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I Was Poisoned By Mercury: The Silent Heavy Metal Pandemic That Could Be Affecting You

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*EDIT (September 5th 2018): In my original post I recommended following the Medical Medium Protocol for heavy metal detox. After careful and extensive research I no longer support using cilantro and spirulina for people who are mercury toxic. The reason being has to due with redistribution of mercury and the dangerous physical and psychological effects that can take place as a result. I am currently trying to Andy Cutler Chelation protocol and will give a proper update in the future. 

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I was six years old when my mouth first became a well of metallic poison.

I remember the screech of the drill as it carved into my lower molar. My hands clutched the arms of a reclining blue chair while my mother sat beside me in distress. I started crying and my dentist told me to be quiet, that it would all be over before I knew it—not the friendliest way to deal with a traumatized child— and afterwards I remember my mother saying that we’d never go back to him again.

I was relieved that I’d escaped the “pain monster” as I had deemed him, but the irony was that, little to my mother or I’s knowing then, the real monster had just taken root in my mouth, one that would soon wage a gradual, life-long war against my sanity.

Eventually I would discover the culprit of my mystery conditions (my depression, anxiety, brain fog, irritability, ADD)—a poisonous metal alloy cleverly guised under the name, “amalgam,” hiding in the shadowed craters of my mouth. But I wouldn’t discover the culprit before four other teeth were filled, and not before suffering for over two more decades.

I was poisoned by mercury, and I learned I’m not alone.

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Mercury and heavy metal toxicity is a silent pandemic that has found it’s way down through generations and generations of unlucky victims.

The problem with heavy metal toxicity is that it wrecks havoc on your system slowly. Over the years you experience various unpleasant symptoms such as allergies, memory and concentration problems, fatigue, depression, anxiety, digestion problems, mood disorders, etc., and while all of these symptoms are inconvenient, in the beginning they are not typically bad enough to seek outside assistance. Instead these symptoms fester and repeat day after day until you eventually accept the way you feel as normal.

And even if you were to go to the doctor, it would be extremely rare for any doctor to know that your symptoms are related to the fillings in your mouth or the seafood you eat every day. Heavy metal poisoning just isn’t talked about in the way that it should be, especially by the medical community who still hold onto the notion that mercury fillings are “safe and effective.”

A life plagued by mystery symptoms

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when my mercury symptoms began. That’s one of the problems with mercury toxicity, its effects are so damaging and varying that any physical or emotional symptom you experience could be related to the mercury. Looking back on my life I wonder how many of my emotional and cognitive struggles were due to the metal poisons seeping into my system.

Throughout my teenage years I remember constantly feeling fearful and depressed. I also found it difficult to retain and understand what I read in books. As I moved into adulthood I found it more and more difficult to concentrate on my school work. Studying in college was a game of torture. I would read over something I was trying to memorize and feel like the information was just vanishing out of my mind. Anytime I would try and read my textbooks my eyes would jump all over the page in a scrambled mess making it difficult to fully understand what I was reading.

Mercury and other heavy metals accumulate all throughout the body.

These cognitive challenges got worse after college. I got a writing job at a media company, which was my dream job in many ways, but every time I sat down to write an article I would have to fight my brain to stop jumping from one internet tab to the next. My productivity suffered immensely, and eventually I accepted that I was just one of those millennials plagued with technology-induced ADD.

My brain fog got worse over the years, as did my ADD, eventually sabotaging my life-long dream to write a novel. During this period of my life I moved through bouts of depression on a weekly basis. I felt like I was slipping deeper and deeper into a dark vortex that I couldn’t escape from. I was constantly irritable with my partner, and began losing motivation for most things in my life. The way I described it to others was that it was as if I was living with a cloud over my head while I watched others around me laugh and experience joy. All I wanted was to be able to experience those states of joy as well, yet I had no idea why I couldn’t.

For decades I had no idea my brain was under siege by mercury.

The same year I began experiencing pain in my joints which I likened to early-onset arthritis. I remember trying to get up from the couch and my hips and legs completely locking up for half-an-hour. I started experiencing constant injuries at the gym as if my bones had become brittle.

I wanted out of this mystery-symptom prison. I tried various modalities of healing, such as plant medicine retreats, sound healing, coaching, eating “healthy”, energy medicine, you name it. These only helped for a period of time before I would slip back into my depressive fog.

Medical Medium shines a light on my health issues

Soon my prayers for answers were granted when a friend of mine leant me a book called, “The Medical Medium.” In the book, the author (named Anthony Williams) tells his life story about how at a young age he started hearing a voice from a spirit who called itself the “Spirit of Compassion.” This spirit granted Anthony the ability to scan anyone near him and provide highly accurate information about their state of health. After helping thousands of people miraculously heal their mystery illnesses, Williams eventually compiled his knowledge in a book which called out the root cause of ‘chronic’ diseases such as Lupus, MS, Chronic Fatigue, ADD, and more.

Williams explained how there are four main factors contributing to most diseases today. He called them the “Unforgiving Four,” and they are: Viruses, DDT, radiation, and heavy metals.

All of this information struck a big chord in me. I quickly read through the book and stopped on the heavy metal section. Here Williams described how heavy metals accumulate throughout the body, mainly in the brain, causing a slew of neurological symptoms. As he listed them my body froze: ADHD, ADD, autism, depression, OCD, mood disorders, Alzheimer’s, focus, autoimmune diseases, allergies, food intolerances, gut dysbiosis, hormone imbalances, infertility, concentration and memory loss issues, and much more.

He then went on to reveal the main causes of heavy metal accumulation in the body. Seafood and vaccines were high up on the list. But the most devastating source? Mercury (Amalgam) fillings.

At this point I had a horrible feeling rising in my gut. I knew I was getting closer to the truth, so I typed ‘heavy metal toxicity’ into Google and discovered volumes of people’s real-life horror stories.

Mercury poisoning causes people to literally go ‘mad.’ For that reason many people call it “mercury madness.” Mercury and other heavy metals short circuit our neurotransmitters and cause a wide range of neurological issues such as depression, ADHD/ADD, anxiety, mood disorders, and the list goes on.

Some coined what they experienced as “mercury madness,” and in most cases the stories of what people went through were far worse than what I experienced.

Some people were pushed to the brink of insanity due to their mercury poisoning. What began as gradual physical and psychological symptoms eventually escalated into a complete psychosis, to the point that many lost their jobs, marriages, and everything else important to them.

Some people reported spending hundreds of thousands of dollars hopping from specialist to specialist, trying to understand why they were so sick but only to feel as if they were losing their minds because no one had answers for them. But just when all hope was lost, somehow an angel on their shoulder would whisper the words “heavy metals,” leading them in the last minute to discover the unsuspecting culprit to their sickness.

I thought back to all of my dental procedures as a child and the truth hit me like a fist in the gut. All these years I was being poisoned by the metal fillings in my mouth. All these years my quality of life was being disrupted, my happiness compromised, by mercury. This realization opened Pandora’s box as I began a deep dive into the history and damaging effects of mercury and other heavy metals.

Mercury passed down from generation to generation

As Anthony Williams the Medical Medium states, our exposure to mercury and other heavy metals began long before we were even born. Heavy metals are passed down the family line from our mothers and can be thousands of years old.

In the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, doctors would prescribe patients mercury elixirs which caused horrible side-effects. Many people went insane because of it. The worst part is that mercury and other heavy metals are passed down from mother to child and can stay in family lines for over a thousand years; many of us are still dealing with the impact of our ancestor’s mass poisoning today.

Anthony states that the older metals are the most dangerous because each succeeding generation becomes more intolerant to their oxidizing effects. This oxidation of the surrounding tissues causes inflammation, inflicting damage on virtually every system and organ, including our brain, liver, digestive system, and other parts of our nervous system. These metals also put an immense burden on our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to a variety of illnesses.

One of the most insidious ways that heavy metals made their way into our bodies happened during the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. Doctors would give mercury elixirs to patients suffering from anything as mild as a stomach ache to something more severe such as a broken leg. The effects were devastating, with many patients losing their families, their jobs, and their sanity. Today we are still suffering from the impact of our ancestor’s mass poisoning.

Mercury exposure today

The two primary sources of mercury exposure today are dental amalgams (mercury-based fillings) and seafood consumption, followed by thimerosal-containing vaccines and mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants.

Dental amalgams are comprised of 50 percent elemental mercury. This form of mercury evaporates from the surface of the amalgam and is inhaled, absorbed into the blood, and then converted to inorganic mercury, the most toxic form of mercury to cells. Inorganic mercury builds up far more in your organs of elimination — it’s 100 times as high in your kidneys and liver than in your brain. But when it does make its way into your brain, it’s far more damaging than any other form.

Below is a chart showcasing other sources of mercury and heavy metal exposure:

        * Amalgams (silver mercury fillings) * Vaccines, flu shots
        * Contaminated fish (especially tuna, shark, swordfish) * Tattoo dyes
        * Lipstick, cosmetics, personal care products * Paint, plastics and enamels
        * Many Rx and OTC drugs including antacids * Baby formula and breast milk
        * Foods sprayed with fertilizers, pesticides & glyphosate * Some protein powders
        * Industrial exposure from coal burning * The water supply
        * Household cleaning products * HFCS and processed foods
        * Foods cooked in aluminum cookware, aluminum foil * Some chocolates (high in lead)
        * Metal stints inserted in a surgical procedure * Dust, exhaust and air pollution
        * Non-organic foods, GMO foods * Hair dyes
        * Grains, baked goods, candy, soda, beer, wine * Heavy alcohol consumption
        * Copper IUD * Cigarettes, e-cigarettes
        * Costume jewelry, batteries, ceramics * Electronics, lamps & light bulbs

 

Mercury binds to important trance minerals in our body

Mercury’s toxicity stems from its affinity for binding to other molecules in our body. Sulfur groups and their reduced forms known as ‘thiols’ are particularly under siege from mercury. Some important thiols in our body include cysteine and the super-antioxidant glutathione.

Mercury also binds to important trace minerals in our body such as zinc; this causes a depletion of nutrients crucial for proper cellular function. As the mercury leeches to available nutrients in the body, the body must then take important minerals from our own stores (such as our bones) to try and maintain homeostasis.

This is why most people suffering from mercury or heavy metal poisoning are severely malnourished.

The brain and digestive tract under siege

In his article, Revised Protocol for Detoxifying Your Body from Mercury Exposure , Dr. Mercola explains the damaging effects of what happens when mercury enters our system:

“Mercury vapour emitted from amalgams passes readily through our cell membranes, across our blood-brain barrier, and into our central nervous system where it causes immunological, neurological, and psychological distress.

Mercury destroys the cells in our gut, and since the gut is the frontline of our immune system, mercury toxicity almost always leads to digestive issues and autoimmune disorders.

At the same time, mercury is leaching into our saliva and being swallowed, making its way down our digestive tract where it causes inflammation and damages our immune system — because the frontline of our immune system is in our gut. 

Additionally, mercury shuts off the ability of our liver and kidneys to move mercury into our gut for elimination. So, if you have amalgams in your mouth, you are bathing your digestive tract and your brain in mercury every day, poisoning your brain while at the same time blocking its route out of the body.”

For this reason detoxing mercury and heavy metals is a long, sensitive and strategic process. Committing to a complete heavy metal detox will never be a quick fix solution. It is a lifestyle change in its entirety. It requires cleaning out our eliminative pathways, nourishing our body with raw, whole foods, and gently chelating the metals from your body over a long period of time. Later in this article I share my recommended protocol for the safe and effective removal of heavy metals from your system.

Detoxing mercury: How I learned the hard way

Heavy metal toxicity is not to be taken lightly. These elements are powerful antagonists which during their removal can cause more damage than good if the proper protocols aren’t followed.

I learned this the hard way.

Once I had read other people’s stories and knew that mercury fillings were the root cause of my suffering, I immediately found a holistic dentist to have them taken out. I had five fillings taken out within a month and half (which I would recommend doing slower), and soon after I jumped into a chelation protocol. It was a big mistake to rush the process, because immediately after I experienced a detox crisis that rocked my world.

Detoxing heavy metals can be dangerous is not done carefully. I learned this the hard way when I tried a chelating supplement after my amalgams were removed. I experienced a detox crisis that rocked my world. I was ridden with anxiety, depression, and insomnia for a few weeks after. In the end it was a humbling experience which taught me not to underestimate the heavy metal detox process. 

I tried taking a few supplements recommended by others called DMSA and alpha-lipoic acid, both of which are manmade supplements known for their powerful chelating abilities. These were recommended by those following the Andy Cutler protocol. Andy Cutler was a chemist who suffered from mercury poisoning and who went on to study mercury extensively and developed a chemical chelation protocol which he called “frequent-low-dose chelation.”  I went about the process incorrectly and had a terrible reaction.

Severe brain fog, headaches, anxiety, insomnia—these were the symptoms that hit me over the head when I tried chelating mercury without a plan. I remember thinking how strange I felt during this period, like someone had taken over my body and mind. Soon after I fell into a terrible spiral in which I felt too depressed and unmotivated to try and help myself.

