Why Women’s Health is a Black Box of Misinformation

4min read

If you were diagnosed with a disease, or came down with an illness, your doctor would likely prescribe you medicine or suggest some medical intervention. And, it would be important to know if the doctor was recommending something that had been rigorously tested on people who looked like you. In fact, the more the subjects in that controlled study looked like you, the better.

Were the subjects human? Your age? Your skin color? Your heritage? And perhaps most importantly, your sex?

The sad truth is, that last variable is often the one missing from research if you're a female.

When women go to their doctors they are routinely given advice based on male bodies that may not be relevant to their own female bodies. Females contract illnesses in different proportions, they present different symptoms and even get different diseases, yet we are routinely treated as if they are biologically identical to our male counterparts.

I launched the Empowered Health podcast to start a discussion around how females are different than males and are deserving of the same level of care and respect when it comes to our health. Women needed a source of information that will help them lead their happiest, healthiest lives and I'm proud Empowered Health is first to fill that gap.

From 1977 to 1993, women of childbearing age were legally prohibited from participating in clinical trials. That means any medical advice based on research that was conducted during this 16 year period will not be helpful to women ages 18-45 years old.

And it's not that women at that stage of life use medicines or need medical treatments at lower rates than men. Approximately half of all U.S. women– and one in nine pregnant women– between ages 15 to 44 report taking a prescription drug within the last month, according to the CDC. Other findings show that over 90 percent of pregnant and lactating women in the U.S. are on at least one medication. That means most American women are taking meds that have not been tested on their bodies, they therefore do not know what the impact of those drugs are on their bodies or their babies bodies.

The reasons for this disparity in representation in clinical trials is not purely sexist. In the 1950s, Thalidomide was a drug prescribed to women who had morning sickness. By the 1960s, the medication was blamed for causing severe birth defects in thousands of babies. Its use was banned in treating pregnant women. The cultural experience of this tragedy has left an imprint on medical research that is still felt today.

And, while there has been a recent acknowledgement that this creates a dangerous medical environment for women, it is far from fixed.

The most recent effort by the US government to fix this problem makes it clear: "The statute requires NIH to ensure that clinical trials are carried out in a manner sufficient to provide for a valid analysis of whether the variables being studied affect women or members of minority groups differently than other trial participants."

Yet, we know that drug companies have work arounds to these guidelines. They can claim they tried to enroll women in the study, but they all dropped out, or they tried to recruit females but non wanted to participate. Whatever the excuse, females are still vastly underrepresented in clinical trials.

And all too often the media assumes medical advice is applicable to both sexes, because for most of history our bodies had been assumed to be the same, despite clear indications to the contrary.

More women are graduating from medical school than men and things are starting to change. When female med students realize no one is differentiating between the sexes hearts, brain, bones, and yet they know there are clear differences, they want answers too. These pioneers are doing fantastic research on how all our organs are different, which means we may require different testing and different treatments.

Their work is why I launched the Empowered Health Podcast. There are loads of brilliant researchers working on these issues around sex difference and I wanted to talk to them. Women's bodies are miraculous! And the more we dig, the more we learn just how different our parts are. Yet, the mainstream media has yet to catch on to this relatively new area of research--women's whole bodies

I've been an investigative journalist for almost two decades, covering everything from Congression cover-ups to high-profile murders to the shortcomings of artificial intelligence. And women's health is the biggest mess of bad information I've ever come upon. It is a disaster that women are dying of diseases because the treatments they receive are effective only in male bodies. As a women I'm constantly learning from others about my body, health and experience talking to the world's experts on topics ranging from heart disease and menopause to how THC causes a heightened high when we're ovulating! And the same is likely true for wine, have a glass of wine on your period and you'll feel very different than midway through your cycle when your hormones are surging.

