And the other person is acting like they’re going to help you, but they don’t have facts. I think that misinformation has been around since the beginning of time with women’s bodies. That’s how women have been controlled. Like, “You can’t come to a religious service—you’re on your period.” “Your uterus is filled with toxins.” “You’re dirty; you’re unclean.”
This language of purity and cleanliness and naturalness has been weaponized against women since the beginning of time. And, you know, those are the same words that the natural movement uses.
O’Leary: You use the term Big Natural.
Gunter: Yeah. They’re a trillion-dollar industry—supplements and natural stuff. And the thing that kills me is people are always like, “Oooh, Big Pharma.” But at least Big Pharma tests the drugs. I mean, they might not give us all the data, which is bad. But Big Natural gives us no data. It’s just bizarre to me that we think of Big Natural as good and Big Pharma as bad; they’re both capitalistic enterprises making money.
O’Leary: You know, a lot of this—the ideas of toxins and goddesses, etc.—is in a context of women’s empowerment.
O’Leary: Tell me why you think it’s not.
Gunter: Because you’re telling people less about their bodies! You’re actually, like, using mysticism and magic, which doesn’t exist.
O’Leary: Is it harmful? If I say, “I feel like a divine goddess today,” does it matter?
Gunter: That’s different than a divine goddess telling you to buy these expensive rocks from someone to heal your chronic pain. I’m all for people feeling like goddesses. I’m all for people using whatever empowers them to get through the day. But the information that you receive about your body, how it works, and how you should treat it should be factual.
I would say that I could summarize my beliefs as “informed consent.” So if you’re informed about everything, if you hear that supplements do not increase longevity—in fact, they might be associated with shortened life span—and at best you’re making expensive pee and at worst you might actually be feeding cancer cells (we don’t know), if you hear all of that and you choose to still take supplements, well, you made an informed choice. But if you hear, “Oh, you know these supplements are going to connect you to your divine inner self,” that’s not informed consent. That’s misinformation. You haven’t used factual information to reach the decision. That’s what I really care passionately about—for women, for men, for every person to have that so they can decide what they want to do with their body.
O’Leary: I think about my own experience—I have severe endometriosis. It took me 21 years to be diagnosed. How does medicine win back the faith of women who have been marginalized or mistreated by the system and say, “We’re here to help”?
Gunter: I’m board-certified in chronic pain. And when I hear stories just like yours, I’m devastated because I think, If you came to my clinic, that would not have taken us 21 years. It takes me six to nine months to work through the algorithm of pelvic pain to figure out what you have. I don’t have an answer, and I wish I did, and it bothers me because I hear it all the time.