When people are healthy, they can change the world. My job in this isn’t to just get one person healthy. My job is to make sure one person can feel in control of their health to help other people feel in control of their health. They can then influence the health of their communities and businesses. It’s a whole ripple effect.
Asa part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ashley Margeson, ND.
Dr. Ashley Margeson is a licensed and registered Naturopathic Doctor with a strong focus on women’s health, hormonal regulation and health optimization. She has a thriving practice with filled with patients who are focused on improving their quality of hormones. Dr. Ashley is also the host of The Superwoman Code; a weekly podcast educating young professional and busy women about how to make their health work for them, not against them. She is also a full-time stepmom to her 4 and 6 year old children. Learn more at https://www.ashleymargeson.com/
Thank you so much for doing this with us Dr. Ashley! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Ihave been obsessed with periods since I didn’t get my period when everyone else got theirs in junior high school. This whole experience led me to start asking a pile of questions as a kid, which further led to me deciding on what problems I wanted to solve as I “grew up.” Each time, I kept coming back to endocrinology and gynecology. I was fascinated by the evolution of women’s health.
This led me to a four-year undergrad in nutrition and dietetics, followed by a four year Bachelor’s degree in naturopathic medicine. Today, as you may have guessed, my focus is on women’s health. What makes us tick, how we can optimize our cycles and what does it truly mean to thrive? Every day, I get to help business, and entrepreneurial women harness their hormones to take over the world. And I love it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
These past few years, I have become very active in giving information and educating on social media. Women’s health is an area we don’t often talk about optimizing on social media, but instead, we talk about things like ‘How can you avoid getting your period?’ ‘How can you manage PMS?’ or “Why are you not getting pregnant?’ We talk about women’s health in such a negative sense both online and offline, without even realizing we’re using such a negative tone.
I am absolutely against speaking negatively about women’s health. I want to give you the information you need but in a credible, helpful way. And when I meet someone in person, whether they come into the clinic or attend an event I’m speaking at, it’s very common for them to share that they feel as though they already know me. And that right there just completely changes the way we communicate with each other for the better. Whether we’re talking about sleep, hormones, or stress — they already know how I work. They know that I’m blunt. I call it like it is and I don’t tiptoe around the issue. This allows me to get into this nitty-gritty conversation with people that you don’t necessarily get to have when you meet someone for the first time.
Being my authentic, genuine self on social media and sharing helpful, educational content for my followers has led to making these honest and raw conversations possible with patients. Because of the commitment we have taken to education, we have literally changed the conversation in our medical practice around what the outcome is whether it’s hormones, periods, infertility, menopause and so on.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the world of medicine, everything is either based on research or clinical practice, and ideally, both. When starting, you rely heavily on research, because the clinical practice isn’t there in the same intensity yet. Yes, you will see people in the clinic, but the actual amount of patients you see is much less than someone who has been in practice for 30+ years. Because of the lack of well-designed research for women’s health, the reality is that the research isn’t always there to help make a clinical judgement with patients.
When I was starting, I didn’t have the clinical practice that I do now, so I had to rely on the research. That was until I discovered a glaring hole: the research to date doesn’t support what’s really going on with the majority of women’s bodies. The research that exists is so limited.
My first mistake was thinking that all of the answers were there in the research, but it wasn’t until I was diving into the research and education pieces, that I realized, more often than not, the information you need isn’t available. Women’s health is such a grey zone and a lot of the time; you’re pulling pieces of research papers and clinical practices. You’re working with gynecologists and endocrinologists to find solutions for things we don’t have enough gold-standard clinical research information on.
The mistake I made was thinking if I looked hard enough at the research, the answer would be there, but the truth is — we don’t have enough research. We don’t research women the way we should, and it negatively affects their health. If the research isn’t there, we tell women it’s all in their head, and they’re making it up. When in reality, we haven’t researched it enough, and we don’t have the information we need to make these conclusions. It wasn’t until I was in practice, that I realized that the bigger conversation was a lack of education around what hormones actually mean.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
You can’t do it alone, and I know that there is this fundamental idea that if you just put your nose to the grindstone, work hard, burn the midnight oil, and try to reinvent the wheel, that you will get applause from some external source. It’s so easy always to be working towards the A+ on a report card that doesn’t even exist.
While I was completing my Bachelor’s degree, I ended up shadowing a doctor who had built this incredible clinic. I really enjoyed shadowing him and very much admired how very research-driven he was and how he was doing things other people hadn’t done. And I loved that he was asking tough questions and trying to get to the bottom of what was going on actively. It made me realize that in my own practice and with my future patients, I wanted to truly understand why something is happening, not just put a bandaid on it.
When I graduated, I joined that very same practice and guess what — I just so happened to fall in love with that guy. I’ll never forget that moment when I realized someone could make you be a better person (and doctor) because they asked the right (and sometimes tough) questions that no one else was going to. It was then that I realized that I needed to build my practice in the way that felt right to me. It needed to be education-based. We’re not selling something; we’re giving away information that can help women thrive and live their best and healthiest lives. We need to be there on the sidelines, moving stuff out of the way and making it easier to access services.
And mentorship is not only so essential in entrepreneurship; it’s incredibly important in the wellness community too. I see so many entrepreneurs building their wellness empires, who are so protective of the information at their fingertips. Still, this information should be shared more widely so we can help more people.