On Empowered Health we're getting into all of the wonderful, mysterious ways we're different. While most female health news focus on periods, pregnancy or a specific disease, our goal is to literally cover everything. Our listeners have come to count on Empowered Health as the go-to source for evidence-based information that allows them to make the best choices for their individual bodies. We are talking to the world's experts on topics of specific importance to women everywhere. We are sharing valuable information that is not readily available so that you can decide how to live your healthiest happiest life.

Women are constantly dismissed, misdiagnosed, and altogether left out of the healthcare system, which is why I recognized there was a need for my podcast Empowered Health with Emily Kumler. We are demanding a seat at the table. Each week I tackle a different topic related to women's wellbeing. Unlike the way our medical environment is structured, I don't believe you can take a woman apart and conclusively diagnose her. We need to consider the whole women, her experiences, her symptoms, her lifestyle in order to understand how she is healthy or sick.

I've interviewed more than 100 sources on Empowered Health about these issues including Laurie Glimcher, the CEO of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Robert Gabbay, the medical director of Joslin Diabetes, and Dr. Sharonne Hayes, the medical director of the Mayo Clinic's Office for Diversity and Inclusion. I've talked to investigative reporters Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz about nutrition, as well as pregnancy experts like Emily Oster and Dr. Neel Shah, menopause experts Dr. Jan Shifren and Dr. Nancy Woods, state representatives Jaime Herrera-Buetler (R) and Leslie Herrod (D), and even famed anthropologists like Kristen Hawkes.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet many doctors don't even know that the female heart is different and suffers in different ways than the male heart, which is what most research is on.

So, it's not surprising that the way we diagnose heart attacks is flawed. As we learned in our episode with cardiologists Dr. Janet Wei and Dr. Giulia Sheftel, women are more likely to have blockages in the small vessels of their heart whereas men have plaque build-up in their large arteries.While chest pain is still the number one symptom for both sexes, women sometimes present atypical symptoms, contributing to a lower diagnosis rate thus leaving women more vulnerable to being left untreated.

Another trend we've seen is women experiencing dismissal of their discomfort–whether by clinicians, friends, family, or even to themselves. Women are constantly told their menstrual pain is normal. What is normal about symptoms that cause women to miss work, school, and important commitments for multiple days each month?

While covering endometriosis–a disorder where endometrial tissue appears outside the uterus, causing pain during menstruation–we learned that approximately one in ten American women suffer from endometriosis, yet many remain undiagnosed. This is due to the stigma that period pain is expected and tolerable, when actually it is debilitating for many endometriosis patients.

I'm sick of women being disregarded and dismissed. We found this especially true when looking at maternal mortality in the U.S.

All these themes tie back to a general thread: women are being massively disregarded by the medical system. Many outlets covering women's health are not adequately addressing the claims researchers make, causing misinformation to spread rapidly. As a reporter I know how to ask the tough questions, sift through the data and research and my goal is to share that info in a meaningful way with women everywhere.


How This Twice Bankrupt Founder Built Herself Up To A $240M Net Worth

Nobody knows what it's like to be sh*t out of luck like Suzy Batiz. Maybe that's why her million-dollar idea was a spray to stop your sh*t from stinking.

Yes, this woman is on a mission to keep your bathroom dos (and don'ts) on the DL, and she is doing it all with a hefty dose of personal philosophy and spirituality. It's hard to pick just one place to start with a maverick like Batiz. Though, maverick doesn't quite do her justice.

We could talk about her early life, growing up poor in Arkansas with two parents struggling with addiction and mental health problems. Or we could discuss her two bankruptcies and a lifelong history of failed hustles and side-hustles. Then there's her personal life; she's been divorced twice, has three kids, and is a survivor of abuse. You could say she's been through some sh*t. (Okay, the poop jokes end here, I swear.) If this all sounds too crazy to believe already then you better stop reading now because it gets wilder. This woman is all that and then some.

But, there's no time like the present, so I guess we'll start there.

