SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE
Best Health|June/July 2021
In her books, her op-eds and her wildly popular Twitter feed, Dr. Jen Gunter helps women around the world separate vagina facts from vagina jade eggs. Now she’s untangling that feared and misunderstood time: menopause.
KATE RAE

Menopause has long been the punchline to a rambling joke about women’s health. More recently, though, it has become a paycheque, with many companies and practitioners promising magical cures to cash in on our discomfort, anxiety and desperation.

Enter Dr. Jen Gunter. She devotes her social media presence to tackling damaging myths about women’s health and taking down purveyors of “bullshit” solutions—Gwyneth and her vaginal steams very much included. Now the Canadian-born San Francisco-based ob-gyn hopes to make this phase of our lives more manageable, healthy and happy with her new book, The Menopause Manifesto, which delivers history, feminism and stone-cold facts. Those pills, creams and fake tests you’ve been hawked? Time to chuck them in the trash. Thank you for writing this book. As someone white-knuckling it through menopause, it was so helpful to read. Oh, great! Yeah, women need a lot more information.

Do you want women to dog-ear your book and bring it into their next doctor’s appointment? What’s your hope?

I hope it helps inoculate people against the misinformation online. Lies about hormones and therapies seem to be Instagram and TikTok fodder. I hope this helps people realize what’s a scam, who is scamming them—and who is just woefully misinformed—and what might hurt them. And I hope it helps them have the conversations they need to be having with their healthcare providers and to be able to push back if they’re not getting the information and help they need.

But where can we get help? Articles about women’s health always blithely say, “Talk to your health-care provider,” but you really only get 15 minutes with your family doctor.

I think it’s impossible to have a conversation about menopause in 15 minutes. It’s not even possible to have it in an hour, because you’re talking about health implications for 40 or 50 years of someone’s life. That’s like saying to a 16-year-old, “We have 15 minutes to talk about your adulthood. Let’s go.” I really think providers need to say, “Listen, I want to help you with your menopause, and I cannot help you all in one visit, so let me give you some basic information, and we’ll have you come back or we can follow up with a phone call, and we can do it over several discussions.” It’s a big concept. And people come in with so much misinformation about hormones. I’ll say, “What do you hope hormones can do for you?” and they’ll come in with this long laundry list of things that sound like, well, life—not menopause.

Right, so when someone walks into your office and says, “Hey, I’m sleeping like crap,” it’s important to remember it might not always be menopause-related.

Exactly. Menopause doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When you’re in your late 40s or early 50s, and you might have children in middle school or high school, it’s a stressful time. There’s a lot of other things going on. So many women take care of everybody else except themselves. The three healthiest things a woman can do to help her menopause are not smoke, exercise regularly and eat right. So I always start off with the basics. You can’t look at hormones as a magic wand. They aren’t. They are a piece of the puzzle for some people, though not for everyone. But they’re not the whole picture.

What you said in the book about how exercise is like free money—that was a light bulb for me. I always think, Oh, if I can’t commit to a seven-days-a-week regimen, what’s the point? But every little bit counts! A 10-minute dog walk is great! That’s like 10 free bucks.

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