Quackery In The Health, Aging & Beauty Circles

True beauty stems from genetics, optimal wellness and integrated optimism. Optimal wellness is the combination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

The wellness industry went a bit overboard in recent years. This morning I was reading about the Goop website and various pitches by Dr. Gundry who advocates a very restricted diet, makes multiple bizarre medical claims, and sells copious amounts of equally strange sounding supplements, things like “lectin shields”. Can’t you just envision a warrior with a huge bronze shield over his heart and vital organs, as he goes to do battle with his leaky gut? It almost sounds heroic doesn’t it?

If one of these health gurus wrote a fictional book, it would be like a video game inside the body. The good guys are navigating the blood stream in hurricane zodiacs with lectin shields and various other supplements to enhance their powers. The pirates sprouted from beans – and came surreptitiously sneaking out of a leaking gut. Whoa! Before you know it, there is a real bowel-optic war going on inside of you. It used to be a joke to describe someone who has a shitty outlook on life, but now it is about being double crossed by the foods we eat. The leaky gut promoters tell us we need to add more warriors to the mix. You must translate money into supplements as benefactors for your gut.

One thing this health craze has brought on, is an increase in liver disease. Twenty-five per cent of liver disease is now related to supplements. In addition, post-op bleeds can often be attributed to supplements that alter the clotting factors. One can never assume the supplements will not interact with other drugs and should always be included with the information provided to first responders and other medical professionals.

I often wonder about those who refuse to eat ordinary food, because of all the health guru hype. The list of things various quacks tell people to avoid includes; all grains, beans, nightshade vegetables, dairy products, meat, bananas, grapefruit and so on. What if people who adhere to these diets were faced with starvation or famine? Would they refuse to eat bread or meat? What do they eat?

The gist of the Goop website is that women are seeking autonomy. So how exactly are we are going to get autonomy from the ideas and beliefs of Gwyneth Paltrow? To me, that’s sort of like basing your spiritual beliefs on the celebs that have joined Scientology. Can’t we just say, “Whatever floats your boat” and ignore them?

Does being an actress make you a health expert? If she is advocating for autonomy, then why is she pitching so much misinformation? Autonomy means self-directed, not being spoon fed a bunch of fluff by someone who thinks everyone wants to be just like her. No one is just like her. Nothing is going to change that. Not even taking her advice, range of supplements, and quirky products will change the fact we will never look or act like Gwyneth Paltrow. She, like most of us, still has a whole lotta living left to do…Only time will tell how she manages it all. She has set herself up for some critical scrutiny as she ages.

Supplements of every kind, along with a multitude of alternative and fringe treatments are now the norm. I think it’s good to make informed choices, with autonomy over our own health a consistent priority. We don’t need the far-fetched claims of others in order to gain self-determination. They seem to be capitalizing on little more than the notion of cult celebrity followings. We need to listen to our own bodies and sensibilities.

Between the two extremes of conventional medicine and some of the alternative approaches – is where common sense might prevail. In reality, individuals must navigate the unmapped territory leading to their own health and recovery. The only real guide is your own intuition. The thing to guard yourself against is treatment and medication with a stronger dose of hype than benefits.

There is no magic pill. The body has tremendous capacity for healing. We need a wholesome diet, exercise and rest. No matter what happens to us, unless it kills us – first the body stabilizes and then it begins to heal, gradually. Our job is to pay attention to the problem, research it; and then carefully sift the information and advice we are given for quackery, fraud, and pure profit motive.

With a balanced and more secure perspective, we are better equipped to make informed choices. There are good reasons to include some discipline into the daily grind. Our own awareness can alert us enough to help offset everything from repetitive strain injuries to heart attacks and strokes. We are better off to find ways to keep the endorphins flowing and the cortisol levels lower.

I believe each individual is unique with specific genetic markers, developmental attributes, psychological and emotional make-up, addictive tendencies, athletic inclinations, intellectual interests and so on. When we go to a doctor, they have no idea what we put into our bodies, how we think, or what our genetic history is. They can stitch up a wound, order an X-Ray, write a prescription and give you advice. When it comes to trauma, bowel obstructions, automobile accidents, ectopic pregnancies, and countless other mishaps – conventional medicine is not to be scoffed at.

