Gwyneth and her medi-shills strike back

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Quacktress Gwyneth Paltrow has take PT Barnum’s advice to heart.

Barnum famously said that you can’t go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. Paltrow is channeling Barnum with her website goop and is laughing all the way to the bank.

When quacktresses like Paltrow trade on their celebrity to sell useless, nonsensical and potentially dangerous products, they aren’t empowering women; they’re taking advantage of them.

But not everyone is laughing with Paltrow. Some are laughing at her. Indeed OB-GYN Jen Gunter has made a specialty of skewering Paltrow and she never lacks for material. Highlights include:

Gwyneth Paltrow says steam your vagina, an OB/GYN says don’t

Dear Gwyneth Paltrow, I’m a GYN and your vaginal jade eggs are a bad idea

Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t have adrenal fatigue because it doesn’t exist

The bad publicity is apparently having an effect, because goop is addressing the criticism head on with a new post, Uncensored: A Word from Our Doctors:

Last January, we published a Q&A with Shiva Rose about her jade egg practice, which has helped her (and legions of other women who wrote to us in response) feel more in touch with her sexuality, and more empowered. A San Francisco-based OB-GYN/blogger posted a mocking response on her site …

There was a tremendous amount of press pick-up on the doctor’s post, which was partially based on her own strangely confident assertion that putting a crystal in your vagina for pelvic-floor strengthening exercises would put you in danger of getting Toxic Shock Syndrome …

Some of the coverage that goop receives suggests that women are lemmings, ready to jump off a cliff whenever one of our doctors discusses checking for EBV, or Candida, or low levels of vitamin D—or, heaven forbid, take a walk barefoot. As women, we chafe at the idea that we are not intelligent enough to read something and take what serves us, and leave what does not. We simply want information; we want autonomy over our health…

I’ve been reading Jen Gunter for years, and I’m quite sure that she wants women to have accurate information and believes passionately in women’s autonomy. But the ugly truth is that when quacktresses like Paltrow trade on their celebrity to sell useless, nonsensical and potentially dangerous products, they aren’t empowering women; they’re taking advantage of them. It isn’t Gunter who thinks women are not intelligent enough to understand medical information; it is Paltrow who bets on her belief that women are not intelligent enough to tell the difference between real medical information and quackery.

Paltrow is now defending herself using a page from the Tobacco Industry playbook.

The tobacco industry recognized as far back as the 1970’s that it was impossible to use science to justify the existence and marketing of their products. Going forward, the tobacco industry changed its focus from insisting that cigarettes did not cause lung cancer (a strategy made untenable by the weight of scientific evidence) to reframing the issue as one of personal freedom.

…[W]e try to change the focus on the issues. Cigarette tax become[s] an issue of fairness and effective tax policy. Cigarette marketing is an issue of freedom of commercial speech. Environmental tobacco smoke becomes an issue of accommodation. Cigarette-related fires become an issue of prudent fire safety programs. And so on.

Make no mistake, the advice to steam your vagina, to use jade eggs or to suspect that you are afflicted with adrenal fatigue are pure, unadulterated nonsense. It has no basis in science; these are marketing scams.

Paltrow has enlisted her medi-shills, Drs. Steven Gundry and Aviva Romm to strike back at Gunter. Who are medi-shills? They are physicians who use their medical knowledge to sell self-branded products, often through their own websites. There’s no surer sign of a quack than a doctor who has his or her own online store.

Dr. Gundry peddles supplements and skincare. The Skeptical Cardiologist notes:

I found on Dr. Gundry’s website an immediate and aggressive attempt to sell lots of supplements …

Dr. Gundry’s bio states “I left my former position at California’s Loma Linda University Medical Center, and founded The Center for Restorative Medicine. I have spent the last 14 years studying the human microbiome – and developing the principles of Holobiotics that have since changed the lives of countless men and women.”

Need I mention that “holobiotics” is (?are) not real.

Dr. Gundry doesn’t offer any science to support goop’s products; there isn’t any. Instead Gundry gives a master class in the use of the logical fallacy “appeal to authority”:

But, since you did not do even a simple Google search of me before opening your mouth, let me give you a brief history: I have published over 300 papers, chapters, and abstracts on my research in peer-reviewed journals and have presented over 500 papers at peer-reviewed academic meetings.