A few days later I was able to regain my bearings, but it was a humbling experience to say the least. After moving through my first acute mercury crisis I recognized that removing this ancient poison from my body was going to be a long process that required a deeper and more strategic commitment to my health.

The complete guide to detoxing mercury & other heavy metals

Step 1: Cleanse to open your eliminative pathways

Luckily for me, right around the time I had my amalgams taken out I had already been detoxing my body for about a month and a half.

I had just began my journey with the Mucusless Diet Healing System, a way of living that involves periods of fasting while eating primarily raw fruits and vegetables, as well as having regular enemas. (You can read more about the Mucusless Diet Healing System in my articles HERE and HERE.)

Before mercury detox can begin it’s imperative that you prepare the body through deep cellular cleansing. This should be done for at least a few months before getting your amalgam fillings removed. A diet high in fruit and raw vegetables is essential to open up your eliminative pathways. You will also want to eliminate all animal products as they will only further clog your eliminative organs.

So in short I had already begun the work of opening my eliminative pathways, especially my kidneys, liver, and colon, but even with having nearly two months of dedicated detox under my belt my body still struggled to remove the mercury without experiencing unpleasant symptoms.

This brings me to my first point.

Before anyone is to have their amalgams taken out, it is crucial that they do the work to prepare the body for the process. Mercury is insidiously toxic to our organs and cells. If we are already running with a toxic and overburdened system, then our body will not be able to safely pass these metals through our various eliminative channels. Instead they get stuck in places like our brain, liver, kidneys, and gut, where they will damage these organs and potentially make you very sick (and also crazy).

So the first order of business is to clean out your body.

For me, there is no better system of detoxification and regeneration than the Mucusless Diet Healing System. This system returns us to eating in the way our body was designed to consume food.

Seafood is one of the highest contamination sources of mercury today. The reason being is that mercury released from industrial processes or mercury circulating through our water supply finds its way into the ocean food chain, starting with plankton and working its way up to larger fish like tuna and swordfish.

It cleans out your eliminative channels, all the way down to the cellular level, and restores you back to a level of vitality and vibrancy you only experienced as a child. This lifestyle will quickly prepare your body for the safe removal of mercury and other toxins. Additionally, during this initial cleansing process you will naturally begin chelating heavy metals in your system, the only difference being that your body is doing it at a much slower and controlled pace.

It’s imperative to stop eating contaminated seafood in this period of cleansing as well. Larger fish such as tuna and swordfish are notoriously known to contain high levels of mercury and other heavy metals. The amalgam fillings need to be dealt with strategically, but cutting out seafood is a step that you can take right away.

I recommend being on a deep cleansing protocol (involving minimal to no animal products, high amounts of raw fruits and vegetables, regular enemas, and periods of dry fasting) for at least two to three months before getting your amalgam fillings removed. This will ensure your organs are ready to handle the toxic load that is inevitably released during the process.

If you are interested in learning more about living Mucus-Free or would like support in making this lifestyle change, email me at info@jeffrobertswrites.com.

Step 2: Remove the source of your heavy metal toxicity

Once you’ve prepared the body by cleaning up your diet and removing obstruction in your organs, the next imperative step is to have your amalgam fillings removed.

Amalgam removal must be done by a trained dentist. It requires special equipment to ensure the patient is exposed to the least amount of mercury as possible. I worked with a holistic dentist to have all five of my fillings removed and I was thankful to be in good hands. Even the smallest vapour of mercury can have detrimental effects on our system.

This should be done by a dentist experienced in amalgam removal. The process requires things like special suction equipment, an oxygen mask, and a cotton/rubber damn setup, all of which ensure the least amount of mercury exposure as possible.

As a side note, it’s also important that your dentist does a full set of dental x-rays to ensure there is no amalgam hidden underneath crowns or other fillings. Trying to chelate mercury from your body while still having amalgam fillings is only a way to torture yourself.

The day before and after your amalgams are to be removed, increase your fat intake by eating foods like avocado, tahini, brazil nuts, etc., as this will help bind excess mercury being released during the procedure.

Furthermore, consuming a special toxin binder is an absolute must during the amalgam removal process. My favourite toxin binder is from the Master Fast System. It’s composed of activated charcoal, psyllium husk, bentonite clay, and some water or grape juice to mix. This plasma pudding sucks up toxins as it moves through your GI tract and will help unpleasant symptoms (headaches, mood swings, brain fog) brought on by the dislodged metals.

I recommend taking the pudding a few times a day around the time of your amalgam removal and then once in the evenings from there on out.

Step 3: Chelation and the ongoing detox process

Once your amalgams have been safely removed, give your body a grace period to deal with any mercury that may have been dislodged during the procedure.

Even a skilled dentist can’t prevent mercury from entering your system during the amalgam removal. Remember that mercury is toxic in extremely minute amounts, even a micro-vapour can cause substantial damage to the surrounding tissues. I recommend waiting at least 3 months while practicing the Mucus-Free diet before beginning the more direct chelation protocol. Avoid being too eager and jumping into chelation right away, I did this and experienced serious physical and psychological consequences.

Once your grace period is over and you’ve given the body time to naturally chelate any excess metals, then it’s time to dive into a more focused chelation protocol.

The Andy Cutler Chelation Protocol: 

After extensive research I’ve concluded that the Andy Cutler low-dose-frequent-chelation protocol (ACC method) is the most effective method for safely removing mercury from the body. Developed by Dr. Andy Cutler, a PhD. chemist, the process makes use of a powerful group of binding agents known as alpha-lipoic-acid (ALA), dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA), and 2,3-Dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid (DMPS). These binding agents pull mercury out from hard to reach places such as our fatty organ tissues (liver, kidneys, brain, spleen, etc.) and move them to our various excretory pathways (colon, kidneys, skin) to be eliminated.

I normally would not recommend chemical supplements, however, mercury is an extremely toxic substance that requires special measures. Using chelators like cilantro and spirulina can cause mercury to be picked up and then dropped again which can lead to serious physical and psychological reactions. I experienced this myself and nearly went insane with crippling anxiety, depression, and brain fog.

Although the ACC method is a bit more complex and individualized for each person, the method can be summed up as follows:

  • After your amalgams have been safely removed, you can begin chelating immediately with either DMSA or DMPS only. ALA can only start being taken 3 months after amalgam removal, and is the only chelating agent that will cross the blood brain barrier and pull mercury out of the brain.
  • Chelation is done in rounds. Each round is a minimum of 3 days/3 nights. Rounds can be extended to your personal preference (4-7 days), however, chelating mercury is very taxing on the adrenal glands and shorter rounds have been found to be less taxing.
  • You must the take breaks between rounds to recover the body’s energy reserves. The length of break is equal to the number of days you were on round. (i.e., 3 days on, 3 days off.)
  • Doses are taken every 3 hours for ALA (this includes at night), every 4 hours for DMSA, and every 8 hours for DMPS. If you miss a dose you must stop the round and wait to begin a new round. This must be followed due to the half-lives of these chelating agents.
  • When beginning chelation, start with a very low dose to see how you respond to the chelating agents. The recommended starting dosage is about 5mg for each chelating agent. If you don’t react negatively and you don’t feel taxed by the end of the round, up your dosage by 50% and repeat the process.
  • Supplements are also needed (vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, adrenal glandular herbs and extracts) to support the body during chelation.
  • The goal is to get to taking high levels of ALA (200mg+) without any chelation symptoms for a number of months.

This only a summary of the process. To learn more and to ask questions to those who have gone through this process fully, I would highly recommend joining the Andy Cutler Chelation: Safe Mercury and Heavy Metal Detox group on Facebook. This is a group of nearly 50,000 members, people who have successfully chelated mercury from their body and people are who are going through the chelation process currently.

The ACC method takes patience and determination. Depending on your level of toxicity it may take several years before your body is fully ridden of mercury. But there are thousands of people who have found their only success in this protocol, people who were completely bed ridden and near the point of suicide.

From my research and experience there is no other safe way to get mercury out of the body. It must be done slowly, consistently and in small amounts using the proper chelating agents while taking into consideration their half-lives.

Additional detox tools

I also recommend lemon enemas once a day for the first month of chelation. Lemon enemas strip toxins from the colon wall and help maintain regular bowel movements during detox.

Our colon is one of the primary pathways through which heavy metals eliminate, so if we aren’t having regular bowel movements, the toxins sit in the gut and recirculate through our blood. It may sound intimidating to do enemas regularly but I can attest that once you find your groove you will love them. They are an important tool to use during any detox period.

Tinctures offer glandular and organ support during detox. They will take your detox to an entirely new level.

Next on your ally list are tinctures. Herbal tinctures offer support for our organs during detox. Once we open Pandora’s box, toxins begin flooding our system and our organs can take a beating if it’s all happening too quickly.

Herbs purify our blood and lymph, and they support our various endocrine glands as well as our nervous system. I personally recommend Dr. Morse’s tinctures, especially the tinctures for liver support, kidney support, adrenal support, lymphatic support, and the brain and nervous system. He also carries a heavy metal detox tincture that can be used to dive deeper into the chelation process.

Remember that mercury and other heavy metals are buried all throughout the body, not just in the mouth. Over decades of exposure these heavy metals leech into our brain tissue, our gut, our bones, organs, hair, etc. Once we remove the primary source of mercury and heavy metal exposure, our body begins pulling the metals hidden in our deep tissues.

Breaking your fast with a juice gets your lymph fluid moving and opens up your eliminative channels for the day.

Breaking your morning fasts with a green juice or citrus juice is also a great way to open your detox pathways for the day. I usually do a citrus juice that includes grapefruit, orange, and lemon, which is amazing for moving the lymph and cleansing the liver and kidneys. Citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C which increases glutathione production. Glutathione is the master antioxidant; it protects the body from oxidation by binding to heavy metals. My green juices will usually include celery, lemon, cilantro and pineapple, all of which are amazing chelation allies.

Another important component to chelation is sweating. Our skin is another major eliminative pathway for heavy metals, so ensuring that we are sweating regularly will help speed up the healing process. Hot yoga, saunas (infrared or traditional), running, and rebounding are great ways to get your sweat on.

I’ve been applying all of these principles and protocols for the last three months and I’m feeling better everyday. One of the biggest factors to accept about this process is that there is no quick fix; you have to walk through the fire one step at a time and allow the body to purge its toxicity at a safe pace.

So for this reason and so much more, detoxification has become a way of life for me, and so much more than the physical aspects has unfolded since taking this journey. You can read more about this in my article, 5 Ways Your Life Transforms When You Go Mucus-Free.

Detoxing is an opportunity to heal your body in its entirety

All of what I’ve written about might seem like a lot to take in at once. You might be thinking, “I just want to get rid of the heavy metals, isn’t there an easier way?”

Again, from my experience there isn’t a better method I’ve discovered as of yet (you let me know if you have.)

Using the Living Mucus Free protocols combined with the Andy Cutler safe chelation method is the most powerful way to chelate while supporting the entire body.

The key is to treat the body as a whole during this process. Detoxification isn’t just going in with an ice pick and hacking away at one specific poison.

Detoxification involves a complete preparation of mind, body and spirit for the birth of a new you. It is a regeneration on a cellular level.

I speak for nearly every person on the planet when I say that we are a degenerate species. We’ve stepped so far away from nature that our cells have mutated, our organs have become obstructed, our nervous system weakened to the point that we no longer have the capacity to detox in the way we were designed to detox environmental poisons. For this reason we can’t expect to remove these heavy metals without addressing all aspects of our health at the same time. Cellular detoxification, the process which I’ve outlined in this article, is the only foundation for true healing in my opinion.

I always say, if you aren’t ready to make the changes necessary to heal your body, then you haven’t suffered enough. You haven’t suffered enough to let go of the things that are causing you pain and suffering, otherwise you would take the leap.

Many of us are attached to our disease label or story; it’s become a part of our identity to the point that we don’t want to let go of it. If this is where you are, honour your choice and know that you will be ready eventually. But if you are ready to let go of your suffering once and for all and experience new heights of living, then get ready for the joy and bliss you’ve been waiting for your whole life.

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Awareness

The Foreskin: Why Is It Such A Secret In North America?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    This article is published with permission of Greenmedinfo LLC. Written by Spoony Quine.

  • Reflect On:

    The male prepuce, or foreskin, is a highly mobile and extraordinarily sensitive double fold of tissue that is the end of the penis. Why do Americans go out of their way to remove this part of human anatomy, when the rest of the world does not?

Original post at Greenmed, obtained from MadScienceWriter, posted here with permission. 

Note: Never have I gotten so many comments and emails in response to a blog post, much less rumors that I’m a man. I’ll keep that in mind. And for the record, it wasn’t until 2014 that I had the opportunity to put a man’s intact penis in my very much female vagina. This frictionless appendage made me realize that sex doesn’t have to be painful or cause hazardous inflammation. And with that image in your mind…

I was nineteen or twenty years old when a male friend of mine, we’ll call him Bill, let me in on a most shocking fact: He was missing part of his penis, and so were almost all boys and men that I had ever seen in my entire life, as well as all the anatomical diagrams that I had ever seen. Ever.

