Gwyneth Paltrow's Toxic Detox

The real harm behind her latest scam

Gwyneth Paltrow implied to the NY Times that she started the trend of wearing masks back in February 2020, not recommendations from public health officials. She also, unfortunately, caught covid in France around that same time. However, she didn’t share this information publicly until just recently in a post on goop dot com about her long-term detox. 

This is the same woman who shared her vaginal steaming practice and made the This Smells like My Vagina and This Smells Like My Orgasm candles. Yet she was unusually reserved about sharing her covid diagnosis until a year or so later. Regardless of her propensity for yodeling about her vagina, I can understand why she might be shy about sharing her initial covid diagnosis as there was a backlash in early 2020 against celebrities who were getting coveted PCR tests, while regular folks were being sent home from the emergency department because tests were not available for the masses. It is also possible her diagnosis was done in retrospect, once antibody testing became available. 

Gwyneth Paltrow also didn’t share her cautionary tale about catching covid while traveling when public health officials and health care providers were begging people not to travel in Thanksgiving and December due to concern about deadly spikes in covid cases. 

Of course no one is required to share personal health information, even those who seem to be test subjects for health products on their e-commerce site. However, Gwyneth Paltrow did finally speak up this week about her covid. Why? It seems the only answer is that now she can peg it to a product — a book on “Intuitive Fasting” by a functional medicine practitioner named Will Cole and published by the goop pseudoscience imprint at Rodale Books. Specifically the first book under the goop pseudoscience imprint.

It’s hard not to be cynical about this timing. In 2017 Gwyneth Paltrow claimed she was diagnosed with “adrenal fatigue.” Medical experts have thoroughly investigated “adrenal fatigue” and found this diagnosis simply doesn’t exist. This doesn’t mean those people who were diagnosed with it are faking their symptoms, it means they have been diagnosed incorrectly and may well be suffering because of it. In response to believing her diagnosis of “adrenal fatigue,” Paltrow teamed up with coffee-enema endorsing Dr. Junger to develop and sell a line of untested supplements. Because that is what you do with a fake diagnosis that appears to have been invented to profit from people with unexplained symptoms or who are having trouble getting the right medical care. So when this strategy worked before, why not return to the same wellspring, this time using post covid symptoms — something many people are desperate to treat.

The cornerstone of Paltrow's plan is Will Cole’s “Intuitive Fasting.” To hear it described by Paltrow makes it sounds as if it is a dietary buzz word Mad Lib. For perspective on this approach, I turned to Amanda Thebe, who is a health and fitness coach, author of the wonderful book Menopocalypse, and also a covid long-hauler. Thebe contracted covid around the same time as Paltrow, March 2020 and struggled with “symptoms of shortness of breath, chronic fatigue and chest pain for 17 weeks afterwards.” She told me that she was “inundated with well-meaning, unsolicited advice” from people who sent her articles from people like The Medical Medium on how to "celery juice" herself to health or  "boost" her immune system.`` 

Thebe says the “Intuitive Fasting” Diet is “not a covid recovery diet, what this is, is a diet that is restrictive, privileged and tone-deaf to the thousands of covid long-haul survivors.” She also adds that “Intuitive eating is a methodology that moves away from dieting, it rids us of the shackles of restriction and removing food groups, and helps millions of people move away from diet culture.” She says it’s not possible to follow intuitive eating and also fast. And she found it particularly galling that a book which twists intuitive eating was promoted during National Eating Disorders Week.

To be clear, there is no study that shows a specific diet can help treat post covid symptoms. Eating a nutritionally complete diet is important for good health. A diet that is high in vegetables is good for you. But this information doesn’t get you published with goop’s pseudoscience imprint. 

Other parts of Paltrow’s “longer-term detox” for covid recovery is the standard fare of useless and potentially harmful products already available on goop dot com, just up-cycled with a covid catch. There is a $500 infrared heating pad, which is simply an expensive heating pad for those of us who can’t afford our own infrared sauna. Infrared technology for detox is a scam because A) detoxing is a scam and B) it doesn’t do anything special for you compared with other heating pads. 

