Meet a Fierce Advocate for Women’s Health: Jen Gunter, MD
March 25, 2022 – Jen Gunther, MD, refuses to remain silent when she sees misleading claims about women’s health products.
The world’s most famous – and outspoken – OB/GYN (described as The keeper) is on social media to speak out whenever she sees companies or governments “preying on women’s health and vaginal shame.”
With almost 400,000 followers, Gunther never shies away from controversy.
WebMD contacted a San Francisco doctor and author of two books. Bible vagina as well as The Menopause Manifesto. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
WebMD: So these Olly capsules are billed as “probiotics for your panty hamster.” What was your reaction to this?
Gunther: The word “hamsters in panties” is blatant. I was so used to essential vaginal opportunism, but it was egregious, and I had to say so.
WebMD: What are vaginal probiotics?
Gunther: It’s one of those big wellness scams where companies try to convince you to somehow hack your microbiome by taking them. They’re not cheap either and can cost anywhere from $30 to $150 a month, depending on how custom-made they are. Still, the data is not good. Evidence of the value of these probiotics is almost non-existent, except for shareholders.
WebMD: Which statement in Olly’s probiotic packaging worries you the most?
Gunther: The product claims to balance the pH of the vagina. To say so is a gross misunderstanding of the vaginal ecosystem. If this slogan is what you’re leading the way with, what else don’t you know?
Also, if these things worked, we would recommend them. Vaginitis is complex and often misdiagnosed, and it’s easy for companies to be predatory and swoop in and say they have a product for you.
If I think your vaginal product is terrible, and you haven’t studied it in at least one quality clinical trial (company funded or not), and your marketing is showing astonishing ignorance about vaginal health, don’t contact me about your product. Really.
WebMD: You quickly weigh when there is a pop culture reference, say menstruation.
Gunther: I saw these viral messages from the boy’s mother (as she called herself), where she wrote that she was disgusted by the mention of menstruation in blushesanimated film.
Everyone is here because of menstruation. If you didn’t have your period, you wouldn’t have a baby; we wouldn’t have a person with the brains to build a computer on which you’re spreading this message. Menstruation is a vital part of human reproduction and is more complex than people think. For this reason alone, people should know about it.
WebMD: Do you ever worry about being so exposed on social media?
Gunther: I guess I have my stalkers, but trolls don’t bother me. I don’t care if some art dealer in New York thinks I’m mentally ill because of the mask ads. Is this the best you have? It doesn’t even register for me. It’s like throwing a grain of sand at a car.
WebMD: You also exchanged views with Dr. Liana Wen, a medical analyst for CNN, about wearing masks.
Gunther: She has a different opinion than I do. One of the most significant issues during the pandemic is the change in messages and the idea that people are somehow not living their everyday lives right now. I was sad to see her push this concept forward.
This weekend I had dinner, bought furniture, went to the movies, took a walk. My family and I wear masks everywhere. I don’t understand how wearing a mask means you’re not living an everyday life when it’s related to reducing the spread of the virus.
Almost everything in medicine is geared towards risk reduction. There are things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease. It’s not 100% guaranteed, but wouldn’t we like less chance of bad things? I’m going to wear the mask forever!
WebMD: Would you like more doctors to speak as loudly as possible?
Gunther: I would like more doctors to talk about health outside of the office in a way that suits them. For example, you are at the hairdresser, share information, and share information with 15 of your friends on Facebook. If you are a doctor and publish an article about COVID-19 and how it affects the heart, your 15 friends are more likely to read it than if your lawyer friend posted it.
As physicians, I believe that we can often influence people in ways big and small.