Sure, I had heard of circumcision as a Jewish religious practice, but thought myself unlikely to ever see its results. Little did I know, all the male genitalia I had seen both in real life and as depicted in American anatomy books, had been edited in exactly the same way.  The shock from this revelation overwhelmed me for weeks, especially since I considered myself to be fairly knowledgeable about anatomy. (My interests included biology and drawing biological structures).

Why would anyone selectively remove foreskins, not just from real people but from scientific anatomical texts, which I had thought were meant to represent the natural human form? And why did no one ever tell me about this? It was as though a basic feature that males (of all mammals) are normally born with was not to be understood or even acknowledged.

I spent the next few weeks at the local library, immersing myself in primary and secondary source materials on the relevant anatomy, medicine and history, before I was satisfied that I had an accurate understanding of what was going on. To summarize what I had found:

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  • The foreskin (or prepuce) is a man’s most sensitive erogenous zone, more well-developed in humans than in other species of mammal. It has unique sexual functions (more on that later), which circumcision effectively destroys — and this is intentional:
  • Although foreskin-chopping was once a purely religious or cultural practice, it was introduced to American medicine in the late 1800s, as a ‘cure-all’, thanks to the trend of pathologizing (treating as illness) normal human sexuality and healthy genitalia.

At the time, many doctors believed that sexual stimulation and ejaculation literally drained men of their vitality and caused all manner of illnesses and mental problems. Semen was thought to take a lot of blood to make, and losing one ounce was considered the equivalent of losing a quart of blood.  Painfully severing the man or boy’s most erogenous zone was recommended, and in orphanages, it was more common to sever the penile nerve as well. This was meant to traumatize and discourage him from masturbating, lest his health deteriorate from excessive ejaculations (which was diagnosed as “spermatorrhea”).

Yes, really.

There were many quack remedies in the 1800s to improve men’s virility and erections, and to keep them from losing semen via masturbating and nocturnal emissions. This was not considered a contradiction because a man’s purpose was thought to be saving his sperm for making babies.

This may be a shock to some, although my readers may be more familiar with the ancient belief that women suffered from a vague illness called “hysteria”, especially if they experienced such “symptoms” as sexual desire and vaginal lubrication.  Typically, this was a “disorder” of women who didn’t have husbands, or whose husbands left them wanting in bed, and it was thought that the buildup of sexual fluids such as “female sperm” (ejaculate) were poisoning them. In order to relieve “hysteria” symptoms, the two-thousand year old wisdom of treating it involved “massage” techniques of the “womb” (vulva), in order to induce a “hysterical paroxysm” (orgasm).

For doctors in the 1800s, this was hard work, so often they recommended a midwife to do this, and later on invented a number of vibrators and water jets that were much more effective. The fact that vibrators were the fifth household appliance to become electrified is a testament to the pathologization of women’s sexuality, not to their sexual freedom, as is popularly imagined. (That part happened later.)

Importantly, this treatment was not openly considered to be sexual because it did not involve penetration, thanks to the male-centered view of sex.  This is how masturbation (that is, without a medically-sanctioned device) could be thought of as causing illness in females.  However, there was another, less popular “treatment” to discourage “irritation” and “over-stimulation” in females — excision of the external clitoris. In other words, medicalized ‘female circumcision’.  Various forms of this practice appeared sporadically until the 1970s, and were even funded by Medicaid and promoted for the same reasons as male circumcision (appearance, cleanliness, health, etc).

It may come as a shock to find that in the U.S., many widespread popular beliefs about the penis today are actually based on the same Victorian Era quackery rather than medical science.  Indeed, the non-therapeutic circumcision of infant boys has continued to be medicalized in the U.S., and to a lesser extent in Canada, due to such persistent beliefs.  Thanks to Lewis Sayre, notable surgeon and pro-circumcision quack of the 1870’s, one example is the pathologization of completely normal infant foreskins.

This continues today in hospitals, thanks to continued ignorance about penile gross anatomy: attempts to ‘fix’ the child’s normal foreskin often result in severe injury and pain. More about this shortly.

Non-therapeutic circumcision of boys by medical professionals did spread to a few other countries — most of which have long rejected it on the grounds that it is extremely harmful, with no significant medical benefit.  As for the few cultures that continue to give routine infant penis-reductions a veil of medical validation, the justifications for it depend on the culture and era. In other words, it is based on local beliefs, not science.  The scientific literature reveals the physical, neurological, and psychological harms of this tradition, but these are creatively ignored or glossed-over in much of the U.S. medical community.

This past April 28th, the Seattle Atheists invited John Geisheker to correct some of these myths. He is Executive Director and General Counsel for Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC), an organization which opposes the unnecessary genital surgery of any child.

His presentation was video-recorded and uploaded on YouTube, so if you’re interested, you can open the link in a new tab before reading on:

Circumcision: At the intersection of Religion, Medicine, and Human Rights 

I have handily rehashed most of what he says in the rest of my article, partly thanks to the notes I took — which you can see me doing in the center of the frame.

So, how did an anti-sexuality practice of the Victorian Era ever become normalized and progressive? And, what was missing from all those anatomy books, anyway? Even anatomy books I’ve seen that include the foreskin do not have a detailed visual representation of it, nor do they have much description beyond saying that’s skin that covers the tip of the penis.  But it isn’t.

An anatomy lesson that a medical professional should not need:

The male prepuce, or foreskin, is a highly mobile and extraordinarily sensitive double fold of tissue that is the end of the penis. During an erection, it rolls back and inside-out, unfolding until it covers much of the penile shaft.  The rest of the time, its specialized mechanisms cause it to spring back into place over the delicate mucus membrane of the glans (head), where it serves a protective function, much like your eyelids. Even in this position, it can easily be retracted simply by pulling the skin of the shaft toward the body:

While Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, and most other people may wonder why anyone would need to explain this most mundane fact, the truth is that the foreskin is not well-understood in U.S. culture and medicine. One of Geisheker’s jobs is tracking cases of American doctors who are so outrageously ignorant of intact penile anatomy that they cause serious pain and injury, usually to infants.

They don’t even know the following basic facts, so read carefully:

  • At birth, a boy’s foreskin is fused to his glans via a membrane called the balano-preputial lamina (BPL). Much like the membrane that fuses the fingernail to the finger, it acts as a living ‘glue’.
  • The same is true of the prepuce and glans of the clitoris: The female foreskin is also called the ‘clitoral hood’.
  • Over the years, little ‘pearls’ of the membrane die off, thus gradually separating the foreskin and glans, creating the preputial space. (This is also true of the clitoris.)

Important to this process is a compilation of sebum and other protective secretions that mix with these dead cells, thus creating the same stuff that coats the squishy bits of females.  This anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal substance works its way toward the tip of the penis so that these ‘pearls’ can be ejected. It is still known by the Latin word for ‘soap’ — smegma.

In U.S. popular culture, smegma is contradictorily regarded as completely benign in females, yet as a volatile disease agent of the male foreskin. (More accurately, I should say, it is not recognized as smegma in females.) By around 10 to 15 years of age, the boy is able to fully retract his foreskin. This is an everyday fact in most people’s experience, except in cultures where infant circumcision is so common that doctors exist who have lost almost all knowledge of the foreskin.

Such is the case in the U.S., where there really are doctors who think an infant’s healthy foreskin is abnormally tight. Thus, they may forcibly retract it, tearing the membrane and causing lots of bleeding, excruciating pain, and further problems — much as tearing off a fingernail would.  This injury can leave scar tissue, causing the foreskin to actually become abnormally tight. Such problems, as well as its natural non-retractibility, can be enough for the doctor to decide this part must be be defective and needs to be removed.

Another supposed abnormality of the infant foreskin is the free-moving tip, which can extend well beyond the glans. It contains muscle fibers which allow it to close itself like a drawstring over the urethra (urinary opening).  These fibers relax when the baby urinates, keeping the foreskin wide open and pulled back, away from the urethra. At other times, they draw the end of the foreskin together to prevent contaminants (such as what may be found in his diaper) from getting inside.  This normal contraction of the foreskin’s muscle gives it a long and narrow appearance and can be misinterpreted as being “too tight” or “redundant”. Smegma also creates an oily, waxy barrier which protects the infant’s glans from the irritation of urine.  Without these layers shielding the urethra from E. coli and other nasties, the infant is more predisposed to urinary tract infections.

Buildup of smegma is completely harmless, yet it has been demonized in the anti-masturbation craze as causing illness. Thus, frequent cleaning of smegma is recommended by doctors who still believe the B.S. — yet, the foreskin gets in the way.  Both the normal fusion and muscular contraction of the infant foreskin is considered a disorder in American medical literature, called ‘phimosis’. This false diagnosis must be corrected repeatedly in the literature by doctors from abroad, as well as such organizations as DOC.

Premature forced retraction, a colossal failure of some medical professionals (an estimated 100,000 cases in the U.S. per year), is what Geishsheker calls ‘the gateway drug’ to circumcision.  Near the end of his presentation, he also reads a recent and heartbreaking letter he received from a woman whose pediatrician did this to her son, without even asking her first.  The boy was traumatized by this, screamed in pain every time he urinated or was washed, and woke up screaming for five nights in a row. On top of this, she was billed $100 for ‘penile surgery’.

The foreskin has long been ignored in American medical training, and according to Geisheker’s sources, 67% of medical books do not depict a foreskin at all. Not surprisingly, that seems to be consistent with my own observations of various medical and anatomy books over the years.

In 2005, Avery’s Neonatology said that circumcision is so common in the U.S. that observations of the foreskin must be made in countries where it is not usually practiced. Even so, the U.S. medical community isn’t paying enough attention to these observations.

A survey taken at a 2009 meeting of the American Academy of Family Practice found that only 3 of 113 participants understood how to care for an intact penis. (Of course, this also suggests they didn’t have their own point of reference.) An American Academy of Pediatrics survey in 1981 showed that 78% of pediatricians gave obsolete or dangerous advice concerning an intact penis. This organization consists of both pro- and anti-circumcision doctors, and that wasn’t the last time it issued bad advice:

  • In 2012, the AAP’s recommendation for cleaning babies’ foreskins is to retract them — thus tearing the foreskin and glans apart — and to wash the bleeding wound with soap and water.
  • The soap, of course, causes inflammation and can lead to infections and other serious problems. Yes, this is an erroneous example of “medical advice” for infants in the U.S., although in most of the world, the advice is, basically, “leave it alone, it takes care of itself.”
  • In fact, a male should not use soap beneath his foreskin for the same reason that a female should not wash her own internal bits with it: It changes the pH of those areas and causes inflammation, which can lead to imbalances of microflora and infection.

The AAP also said that “adhesions” (the natural fused condition of the foreskin) will “resolve” by 2 to 4 months of age. As I’ve mentioned, the foreskin doesn’t fully retract until around puberty, when the boy is most ready to use it.

“I just find this astonishing,” says Geisheker, of the fact that there are still medical professionals who don’t understand this ordinary, basic bit of anatomy.

So, how did all this ignorance start, anyway?

Circumcision, as I mentioned, has been a tradition of some religions and cultures going back thousands of years, including the priests of Ancient Egypt.  Geisheker explains a bit of the history centered around the Jewish blood sacrifice of penile bits, and how it changed in Ancient Greece from removing the tip of foreskin to removing the whole thing.  During the middle ages, Jews were discriminated against for this practice, which includes the mohel (ritual circumciser) sucking blood out of the wound with his mouth. Anti-semitic Christians invented superstitions about how this was how Jews drained babies of blood and ate their flesh. However, none of this explains the complete lack of foreskins from so much of the U.S. culture and population — which is only 2% Jewish.

This modern-day phenomenon has its roots in the 1800’s, when sexual pleasure was considered immoral. It was also when doctors had all sorts of strange beliefs about ‘vital energy’, and weren’t quite sure what caused diseases.  You know, the good ol’ days, when homeopathy was a better bet than some of the treatments of medical doctors. One outmoded belief was that people start with a certain amount of energy and inevitably run out.  A pre-scientific model of disease based on this idea was called ‘Reflex Neurosis’, which pathologized genital stimulation. It literally meant ‘self-nerve overstimulation’: If you touched your highly-innervated genitalia (whether sexually or not), you would drain yourself of energy, and a disease would occur in your lungs, eyes, heart, etc.  It was also believed that men would eventually run out of sperm, and that ejaculation was injurious to the health — and moral constitution! Many people not only shunned masturbation, but were terrified of losing “life force” through nocturnal emissions.

In order to prevent boys from having emissions, as well as erections that are part of a normal sleep cycle, some parents were conned into buying all manner of horrific devices designed to associate pain with the genitalia.  There were penis-cooling devices, contraptions with spikes on the inside, and even one that activated a phonograph player.  Chastity belts were a product of this era, rather than medieval times, as is commonly believed. They were invented, along with armored night-wear, to sell to parents as a way to keep their kids from causing themselves “harm.”

