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7 Old Wives’ Tales Debunked

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Sunday, December 29, 2019

Dr. Jennifer Gunter is a Canadian-American gynecologist and obstetrician, a New York Times columnist covering women’s health, an author, and a specialist in chronic pain medicine and vulvovaginal disorders. In her 2019 book, The Vagina Bible, Gunter writes about the origins of old wives tales:

“As women were denied an education and because of the social mores could not get an exam from a male physician, they often had to make do with female healers who likely did the best with what they had ……. Undoing medical mythology is hard. We have been steeped in it generationally, and medicine has not done a great job of communicating or caring for women. If historically you have been dismissed, it seems only natural to turn elsewhere – especially if that person you turn to is welcoming and actually listens.

“Lack of trust is a huge barrier to quality medical care. In addition, we are exposed to these old wives tales so often that we come to believe there must be some truth to them – the illusory truth effect (repetition being mistaken for accuracy) is real.”

Below are just seven of the more common “old wives tales” debunked.

Apple cider vinegar balances your vaginal PH:

“Vinegar has approximately the same pH as stomach acid, so how a shot of vinegar could balance your pH but the acid floating around in your stomach doesn’t is never explained. I mean, come on. You can’t change your vaginal pH with food of any kind: vaginal pH is controlled by the vaginal bacteria. You can’t change your blood pH with food because your kidneys and lungs control blood pH, and when they don’t you get very ill and die. What drinking apple cider vinegar will do is damage the enamel of your teeth.”  

Garlic helps with vaginal yeast infections:

“Garlic does have allicin, and in the lab this does have some anti-yeast properties. To release allicin, you have to crush the garlic, and the idea of small chunks of garlic on inflamed vaginal mucosa just makes me cross my legs. We have no idea if garlic works or if it damages the mucosa or the good bacteria, so stick to scientifically tested cures!” 

Jade eggs put you in touch with your feminine energy:  

“Popularized by my pal Gwyneth Paltrow. The idea is that you put an egg-shaped jade rock in your vagina, and it puts you in tune with your feminine energy or something ……….. A vagina does not make you a woman, how you feel inside does. Jade eggs were promoted as an ancient secret of Chinese concubines and queens. I researched this and published my data in a peer-reviewed medical journal – they are not. Promoting jade like this is Orientalism, not health care or female empowerment. The only thing ancient about it is the scam.” 

Magnets help alleviate hot flashes:

“Just clip in your underwear and go! Therapeutic magnets are a multibillion dollar industry and there is no evidence they do anything but lighten your wallet. The people who sell them make claims about the autonomic nervous system that sound good, but are medically meaningless – such as ‘balance’. Medicine is not gymnastics. In addition to the dearth of studies showing that magnets have medicinal value, if magnets worked for anything we would already know because people would be liberated (at least temporarily) from pain and inflammation and hot flashes and whatever else magnet grifters say magnets work for, by an MRI scan, as that is one big-ass magnet. The magnetic field of an MRI is so strong it causes all the axes of your hydrogen protons to line up and yet it offers no respite for hot flashes (or incontinence, or trouble sleeping or, well, you get the point).”      

Essential oils aid in women’s health in numerous ways:

“‘Essential oils’ is an umbrella term for oils extracted from plants. Saying essential oils treat any condition is as vague as saying plants are a therapy. So there are a lot of plants, so like, which ones? In addition, many can cause irritation or allergic reactions when applied topically. If a scent pleases you, that is great. But using an essential oil for any medical condition is not backed by science. And no, they are not the new antibiotics.”

Steaming the vagina “cleans” the uterus:

“This ties into a destructive myth that the uterus is unclean or that a period is cleansing the uterus. The idea of a toxin-filled uterus is literally used by many cultures to exclude women from society – it’s a defining characteristic of the patriarchy …… Many ‘vegan bloggers’ …. promote losing weight to the point that periods stop to prevent the accumulation of so-called ‘toxins’. This is harmful on so many levels. If you are dieting to the point your periods have stopped, you may be underweight, and if that continues you could suffer real health consequences, such as osteoporosis (thinning of the bones).”

Tea tree oil prevents or cures yeast infections:

“Tea tree oil is an endocrine disruptor and a common cause of irritation. There are no published studies showing that it is effective, and the impact on the health of vaginal bacteria is unknown. Because that is what you want for your vagina right? – an endocrine disruptor with an unknown effect? Seriously, that tea tree oil is offered as a cure-all is predatory and frankly, enraging. And it shows how little research many people put into their ‘miracle’ natural cures.”

The Vagina Bible: The vulva and the vagina--separating the myth from the medicine by Dr. Jen Gunter, Random House, 2019

Also from Jen Gunter

Dear Gwyneth Paltrow, I’m a GYN and your vaginal jade eggs are a bad idea  https://drjengunter.com/2017/01/17/dear-gwyneth-paltrow-im-a-gyn-and-your-vaginal-jade-eggs-are-a-bad-idea/ v

Your Vagina Is Terrific (and Everyone Else’s Opinions Still Are Not) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/21/style/jen-gunter-says-your-vagina-is-terrific.html

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Photo: https://apic.org/monthly_alerts/is-it-an-old-wives-tale-or-is-it-smart-advice/

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.


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