Suzy Batiz is one of the richest self-made women in America with a net worth of $240 million. She's currently working on uplifting other business owners and creative-thinkers with her personal and professional philosophy of "alive ideas" as well as running her own companies, Supernatural, a 100% natural cleaning product company, and Poo~Pourri, the famous odor-eliminating toilet spray line that started it all with a bang (or a plop). (Okay, now the poop jokes are really done.)

Poo-Pourri's first commercial, which has now garnered almost 50 million views since its release in 2013, absolutely blew away viewers with its hilariously crass yet poetic verbiage surrounding this lovely woman's "cavernous bowels." Even I remember first seeing it almost seven years ago. Though I wasn't even sure if it was a real product at first. I was so busy laughing that I almost missed the line: "Yes, it is a real product. And yes, it really works." No one but Batiz could have thought up an idea so new, so wild, and at the same time so deeply necessary for people everywhere. It seems that poop is the market's natural equalizer.

(Seriously though, how good is this commercial?)

She's reached some of the highest peaks of success when it comes to consumer goods, but Batiz's newest venture asks people to turn inward and evaluate their thoughts and personal processes to support a culture of deeply conscious creation. Alive Ideas represents all of the lessons in both entrepreneurship and spirituality that Batiz has learned firsthand. Because, for her, the entrepreneurial and the spiritual are often one and the same. In her own words:

"Your external reality is just a reflection of your internal reality, so you have to do your personal work to shift from the inside out."

She takes this marriage of philosophies very seriously and infuses it into every level of her business, offering her employees training in transcendental meditation (a non-negotiable daily activity for Batiz) and Headspace app subscriptions. Batiz knows that good work has to start from the inside out, and that's why she's so keen to share this philosophy with the world and help other people realize that, too. That's what this new enterprise is all about.

Alive ideas are those twinges of inspiration that you can feel in every inch of your being — the ones that are just bursting to take shape in the world. Take Poo-Pourri as a perfect example, it was something that no one could have expected. A product that needed to exist, but a need that had never before been conceptualized (let alone actualized) by anybody. Until Batiz, that is.

Suzy Batiz

She's always been a "natural creator," so it's only natural that her current state of being revolves around bringing to life new ideas and products. But even that could only have come about through what she describes as the "luxury of losing everything."

It took 38 years and a lifetime of both personal and professional hardships before Batiz was ready to call it quits. After all the hustles, there was just no hustle left in her.

So she took a four-year spiritual sabbatical, during which she realized that she'd spent her entire life thus far "selling out" and "making deals" for all the wrong reasons. "Basically, I'd lost it all and didn't even have a good time doing it!" That was what really set her off. "It was only when I changed my mindset to only follow ideas that lit me up that the real success started flowing." There's those alive idea's she's talking about!

Suzy Batiz is the antithesis of your stereotypical entrepreneur. She wears flowing skirts, makes poop jokes, and has the vibe of a fun-loving guru. She basically spent her entire life trying (and failing) to find success through financial means, only to lose everything and then some. It took hitting rock bottom to realize that she needed to start fresh. It was only once she'd chucked all of the typical toxic motivators out the window that her real genius could shine through all the bullsh*t.

Full Interview Transcript

1. How would you describe your climb from growing up, to bankruptcy, to millionaire? And how does it feel to have come so far?

I grew up in Arkansas very poor, with a mother that was depressed on pain pills and a father that was a bipolar alcoholic. From an early age, I had the impression that money was my way out. If I could just make money, I would be somebody and I would mean something in the world.

By the time I was 22, I'd already been married, bankrupt (for the first time), divorced and attempted suicide. Shortly after that, I met and married a wealthy man who turned out to be abusive. I clawed my way out of that terrible situation to find myself divorced again and homeless with two boys under the age of 2. I continued to work multiple jobs and soon met my ex-husband of 26 years. He was a drummer who didn't have much to offer aside from his love at the time, which sounded like a dream after the last situation I was in. I constantly hustled and side hustled, but all my business ventures typically ended in failure. At 38 years old, I lost funding for a dot com recruiting platform that I'd invested our life savings into, leading to my second bankruptcy and what I call "the luxury of losing everything".