In Battle Creek Michigan, anti-masturbation big shots such as surgeon John Harvey Kellogg, recommended punishing both girls and boys for “self-abuse” by holding them down, kicking and screaming, and excising their most “abuse”-prone parts.  The trauma of genital mutilation, as well as the resulting loss of sensitivity, were meant to keep these adolescents from wanting to do it again, lest they make themselves sick. (This is clearly stated in Kellogg’s Treatment of Self Abuse and its Effects).  A bland vegetarian diet was believed by many to curb sexual feelings, and so Kellogg also invented Corn Flakes, and provided them at his sanitorium in Battle Creek Michigan — along with yogurt enemas and electrifying baths. (Yes, very much like in The Road to Wellville.)

Kellogg believed that all sex was harmful, claimed to have never had sex himself, and adopted 42 foster children — who I don’t envy. He would travel around the country, paying various medical societies to have a Chair of Circumcision for promoting genital mutilation as a health measure.  In girls, he preferred using carbolic acid to burn off the external clitoris. (Later forms of medicalized ‘female circumcision’ were not usually as extensively harmful, or even done for the same reasons.)
When this was being promoted in the U.S. and some other countries, even the female circumcision rituals of foreign cultures were interpreted as being done to get rid of ‘foul-smelling’ smegma in females, thus ignoring their religious significance.  This eventually came to an end in the twentieth century, partly because it was so widely believed that women had no sexual needs unless they were mentally deranged. The fact that we know sexual stimulation is healthy is a great reason to stop circumcising both girls and boys.

A Unique Erogenous Zone

Although the technical details are known today, the foreskin was already well-understood by Renaissance anatomists as to be the most erogenous part of the penis, while the glans was known to be the dullest.  This knowledge carried on into the 1800s, which is why the Americans (and later, other Anglophones) targeted it in their anti-masturbation crusade. Let’s take a look at its role in sexual function, as understood by modern medical science:

The Semmes-Weinstein esthiometer is used to test skin sensitivity for patients with burns or neuropathy. The readings from a man’s foreskin, particularly the mucus membrane of the ‘lip’ and inner surface, go off the high end of the scale.

2007 study, published in BJU international, mapped the fine-touch sensitivity regions on circumcised versus intact penises, concluding that:

“The glans of the circumcised penis is less sensitive to fine touch than the glans of the uncircumcised penis. The transitional region from the external to the internal prepuce is the most sensitive region of the uncircumcised penis and more sensitive than the most sensitive region of the circumcised penis. Circumcision ablates the most sensitive parts of the penis.” (Emphasis mine.)

The authors’ fine-touch maps can be seen below, but first a bit of explanation about what is pictured in their illustration.

The foreskin is packed with fine-touch nerve endings called Meissner’s corpuscles. You can sort coins by feeling the edges using the front of your hands, which are dense with Meissner’s corpuscles, whereas this is not true for the backs of your hands.  In the U.S., the glans is popularly imagined to be the most sensitive part of the penis, but in fact it is dominated by free nerve endings, which primarily sense pain. It has about the same fine-touch sensitivity as your earlobe, and wouldn’t be of much use for penile coin-sorting (if you’re into that). The glans is less of an erogenous zone and more of a device to hold the foreskin in its proper shape and to keep the inner surface moist: Its presence only makes functional sense when one considers it is meant to work with the foreskin.

Since most people of the world know this next part, I feel as though I’m trying to reach folks of some remote, uneducated village when I explain this:

  • As the penis becomes erect, the foreskin is pulled back, rolling inside-out, everting its most sensitive areas, and (usually) exposing the glans. It can also be retracted simply by pulling the skin of the shaft toward the body. (You can view an animation and videos here.)
  • When fully retracted, the foreskin is just about sufficient to cover the entire shaft: Although the length varies, it makes up approximately one half of the skin on the penis.
  • What is removed by circumcision is about three inches long and five inches in circumference — think of a 3×5 index card. That’s the actual size. Although it is sometimes described as a ‘tiny little piece of skin’, this is only true of tiny little infants, not sexually active men.

It seems almost a joke to think that so many adults in such developed Western regions as the entirety of North America are completely unaware of this. Sadly, it’s not.  I was once inspired to show a few such people two pictures of the same intact member — one hanging and one standing tall — and most of them thought that the erect one was missing its foreskin. They didn’t realize that it retracts! This relates to misconceptions I’ve heard that the glans is most sensitive, that the foreskin impedes sexual function by covering the glans during intercourse, and even that circumcised men have more sensation and a richer sex life because of this. This is maddeningly contrary to the facts, as we shall see, with a detailed understanding of what this sexual structure is and does.

The human foreskin contains up to 20,000 nerve endings, which is significant, since they make up about half the nerve endings of the entire penis. In fact, the human penis has a more innervated and well-developed foreskin when compared to other mammals — including our close cousins, the sex-crazed bonobos. So, we must ask ourselves, why would millions of years of natural — and sexual — selection, result in humans having an unusually large and highly-developed foreskin (and a larger glans to work with it), if it were somehow harmful, disadvantageous, or “vestigial” as is popularly believed?

True to its retractile nature, the foreskin is made to be pushed back and inside-out as it slides into the vagina, so that its more sensitive inner surface is exposed to the vaginal wall.  As the penis is withdrawn, the foreskin is pulled forward again, so that it squeezes against the sensitive ridge at the base of the glans, and perhaps farther.  This inside-out motion, partly aided by the foreskins’ own muscular action, is unique in human physiology: It allows the man to roll the skin of his penis against itself, either during sex or just by grasping his shaft with two fingers and thumb.  This creates a gliding sensation that is not abrasive or drying to the partner. Indeed, the foreskin adds its own lubrication and erotic scent from smegma, which is laced with pheromones.  This scent is revealed only when the man gets an erection, so it’s not as though he always smells, as my friend Bill had imagined. It is important in chemical signaling for the female, just as female smegma is an important signal for the male.  In most cultures, the smell of smegma is widely considered a turn-on in both females and males. It is unclear exactly how important this is to human sexuality, but it is interesting to note that circumcised male lab rats have trouble finding a mate.

Without the foreskin’s action and natural lubrication, the glans may tend to ‘squeegee’ away the vagina’s own fluids, often requiring the repeated addition of artificial lubricant (this is no joke: it’s a real problem for me). Another common complaint is that the non-moving skin of the circumcised penis (even with a condom) creates friction and even microtears in the vagina or anus of the partner. This, as you may guess, can precipitate the transmission of HIV and STDs in general (also, the pain stays with me for days).  However, the movement of the foreskin (with or without a condom) prevents any friction at all. This is generally preferred by sexual partners who have had experience with both, although the percentage varies somewhat by culture.

At least since the Taylor study in 1996, the specialized structures of the foreskin have been known — although I have yet to see an anatomy book that mentions them at all. Two are rather important for this discussion:

  • The most erogenous tissue of the foreskin is to be found in the frenulum and ridged band. A frenulum is a cord-like fusion of flesh which holds a moving structure to a fixed structure, like the one found under your tongue.
  • The penile frenulum anchors the foreskin to the underside of the glans and is highly sensitive to stretching (which it does a lot of during intercourse and masturbation). It is partly or totally removed with circumcision.

Contiguous with the frenulum is the ridged band, a ring of ridges just inside the tip of the foreskin. Each ridge has three times the density of Meissner’s corpuscles as your fingers.  When the member is flaccid, this band serves a protective function in sensing foreign objects around the urethra: The sensitive ridges in your lips and anus partly serve a similar function in guarding those orifices.  While engaged in vaginal intercourse, the ridged band is rolled far back on the penile shaft, facing outwards. This may have evolved to encourage deeper penetration, thus getting the sperm closer to the eggs.  Much like condoms with large ‘ribs’, the outwardly-projecting ridges stimulate the sexual partner. The ridged band also ‘catches’ on the clitoris and inner labia of the female, suggesting that these structures co-evolved for this purpose.  On the out-stroke, the ridged band is pressed between the partner and the coronal ridge of the glans. The ridged band is usually removed entirely by circumcision.

You can see the ridged band and frenulum in red here, which indicates the highest sensitivity level (or lowest pressure needed for the subject to notice it) as measured using Semmes-Weinstein monofilaments. The yellow of the glans indicates the least sensitive tissue, requiring 1.1 grams of pressure.

I have also learned of many pleasurable acts that can be done with a foreskin that circumcised males cannot do. For example, a partner can pull the foreskin forward over the glans and slip his/her tongue between them, thus stimulating two surfaces at once. Another technique involves pulling the foreskin forward and outward and directing a jet of water to flow underneath it. Even just pinching the foreskin shut during urination, allowing it to ‘balloon’, activates its stretch sensors in an unusual way (this also can happen naturally when a boy’s foreskin is partially separated, which is harmless, but sometimes confounds parents).  Such inflation can also be achieved with air — a different type of “blow job”, shall we say? It is also possible to use the muscular tip to stimulate the nipples, clitoris, or other parts of the partner.  In the case of male-on-male sex, there is the practice of ‘docking’, which means to pull the foreskin forward so that it envelops the partner’s glans. If both partners are intact, they can do ‘double-docking’, with one foreskin within the other.  In fact, stimulating only the most erogenous areas are enough to elicit an orgasm. Indeed, the foreskin is thought to play an important role in controlling and modulating male orgasm.

Geisheker challenges the audience to find a book in the University of Washington medical library that says the foreskin is the seat of sexual sensation. Most medical books do, but all the books at UW he has seen have incorrectly said it is the glans.

This is also what Bill had told me, back in 2002, after revealing his shocking news. (But who could blame him? He got that from a medical text!) He also said that the foreskin was the least sensitive part of the penis, which is also a common belief I have heard. He insisted that the part’s only function was to protect the glans, and is no longer needed because humans wear clothes. What I discovered at the library was that the glans is covered in mucus membrane and is meant to be an internal structure which can be exposed, like the tongue.  When left exposed to the outside world for weeks, the glans develops a layer of dead, dry skin — especially when there is clothing rubbing against it — thus blocking the sensitivity of the underlying nerves.  If the foreskin is restored and the glans is re-internalized, this callus will actually dissolve within two weeks, improving sensitivity. (BTW, this can be done via ‘tugging’ devices or even tape, which expand the tissue without surgery. Such techniques are becoming popular as awareness of these facts spreads).

Bill had been right in saying that the foreskin has a protective function, but he was wrong about the details: One aspect of this function involves the dartos fascia, the layer of muscle fibers that pulls the scrotum towards the body.  As I have hinted at already, this layer is also found in the foreskin, which allows it to close over the glans and pull it inward. This is handy in cold water, and even helps to prevent frostbite.  The smegma of the inner surfaces also contains chemicals and immune cells which protect the penis from microorganisms and viruses. For more information (and citations) on foreskin functions, you may want to start here.

To say that circumcision has no effect on sexual pleasure or function is to be dishonest about how the penis works, or neurology, for that matter.  Indeed, removing such an extensive amount of penile nerve feedback can cause a number of problems, from erectile dysfunction to premature ejaculation, which are more common among circumcised men, and which can develop in men after circumcision.  Other problems include tingling, numbness, a significant decrease in sexual sensation, and even debilitatingly painful over-sensitivity. Results vary because the cause involves destroying and damaging complex, densely-innervated structures, the remainder of which must then heal and re-wire themselves to the brain in one fashion or another.

Although the literature shows that men who are circumcised work harder for sexual satisfaction, and to this end must practice more types of stimulation, this is re-interpreted by pro-circumcision advocates to mean that circumcised men have more fun and get more oral sex.

At TAM 2012, I talked to a man from Denmark, who told me that some girls get the idea from American porn that vigorous motion and lots of lubricant is needed to stimulate a man.  As they become more experienced with Danish men, who are almost all intact, they find this not to be the case. I actually wrote about this encounter near the bottom of this post.  Indeed, there are a few studies that purport to show that circumcision has no effect on penile sensitivity or sexual function.  That is because of fatal design flaws, including that the scientists are measuring everything but the foreskin.

What they found was that the sensitivity of the glans and shaft skin are not that much different whether or not you have a foreskin, yet they are completely silent about the sensation that comes from the foreskin itself.  So, nearly half the penis’ sensitivity is entirely omitted and ignored, rendering this research worthless. To conclude that removing the foreskin doesn’t affect the penis is to pretend that the foreskin is not part of the penis.  This page gives a pretty good analysis of these studies in detail, as well as the effect on sexual partners, and comparing infant versus adult circumcision on sexual function.

As for the idea that the foreskin is not part of the penis, this is actually a deeply-rooted cultural belief. I remember this occurring to me in 2006 when riding in the backseat of a friend’s car one rainy night. The rear windows were fogged, and the person next to me made a mark by touching the glass, saying “I think I’ll draw a penis.” Because it is difficult to draw anything in a moving vehicle, the drawing turned out a bit misshapen, so he said, “Well, it can be an uncirumcised penis.”  Something clicked in my mind. To him, a penis was always circumcised, unless it had a foreskin “added” to it.

Wait… what?

That would explain why I had heard the foreskin described as “extra” skin. If it’s normal (standard equipment), how is it extra? This parallel reality was no doubt created as a way to make this operation more palatable to people who don’t want to believe they or their loved ones were harmed by it.