So what?

All those folks at Big Pharma have lots of citations to their names, too. Are we supposed to believe that people who publish scientific papers aren’t vulnerable to misleading people about their own products in order to make a profit?

Gundry appears to have a monstrous ego. Nearly all his 1290 word “response” is about himself and his credentials … as if we care.

I’ve written about Dr. Romm many times in the past. Romm is a former homebirth midwife and current herbalist who rhapsodizes about the purported safety of homebirth, but, curiously refuses to attend them now that she’s an actual doctor.

As I wrote in 2014:

I don’t know your reasoning. Perhaps you feel that you want an easier lifestyle? Perhaps you prefer to cash in by practicing “functional medicine” on the worried well who can pay out of pocket. I don’t blame you. You probably have massive amounts of debt and a high profile, high profit practice is the best way to clear that debt.

But don’t you think it’s rather hypocritical to promote homebirth while refusing to attend homebirths?

Romm also fails to offer any science to back the questionable goop products; she can’t because there isn’t any. Instead she offers typical alt-health gobbledygook:

In a time when women are desperately hungry for safe alternatives to mainstream practices that too often fall short of helpful for chronic symptoms, and in the setting of a medical system that is continually falling short of providing lasting solutions to the chronic disease problems we’re facing: I prefer, rather than ridiculing vehicles that are actually highly effective at reaching large numbers of women who want to be well, to seek to understand what women are looking for, what the maintstream isn’t providing; and how we can work together to support those vehicles in elevating their content so that women are receiving the meaningful, and evidence-based answers, they want and deserve, whenever possible.

Yes, women are desperately hungry for safe alternatives to mainstream practices that fall short of helpful for chronic symptoms. That’s precisely why goop’s peddling of vaginal steaming, jade eggs and adrenal fatigue are so strikingly unethical. These products AREN’T safe alternatives to medical practice helpful for chronic symptoms. They’re quackery.

This isn’t about health; it’s about profit. Big Placebo is no different from Big Pharma when it comes to putting money ahead of women’s wellbeing. Paltrow is a perfect example.

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  • Jennie Elliott

    I just don’t understand the cultural obsession with celebrities. I like a lot of certain celebs work as it can be entertaining and acting/music can be a touching form of self expression/art. But when celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Mayim Bialik etc..write something on their blogs it’s a personal opinion nothing more than that. Celbs are just people who may not know more (or may know less) than your best friend or neighbor. I don’t like Mayim Bialik at all I think her blog is very “preachy”. IMO she comes off as a know it all. Paltrow and others like her will keep talking if people keep listening.

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  • doula123

    As a new doula, I tried both jade eggs and vaginal steaming. The eggs were fun, but I didn’t see how they would be any more effective for the pelvic floor than Kegels. Vaginal steaming gave me thrush and the herbs were really expensive! (now I use them to make a tea that does seem quite effective for menstrual cramps though) Needless to say I no longer recommend either practices to clients. I’ve heard other doulas recommending vaginal steaming as an antidote to Post Natal Depression…..huh?…..

  • Cat

    “In a time when women are desperately hungry for safe alternatives to mainstream practices that too often fall short of helpful for chronic symptoms”

    The frustrating thing is that there’s a half a good point somewhere in there. My sister-in-law recently found out that she has stage 4 endometriosis, seven or eight years after she started going to her GP about symptoms which have increasingly fucked with her quality of life and affected her ability to work. She’s now had to have major surgery and is going frantic about the possibility that she might not be able to have the kids that she and her husband long for. From my reading round the subject, her story is depressingly common: “women’s” problems get dismissed all too often. However, the cynicism of using that as an excuse to flog quackery takes my breath away.

