the complication or causing more damage.

Some babies are subjected to circumcision despite the parents and staff being aware of an existing CHD. This is how baby Joshua died. He had a severe heart defect, one that often requires three surgeries during infancy and even a full heart transplant later. The doctors encouraged the mom to consent to circumcision and the morning after his surgery, Joshua died. The cause of death listed was cardiac arrest, of course, not circumcision. And we have no idea of his MTHFR status and its potential connection to this tragedy.

If you suspect MTHFR mutations in your child, consider opting for heart screening during pregnancy and after birth. Or, if your child has been diagnosed with a CHD, consider additional testing to look for MTHFR mutations. Carefully research the risks of any surgery during the newborn period and how it might strain the cardiovascular system, especially if the doctors are not going to screen your child for pre-existing conditions.


A risk from any surgery is hemorrhage, of course. But, infant circumcision remains especially egregious in this area because newborns experience complications with the loss of an extremely small amount of blood and the blood loss occurs in an area that is covered up by a diaper.

In an average baby, losing just 2.3 ounces of blood is enough to cause hypovolemic shock and potentially death. That is about half of a small cup, an amount that might be missed in a diaper in the middle of the night, when the parents and baby are exhausted after a tiring birth and painful circumcision.

This is a basic econobum cover with a Flip insert holding 2.3 ounces of liquid.
It's a budget brand that many moms use. From this experiment, it is clear that
this insert could easily hold 4-5 times more than the critical amount of 2.3oz.
How many moms expect a cloth diaper to last at least 12 hours at night?
How much blood would a baby boy lose before anyone noticed?
How could a mom accurately decide on the amount soaked into the cloth?
Hemorrhage is another issue that matters more to those with MTHFR. For many people, MTHFR mutations are comorbid with clotting disorders. And these conditions could present either way, such as with too much or too little clotting, or other immune responses depending on the individual issue. Last year, Baby Brayden died after he experienced a clotting issue during his circumcision. He held on until his organs shut down. You can read his story here. He had an undiagnosed clotting disorder.

Before even thinking about the implications of the vitamin K shot and circumcision, start at birth. If the doctors prematurely clamped/cut the umbilical cord, this means your baby's blood supply has already been artificially reduced. Your baby might have already experienced hypoxia (deprivation of oxygen) while struggling to breathe after birth and having his blood supply compromised from the clamping.

So, think of the entire sequence of events here. A baby with MTHFR is born, doctors immediately clamp the cord, which reduces blood supply and deprives the baby of oxygen. Then the baby is given a shot of vitamin K, which interferes with an undiagnosed clotting condition. Then the baby is circumcised and begins to hemorrhage.

The issue of hemorrhage also returns us to the issue of cardiovascular events, as any blood loss will put a strain on the heart, potentially increasing the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, shock, or even cardiac arrest.

By the time doctors figure it all out after your baby begins to react, how much damage will have occurred?


For adults, when we choose surgery, we are able to choose from a variety of sedative methods, including full anesthesia. We also have a laundry list of pain medications to use for post-surgical pain management.

For babies, full sedation is almost always avoided as it is unsafe. Most circumcisions are performed without anesthetic. After the surgery, parents are told to use a common over the counter medication, Tylenol. 

This medication is hardly adequate for post-surgical pain relief (what was the last surgery you had as an adult where you only took small dosages of Tylenol?) More than that, however, acetaminophen is already connected to several concerning issues for those with MTHFR. Studies note that it is a big drain on the liver, even in normal dosages. It drains glutathione, a master antioxidant that your body creates by, you guessed it, the methyl cycle. A baby with MTHFR who has an impaired methyl cycle is already making less glutathione. To then undergo circumcision and be exposed to several days of Tylenol taxes his liver and immune system.

Acetaminophen is implicated in the development of mitochondrial disease, asthma, allergies, and even recently, scientists discovered this drug when given after vaccination impairs the vaccine effect in the body. (If you're curious about the tangent of acetaminophen, I have a blog post linked at the bottom for additional reading.)

Researchers are already beginning to see some patterns that cause them to question circumcision's role in damaging the brain, whether due to complications, underlying conditions, or incidental use of acetaminophen after surgery. When they looked at other countries with lower rates of circumcision, they found lower rates of autism and a different male to female ratio for autism diagnoses as an example.