Some have said that I’m against letting a man have the freedom to harm himself in this way if he wants, but this is not so: I would, however, insist that he understand the consequences, as he will have to live with them. Many adult men who chose circumcision for themselves have regretted it, and some who have chosen it as medical treatment were misled into thinking that it was the only or best treatment option when it was not.  For example, a genuinely tight foreskin can often be fixed with stretching, steroid cream, different masturbation techniques, or even surgery which does not remove tissue. Some guys, unfortunately, did not educate themselves and were misled into thinking that foreskin removal was their only hope.

In 2005, I interviewed a guy who had at age two, bizarrely, retracted his own foreskin. The injury this caused to his frenulum led to pain and bleeding during sex, and his doctor told him that it needed to be removed, along with the rest of the foreskin. He went along with the operation, if reluctantly.  After the intense pain had subsided, he found that he had lost a lot of sensation, responsiveness, intimacy, and confidence. He had to learn how to achieve orgasm all over again. He had traded a medical condition for an overall decrease in sexual satisfaction.  He felt a very strong sense of loss and grief for two years before he was able to pull himself back together and adapt, which you can read about on my ancient blog post here. It’s just one anecdote among many, but along with the scientific data, it shows that there can be a real difference.

In European, Japanese, and other cultures in which circumcision is very rare, they have developed a substitute surgery called a ‘sleeve reduction’, or removal of a section of penile skin from the shaft.  This permanently retracts the foreskin and gives the look of circumcision, while exposing the most erogenous tissue on the outside. Although this is still damaging and painful, it shows that the people of some cultures value the foreskin too much to cut it off.

When a man voluntarily has his own genital bits cut off, it is his choice, based on the information that he knows. But how can we justify his doing it to another human being who has no idea of what is going on and cannot defend himself?

I am talking about the infant, usually screaming in pain, or the young boy who only knows what others tell him about what is being done to him. Most intact men would not choose this for themselves.  Although circumcised boys are usually told what was done to them and that it was for the best, some reach adulthood before they learn what was done to them. If this was so shocking for me to learn, imagine how shocked they must be at the ignorance of their own bodies!

Because Bill was a hardcore believer in the myths his parents taught him, he was so stunned at the information I found that he refused to believe any of it for some time. I brought him photocopies and printouts of journal articles and medical texts, but he rolled his eyes at them.

“The foreskin can’t have any real function,” he said, “otherwise they wouldn’t cut it off.” (“Appeal to Consequences“, anyone?)

Fraudulent Diagnoses, False Benefits, and Questionable Ethics

As we know, the reason it is cut off is because it has a very definite function, which was most threatening to many Americans of the Victorian era. Even more, a tight foreskin was thought to cause all manner of illness, from hydrocephalus to lunacy.  In his presentation, Geisheker brings up the 1881 assassination of James A Garfield by the insane lawyer, Charles Guiteau. Famously, Guiteau danced to the gallows, recited a poem, and shook hands with his executioner before hanging.  Upon autopsy, it was discovered that his foreskin was tight, and so his insanity was blamed on that. Such was the mentality of the people at the time.

This ‘diagnosis’ can largely be blamed on a medical doctor named Lewis Sayre, who claimed to have cured a boy of Polio by circumcising him. Like many others of his ilk, he had no proof of this, he just assumed so because the patient never returned.

I wouldn’t have, either.

In 1870, Sayre gave a speech about the harms of normal foreskins, which he called ‘congenital phimosis’ (cannot be retracted) and ‘Adhered Prepuce’ — in other words, the normal fusion found in boys until at least ten years of age.

Today, there are still some doctors who apparently think that a normal, healthy foreskin is ‘adhered’ in ‘congenital phimosis’, or even ‘redundant’ for its long, tapered look.  In the billing book for medical procedures, a Code 605 refers to “redundant prepuce and phimosis, adherent prepuce, phimosis congenital.”  Many healthy children are fraudulently diagnosed and subsequently circumcised under this billing code — because there is nothing wrong! Wait, what?

The process of circumcising infants has been brutal, especially since it was once assumed (also thanks to 1870’s pseudoscience) that infants do not feel pain. That’s right — even open-heart surgery has been performed on infants with zero pain control.

In reality, the younger a child is, the more pain he or she experiences, and it is especially acute in newborns. These facts, and their relation to infant surgery, did not begin to be explored until the 1980’s.

In 1934, the Gomco clamp was invented to minimize the likelihood that the infant would bleed to death if someone other than a surgeon did the operation, and without any type of pain control.  The erogenous tissue is torn from the infant’s glans and crushed, excruciatingly, into goo. When the clamp is removed ten minutes later, the wound doesn’t bleed.  The shallow bell is actually meant to maximize the amount of erogenous tissue that is lost. And yes, it is commonly used today in U.S. hospitals, with little pain relief, if any: this is because anesthetics are dangerous and not fully effective in infants, including nerve block techniques.

Another circumcision device is the Plastibell clamp, which strangles the erogenous tissue over an entire week. The pain and discomfort from this process commonly interferes with breastfeeding, sleep cycles, and parental bonding.  Whatever the method used, the glans is afterward revealed as a raw, open sore, and the infant is almost never prescribed pain relievers. When he urinates, the ammonia burns the open sore.  This wound takes weeks to heal, and complications (besides the intended damage) are not as uncommon as is widely believed.  Meatal stenosis isn’t counted as a ‘complication’ because it doesn’t occur until three months after the procedure, and sexual problems of course do not count because they become evident much later on. And there are more problems which are not mentioned.

Ironically, the study of anesthetics on infants during circumcision has had to stop because it is considered to be grossly unethical.  The intense pain (measured in infants’ stress responses) is far too high to justify further study.

Typical pain responses include an extremely fast heart rate, very high levels of cortisol (stress hormone), and high-pitched screaming, sometimes until the infant turns blue from lack of oxygen. The fragile newborn’s heart, lungs, and other organs can be damaged or ruptured from being overworked.  Although some parents may believe that their own son “slept through” his circumcision, this is what they are told when their baby goes into shock and doesn’t respond to any stimulus.  These are exactly the type of responses that we would expect in an adult whose genitals are being torn apart, yet this may be framed as ‘discomfort’. Wouldn’t ‘torture’ be more appropriate?

This extreme trauma is known to cause a sort of PTSD in infants, similar to the effects of other types of surgery or a traumatic birth, and can lead to a variety of psychological and emotional problems later on in life.  It doesn’t matter whether the individual has any conscious (“explicit”) memory of this because most types of memory are stored outside of conscious awareness in the involuntary (“implicit”) systems of the brain and body.  Similarly, circumcised infants, as with preemies given a heel stick or scalp IV, show neurological changes that cause a permanent increase in sensitivity to pain. In other words, intense pain in an infant re-wires the brain for life.  I should also note that compared to intact boys, the circumcised ones tend to be more irritable, have trouble eating, sleeping and thriving, and demonstrate a significant increase in ‘colic’ (crying for no apparent reason) for up to a year after this ‘procedure’.  A whole spectrum of emotional reactions to being put through this in one’s infancy become evident later on, and they (naturally) include a sense of loss and grief.  Although foreskin reconstruction is becoming more popular today, with its own market, it was only in 1990 that desiring one’s lost foreskin was suggested to be a form of “body dysmorphia”.

For more information, and citations, you may want to start here.

As though that wasn’t bad enough, what about unintended injuries and trauma? Surgical mistakes and infections can result in more problems, from an inability to urinate, to even more tissue being excruciatingly cut away from the infant, sometimes his entire penis or more.  Infections can also, more rarely, cause brain damage and death. Even if this procedure goes ‘right’, the penile skin often attempts to re-fuse itself together, resulting in abnormal adhesions, which require further tearing apart.  In the long-term, the boy’s penis may grow too large to fit within the skin that is left, and may bend or even tear open when he gets an erection. This may require further surgery to add skin to his penis.  Indeed, a seemingly long prepuce in infancy can turn out to be quite short in the adult. This cannot be predicted in infants, which is another good reason to wait on this question, and leave the decision to the person who is affected by it.

More popular myths that Bill told me was that the foreskin is prone to disease and is too hard to clean under to be worth the bother. In reality, the easily-retracted adult foreskin only needs to be briefly rinsed in the shower; therefore, it is easier to clean than behind one’s ears.  As we shall see, this misunderstood and vilified body part has not been shown to be a vector for disease. If it was, our ancestors wouldn’t have evolved it in the first place, much less a particularly extensive one.  Indeed, you don’t see other species scrubbing their penises — not even bonobos.

The cleanliness myths began in the late 1800s, with the idea of ‘moral cleanliness’ in the eye of God as he watches you masturbate. By the early twentieth century, the meme had changed to physical cleanliness and preventing STDs.  However, when all the literature over the years is taken together, it shows that circumcision slightly increases one’s chances of getting certain STDs, while slightly decreasing the chances for others, and there are different statistics between cultures. All in all, it’s a wash.

Child circumcision was not common in the early 20th century, but because of the STD-prevention belief around World War I, the militaries of English-speaking countries were practically forcing sailors and soldiers to be circumcised — as most of them refused to go along with it.  (In Geisheker’s audience, one guy said his uncle was an aircraft mechanic, but at 45 years old he wasn’t allowed on a Naval aircraft carrier to do work unless he was circumcised for some health and safety code. So, he was, and regretted it. Scary stuff.)

In the 1930’s, childbirth had become medicalized, and those doctors who were experts in female health (yet knew little about male health), were enthusiastic in promoting and performing circumcision on the newborn males. Their inexpertise was what the Gomco clamp was invented for.

By the start of World War II (during which we find the sand myth), newborn circumcision was beginning to become popular in the U.S., and almost as popular in Britain, although this changed when the U.K. was devastated by the war.  With so few resources, U.K. doctors didn’t see any point in continuing unnecessary and dangerous surgery, so they put an end to it. At the same, the practice took off in the U.S., because it was funded by most health insurance packages, and fueled by advice from the popular press.  This includes the influential child expert, Dr. Benjamin Spock, although to his credit he later recanted his position. By the end of the 1950’s, almost all newborn boys in the U.S. were subjected to this procedure, whereas almost none were in the U.K.  Although child circumcision had spread to a number of English-speaking countries during the early 20th century, nowadays this practice is long-gone from most of them. And then there’s South Korea.

During the Korean War, MASH doctors imposed circumcision on the South Koreans, claiming that it improved cleanliness. Now South Korea has one of the highest penile abridgement rates in the world, and it is typically done as a rite of passage at age twelve. At the library way back when, I remember reading a very detailed report about the history and cultural beliefs about this South Korean phenomenon.

Most of the South Koreans who were surveyed believed that people from all developed countries practiced routine circumcision — which is a popular belief in the U.S. as well.  These South Koreans also believed that if it wasn’t done, they had a very high chance of developing “phimosis” and needing to be circumcised anyway. So popular was this misconception that they called it “the phimosis operation”.  I also recall that many adults in South Korea had this done to themselves, partly due to a combination of collectivist culture and public baths — everyone must do the same or else be looked down upon! Interestingly, those men who said that they experienced sexual problems after this operation were able to describe what was wrong, whereas those (fewer) men who said it helped their sex life did not explain how. Were they just saying what was expected of them?

And then there is the medicalized circumcision of the Philippines, which is partly influenced by Americans. Slitting the foreskin of eight-year olds (without removing tissue) has morphed into outright foreskin-severing as a rite of passage.  The Filipinos have their own unique cultural myths about medicalized routine circumcision, such as that it stimulates growth in the boy, and that it will increase his virility as an adult.  When you think about it, this is just as silly as the myth that a normal infant’s penis has a medical problem, that females don’t produce smegma, or that the foreskin gets in the way of sexual pleasure — and I am surrounded by people who believe these things!

Culture versus medicine

Besides cultural beliefs and customs, the only thing which supports circumcision is religious rituals. This is why the second-largest group of people to practice circumcision, after Americans, are the Muslims of the world.  It is worth mentioning that most Jews in South America and parts of Europe don’t bother with this ritual anymore. As for the handful of Jews in N.Z., they fly mohels in from Australia for $5,000.  And, if you’re tempted to accuse Doctors Opposing Circumcision of being anti-semitic, it should be noted that the VP is an observant Jew who has restored his foreskin.

I do think that people should be allowed to express their own religious beliefs on their own bodies, but they should not be allowed to impose their beliefs on other people’s bodies, especially children, who cannot consent or understand.  The practice of withholding medical treatment from children, especially when they have cancer, diabetes, infections, etc. is widely looked down upon as severe religious abuse. So are ‘female circumcision’ rituals.

In many cultures outside of the U.S., male circumcision is viewed in the same way. Most industrialized cultures do not give routine circumcision on minors the legitimacy of medicalization.  During my first library endeavors, this became clear to me when I noticed a very interesting difference between relevant entries in an American medical encyclopedia and a very similar-looking British medical encyclopedia:

  • Both contained nearly the same information — basically, highlights of what I’m covering in this post — but the American version was written with a completely neutral tone whereas the British one had a distinct note of relief at the news that Americans are finally starting to learn not to chop at their infants.
  • As for today, infant circumcision rates in the U.S. are continuing to drop, and are now around 50% or lower.