There are no “toxins'' in sweat that infrared technology can coax from your body. If you want to learn more about the fine art of the infrared scam, I suggest this article in The Atlantic. Kelly Conaboy contacts the authors of the medical textbook Vander’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function as this work is apparently a citation used in the infrared-induced-sweat-will-liberate-toxins world. The authors are shocked, and reply that “Very tiny amounts of lead, copper, and nickel do appear in sweat, but if you have dangerously high concentrations of these metals in your body, it is probably best that you visit a hospital rather than an infrared sauna.” And they had “no idea what those citing our textbook would be referencing.” 

The other product that gets pushed is Goop’s ridiculous Madame Ovary supplement for women, which contains a literal apothecary of vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and proprietary blends of unknown value and safety. How bad is Paltrow’s diet that she can’t get her recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals from simply what she eats? Her claim that she needs industrial strength unnatural delivery systems for nutrients is not exactly a rousing advertisement for the “Intuitive Fasting” protocol. The amount of vitamin A in the supplements seems excessive and the vitamin D in Madame Ovary is 1,500 IU (there is 500 IU in the PhytoBlend Multi and another 1,000 IU in Thyroid BFF), although Paltrow seems to thinks there is only 500 IU. Then again there are so many fucking ingredients in that pill pack I can see how one could get confused. As Paltrow is supplementing with more, I hope she isn’t exceeding he maximum recommended daily dose of 4,000 IU of vitamin D. That is if the dosing is correct in her supplements. That is the kind of guessing game one plays with supplements. Madame Ovary also contains Green Tea Leaf extract, which is associated with liver failure. 

The goop Madame Ovary supplements were invented by Dr. Dominique Fradin-Read of VitalLifeMD, who also promoted an unproven therapy in 2020 that she said was "one of the best ways to prevent and fight COVID-19.” 

 

According to an investigation by NPR, while people were dying from covid,  Dr. Fradin-Read claimed to have an "FDA-approved" medicine — injections of thymosin alpha-1 that worked like "magic." For $400 a pop. With regular injections, she said, "maybe the virus will not be that hard to fight.” The government appears to have taken notice of Dr. Fradin-Read and her claims

And this brings us back to the real harm of goop and Paltrow: the denial of science, the legitimizing of pseudoscience and those who practice it, the promotion of unproven therapies, and the insinuation that medical professionals who have not bought into this functional scam are unenlightened, hiding real cures from you, and of course in cahoots with Big Pharma. Functional medicine is nothing without this paranoia. 

When faced with persistent symptoms from a novel virus, Paltrow tells us she turned to one of the “smartest experts” she knows in this space, Will Cole, author of “Intuitive Fasting.” That kind of endorsement from Paltrow might not just lead to sales of a ridiculous book, but may lead others who are suffering to seek advice from Cole. With that in mind it’s worth seeing what Cole offers beyond “Intuitive Fasting.” He explains himself in this way on his website. 

“I am a Functional Medicine Practitioner (IFMCP), Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM) and Doctor of Chiropractic (DC). I received my doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences. My post doctorate education and training is in Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition. Therefore, I do not practice medicine and do not diagnose or treat diseases or medical conditions.” 

Yes, Paltrow turned to a person who does not diagnose or treat medical conditions for symptoms related to a brand new virus. I am not sure how to make sense of this following statement from Paltrow about Will Cole and her lab tests, “After he saw all my labs, he explained that this was a case where the road to healing was going to be longer than usual.” Why is someone who doesn’t diagnose medical conditions looking at lab tests? I am confused, but perhaps I am not as smart as Will Cole. 

On his website, Will Cole states that “conventional medicine” is “profit-driven” and “Heavily influenced by profit-driven pharmaceutical and insurance companies.” Functional medicine is apparently bias free and not profit-driven, yet Cole charges $780 for a one hour consultation. Let’s stack that up against what evil, money grubbing physicians who take insurance might receive for the same time. Medicare reimburses $148 for a complex visit that takes 40 minutes, so if we use that same pay rate it’s $222/hour. Cole is charging more than three times that amount...in cash. He doesn’t have to hire anyone to do the billing or wait months to be paid when the claim is denied and resubmission is required. 