In addition to the direct exposure to acetaminophen after circumcision surgery that might impair the brain and immune system of a baby with MTHFR, the baby might already be damaged from intrauterine exposure due to maternal intake of acetaminophen during pregnancy.

Pregnant women are generally discouraged from using other pain medications and are told that acetaminophen is the "safe" one for pregnancy. This is not really the case. In reality, acetaminophen remained a substance that had not been fully studied, and its consequences were not well known, so it looked better than the other options, which have studies showing harm.

Over time, this scientific ignorance has slowly changed and we now have growing evidence that acetaminophen exposure during pregnancy comes with risks. For those mothers who weren't warned in time, their babies with MTHFR might have additional underlying conditions or what you would call borderline situations due to prenatal exposure. Add newborn circumcision to the list and it could be enough to cause acute or permanent damage in the brain and liver.

Breastfeeding substitutes

For the baby with MTHFR, every introduction of artificial intervention is a potential risk more than to the average population. For example, people with MTHFR are unable to efficiently absorb and convert synthetic (lab created) vitamins. This is unfortunate, because our society uses synthetic vitamins in a variety of food groups such as all breads, store bought milks, orange juices....and baby formula.
The baby with MTHFR is also sensitive to gut injury, as it further impairs the ability to absorb nutrients, along with taxing the liver and glutathione production, inflaming the altered immune system. Formula, no matter how necessary and lifesaving, does come with the stark reality of changing the gut flora when introduced to babies.

How does this tie into circumcision? It is well known that circumcision surgery disrupts early breastfeeding attempts. Breastfeeding is a skill for the mother and baby, and takes time to establish for both people in the breastfeeding relationship. Circumcision surgery tends to occur soon after birth, when breastfeeding is in its early stage and vulnerable to interference.

Circumcision gives the baby a wound in an inconvenient area. It's already difficult for mothers to learn positioning techniques for their newborn. Attempting to also avoid bumping or jarring the painful genitals after surgery is harder. Inadequate pain relief from the tylenol along with side effects of of the drug and any other anesthetics/drugs used during the surgery might cause the infant to sleep too long between feedings, to cry inconsolably, and impair the ability to latch and suckle properly.

The infant might refuse to nurse and begin to lose weight. If blood loss occurred and a transfusion was required, the infant might experience high levels of jaundice. In cases of jaundice, the baby is often separated for long periods from the mother, again disrupting breastfeeding sessions. Often, the mother is encouraged to use formula for jaundice situations or she might begin to blame her supply and switch to formula instead.

All of this to say, a baby with MTHFR who is circumcised could then be at risk of losing his breast milk, which due to his genetic mutations, is a vital substance. Once he is switched to formula or formula supplementation, his gut flora will change within hours and his body will begin to experience issues with absorbing and using the synthetic vitamins in the formula. He might also have another common MTHFR issue: food intolerances/allergies, causing a reaction to the formula and more gut damage.

How many times can a parent roll the dice when it comes to mixing the complexity of a baby with MTHFR and environmental influences such as prenatal health with the direct reality of circumcision? If your baby has MTHFR or other polymorphisms, AVOID all medically unnecessary surgeries at all cost, which for baby boys means you must say NO to circumcision. If you are unsure if your baby has MTHFR, congenital heart defects, clotting disorders, gut damage, mito disorder, immune deficiencies or other conditions that are not routinely screened for after birth, say NO to circumcision and tell the doctors to screen your baby first!


Circumcision disrupts breastfeeding.

Does circumcision cause autism?

Newborns are stronger than adults.

Don't fear the fever, fear the fever reducer.

A big list of circumcision articles divided by subtopic

Modern Misfits

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Healing from Religious / Spiritual Abuse Resource List

Due to the punitive parenting and puritanism in our culture, many parents are finding that they need to heal from various kinds of abuse. Whether emotional, physical, academic, social, or as is often the case religious, abuse continues to influence us in many ways when we become parents. To truly connect with our children and to guide them respectfully and lovingly, we need to address our inner wounds, too.

Here are some resources that tend to focus on healing from religious and spiritual abuse:

Dulce de leche: A natural mama writes with a holistic, Christian context

L.R.Knost - Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources  (Check out her Jesus, the Gentle Parent book!)