    • Hannah

      This! Yes I get frustrated that my treatment options for lupus are so limited. But that’s not because science or western medicine sucks; it’s just because we’ve only known about it as a specific disease since 1948! It may seem a long time, but it’s really very short; and even then, they’ve made absolutely astonishing strides since then. Sure, some of the medical treatments suck, and are basically killing an ant with a sledgehammer. But at least we’ve come far enough that I can survive it. And just in the past 20-30 years, we’ve come far enough that I wasn’t told to not have children under any circumstances. So as sucky as a lot of it is, in the grand scheme of things? Modern medicine has worked miracles in the time it’s been given so far.

      • Azuran

        And even with all the science is the world, it’s very likely that many diseases out there will never have quick and easy cures. Maybe it just doesn’t exist.

  • Lisa

    Just wave some essential oils around in there and then drink strawberry tea…. Geesh are people gullible

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      I’m all for strawberry tea. Sometimes I take my medicine with it. Other times I use boysenberry, cranberry, or Irish breakfast 😉

      • mabelcruet

        I’m a liquorice and mint tea drinker myself-Pukka tea brand, sounds disgusting, tastes absolutely gorgeous.

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          Mint’s good too. 🙂 I’ve a chocolate mint black from Harney and Sons and a MoTEAto (mint and lime) green from a local shop.

  • Sue

    “Aviva completed her internship in Internal Medicine at Yale where she was instrumental in creating the school’s first integrative medicine curriculum.”

    “Dr. Romm is a leader in the revolution to transform the current medical system into one that respects the intrinsic healing capacities of the body and nature – while helping women take their health into their own hands. ”

    In the video: “How is adrenal fatigue diagnosed?”: “Adrenal fatigue is a clinical diagnosis. There aren’t necessarily really great tests that can say you do or you don’t have adrenal fatigue”.

    Then “What supplements can I take to treat adrenal fatigue?”

    (https://www.sharecare.com/user/dr-aviva-romm)

    So many red flags.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Ladies, if you want to get in touch with your sexuality, there are more fun things to put in your cooch than rocks.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Video is optional….

      Although I’d add, “Rule 38”

      • James Long

        You mean Rule 34.

  • mabelcruet

    She’s playing the long game. She sells herself as a commodity, so why not flog other products? Create the ‘disease’, then flog the ‘cure’. Remember Bernadette in the Big Bang Theory, whose company invented and cured ‘restless eye syndrome’ in the same week? Paltrow will continue to flog useless, pointless and dangerous pieces of crap because she’s continuing to invent new conditions, unfortunately aided and abetted by medics acting unethically. How do Gundry and Romm get away with it? In the UK the General Medical Council would be very much involved if there was a doctor who had set up a website peddling non evidence based information or products-it’s called bringing the profession into disrepute. We have one called Sarah Myhill, who is a huge favourite of people with conditions like adrenal fatigue, and who has been sanctioned by the GMC because her website, to be frank, reads like a Big Pharma conspiracy theorist’s wet dream.

  • Sheven

    I’m torn.

    On the one hand, Gwyneth Paltrow is preying on desperate people with more money than sense all the while trying to spread harmful distrust of hardworking medical professionals who tell the truth.

    On the other hand, women are under-represented in the field of creepy cult leadership and she is rectifying that.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      *snort* Like the field of serial killers…

      • Sheven

        Exactly. What kind of example does that set for Our Daughters?

    • Looking at a sample of quacks, MDs and chiropractors are more likely to be male but naturopaths, acupuncturists, and nutritionists are substantially more likely to be female.

      • Young CC Prof

        The quack field overall includes plenty of women, but the ones getting actually rich at it, with books and branded products and large online followings are overwhelmingly men. (In fact, I can hardly think of any women who weren’t already famous when they went into it.) For a lot of the women, it’s a home-based business that just supplements the household income.

        Not that we need more quacks, but it’s worth recognizing that a field that disproportionately targets women (both for their own health and as mothers) provides the greatest profit to men.

  • Rebecca

    You know, the goop supporters also claim that medical doctors just want people to support physicians and give your money to physicians rather than go to “alternative health” sites for care. That’s ridiculous– doctors would actually make more money off the infections caused by jade eggs. So if that were really true, doctors would say nothing about dangerous health advice which makes people sick, because then we’d have an even bigger supply of sick people to see. Of course, that would be after the poor woman has suffered needlessly or bought a worthless alternative cure from goop for the infection.