Every day, often multiple times a day, I get tagged in posts on Instagram, with a question, “What say you @DrJenGunter?” and sent direct messages such as these:
‘Is this true!!?”
“What do you think?”
“Does the pill really cause hormone problems AFTER you stop it??
“This account says they can help me balance hormones. Should I believe them?”
So many self-appointed hormone gurus on Instagram. The problem is that many use science-ish language, so they have the veneer of medical accuracy. Some are even medical professionals, or claim at least to have some kind of certification. And many have huge followings, so they are often seen as reliable. Just this past week I’ve seen potentially harmful information on hormones from accounts with over 100,000 followers, over 250,000 followers, and over 4 million followers. That’s a lot of people being exposed to disinformation.
“Why would so-and-so post bad information?”
Link to product or subscription service in bio, that’s usually why.
Hormones are complicated. Puberty, the menstrual cycle, and menopause are complex. And many women have historically been dismissed by medical professionals. This makes hormones ripe for the pseudo-science picking.
Before we get to my list of “10 Red Flags” to help keep you out of Instagram hormone hack jobs, if you are thinking about sending me a direct message to ask if this seemingly unreal information is too wild to be valid or this too good to be true product is really to good to be true, the answer 99% of the time is “almost certainly.” I counted up my last 100 DMs about hormones, and 99 of them were asking about a trash product or incorrect information in a post.
I don’t blame people for asking. It’s important to know if what you are reading is accurate and it gives me topics to write about here for The Vajenda and/or subjects I should cover in my next book. However, if you are thinking about DMing me, consider the odds I just listed. Also, I can’t reply to everyone, although sometimes when something is a new level of snake-oil you may get an “OMFG.” And hey, almost every day I get alerted to a new scam, and I like to have my ears to the ground. So I am appreciative!
But because I really can’t reply to most messages, here are 10 handy red flags to help you evaluate hormone information you read online or find on social media. If any one of these shows up, move along. If more than one pops up…well, you know what to do. Block hard and fast.
TOP 10 HORMONE RED FLAGS
Discusses estrogen dominance. That is not a thing. It is a made up naturopathic/functional medicine term. It is literally medically meaningless. Functional medicine should really be called dysfunctional medicine, because they have some strange ideas about how the body functions.
Recommends a DUTCH test. This stands for “Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones,” so a hormone panel of some kind generated from urine. People are supposed to make health decisions based on the results. Urine testing is not recommended for reproductive hormones, so you do not need this testing. Ever. In situation where hormone testing is needed, we use blood tests. If your provider recommends a DUCTH test, in my opinion you should get a different provider.
Recommends MTHFR testing or makes any medical recommendations based on MTHFR testing.. MTHFR is simply a genetic variant. There is no indication for testing MTHFR for a mutation for anything in OB/GYN. At all. It is a scam. This is well known and certainly not new. You can read more about that here.
Talks about post birth control pill syndrome as if it is real. It is not. This doesn’t mean people don’t have symptoms, it means those symptoms are not due to some toxic build up from the pill or damage from the pill or difficulty absorbing vitamins because of the pill. And no, the pill doesn’t cause hormone problems when you stop it.
Recommends a hormonal detox, or any kind of detox. When you read the word detox, translate it in your head into scam. For example, when someone recommends a detox smoothie, what they mean is a scam smoothie.
Tells you that you need to have a bowel movement every day to regulate estrogen levels. No. While it is true estrogen is secreted into the intestine from the gallbladder, and some is reabsorbed into the blood and the rest leaves with your stool, this process has nothing to do with how often you have a bowel movement. You can read more about that here.
Recommends seed cycling. This is the practice of eating specific seeds during the two different phases of the menstrual cycle to “regulate hormones” or for “hormone health.” Seed cycling untested and of course is based on some unproven hypothesis. Seeds can be a part of a healthy diet as they are a source of many nutrients, including fiber and protein. So you may feel better eating more seeds, but you can eat them when you want.
Promotes testosterone pellets. These are pushed on women in the menopause transition and on those who are menopausal, but they are not recommended in any guideline and can produce concerning levels of testosterone. What these pellets do is make a lot of money for the people who insert them. RUN AWAY. Read more about pellets here. Pellets are not recommended in by any medical professional society or in any fact-based menopause guidelines.
Recommends menopausal hormone therapy or MHT for EVERY woman. Those are simply not the guidelines. Many women need MHT and many women do not need MHT and some cannot take MHT. Estrogen is not the only option to prevent against osteoporosis or to treat hot flushes. Also, no guidelines recommend menopausal hormone therapy for prevention of cardiovascular disease or dementia, and yet I see popular accounts recommending it for those indications.
Tells you that the menstrual cycle is in sync with the moon. It’s not. Really. The red tide is a bad euphemism for menstruation, but there is no tidal pattern. To believe this a person would have to know literally nothing about the menstrual cycle, and you should not be getting information from someone who knows literally nothing about the menstrual cycle. You don’t even need to be a doctor to disprove this one. If the moon were related to menstruation we’d know, because everyone in the world would be menstruating on a lunar schedule. There would be menstrual calendars like we have tidal calendars. That would also mean that everyone would be menstruating at roughly the same time, and of course, they are not.