I am sometimes asked “Aren’t you being exclusionary only working with women” so I thought it might be useful to explain why……

So, in this month’s blog, I hope to shed some light on this!

What is Women’s Health?

This is further reaching than simply focusing on issues with our reproductive organs!! There are significant biological and social differences between genders, disadvantaging women across the globe, that are often ignored when it comes to seeking solutions for our health.

The role our hormones play is significant in making sure we feel good. One key difference is that whilst men and women have a circadian rhythm, women have a second internal timekeeper – our infradian rhythm (menstrual cycle) yet it is largely ignored despite affecting EVERY system in the body.

This cycle is the 5th vital sign yet is rarely understood in depth. Despite being medically recognised as a vital sign it is rarely included in assessing a woman’s overall health – when was the last time you were asked about how your period is?

Even the UK Government has acknowledged that 51% of the population (aka women!!) face obstacles when trying to access the care we need. Too little is currently known about conditions that just affect women and we are suffering as a result.

Misogyny in Medicine and Beyond

Whether we like it or not, patriarchy is very real, and it has dealt women a pretty shitty deal when it comes to managing our health.

This is not the fault of incredible frontline health staff who simply do not know what they do not know. It is vital that we understand that, historically, medicine was developed by men researching male physiologies, which continues to be taught in medical school. Sadly, there have not been huge advances as, when women are included, they tend to have their cycle shut down with the pill – even lab rats tend to be male!

This was further evidenced in the UK’s Women’s Health Strategy:

“There are also far too many cases where women’s voices have not been listened to. Women are under-represented when it comes to important clinical trials”.

UK Women’s Health Strategy

Most of what we understand about health and pharmaceutical intervention is based on what works for a male physiology.  This has usually meant that women get treated as small men and their hormonal fluctuations are pretty much ignored, yet these play a HUGE role in managing our health. For example, did you know that women are many more times likely to experience side effects to medicines than men?

Also, many of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance have in the past seen us locked up in asylums, dismissed as being “crazy” or “weak minded”, when in fact we have been failed because there was such a lack of knowledge about the impact our hormones have on our brains.

In the women’s health arena, we have been shouting for decades about the lack of understanding of women’s health and slowly this is coming under the spotlight in mainstream medicine. Even Dr Chatterjee did a great podcast looking at this (https://drchatterjee.com/fasting-hormones-menopause-why-women-need-a-different-approach-to-men-with-dr-mindy-pelz/) if you’d like to hear more.

The consequences of ignoring the Female experience

The Government’s Women’s Health Strategy has evidenced many women’s experiences of not being listened to and feeling unheard. Many women in my clinic feel gas-lit and even traumatised in some instances by not having their symptoms taken seriously or being told it is in their head, being offered SSRI’s over and again.

The challenge for mainstream medicine is that often there is nothing “wrong” from a medical perspective – symptoms simply do not meet disease thresholds and until the more recent emergence of functional women’s health practices, this has left women with few options.

The result of this is HUGE, with many women suffering in silence, not wanting to be “difficult” (hello Good Girl conditioning rearing its ugly head again)…..this means symptoms become worse and affect their quality of life.

The lack of research into the impact of interventions – both medical and lifestyle – means women are often winging it when it comes to addressing their health and sometimes cause more harm than good. For example, the trendy keto diet can actually stop menstruating women from ovulating – not good for our long-term health outcomes! Many of my clients have taken the approach of “chuck it at all at the wall & hope something sticks”!

We need to ensure that women’s voices are heard as equally as men’s when addressing our health issues. It is no longer good enough to just apply the things that work for men and hope for the best.

The future

The UK Government has acknowledged that health services are simply not designed to meet our day-to-day needs, with women often passed from practitioner to practitioner trying to find answers (and at great cost to NHS).

Government findings also evidence that “too often it is women whom the healthcare system fails to keep safe and fails to listen to”.

Whilst I have referenced the national strategy here, I truly believe that we all have a responsibility to take an empowered approach to our health and truly understand our own unique needs.  I believe that working in collaboration with allopathic and lifestyle service provision to ensure every woman’s right to health is achieved, is the future.

Whilst there is still significant progress needed before we see equality in the treatment of men and women, we are moving in the right direction.

I have often said that my passion for this work is driven by being part of a change I doubt I will live to see but knowing that I am able to play a small role in this is enough to keep me jumping on my soapbox about women’s health!

Are you ready to join the menstrual movement where women are empowered to back control of their health?! Then book a discovery call with me today!

Referenced: Women’s Health Strategy for England August 2022 (publishing.service.gov.uk)