Samuel Martin: Author and biblical researcher questions our cultural blinders

Why Not Train a Child?: This site has amassed resources from all over the web.

No Longer Qivering ‹(ô¿ô)›: A collection of stories from those who escaped

Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner: Sharing theologically correct info on gentle parenting

More 2 Life: Popcak's page, spanking opponent and author of the best selling Catholic parenting book

The Daily Catholic Crunch: A holistic and gentle parenting Catholic page

Stephanie Cox, Gentle Firmness: This amazing author writes on the real love of God and how to reflect that in our parenting.

Gentle Christian Mothers: One of the original areas for learning more about recovery

The Hippie Housewife: This blogger has written some eye opening articles on gentle parenting and the bible.

Thatmom: A homeschooling Christian with a different perspective

Parenting Freedom: This author has provided some of the best analysis on the web for this topic.

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A PTSD/recovery group.

Spiritual A collection of info on the topic

Spiritual Abuse Awareness: This site also has more resources

Spiritual Abuse Recovery: A great place for learning more and finding community

Pursuing Grace-based Living: A gentle parenting page

Recovering Grace: Healing from ATI/Gothard/QF practices

Related posts on the blog:

A quick post on the bible and spanking

Parable of the unforgiving parent

Religion and circumcision

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Block Island Organics Sunscreen Review and Giveaway

The sunscreen debate continues to rage on, but let's get realistic. Many parents still need to buy sunscreen for their children for a variety of reasons. Since the weather started to warm up, I've fielded questions daily about which sunscreen to buy, how to know what's safe, and how to balance sun exposure with sunscreen usage.

I've peered around the topic for a bit and here's what I've found:

Choose a mineral block sunscreen. Mineral blocks sit on top the skin, reflecting harmful sun rays away from the body, instead of being absorbed more rapidly into the body.

Choose zinc oxide over titanium dioxide. Both zinc and titanium are mineral blocks, but titanium has been classified as a potential carcinogenic substance and needs more study.

Avoid nano-particle ingredients. Nanotechnology is cool, but not when it comes to unnecessarily enhancing absorption of chemicals into the bodies of your developing children. A mineral block properly applied will work without this technology.

Avoid fragrances/parfum. Maybe sun-safe essential oils are fine, but be sure to avoid the chemical concoction of fake fragrances, which can cause reactions or discomfort.

Look for a brand that includes healing ingredients. Aloe vera, shea butter and the like can all be secondary supporters to moisturize and heal the body after sun exposure.

Still overwhelmed? When all else fails, turning to EWG's basic sunscreen rating guide can be a simple method to weed out the worst offenders.


Kelly over at Block Island Organics reached out to me to let me know about their line of sun care. They are a small business specifically offering non-nano mineral block. I was happy to review her product and happier to be able to recommend it to my friends. I was not compensated, and my opinion is mine alone.

The sunscreen retails for $24.99 for 6fl oz in a squeeze-dispense bottle. For comparison, the 6fl oz bottle of California Baby sunscreen is $39.99 at

The active ingredient is zinc oxide, non-nano version. It's water resistant for 40 minutes. It was smooth and simple to apply. As with most mineral blocks, especially the safer ones, it won't fully "melt" into the skin and will show some white streaking on the body.

Did it work? Absolutely. I specifically globbed some onto the right leg of my baby. You could clearly see a wiggly tan line on his calf after our time spent at the park in morning sun. I loved that it was fragrance free because our whole family is pretty intolerant of those chemical scents.


This week only, readers can use code guggie on the Block Island Organics website to save 20% off their order. Buy here:


I am also offering a bottle to one lucky winner through a rafflecopter giveaway. Follow the prompt below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What my belly looks like 9 months after birth

Here are some belly pics showing how my body looks roughly 9 months after pregnancy. This is my fourth pregnancy. I do not count calories or restrict servings. I've done some basic exercise to close a diastasis recti and started a 25 minute routine exercise program last month.


What have I done for my belly?

In the immediate post-partum healing period (roughly birth to 6 weeks) I wear a belly binder. You can be simple or complex when it comes to binding. I just bought the cheap binder at Motherhood Maternity and used it really well for 2 weeks after my births, then sporadically after that.