Even so, the Americans who have not learned have instead been inventing and recycling ideas each decade in order to justify continuing it. This includes the continuation of the old idea that it prevents sexually transmitted diseases.  It is worth pointing out that New Zealand, where Geisheker is from, they stopped routine infant circumcision 40 years ago and have lower rates of STDs than the U.S.. Clearly, there are scientifically valid ways of prevention, such as sex education and condom use, which is often lacking in the U.S..

More importantly, I feel that I should point out the obvious — that infants don’t have sex. Would it not be more appropriate to wait until the individual is old enough to make a judgment about his own sex life?

The same could be said in the case of sexually transmitted HIV prevention, which is re-gaining popularity in the U.S. as an argument for circumcising infants.  This connection was first proposed in a 1986 letter, by Canadian urologist Aaron Fink, who had self-published a book advocating circumcision. He promoted the unsupported claim that the callus that forms over the glans of circumcised males creates a barrier to HIV. In February 1996, Scientific American printed an article about the Caldwell retrospective analysis of HIV and its prevalence in those African populations who circumcise versus those who do not.  They concluded that HIV is more prevalent among those who are intact, although they did not examine any of the patients. Vincenzi and Mertens (1994) pointed out serious flaws in the design of this study.  This was pointed out in two letters to Scientific American, but they were heavily edited for publication, and the criticisms went unaddressed by the Caldwells in their rebuttal.

Even since then, most similar studies have a small sample size and contain many flaws, including guessing whether or not a subject is circumcised, based on which culture he is from.  Dozens of such studies did not take into account other confounding factors such as the practice of ‘dry sex’, which creates lots of friction and tears in the vagina, nor genital ulcer disease, viral load, or female circumcision, which is only done in cultures where male circumcision is practiced.  This is compounded by the fact that studies which are purported to show a connection between HIV and circumcision are more exciting, and thus more likely to be published than studies which show no correlation at all — a phenomenon called publication bias.

A 2003 Cochrane review points out all these flaws, and “found insufficient evidence to support an interventional effect of male circumcision on HIV acquisition in heterosexual men.”  Also, it is worth pointing out that researchers who are white males of nations that have had a history of circumcision are the main proponents of this correlation.

The resurgence of this meme is based on three recent and incomplete studies, which were done in Africa, partly because the ethics committees in other parts of the world would not approve. Only one of these studies (Auverts, 2006) was actually published in a peer-reviewed journal.  The clock for the experiment started when half of the volunteers were circumcised at random. While the intact men went off to have sex, the circumcised group had to wait four to six weeks, as they were in too much pain for intercourse.  Also, they had to come back to the clinic twice more to make sure they were healing properly, where they got additional safe sex counseling and condoms. Not only were the circumcised guys unable to have sex for most of the duration of the study, but blood exposure and homosexual intercourse were not controlled for.  On top of this, the researchers used an HIV antibody test, which only gives results from three months since the last exposure. However, they did not wait to administer the test, so half the cases of HIV came from before the study even started.

Based on this dubious data, the conclusion was that heterosexual men are 60% less likely to catch HIV from infected females with each exposure. And how did Auverts et al determine this? As Geisheker explains it, this study showed a very low incidence of HIV in the intact subjects, and a slightly lower incidence in circumcised subjects. It’s like comparing 1.5% versus 1%, and declaring that there’s a huge difference between the two.  So, the 60% rate is relative, not absolute. If this were a vaccine, it wouldn’t be considered very effective. And the Gates Foundation is funding this.

Contrast this with condom use, which is almost 100% effective at preventing the transmission of HIV. Also, condoms protect women as well, whereas pro-circumcision researchers themselves say that circumcision only protects the man.  If circumcision did protect men as they claim, the condom would still be needed. However, condoms are so effective that any small positive effect from circumcision, if real, would be superfluous.  Thanks to government campaigns for always using a condom in LesothoTanzania and Thailand, there are dramatic reductions in HIV. This could not and has not happened with circumcision and HIV.

There has long been plenty of evidence against the foreskin/HIV connection, even for adult men who might want to protect themselves from HIV in Africa. Even worse, some of these circumcised men believe they are protected from HIV and don’t necessarily need a condom at all.  On top of that, this newest wave is inspiring some journalists and even doctors to spin fanciful tales that these African studies justify doing circumcision to infants living in quite different conditions in the U.S..  There is also some evidence in industrialized cultures that circumcision does not decrease HIV transmission, simply because the U.S. has both the highest circumcision rate and highest HIV incidence of any industrialized nation.

Another popular justification for slicing infant dicks which is trumpeted to this day is the claim that it protects against penile cancer.  This idea started in the early 20th century from the circumcision-promoting Dr. Wolbarst, who proposed that smegma is carcinogenic (which was disproven), and that circumcision stops “epileptic fits” (actually orgasms) in boys.  Of course cutting off a body part will prevent it from getting cancer — you can’t get cancer on what isn’t there! However, penile cancer is extremely rare, even more rare than earlobe cancer.  If we think that the risk of penile cancer is worth cutting the foreskin off, then why don’t we cut off our earlobes if that is even more likely to help? Also, why don’t the folks at the American Cancer Society agree that this is a reason to circumcise infants? According to them, “it would take over 900 circumcisions to prevent one case of penile cancer in this country.” That’s a pretty extreme health measure, don’t you think?

An oncology nurse in Geisheker’s audience said that there isn’t any association at all between penile cancer and foreskins. It’s just a meme, but if you’re a lazy journalist, you’ll pad your article with these types of dubious claims and statistics.  She said that when debating this issue with a urologist, she brought up breast cancer, which 1 in 12 women will eventually develop. “Would you remove breast buds off a girl?” she asked.  The urologist said, “You’re right, we shouldn’t do it.” Besides, statistically, infants are more likely to die of the circumcision itself than to die of penile cancer as adults.

Indeed, infants don’t get penile cancer at all, men do, especially older ones, so again, it would make more sense to wait and let the individual judge this matter for himself.

A similar argument has been made that circumcision prevents transmission of HPV, and thus cervical cancer, in women. This is also completely untrue and based on fatally-flawed studies, which you can read more about here.  What is most outrageous with this claim is the idea of causing significant and irreversible harm to an unconsenting infant, in anticipation that it may have some effect on a hypothetical female sexual partner in the future.  It’s not meant to help the infant who’s being operated on, but rather, someone he may never meet. He may, for all we know, turn out to be gay. Also, such a concern of HPV should be outmoded, since there is now an effective vaccine against it.

Then, of course, there is the  the tired old argument that foreskinlessness prevents urinary tract infections. This began with the Wiswell study (yes, really), which compared the rate of UTIs between circumcised with intact babies.  There were a few fatal flaws, including instructing the parents of the intact boys to repeatedly retract the foreskin and wash under it. Which, as we know, is a known cause of infection — this includes UTIs.

The larger picture here, of course, is that UTIs are generally no big deal — they are easily treated with antibiotics. In fact, young girls are four times more likely to get UTIs than intact boys, and no surgery is recommended for them.  There is also no evidence that circumcision prevents UTIs in adults, even though it is sometimes recommended for chronic ones. It shouldn’t be, because chronic UTIs are caused by internal problems, not external ones.  In any case, it is ludicrous to put weight on foreskin-chopping in infancy as a treatment for such a minor and treatable problem, even if the literature did show a benefit. The treatment is far worse than the sickness!

Interestingly, in the United States, the highest rate of circumcision centers around Michigan, home of Kellogg — coincidence? Of course, the Midwest also has more Medicaid subsidies that pay for it.  Out here in Seattle, and other U.S. locales where circumcision is not nearly as common, the children are no sicker than the ones in the Midwest.

In New Zealand, Geisheker’s home country, they completely gave up routine circumcision 40 years ago, and NZ children are healthier than U.S. children today.  Also, the rate of circumcision in Australia has plummeted in recent decades, while at the same time, health among children has improved, due to better healthcare.  Geisheker also works with European and Australian doctors, who think that Americans are a bit backwards when it comes to chopping babies’ perfectly healthy genitals. According to most doctors of the world, it’s a bad idea:

After reviewing the currently available evidence, the RACP believes that the frequency of diseases modifiable by circumcision, the level of protection offered by circumcision and the complication rates of circumcision do not warrant routine infant circumcision in Australia and New Zealand.

 — The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 2010.

Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.

— The Canadian Paediatric Society, 1996.

There is no convincing evidence that circumcision is useful or necessary in terms of prevention or hygiene… circumcision entails the risk of medical and psychological complications… Non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors conflicts with the child’s right to autonomy and physical integrity.

 The Royal Dutch Medical Association, 2010.

While most doctors of the world discourage this practice, doctors in the U.S. frame the situation differently. Their arguments for child circumcision center around motivating parents to feel comfortable with choosing this for their unconsenting children.  The parents don’t want to hear that they, or loved ones, have been harmed, and so are more willing to believe that it’s for the best.

Extraordinary claims sometimes require extraordinary justifications, and we can see some level of parallel with female genital mutilation.  In one African culture that I have heard of, it is believed that when a woman gives birth and the baby’s head touches her clitoris, both will die. We know this is ridiculous, since we see that it doesn’t happen.  In the same way, outsiders ridicule the “disadvantages of a foreskin” that I hear all around me, particularly if they never occur in real life.

In college, I wrote a paper on child genital mutilation (yes, really) and I remember reading an article about immigrants to the U.S. from someplace in Africa. They believed that the clitoris causes women to like sex “too much” and engage in excessive sexual behavior.  When they saw a pregnant teenage girl, they would say, “See? Americans need to circumcise their daughters. I would not let my daughter keep her clitoris!”  If this is shocking to you, then good: This is basically how most people of the world regard parents who say their son needs to have his most erogenous zone cut off.

Many of the immigrant women did not know what a clitoris is, nor what they were missing. This may seem dismaying to you, and it is equally so to me when I am asked by a full-grown man what a foreskin is.  Even worse is the ones who don’t know, but they don’t realize they don’t know.

Only a few years ago I heard of a controversy in Egypt, where 90% of women are circumcised, over whether the female practice should be medicalized.  As per Egyptian culture, some doctors recommended removing the prepuce of the clitoris, with the belief that there was medical evidence that this protects against HIV.  They called this procedure ‘female circumcision’, but they called removing the entire clitoris ‘genital mutilation’. Other doctors said that was an unfair characterization and that all of this is female genital mutilation.

Since the bias against some genital parts over others is based on cultural beliefs, I wondered about other body parts that might be discriminated against. One example is to be found in a book by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.  The title should give you a clue — Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. It’s about how people solve their cognitive dissonance between their image of themselves as a generally good person, and facts which seem to contradict this.  The book opens with the Nuer and Dinka tribes, and a much stranger coming-of-age ritual: Surgically extracting the front teeth with fishing hooks — two on the top, and up to six on the bottom.

This is extremely painful, somewhat risky, and in the long-term, causes a gradual atrophy of the jawbone, especially a caved-in chin. What could possibly possess anyone to do this to their own children? It is thought to have been their solution to an outbreak of tetanus, in order to keep children from starving to death through clenched jaws. Over the years, it became a coming-of-age rite, ‘normal’ for everyone in the tribe.  Now the general opinion amongst tribe members is that people who have all their teeth look frightening like cannibals, or silly like donkeys. They also say they prefer the whistling sounds they make when they talk.

These post-hoc justifications are a way to resolve the cognitive dissonance between causing harm to children, and having had harm caused to them. Besides, it’s just normal to them! This very same point is repeatedly made by researchers concerning the U.S. bias against foreskins, and the billion-and-a-half dollar industry based on cutting them off.  Indeed, there are a million routine infant circumcisions done in U.S. hospitals each year — it is among the most common surgeries in the United States.

Instead of allowing the individual to enjoy his own erogenous zone, it is tossed in the incinerator, or sold to companies such as Invitrogen for other people’s profit and benefit.

That’s right — genital parts ripped from uncomprehending infants are made into Apligraf Magic Skin Treatment, and even Oprah has been criticized for pushing a skin cream made from baby penile cells.  It seems that in the U.S., the male prepuce is valued more as a commodity than as a rightful part of a person’s own body. (Yet, the reverse is true for the female prepuce.) There’s a difference between donating an organ and stealing an organ. Which is this? Whose body is it, anyway?

I once made this point to a former housemate of mine who was pregnant with a boy.  Although I had previously talked with her about this subject, twice, it evidently had no effect. She personally didn’t like the look of a normal, intact penis, and wanted her boy to match his friends.  I explained to her that only 30% of newborn boys are circumcised in the Seattle area, so he would actually be unlike most of his friends.

She replied, “So?”

Then I told her why most other societies in the world look down upon chopping off the most sensitive part of the penis.

She said, “Who cares what they do in other countries? I want to do what Americans do!”