I’ll be forever grateful to that mentor (and now partner) for helping me build my business, teaching me those valuable lessons, and always cheering me on from the sidelines. I could not have done any of this without him.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
It’s simple: when people are healthy, they can change the world. My job in this isn’t to just get one person healthy. My job is to make sure one person can feel in control of their health to help other people feel in control of their health. They can then influence the health of their communities and businesses. It’s a whole ripple effect.
For women in general, we have this idea of the 24-hour circadian rhythm. But that rhythm is built on testosterone, and our work culture is built upon this. Wake up and do the same thing every day. This works great for the male part of our population, but women’s hormones are not designed to work the same, day after day.
Women are designed to work on a 25–35 day cycle, and we need to know how to take advantage of the days that are best for productivity, while also having those nurturing times when we need more rest at other parts of our cycle.
I want to change the conversation around what it means to be productive at work, at home for women. Trying to fit into a 24-hour clock that is optimal for the male population is not going to work. But if we instead look at day 15 of our cycle, when we’re ovulating, then guess what? We are way more productive than our male counterparts!
One of my biggest goals with the Superwoman Podcast and my clinical practice is to help women redesign their work, exercise, and nutritional structures to thrive. I want to help women optimize their cycles!
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I’m going to be a little rebellious here, and instead of suggesting lifestyle tweaks, I’m going to share with you what I tell my patients. If you want to achieve better wellbeing successfully, it begins with your four cornerstones.
You would never build a house without foundation. The same applies to your health. These cornerstones are what we use preventatively to reduce the risk of burnout happening, and if, if burnout does happen, you can bounce back quickly. It’s important to note your cornerstones don’t have to be hard things; they take work and a commitment to consistency. Good health isn’t about doing one thing once; it’s about doing multiple little things every day.
When it comes to living a good, healthy lifestyle, we focus on four cornerstones: Sleep, Movement, Nutrition, and Happiness.
Let’s start with SLEEP. We know that good sleep begins with a consistent nighttime routine. Turn off that phone and leave a notebook with a pencil beside your bed to jot down thoughts instead. Avoid caffeine late in the evening and wake up at the same time every morning.
Next is MOVEMENT. For movement, prioritize just that. The adult brain has a focus ability of forty-five minutes. If you are working at your best, the most amount of time that you have is forty-five minutes. That’s not a lot of time, and the closer to burnout you get, the worse your short term memory and focus become. The best way to break up your brain is to get 10–20 minutes of movement in a few times a day. You can start by setting a timer. Every forty-five minutes get up and walk down the stairs and back up the stairs, grab some water, get your blood moving. Not only is this important for your health (obesity isn’t the leading cause of death for nothing) your blood also moves essential nutrients to your brain. Work smarter, not harder, by infusing consistent movement into your day.
NUTRITION is critical! I invite you to start thinking about what you’re consuming. Every time you put something in your mouth, it has to meet four checkmarks. This is the EASIEST way to structure your nutrition so that your food is working for you, not against you. Make sure that you have Greens, a Protein, a Healthy Fat, and Fibre. It’s not about dieting; it’s about pairing up your foods to nourish your body. And whatever you do, make sure you are staying hydrated. Water is that vital critical force for having enough fluid in our body.
Lastly, HAPPINESS. Prioritize the activities and things that make you happy. Whether that be dancing in your kitchen, spending time with family and friends, or cooking a meal that you love to make. The amount of work that you do every day can’t just be for a paycheck; it has to be for something more. It has to be part of the larger purpose and legacy that you’ll leave. But most importantly, you have to be able to wake up, push through the hard days and find happiness in those little things.
This may seem overwhelming to ensure each of these cornerstones is being met every day, but I’m a big believer in that if you can do something simply, that’s all you need. You don’t need to go for a run every day. You can do yoga or go for a walk around your neighbourhood.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
My movement would be cycle optimization. Period. All puns intended. Why are we trying to fit into a 24-hour clock, designed for our male counterparts, when we are not meant to fit into a 24-hour clock. Why do we talk about periods in a negative sense? Why do we talk about only one week of our cycle? By helping women thrive and be their most productive and healthy selves, we’re strengthening our communities. We need to stop working on a 24-hour clock and start working on a cyclical clock.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
One: Nobody cares how many accolades you have; they only care about how you make them feel and the fact that you’re listening to what they have to say and how they are feeling.
Two: The most expensive person usually isn’t worth it, and the cheapest person often isn’t worth it either. Always find the person that fits best and that’s usually the middle ground.
Three: The timeline doesn’t exist. You don’t have to have your career, get married, have kids, etc. by a specific date or age. Don’t shut yourself off from love, because it doesn’t match the timeline where you think you’re at.
Four: The wall is further away than you think. You can do more than you think you have the capacity to do. You will accomplish more than you think you have the energy for — your job is to figure out if it’s worth putting energy there. You can do it, but you don’t have to do that.
Five: And on that last note, just because you can do it all, doesn’t mean you have to do it all.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Sustainability. It’s all about energy out versus energy in. We can’t be sustainable as a population if we always take and take and take without giving. This equates to the environment and the foods we eat and the movement we choose and the things we are buying, but it also impacts our energy. If you push yourself and push yourself, it’s not a sustainable way to move forward.
No one is going to applaud you if you burn yourself to the ground. They WILL praise you if you create an environment that helps other people succeed. That is true sustainability.
If I have done my job right, you shouldn’t need me anymore. I should have been able to give you the tools to make those changes your body needs and for you to see where you’re at on any given day and to tweak as needed. The goal is that your system should be optimized without me having to sit there and do it with you.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights!