Wellness, where health and happiness intersect, has become a trillion-dollar industry. It’s come at the cost of science and truth.
Companies and blogs that specialize in wellness focus on removing toxins, recharging your “energies” and using natural remedies to cure health problems. Goop, arguably the leader of the wellness phenomena, is run by Gwyneth Paltrow and is worth about $250 million.
These companies use fear tactics to sell products. They tell their customers that every chemical is a carcinogen and invent conspiracy theories about pharmaceutical companies. Rich medicine companies are the enemy, and buying useless junk is the supposed cure. Somehow they’ve started the narrative that medicine companies are extorting the sick, but selling essential oils for $26 is God’s work.
One look at the Goop website brings you into this eccentric world where face masks are king and insurance companies are monsters. Paltrow sells normal things like vitamins, but she also sells jade eggs that are to be inserted into one’s vagina to improve sex. Goop and sites like it can avoid accusations of false advertising by not directly stating claims as facts but rather suggesting nutty trends and offering the products for sale. Goop has come under fire for making false claims like wearing bras leads to an increased risk of breast cancer.
It’s very easy for me to write off the wellness community as a bunch of lunatics with too much disposable income. Very easy. But I will now explore the mind of a wellness guru. Could they be seeing something that I am not?
I don’t think they are wrong in their general criticisms of the medical industry. Going to the doctor for a check up has become a robotic procedure. You sit in a cold, dark and sanitized room with an uncaring doctor who speaks with you for less than 15 minutes. The lack of empathy and humanity on the part of doctors is not only frustrating, it leads to incorrect diagnoses. I can understand a wellness fan’s interest in a way of healing themselves that is warm and caring.
Obviously ignoring western medicine can be dangerous. Steve Jobs initially refused a life-saving surgery to treat his cancer and opted for eastern wellness medicine instead. This led to an early death that could have been delayed. He thought he could mentally make the problem go away. For cancer, this clearly doesn’t work. But for other health problems, it could. If taking a B-12 vitamin makes someone feel like they have more energy, what’s the harm? If taking a bath in goat’s milk makes you feel parasite-free, go for it. There is a connection between body and mind.
Some problems are too minor for medicine but still need a solution. I think a mild treatment with natural products is harmless and can have a placebo effect, making the patient’s issue goes away because they believe it did. The only problem is when this is taken too far, like in Jobs’ case.
The way that we take care of ourselves is deeply personal, and everyone should make their own decisions about their body. Rejecting hard drugs in favor of natural remedies isn’t always a bad thing.
To find a good moisturizer, you can catch me on goop.com. To cure a flu, you can catch me at the doctor’s office.
Layla Soboh is a UF advertising junior. Her column comes out Tuesday and Thursday.