I switched tactics and asked her, “Whose penis is it? Is it yours? What if your dad had part of your genitals cut off because he didn’t like the way they looked? How would that make you feel?”

Unable to answer in a rational manner, she started screaming about how it was her right as a parent to make this decision and how dare I tell her what to do, or even care about it at all, as it was none of my business.

“It’s my child, it’s my choice!” she shouted, and stormed out of the room, slamming the door. Although her emotional reaction was quite strong, it is not that different from more typical incidents I have heard of.

Indeed, instead of centering this surgery around the person who is affected by it, and letting him make this decision about his own body, I have noticed that pro-circumcision websites are all about having the parent choose.  Displayed on their front pages are comments from parents along the lines of “I have never regretted my choice,” and “I agree, parents should be the ones to decide.”  What about his choice? Can it wait until he is old enough to fill out a consent form? He will probably prefer to keep what he was born with, thanks. Most do.

In response to making this very point, I’ve heard, “Of course he will want to keep his foreskin, that’s why I shouldn’t leave the choice to him!” Sound familiar?

This is why most male circumcision rituals of various cultures are done on young boys — they are not large enough to fight back or leave the tribe. They also don’t usually have lawyers to protect them, although those are employed in North America.  Geisheker mentions the 14 year old boy by name of Bolt, whose father had converted to Judaism and wanted his son’s penis to match his. Bolt’s case was turned down by the Supreme Court, but by then, he was old enough to testify in court. He escaped unharmed and went to live with his mom.  Defending male children from circumcision is tough in the U.S. because no medical license is required — it can be done by mohels, midwives, nurses, or parents. That’s partly because it’s not medicine.  In New Male Studies, Geisheker published an article about this, called The Completely Unregulated Practice of Circumcision.

Indeed, in the U.S., most doctors, midwives, and OBGYNs bring up the question, and frame it as though it is a decision to be made by the parents. Although I’ve heard of doctors in Seattle questioning parents who want to do this to their children, they could do better/  In the 1960’s, doctors in New Zealand ended the practice by not bringing it up to parents, and if anyone asked about it, they said that it was an obsolete procedure that came from England. That was usually enough to dissuade them.

American medical culture is still full of bias on this topic, as many European doctors pointed out in response to a 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics pro-circumcision technical report. Plus, out of eight people on the AAP committee, four of them had vested interests: one had circumcised his own son on his kitchen table; one was a doctor in Seattle at the children’s hospital who promoted female circumcision; one was an expert in medical financing; and one refused to reign in a mohel for giving babies herpes via sucking their penis wounds.

Near the end of his presentation, Geisheker demonstrates what Bioethics 101 means. There are a few points to consider when you focus on the patient’s immediate needs, from the point of view of the patient.

Beneficence — Is the procedure necessary/beneficial?
Nonmaleficense — Does it avoid harm/suffering
Justice — Would we choose this for ourselves?
Autonomy — Is the patient being treated as a separate person or as a member of a community? Can it wait for patient assent?
Proportionality — Is the risk and pain worth the gain?

As I hope to have demonstrated in this post, non-therapeutic child circumcision fails every one of those requirements.  He comes to the same conclusion that I grasped many years ago: It is plastic surgery, a phrase that means ‘adult’.

This is so obvious to people outside of this sort of culture that they could easily assume that Americans don’t do this, just as Americans commonly assume that the rest of the industrialized world does.  The first time I discussed this with a non-U.S. person, a man from Ireland, he said he had no clue of this practice until he saw a variety of American pornography. He reported feeling repulsed by the strange, vigorous way that “mutilated” genitals had to be stimulated.  The people from Europe that I have talked to on this issue have all told me that in their countries, male and female circumcision are both regarded as pointless and culturally backwards.

Indeed, it is a bizarre double standard in North America and some other places that people can think that hacking at boys’ genitals is good, but that hacking at girls’ genitals is bad.  I think that much of this is related to the deeply-embedded cultural attitude that the foreskin is not part of the penis. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen this phenomenon in person, as well as on TV and in movies.  Another example is Robin Williams’ comedy routine about how wonderful the male member is, yet his only allusion to the hyper-developed erogenous zone was “an optional covering”. That is like saying that your lips are an optional covering, rather than a functional part of your mouth.  I once even saw the episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit on this topic, and laughed hysterically when the doctor actually said they use a clamp so as not to “hurt the baby’s penis”, while he screams in agony (or “tolerates extremely well”).  It would be quite a feat to be able to amputate a huge section of any appendage without harming it, yet that is essentially the claim here.

“Cutting off part of the penis is not injuring it in this reality, only cutting off more than what you intended to leave,” says physical oncologist Ryan McAllister in his presentation The Elephant In The Hospital, which I’ve linked to below.
` In 2011, someone I’ll call ‘L’ posted this video on Facebook in response to his brother and wife’s adopting what was about to become most-of-a boy.
` The wife claimed that this is a religious practice required in Catholicism, which is anything but true, yet is a common belief.
` The brother, who admitted to knowing nothing at all about foreskins, said that he was satisfied in the amount of research he had done that he was making the right choice.
` Instead of clicking on the video, they simply raised a fuss, calling it a ‘family crisis’, and forbid L from ever meeting the boy.

In the hopes that someone would learn from this video, I posted it on Facebook (where else?):

Child Circumcision: an Elephant in the Hospital

Ryan McAllister, PhD What is infant circumcision? Why is the practice common in U.S. hospitals and not in other countries? What does it remove…

He brings up most of the same things that I have brought up already, and takes a closer look at some of the phallic logical fallacies of this culture:

Poisoning the well: “It’s cleaner, looks better.”
Appeal to Majority: “Everyone does it.”

Minimizing words: “Little snip”, “useless”, “flap of skin.”

Special Pleading: “Babies don’t feel pain or remember.”

Appeal to Ignorance: “I can’t imagine how it could be harmful.”

He examines the cyclic view of a social surgery, that is, one that removes a healthy unique organ part. Many doctors know it’s a social surgery, not a treatment, yet they take advantage of the parents’ trust.

  • They trivialize complications and don’t tell the parents that the foreskin is a sexual part. They don’t bring up ethical questions or conflicts of interest, such as profit and tissue uses.
  • He actually shows a video of the surgery: The infant is screaming in extreme pain, yet the physician is not bothered by this.
  • Losing one’s job is one possible punishment for doctors and nurses who don’t want to do it, or who tell parents not to.
  • Not only does it harm children and their parents, it hurts the health practitioners because they are learning to harm people.

The AAP ethics committee says that it is inappropriate to allow the individual to make his own decision, and obstetricians claim that it’s the mother’s choice because she is the patient, not her child.  McAllister shows a clip of an obstetrician interviewed on Craig Ferguson’s talk show. She said it really is a social and cultural procedure, and that any health benefits from circumcision can be achieved through washing.

Then she says, “You have to choose as a parent.”

“That’s a tough choice,” Craig jokes.
Do you have to choose giving your baby a nose job, too?

Because of the circumcision craze, David Gibbins, Pediatric Urologist said that in a two year period he was referred over 275 newborns and toddlers with complications from it, and almost half needed corrective surgery.

There is also the unspoken assumption that foreskin-chopping is inevitable. I have long noticed this, as in “My parents waited until I was six before they finally had me circumcised.”  Also, Americans tend to use the word ‘uncircumcised’, which implies that you’re in line to do it eventually. I would not say that I am ‘uncircumcised’, or ‘unmastectomized’ for that matter. Women aren’t viewed that way, so why are men?

To my surprise, I didn’t get any dissenting comments on the video — instead, it attracted the attention of an Australian man, who I was able to relate a few of my bizarre anecdotes to, some of which I have already related in this post.  I’d display those comments here, but I’m saving them for a future post.

I hope I have made thus far a fairly convincing argument that there is a clear cultural bias in this matter, based on ignorance, misinformation, and a desire to justify the damage that has been done.

Pointing out the double standard of ‘male circumcision is good’ and ‘female circumcision is bad’, has earned me accusations that I’m discriminating against females.  The truth is, I want everyone to be protected from having chunks of them cut off for other people’s benefits, male, female, and otherwise.  A friend of mine is a man who was born intersex, and whose penis and testicles were removed when he was an infant. His medical records were destroyed and the truth was kept hidden from him by his family and all his doctors until he finally solved the mystery himself in middle age.  I know something of the anguish and impairment that social surgery can have on a person, and it goes beyond men with normal anatomy.

By the way, it’s taken me until 2015 to finally publish this draft, and this was part of what motivated me to get going: I saw one of my skepticy friends had posted a quote from a Victorian Era doctor about keeping boys from masturbating. I tried to explain how the backwardsness of this is still with us in medicine, but it didn’t work, as you can see.

If I’d completed this article by then, and thus was able to link to it, this wouldn’t have happened:

Circumcision existed long before America. It was done for religious reasons representing a covalent between God and Abraham. Here: “the procedure is most often elected for religious reasons or personal preferences,but may be indicated for both therapeutic and prophylactic reasons. It is a treatment option for pathological phimosis, refractory balanoposthitis and chronic urinary tract infection. ” And “The WHO recommends considering circumcision as part of a comprehensive HIV program in areas with high endemic rates of HIV, such as sub-Saharan Africa,”…

Nothing to do with masturbation.

I am snickering, thinking of God and Abraham sharing electrons. I will abbreviate my own responses, which threatened to become their own blog post.

First of all, the religious tradition is partly for desensitizing the penis and getting the man’s focus on heaven…. It was promoted by the co-founder of the American Medical Association and his followers….
Various myths about circumcision and medical benefits arose, which persist to this day and are not generally believed in most countries, where it is not practiced or recommended….

…It also unnecessarily maims the penis by cutting off the most sensitive part. The foreskin is as sensitive as your lips, and the glans is as sensitive as your arm. That is because it serves several purposes, including controlling orgasm. Circumcised men have the most sexual dysfunctions.

…it’s an unbearably painful thing to do to an infant’s fused penis, and can lead to long term trauma reactions. It is outlawed in many parts of the world for this and the sexual repercussions.

I could go on, but you get the idea. It is a practice to suppress sexual pleasure. It is not done in Europe, other than for religious reasons….

He responded:

Proof. Where is the proof it is an American thing? Where is the proof there is higher sexual dysfunction? Where is the proof it was/is used to deter masturbation? It is not recommended nor is advised against…

Unable to do much of an internet search, or even paste links, thanks to my malfunctioning smartphone at the time, I replied:

…Last I checked the internet and online medical journals I found pretty much the same thing.

Why not do a few keyword searches and see what you find?

…I often talk about it with men in other parts of the world and they all think it’s nutty and wtf is wrong with Americans. One guy said he broke up with his girlfriend from South Africa because she said if they had a son she would have him circumcised because she likes having sex with circumcised cocks. This is a common attitude I have found in the U.S..

What if a man said he prefers sex with circumcised women so he does that to his daughter? Is he planning to have sex with her? Is he seeing her as a sex object?…

He didn’t respond to that well.

Proof. Where is your proof? If you are going to assert that male circumcision is an American phenomenon to deter masturbation you are making one hell of a claim. The original post had nothing to do with circumcision but about masturbation. I have seen not heard of no study that shows even correlation between circumcision and the desire or pleasure derived from masturbation

They exist. A few of them are even quoted here. I couldn’t paste any such links, however, so I replied:

It’s not based on science.

Also I did not say it’s an American phenomenon, I’m saying that the medicalization of it started in Victorian America, as part of their cultural beliefs.

In the late 1800 it became a Christian-anti masturbation medical practice….

It won’t let me paste the link, just [do a search] and the proof will magically appear, don’t tell me I didn’t give you any evidence!!

And to repeat myself, I often talk about how nutty it is with people from parts of the globe where it is not practiced as a medicalized phenomenon.

They count it as one more reason Americans are nutty.

Also in parts of Africa, some doctors are fighting to medicalize female circumcision. Does it make that legit, too?

This hardly had the effect I had hoped:

As I said in an early post, there are religions that practice it and there are medical benefits in some cases. Googling as you recommended, yes there were some who thought it would stop masturbation in addition to health reasons. About one-third of males WORLDWiDE are circumcised (source)

Male circumcision is not the same as female genital mutilation.

I grow bored of this

Evidently, he was more interested in dismissing me than understanding my argument. I replied:

I didn’t say it was . I pointed that out because it is fashionable in those cultures to believe that female genital mutilation is good. [It used to be in this culture.]

You are good at putting words in my mouth.

And where do those males worldwide live? In cultures where people have traditionally done so and come up with beliefs about why they do it — mostly Muslims.

My point is, where it is done depends on the culture. Do you not see that?

Also, you should check out what Maimonides said about it, he was after all an ancient Jewish scholar. 😉

[Maimonides says that circumcision is good because it decreases sexual pleasure for the man and the woman, so that they will keep their minds on God rather than the unclean flesh.]

At that moment, he deleted the thread, and I had thought it was because of me, although he says otherwise.
Later on, I was able to send him a link to a relevant article, one of a series. I don’t know if he ever read it.
By coincidence, Geisheker wrote two of the articles in this series, and suggests some further reading (if this post hasn’t been too much for you already):

There’s Robert Darby’s account of circumcision as a fad in Britain, A Surgical Temptation: The Demonization of the Foreskin and the Rise of Circumcision in Britain.