In addition there are lab tests and supplements — also not covered by insurance. On his website he estimates that care from him starts at $1,000-$5000. I suppose buying products from the store at drwillcole dot com also has nothing to do with bias or profit.  

Will Cole says that functional medicine is “Guided by the Hippocrates, the father of medicine’s [sic], saying to ‘let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food’.” If food is the medicine, why the supplements?

According to Dr. Helen King, possibly the most noted scholar on the subject, that quote attributed to Hippocrates does not appear in the Hippocratic Corpus. Perhaps Dr. Cole has intuitive knowledge about Hippocrates that wasn’t available to Dr. King during her career in academics.

Will Cole isn’t just advancing an unstudied eating plan and supplements, he promotes a rogue’s gallery of unsubstantiated claims and treatments including the following:

  • According to Cole, adrenal fatigue is a real diagnosis. Board certified endocrinologists say it is not a real diagnosis.

  • Cole advocates for post-challenge urinary metal testing as a way to manage “foggy brain.” The American College of Toxicologists says “post-challenge urinary metal testing has not been scientifically validated, has no demonstrated benefit, and may be harmful when applied in the assessment and treatment of patients in whom there is concern for metal poisoning.”

  • He talks about the benefits of coffee enemas. What is it with functional medicine and it’s obsession with coffee up the ass? Colonic perforations aside, do none of these functional medicine experts worry about the impact on the colonic microbiome? Because they are always talking about the microbiome. 

Cole has also voiced concerns about vaccines. In a now deleted post Cole wrote, “Most vaccines, if not all contain preservatives, like thimerisol [sic], aluminum, formaldehyde or yeast. Although there is some testing on individual vaccines, there is no testing done on the combinations given. The amount of vaccines now given to infants before 2 years of life is astounding. I don’t think their young immune systems were made to handle this insult. That combined with the actual doses of preservatives like those listed above when they get multiple vaccines at the same time can be a detox issue in some children.”

This is false.

In 2018 Cole also appeared at Generation Rescue Autism Education Summit. For those of you who don’t know, Generation Rescue is an anti-vaccine group with an active campaign of disinformation. 

You are judged by the company you keep, so when that company is Generation Rescue those judgements will be harsh. 

Cole said he took down that post stoking fears about vaccines because he says his data and his wording were wrong and he wants to do better, however, there is no information on his website correcting his disinformation as of 02/27/21. He probably should get started if he wants to do better. Then again, maybe you can’t shop that story? 

It is this exposure to medical conspiracy theories and science denialism that is the real harm of Paltrow’s covid profiteering. Cole is not the only “gift” from Paltrow. Whether it’s Dr. Junger of coffee-enema fame, also apparently a vaccine skeptic; Dr. Kelly Brogan who is an AIDS denialist, anti vaccine, and also a coffee enema aficionado; Dr. Christianne Northrup who is full on Q-Anon, anti vaccine, and actively anti mask; or The Medical Medium who gets health advice from a ghost. No really. He communicates with Spirit (one name, like Cher) and passes along health advice that mostly consists of obsessing about Epstein-Barr Virus, heavy metals, and celery juice. This is what Paltrow passes off as medical empowerment.

I am the first to admit there are gaps in medicine, but it’s insulting and harmful to suggest the answers to those issues are found in the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue, supplements, coffee enemas, celery juice or in “Intuitive Fasting.”

You should never take medical advice from someone selling a product. Getting advice from Paltrow or Cole about fatigue or brain fog is no different than going to Eli Lilly (the maker of Prozac) for advice about fatigue or brain fog. The bias here is stunning. 

No one is likely going to be harmed by that infrared heating pad and I do hope no one gets liver failure from the Madame Ovary supplements. I also hope no one with post covid symptoms delays care because they are doing “Intuitive Fasting.” But what makes goop so harmful is they have a few decent articles mixed in with those designed to move product -- like the post where Paltrow promotes Cole. They make it easy to take a wrong turn and head down a rabbit hole of disinformation, get caught up in the conspiracy theory loving, dark, and expensive world of functional medicine. Because it’s there that you are most likely to shop their story.

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