Breaking the Stigma Around Women’s Health

May 31, 2019 | Dr. Marnie Luck, ND

Breaking The Stigma Around Women's Health with Dr. Marnie Luck, ND

Is this normal? Why am I breaking out so bad? I wonder if all women experience this? These are normal questions that women ask themselves daily. Dr. Marnie Luck, ND dispels some of the myths and gives some answers when it comes to asking questions about women’s health.

When we talk about “breaking the stigma” around women’s health, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Women are reclaiming their role in their health and bodies- breasts, vulvas, vaginas. There is a shift from previous decades of shame and secrecy around concerns unique to women, to an emphasis on creating space for open conversation around women’s health so that conditions don’t go underdiagnosed. Women must feel informed and empowered and have the opportunity to take an active role in their health and choose solutions that resonate with them.

Which is the most common nutrient that women are lacking in their everyday diets?

Vitamin D is the nutrient most women are lacking in their diet and that’s because vitamin D is not naturally occurring in most foods we eat. We require the sun’s UVB radiation to synthesize vitamin D in our skin. Appropriate supplementation of vitamin D reduces the risk of many female predominant health concerns like osteoporosis, breast cancer and MS.

When it comes menstruation, should women be avoiding using tampons? What is the truth about chemicals in disposable feminine products?

First we must understand that the vagina is a highly vascularized area and compounds can be absorbed into our tissues and bloodstream. There is a lack of labelling requirements for tampons; therefore identifying specific compounds is difficult. The cotton in most tampons is chlorine bleached which may contribute to the presence of dioxins and furans in tampons. Super absorbent disposable pads can actually draw moisture from the vulvar tissue and contribute to irritation.

What are some of the biggest myths surround women’s health?

Myth 1: Alcohol has health benefits for women.

This doesn’t mean that having a drink is a bad thing but when it comes to women’s health no amount of alcohol has a protective effect. Have a drink because you’re celebrating, not because it’s good for your health.

Myth 2: Any vaginal discharge is unhealthy discharge..

The vagina is a self-cleaning oven- there’s going to be discharge.

Myth 3: The vulva and the vagina is the same thing..

The vulva consists of the external female sex organs whereas the vagina refers to the internal muscular canal that has a soft and flexible lining extending from the vulva to the cervix.

Myth 4: Genetics play a greater role in women’s health concerns vs modifiable risk factors..

The nature versus nurture argument has been long debated. We now realize that our environment (including toxin and stress exposure) and our lifestyle habits (diet, exercise, work, alcohol, smoking) have a much greater influence on women’s health than genetic predisposition.

Myth 5: Snacking throughout the day is better than eating three meals..

In general, it is better to eat three balanced meals daily with a combination of foods high in protein, healthy fats and vegetables. This is because it allows our body to move in and out of the fasted and fed state, and gives our digestive tract a break between meals.


Hormonal concerns can be complex, and the best results are achieved when you work together with an experienced naturopathic doctor (like me!). However, there are some diet and lifestyle recommendations that will support healthy hormones.

1. Increase vegetables - especially from the brassica family.

Foods like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, rapini, collards and bok choy contain compounds like I-3-C, which support the healthy metabolism of estrogen (and other hormones) in the liver.

2. Start your morning with a big glass of lemon water.

I always get asked, “how much lemon?” You only need to squeeze a small wedge into your water to be able to taste it. Lemon water stimulates your liver and digestive tract to get moving-enhancing liver enzyme function and encouraging bile production. Lemon is also a good source of the antioxidant, vitamin C.

3. Eat a diet rich in fibre.

Fibre-rich foods help to bulk stool, bind toxins (and hormone metabolites) and promote regular bowel movements. Fibrous foods are “prebiotics” and help maintain a healthy microbiome in the bowels. Low fibre diets lead to constipation and the reabsorption of estrogen into circulation.

4. Maintain a consistent sleep and wake time with screen-free time before bed.

Most of our hormones have a daily fluctuation, most notably, cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol rises in the morning and falls throughout the day. Melatonin, our sleep hormone, should start to rise in the evening. Both cortisol and melatonin influence our sex hormones. When our schedules are inconsistent and we have too much screen-time at night it alters our hormone production.

5. Reduce exposure to harmful chemicals.

Chemicals like BPA, styrene, phthalates and parabens that are found in food packaging (canned food, plastic wraps) and household and personal products disrupt our hormones. Some can even bind and activate estrogen receptors. Reduce your exposure by choosing natural products with reduced packaging.

Dr. Marnie Luck, ND is a Canadian Naturopathic Doctor located in the Annex. While her practice addresses all types of health concerns, she has a special interest in digestive issues, weight management and women’s health. Luck is known for taking the time to know her clients so she can provide them with a comprehensive treatment plan. To learn more about Dr. Marnie Luck, ND visit