Many believe that platforms like Goop have set women’s health back by an entire generation by ignoring science and focusing on hocus pocus. Gwyneth Paltrow holds tremendous sway with millions of women across the globe and they look to her for life advice, and now increasingly health advice. Should they trust her?
When Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of the lifestyle brand Goop, suffered “long-haul fatigue and brain fog” after her bout with Covid-19, she was recommended a program of “intuitive fasting,” which includes fasting until 11 a.m. every day and eating a keto and plant-based diet, by leading “functional medicine practitioner” Will Cole, who isn’t a medical doctor.
Paltrow was so happy with the results that she wrote about it in her blog, but the details (including regular use of an infrared sauna) set off alarm bells in the medical community. You cant go around advocating fasting regimens to people suffering from palpitations, no matter how well you feel they have worked for you.
This isn’t Paltrow’s only foray into the field of medicine either. Her lifestyle platform Goop has been proactive in promoting a number of voices from within the alternate health sector and now there’s Goop Lab. The name insinuates a laboratory and research. The fact is nothing could be further from the truth. This Lab is fuelled by marketing and no research.
In her Netflix series, The Goop Lab, Paltrow explores a variety of wellness management approaches, from “energy healing” to psychedelic psychotherapy. Goop has long been criticized for making unsubstantiated health claims and advancing pseudoscience, but the brand is incredibly popular and hugely lucrative for Paltrow. It was valued at over US$250 million in 2019.
Paltrow is savvy enough to understand the value of the alternate health market and Goop Labs whitewashes traditional alternate therapies to monetize them as newly discovered Western treatments, for instance, techniques she simply appropriates as her own from existing ancient health practice.
The “Wim Hof Method” (breathing techniques and cold therapy) is marketed as a novel therapy. Nothing could be further from the truth and the arrogance and deception employed here are all designed to create profit for Goop and, of course, Paltrow. In case you didn’t know, there is nothing novel about the Wim Hof Method, but you can’t re-sell free health techniques, can you Gwyneth?
The technique has Hindu origins, documented in the Vedas from around 1500 BCE. Additionally. the breathing component in this rip off treatment closely resembles prāṇāyāma, a yogic breathing practice, and the “Hof dance” is straight out of tai chi. Not only is Goop selling you Gobbledegook, but they’re also guilty of cultural appropriation (uncredited of course)
Creating a Fake Health Divide
Gwyneth Paltrow has no medical experience or formal medical training. She is purely a businesswoman on a mission to monetize her brand. Now while there is no harm or foul in this practice under normal circumstances, when you start interfering in the health outcomes of the people you are selling to, you sure as hell better know what you’re doing or surround yourself with people who do.
Paltrow does neither. She has an affinity for the alternative health sector (naturally, it’s proven hugely profitable), let’s call them what they are, quacks and even the odd disgraced doctor or two who cannot find a market for their outlandish ideas in an evidence-based medical profession. Paltrow rebrands these individuals and their ideas to make them “profitable” and then releases them on her trusting fan base.
Here’s a news flash for anyone who thinks Gwyneth Paltrow has the best interests of your health at the heart of her Goop gobbledygook. She doesn’t. Her only goal is to monetize your desire to be healthy by selling you literally anything she can think of that she can benefit from financially. If that product ends up compromising your health, you’re on your own.
Think about that statement. If this total lack of ethics is not sufficient reason to give you pause for thought, then nothing will.
What I would like to see to see is authorities extending medical advice restrictions for Covid to the long haul version. The same con artists, Paltrow included, that have been restricted by the FDA and DOJ restrictions from selling “cures” or “treatments” for Covid, would effectively be hobbled from further harming the public health.
In short, we need regulation to protect consumers against their health being monetized by unscrupulous agents like Goop and its sales mechanisms. Proof of efficacy shouldn’t have to rest in the hands of the unwitting victim of these scammers, rather such onus should firmly be placed on the companies selling their snake oil. Prove it works or bugger off.
In the meantime, I don’t suppose there’s much point in calling out to people like Paltrow to grow a conscience. If she had one, then neither of us would be here right now, would we?
So who is at fault?
An unpopular thought, and possibly a valid one, is that medicine itself is to blame for our current personal health predicament and I have some sympathy for this point of view. Let me explain.
Modern medicine will try and cure or treat you if you show up at their door, hat in hand. Sometimes, in fact, quite frequently, we just don’t have the medication or tools at our disposal to treat, let alone cure, an increasingly sickly population. Patients are left on their own, with conventional medications and treatments proving either useless or only marginally effective. Medicine then turns its back on these patients and they are left to seek out alternative treatments on their own.
Some do manage, after years of trials and tribulation, to happen on something that works for them and offers them relief. We are incredibly complex machines, each of us unique, and sadly, what works for you may have absolutely no effect on your neighbor. It’s an issue of individual molecular chemistry.
Medicines abandonment of these untreatable patients tends to be absolute. If we cannot help then we are effectively useless to the patient and although many doctors will still retain an interest in their patients, they are unable, frustratingly so, to help them. The reasons for this are simple. Modern medicine doesn’t recognize any treatment that isn’t evidence-based. It flies in the face of every shred of training the physician has received. If you cannot test it or measure it, it cannot be.
There is no denying however that there are certain practices and “potions” that are not a part of modern medicine that do offer relief and in some instances, a cure for some. This sector is widely known as alternative medicine or alternate health and much of it is complete bullshit. It’s a field that is permeated with unethical people who seek simply to profit from the patients’ desperation and it enjoys zero regulation. They’ll sell you bottled water and promise you hydration cures cancer.
It is the wild west of personal health and you’ve got a much better chance of being shot in front of the Last Chance Saloon by Goop than you have of actually finding an ethical supplier who provides genuine products that don’t come loaded with sales hype and new age mumbo jumbo.
Medicine needs to reach out to their alienated sister and invite her back into the fold of health, for the sake of their patients and to simplify regulation. Until we do this, patients’ lives will remain forfeit to the opportunists and quacks that permeate this market.
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