If you have an unresolved Diastasis Recti (a gap running down your abdomen due to pregnancy) then I recommend learning about lifestyle, position, and exercise changes that will support closing the gap before you develop increased issues such as hernias.

This book provides some basic lifestyle suggestions and easy to follow exercises. (Or in other words, positional movements, not like breathless, heart thumping, exercise at the gym.)

If you have a severe gap or one that won't close, you probably are also dealing with undiagnosed pelvic instability and other core issues. This book is amazing, I promise. I try to tell everyone to read it if they have pelvic issues. Incidentally, more on managing back pain here.

Other female issues can arise along with the belly and pelvis. Uterine prolapse and bladder and rectum traumas or prolapses can occur. Before you pump out thousands of kegels, please, please, PLEASE learn all that you can from this pioneering woman. You don't know squat.

What about wrapping?

It sounds popular and maybe even fun. I'm not going to tell people what luxury to cut out of their lives. But, I would caution against using these wraps if you suspect you have a toxin accumulation or other excretion system imbalance. (By that, I mean problems with your liver, kidneys, colon, skin, immune system...). Especially if breastfeeding, you might mobilize or trigger something and dump into your milk. A lot of the wrap companies seem to greenwash, using terms that sound healthy, but a quick look at the ingredients show otherwise. Again. I'm sitting here eating chocolate covered pineapple chunks from Costco. Not trying to rain on parades. I just find myself a bit cautious and skeptical when it comes to wrapping so I don't endorse it.

What about other natural options?

I once researched and learned that the homeopathic remedy graphites was supposed to help with the appearance of stretch marks. I have 3 bottles in my cabinet right now. I can't ever remember to take them, so I have nothing to report.

The essential oils frankincense, helicrysum, melissa, and cypress might all assist with skin trauma. Those mamas like me who experienced severe and immediate skin trauma might want to research Ehler-danlos Syndrome and MTHFR.

Monday, July 14, 2014

'Brit Shalom' Book Coming to Jewish Families Near You

'Brit Shalom' Book Coming to Jewish Families Near You

Kickstarter campaign launches for first-ever book on “bris shalom”
Brit Shalom, a New Jewish Way to Welcome Baby
Brit Shalom, a New Jewish Way to Welcome Baby

Lisa Braver Moss and Rebecca Wald, both known for their writings questioning Jewish circumcision, have launched a 45-day Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the completion of a book to serve Jewish families who decide not to circumcise. They are hoping to raise $8,200 to complete the project with their campaign, which begins today.

The book will offer a choice of several original “brit shalom” ceremonies, along with tips and advice on holding the service and navigating family dynamics. Brit shalom (Hebrew for “covenant of peace”) is gaining traction as an alternative to brit milah, the traditional circumcision service held on a Jewish boy’s eighth day of life.

“Young Jewish parents are really engaged in the circumcision debate,” says Wald. “Some are opting out of the rite, but they still want to bring their newborn sons into the Abrahamic covenant.” Wald is the publisher of Beyond the Bris, a website that brings together Jewish voices that question brit milah. “Typically, a ceremony is put together on the fly. We wanted to provide well-researched and Jewishly respectful materials for this emerging ritual.”

“Currently there’s no book about brit shalom,” says Moss, a novelist and nonfiction writer who has been interviewing congregational rabbis while writing the book. She’s found that non-circumcising families are welcome in many synagogues, and rabbis are often willing to officiate at a brit shalom. “The Jewish community gains vitality by including these families,” she says.

One distinctive feature of the project is that an album of songs is being composed and professionally recorded. The songs are being produced by renowned performer Jason Paige, who recently wrapped up a tour as lead singer of the touring band Blood, Sweat and Tears. The songs will accompany the ceremonies, and will be available for parents and rabbis to download.

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform for creative projects.

For more information on the book project please visit and the Celebrating Brit Shalom Kickstarter campaign.

Lisa Braver Moss

Lisa Braver Moss is a writer specializing in family issues, health, Judaism and humor. Her essays have appeared in such places as The Huffington Post, Tikkun, Parents and The San Francisco Chronicle. She is the author of The Measure of His Grief (Notim Press, 2010), the first novel ever written about the circumcision controversy. Lisa's nonfiction book credits include Celebrating Family: Our Lifelong Bonds with Parents and Siblings (Wildcat Canyon Press, 1999).

Rebecca Wald

Rebecca Wald is the publisher of Beyond the Bris, a news and opinion website about the Jewish movement to question infant circumcision. Beyond the Bris has received widespread attention, and has been written about in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Village Voice, Tikkun, The Jewish Daily Forward, Haaretz, and The Times of Israel, among others. Rebecca is a graduate of The George Washington University and of Brooklyn Law School.

200 Jewish Leaders Will Bless Intact Jewish Boys

200 Jewish Leaders Will Bless Intact Jewish Boys

Many Jewish Leaders, Mostly Rabbis and Cantors, will lead ‘Brit Shalom’ Covenant Rituals for Intact Jewish Boys

The movement to name newborn Jewish boys without the surgery of circumcision has reached a milestone—200 celebrants (officiants) are available to perform the ceremony. More than 120 of these are rabbis.

Called brit shalom (Hebrew for covenant of peace), this alternative naming ceremony may correspond in most ways with traditional brit milah, except that there is no cutting of the baby.

"They're especially happy ceremonies, for that reason," says Mark Reiss, M.D.

For 14 years, Dr. Reiss, of San Francisco, has been recruiting celebrants of brit shalom for his 
web page. He estimates that 300-500 boys are welcomed into their U.S. Jewish communities with brit shalom ceremonies every year. Most U.S. states, several Canadian provinces, and other countries are represented on the list. Twelve of the celebrants are in Israel.

"The celebrants include rabbis, cantors and other lay leaders, who need not reject circumcision themselves, but want to accommodate parents who do. New celebrants are always welcome," says Dr. Reiss. 

Jewish parents including Natalie BivinsMoshe RothenbergDiane TargovnikMichael S. KimmelSara Rockwell and Shawn Stark have published their experiences holding a Bris Shalom and raising intact Jewish sons.

Those who wish to contact Dr. Reiss to add their name to the list of celebrants, or to learn more about brit shalom, may do so by phone (415) 647-2687 or by email at mdreissmd [at]

Links related to Judaism and Intactivism
Israeli Intactivist Groups (Mostly in Hebrew)The Israeli Association Against Circumcision / Intact Son
Protect the Child
Kahal (Group for Israeli Parents of Intact Sons)

Jewish Intactivist Resources and Groups
Cut: A Movie by a Jewish Intactivist.
Jews Against Circumcision
Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective By Ron Goldman, Ph.D.
Beyond the Bris by Rebecca Wald. (A Jewish Intactivist Weblog.)

Jewish Intactivist Families: Jewish Parents' Experiences Keeping their Sons Intact. Following Our Hearts: A Jewish Father's Brit Shalom Journey 
Laura Shanley: A Jewish Woman Denounces Circumcision
Moshe Rothenberg: Ending Circumcision in the Jewish Community?
Outlawing Circumcision: Good for the Jews? By Eli Ungar-Sargon. Published in the Jewish Daily Forward.
Dear Elijah: A Conservative Jewish Father's Letter to His Intact Son | Published on Peaceful Parenting.
Stacey Greenberg: My Son: The Little Jew with a Foreskin | Published in Mothering Magazine.
Michael Kimmel: The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son's Foreskin | Published in Tikkun.
Circumcision Questions (letter from an intact Jew). | Published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin.

Peaceful Covenant Texts for Jewish Parents.
What is a Jewish Brit Shalom (Covenant Without Cutting)? A 'Bloodless Bris' is Becoming Popular Among American Jews
HowJudaic is the circumcision?
 An Israeli Hebrew scholar on Biblical intactivism.
100+ Rabbis who lead covenant without cutting ceremonies worldwide.
Brit B'lee Milah Ceremony
A Brit Shalom Ceremony
Song for an Intact Jewish Boy’s Welcoming.

Judaism, the Foreskin and Human Rights.
Rabbis on a Covenant without Circumcision
Humanistic Judaism is Increasingly Intactivist
Jewish Understanding, the Foreskin, & Human Rights | Part 1.
Jewish Understanding, the Foreskin, & Human Rights | Part 2.
Jewish Understanding, the Foreskin, & Human Rights | Part 3.