Also, there’s his commentary on the continued practice in America The Sorceror’s Apprentice: Why Can’t We Stop Circumcising Boys?

Also, there’s an interesting book by David Gollaher, Circumcision: A History of the World’s Most Controversial Surgery.

Anthropologist Leonard Glick wrote Marked In Your Flesh.

I also wrote up a follow-up article, which features an anatomy lesson video, biased anatomy books, a doctor saying that the foreskin is not fused at birth, crazy pro-circumcision pedophiles, doctors invented just to promote circumcision, and Facebook comments which show that indeed, it is just a cultural thing.
You can check it out at this link: Child Circumcision: Culture-based ignorance, fetish, and pseudoscience.

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Alternative News

12 Reasons Why Even Low Levels of Glyphosate Are Unsafe

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Decades of research have shown how Glyphosate is toxic in any amount, both for human and and the environment. This is not debatable.

  • Reflect On:

    Glyphosate is illegal in several dozen countries around the world due to health and environmental concerns. How can this product be approved for use when it's abundantly clear it's extremely unsafe, just like DDT was?

By Zen Honeycutt, Founding Executive Director Mom’s Across AmericaChildren’s Heath Defense Coalition Partner

Proponents of GMOs and Glyphosate-based herbicides and staunch believers in the EPA have long argued that low levels of glyphosate exposure are safe for humans. Even our own EPA tells us that Americans can consume 17 times more glyphosate in our drinking water than European residents. The EWG asserts that 160 ppb of glyphosate found in breakfast cereal is safe for a child to consume due to their own safety assessments, and yet renowned scientists and health advocates have long stated that no level is safe.  Confusion amongst consumers and the media is rampant.

Glyphosate is the declared active chemical ingredient in Roundup and Ranger Pro, which are both manufactured by Monsanto, the original manufacturer of Agent Orange and DDT. There are 750 brands of glyphosate-based herbicides.Glyphosate based herbicides are the most widely used in the world and residues of glyphosate have been found in tap water, children’s urine, breast milk, chips, snacks, beer, wine, cereals, eggs, oatmeal, wheat products, and most conventional foods tested.

The detection of glyphosate in these foods has set off alarms of concern in households and food manufacturers’ offices around the world. Lawsuits have sprung up against companies that make food products that claim to be “100% Natural” and yet contain glyphosate residues. These lawsuits have been successful. Debates, using the argument that “the dose makes the poison,” have been pushed by media. Speculation is that these media outlets are funded by advertisers that make or sell these chemicals or have sister companies that do, and threatening their profits would be unwise for all involved – except the consumers.

It is time to set the record straight

Here are 12 reasons why there is no safe level of glyphosate herbicide residue in our food or beverages.

  1. Babies, toddlers, and young children have kidneys and livers which are underdeveloped and do not have the ability to detox toxins the way adults doTheir bodies are less capable of eliminating toxins and therefore are particularly susceptible. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that children, especially, should avoid pesticides because, “prenatal and early childhood exposure to pesticides is associated with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems.”
  2. Glyphosate does not wash, dry or cook off, and has been shown to bioaccumulate in the bone marrow, tendons and muscle tissue. Bioaccumulation of low levels over time will result in levels which we cannot predict or determine; therefore there is no scientific basis to state that the low levels are not dangerous, as they can accumulate to high levels in an unforeseeable amount of time.
  3. “There is no current reliable way to determine the incidence of pesticide exposure and illness in US children.” -AAP  Children are exposed through food, air, contact with grass and pets. How much they are being exposed to daily from all these possibilities is simply not something that we have been able to determine. Therefore no one is capable of assessing what levels are safe from any one modality of exposure because an additional low level from other modalities could add up to a high level of exposure.
    1. Ultra-low levels of glyphosate herbicides have been proven to cause non-alcoholic liver disease in a long term animal study by Michael Antoniou, Giles Eric Seralini et al.  The levels the rats were exposed to, per kg of body weight, were far lower than what is allowed in our food supply. According to the Mayo Clinic 100 million, or 1 out of 3 Americans now have liver disease. These diagnoses are in some as young as 8 years old.
    2. Ultra-low levels of glyphosate have been shown to be  endocrine and hormone disrupting.Changes to hormones can lead to birth defects, miscarriage, autoimmune disease, cancer, mental and chronic illness.
    3. The  EPA Allowable Daily Intake Levels (ADIs) of glyphosate exposure were set for a 175-pound man, not a pregnant mother, infant, or child.
    4. Glyphosate alone has been shown to be chronically toxic causing organ and cell damage. Glyphosate herbicides final formulations, have been shown to be acutely toxic, causing immediate damage at low levels.
    5. The detection of glyphosate at low levels could mean the presence of the other toxic ingredients in glyphosate herbicides on our food. Until studies are done, one must practice the Precautionary Principle. The label on glyphosate herbicides does not specify the pesticide class or “other”/“inert” ingredients that may have significant acute toxicity and can account for up to 54% of the product.
    6. Regarding the label and low-level exposure: “Chronic toxicity information is not included, and labels are predominantly available in English. There is significant use of illegal pesticides(especially in immigrant communities), off-label use, and overuse, underscoring the importance of education, monitoring, and enforcement.” – AAP. Exposure to low levels of glyphosate herbicides can occur through pregnant wives or children hugging the father who is a pesticide applicator.  The chronic health impacts such as rashes which can, years later, result in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, are often ignored, especially by low income or non-English speaking users dependent on their pesticide application occupation for survival.
    7. The EPA has admitted to not having any long-term animal studies with blood analysis on the final formulation of any glyphosate herbicides.  The EPA cannot state that the final formulation is safe.
    8. For approval of pesticides and herbicides, the EPA only requires safety studies, by the manufacturer who benefits from the sales, on the one declared active chemical ingredient—in this case glyphosate. Glyphosate is never used alone.
    9. The main manufacturer, Monsanto, has been found to be guilty on all counts by a San Francisco Supreme Court Jury in the Johnson v Monsanto. This includes guilty of “malice and oppression” which means that the company executives knew that their glyphosate products could cause cancer and suppressed this information from the public.

    Clearly, it is time for food and beverage manufacturers to have a zero tolerance for glyphosate residue levels and for the US EPA and regulatory agencies everywhere to stop ignoring the science and to revoke the license of glyphosate immediately.

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Sign up for free news and updates from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Children’s Health Defense. CHD is planning many strategies, including legal, in an effort to defend the health of our children and obtain justice for those already injured. Your support is essential to CHD’s successful mission.

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Awareness

Cannabis Oil Was Used To Treat Epilepsy 176 Years Ago

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Cannabis has been used to treat people with Epilepsy for more than 100 years. Numerous people including children have had tremendous success with it, but it's not disclosed within the mainstream as much as it should be.

  • Reflect On:

    The medicinal properties of cannabis have been known for a long time, so why is it so difficult for patients to access? Today, things are changing, but big pharma is taking it over for themselves. How will they grow it? What will they spray it with?

Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic issues such as strokes and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as cannabidiol are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH3, and COCH3. (Source)

The statement above comes from a patent owned by the United States government, which was assigned decades ago. Since then, countless amounts of studies have shown how the active constituents within cannabis, like cannabidiol for example,  completely obliterate cancer cells in the lab in vitro. As illustrated above, it has a wide variety of health applications, which begs the question when it comes to various diseases, why have we not seen any clinical trials? There are so many published studies warranting clinical trials when it comes to using cannabis to treat cancer, among several other diseases.

When the development of a drug shows even a quarter of the potential that cannabis has over the years, it seems that funding for clinical trials becomes instant. But when it comes to cannabis, which has obviously shown huge potential, we’ve seen nothing. I am more so referring to clinical trials with regards to cancer. Just imagine if we funded studies using natural remedies with the same amount of money we invest into pharmaceuticals. Would certain cancers be cured? Again, we don’t know, because the resources haven’t been adequately dished out, and if it did turn out that cannabis could obliterate multiple cancers in vivo (full living biological organisms), it would be against corporate interests.

However, this will likely change now that medical marijuana is being legalized across the world, the most recent example being Canada. This has brought up multiple concerns from citizens, as Big Pharma is now taking over the medical cannabis industry. How it’s grown, what pesticides are being put on it, and whether or not it’s genetically modified is still unknown. The truth is, pharmaceutical marijuana will not at all compare to marijuana that’s grown naturally in nature. If one were to study the medicinal properties comparing the two, I bet there would be a significant difference.

Big pharma is taking over the medical marijuana industry. Legalization in Canada and various US states was largely done in order to profit these big corporations who don’t really seem to care about our health at all. The main reason why cannabis has been illegal for so long is that powerful corporate interests have had a huge hand in keeping cannabis off the market. Cannabis can eliminate the need for many prescription drugs, for example, and these alone kill approximately 100,000 people a year, and that’s in the United States alone.

Cannabis & Epilepsy

Children and people with epilepsy have had a very hard time accessing medical marijuana to treat their condition. Again, this is largely because the use of it threatens corporate interests. This became even more evident a couple years ago when 12 year old Alexis Bortell sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions and The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). She needed access to clean, pure, natural cannabis for the treatment of her illnesses and medical conditions. The family had no choice but to relocate from Texas to Colorado and uproot their entire lives just to treat her severe epilepsy.

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The crazy thing about cannabis and epilepsy is the fact that it works, and that’s something that has been known for a number of years. Sure, it might take a lot of time to find the right strand, make it into oil, and get the dosage amounts exactly right, but that’s only because parents and doctors who are actively engaged in using this as medicine don’t have the resources to figure this out in an efficient way.

Cannabis and its ability to treat epilepsy has been known for a long time, probably much longer than we are aware of. Prior to Rockefeller creating medical education, it was probably used a lot. Rockefeller and other ‘philanthropists’ played a large role in shutting down all medical schools before they began funding and building their own medical education and treatment methods. During this process, an enormous amount of knowledge was lost, and the treatment methods that were most profitable became mainstream.

The first detailed modern description of cannabis as an anti-seizure medication was published in 1843 by W.B. O’Shaughnessy, a physician in the Bengal Army and Late Professor of Chemistry and Materia Medica at the Medical College of Calcutta. A perfect example of what I just referred to above with regards to medical education.

After testing the behavioural effects of various preparations of Cannabis indica in healthy fish, dogs, swines, vultures, crows, horses, deers, monkeys, goats, sheep, cows, and military assistants, he investigated the potential value of extracts of the plant in patients with different disorders, and reported remarkable anti-seizure effects in a 40-days-old baby girl with recurrent convulsive seizures. These observations were taken up by other physicians, including Sir William Gowers, who described the effectiveness of Cannabis Indica against seizures resistant to bromides. (source)

In the twentieth century the use of cannabis declined somewhat because cultivation of the plant was made illegal in many countries.

Below is a graph of  the number of articles retrieved in PubMed by using the search terms ‘cannabis and epilepsy’, grouped by year of publication.

One of Many Real World Examples

Alex Repetski, father of three year old daughter, Gwenevere, has spent a long time reading through studies and medical journals and researching CBD and its healing properties to help her with the tonic, myoclonic, and clinical seizures she was having — sometimes up to 50 a day. She was diagnosed with epilepsy and, as her EEGs revealed, was experiencing constant subclinical seizure activity throughout the day. It may not have looked like she was having a seizure from the outside, but at the brain level there were neurons firing constantly, and such activity can produce significant brain damage.

Gwenevere had a team of doctors that were trying an array of treatment methods to reduce the number of seizures she was having each day. At one point she was on 9 different medications. They kept hoping each subsequent medication would work, but nothing did. That’s when Alex decided to look into cannabis oil. “At that point, we really didn’t have anything to lose,” he said, as he recalled the struggle of trying to help his daughter achieve a better quality of life.

After acquiring the cannabis and reducing it down to its oil form, Alex proceeded with many rounds of trial and error, trying to find just the right dosage for Gwenevere. After five days, they noticed no seizures. Then another week went by, and then a month, and then two months of no seizures. Two Januaries ago, she went in for her 17th EEG after being on cannabis oil for 5 weeks.

This EEG was strikingly different from her previous ones. It seemed the cannabis oil had helped straighten out her brainwaves, working at the subclinical level. This was a huge moment for the Repetski family.

The Takeaway

Corporations have amassed so much power that plants and natural substances with unbelievable healing properties are being made illegal. Furthermore, many doctors are brainwashed to believe that this is still a controversial topic. And with legalization comes the takeover of this medicine by big pharmaceutical companies. If you want to know about the healing properties of cannabis, you don’t have to look far. It’s also important to acknowledge that theses benefits typically do not include smoking the plant, since that completely changes its chemical composition.

It’s very hard to find pure, healthy, and properly grown cannabis today. It requires a lot of research and a lot of work to find, which is in large part due to government regulations and big pharma. Anything that threatens corporate interests, no matter how helpful it can be for humanity, is often hidden from us or made illegal.

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