I vowed to leave business behind entirely and went on a four-year spiritual sabbatical. I looked back and realized that I'd spent my whole life husting, selling out and making deals that felt wrong in order to get something I thought I wanted. Basically, I'd lost it all and didn't even have a good time doing it! This is when everything changed for me. It was only when I changed my mindset to only follow ideas that lit me up that the real success started flowing. I was no longer living for external validation, but rather from the inside out. Ironically, it was once I'd sworn off business and chasing money that my success and wealth came.

2. You seem to be innately entrepreneurial person, was there any moment or experience in your life that made you really think: "This is what I have to do."

I've always been a natural creator. Growing up we had very little, so if I wanted a new outfit for my Barbie, I'd sew it myself. I've always had that spirit in me — but at one point I actually believed I was the worst entrepreneur in the world. I had more than a dozen failed businesses and two bankruptcies by the time I was 38, so I swore off business altogether. It wasn't until I realized chasing money and success wasn't making me happy and I did my internal work that Poo~Pourri was born.

A few years later, a friend of mine was interviewing and asked how I knew which ideas to follow — how could I tell which ones would turn out to be successful? The question piqued my interest. I realized it had nothing to do with the analytical or rational reasons a business should succeed. Rather, I remembered the feeling in my body when I first got the idea for Poo~Pourri. I felt a zing up my left arm, I got chill bumps, it felt like everything went into hi-def and I had so much energy to research and create because the idea wouldn't leave me alone. My curiosity continued and I had a conversation with Dr. Bruce Lipton to ask him a burning question: Can ideas be alive? His answer, in short, was: absolutely! He said that everything, including thoughts and ideas, has energy, and "every living thing is seeking more life-force energy." This was my aha moment. When I focused on ideas that gave me energy, that felt ALIVE, they turned out to be more resilient and successful. I followed the breadcrumbs of what made me feel alive and it's led me to here — what a wild ride!

3. What drives you to keep moving forward in life and in business after all the success you've attained thus far?

My ultimate goal is to reach my highest evolution in this lifetime. I strive to be lit up daily in my personal and business life and follow only things that resonate (though it's a practice and I misstep all the time). I love bringing alive ideas into physical form, and my businesses are those manifestations. I truly believe that I was lucky enough to have the luxury of losing everything. I know that at any time I can lose it all, and if that happens, I want to make sure I can look back and know I had a damn good time.

4. A lot of people feel that there is a big disconnect between capitalism and spiritually, but you seem to have found a sweet spot for both yourself and your business ventures. How closely intertwined is your spirituality with your entrepreneurial ventures? And why?

I don't think of things as being a part of my work life or a part of my personal spiritual life. It's all the same for me. Your external reality is just a reflection of your internal reality, so you have to do your personal work to shift from the inside out. Daily transcendental meditation is my number-one non-negotiable. Starting my day with space to clear out the noise of the outside world has been just as essential for my business as it has for my personal wellness. I share this gift with Poo~Pourri employees as well by offering TM training and Headspace app subscriptions and providing only healthy fuel and snacks in the office so we are all operating at optimal levels.

I also believe that there's nothing wrong with wanting money and success. Who wouldn't? But where I've found the most impact is in my actions. If I'm doing something or chasing an idea only to get money, it doesn't come. When I do my internal work and follow what's resonant because it feels good within my being, wouldn't you know that's when the money flows.

5. If you could go back in time and tell your younger self that you'd one day be one of America's richest self-made women by way of selling poop products, how do you think you'd react?

I'd lose my shit and probably laugh in your face because it would be so far beyond what I could have imagined. When I was little, I had the dream of working in a factory or at the post office because those were steady and consistent jobs. I wouldn't have ever even known to dream of being the one to finally break a pattern of generational poverty.

Breaking these types of patterns, the ones that are outdated and no longer serve us, is a huge passion of mine. I've got the world comfortable talking about shit, now what else can we get people to talk about?