But when it comes to the habits of everyday living and the vague, foggy complaints of fatigue or general malaise – we get hooked. Yeah that’s me! I need a fix. Then as we age, it’s all about chronic disease and inflammation. If we believed all the supplement promoters, we would be living on little but supplements and green juice. We would be taking co-enzymes and handfuls of gelatin capsules  thinking we can make ourselves glow in the dark, emanating an instant revitalization and youthful vigor.

As far as judging a person’s health choices, I don’t think we should. But I do believe in common sense and warning people to filter it all, and use caution when tempted to buy into some of those questionable concepts.

For starters there is no such thing as “age reversal”. How could there be? As an example, there have been some very interesting early studies on the long-term effects of Botox, which made sense to me.

Apparently the way the face is innervated with the network of craniofacial nerves, there are neuronal pathways to the brain affecting the movement and coordination of the hands or “hand-mapping” associated with the nerves in the forehead. It is only a matter of time before they figure out the physical global effects of repeated Botox injections. A person might start to look and act borderline catatonic after a few years.

Another interesting thing about Botox is the effect on communication. Apparently we learn a great deal from facial expressions and tend to mirror them. Empathy and compassion, fear, contempt, curiosity – are all part of reading people’s faces. Some articles surmise this can impact relationships. Children in particular rely on facial expressions and tend to make very accurate assessments.

Recently I noticed Celine Dion has come out with a skin product with some extraordinary claims. This product boasts it will put plastic surgeons out of business. I laughed when I read about it because I remembered shopping with my sister one time. We got taken in by an expensive skin cream with similar claims. We each decided to buy one with the agreement to use it faithfully every day. The observation on our mini clinical trial was going to be put to the test, the next time we saw each other. We agreed we would be brutally honest. A few months later when we saw each other again, we took a good long look at each other’s faces, and in unison both of us quipped…”Nope. It didn’t work”.

The gluten free craze is another interesting diet phenomena. For one thing, only one per cent of the population truly has celiac disease. In the past, the diagnosis was based on symptoms and biopsies of the intestine. Now they can do a definitive diagnosis. Canada has about 35,000 true celiac cases, which are tracked on a data base. Although there is a genetic factor, apparently there is never a direct genetic association because of the way it is spread genetically. In addition, it is very difficult if not impossible to go completely gluten free due to the extensive cross-contamination of grains.

For those who truly do have celiac disease, they will react to a homeopathic dosage of gluten. Therefore it is common for them to have frequent flare ups even if they are vigilant about gluten. One of the most interesting things about celiac disease is that many who suffer from it have found they can eat slowly fermented artisan breads, especially sour dough.

For those who do not have celiac, by all means avoid anything that bothers you. But in actual fact, if we don’t have celiac disease, there is no reason to avoid gluten and many good reasons to eat healthy grains.

One of the main things to note about the gluten free craze, is that it brought a whole range of packaged and processed foods, high in sugar, additives, and fats, yet there is a perception this is healthier. The perception is based on a couple of books written by health gurus describing wheat as the worst thing ever grown in a field – and presto, no more gluten for half the population. Hopefully it is a fading trend. I tried going gluten free myself a few years ago – but my gut feeling was that it didn’t make much sense. Plus the gluten free bread is gross in my opinion.

We often hear about leaky gut as the cause for all kinds of health problems. But that too is a manufactured term. There is no proof such a diagnosis even exists.

As far as navigating my own ideas about health, I place autonomy at the top of the list. Therefore I avoid doctors, prescriptions, supplements, and more recently  dropped all OTC medications joining the list of “things to avoid”. The biggest vice for me was to finally kick the sugar habit.

There was a fair bit of reluctance to give up sugar. I love fresh ground dark roast coffee with cream and sugar first thing in the morning, and cannot get used to coffee without it. So, coffee goes out the window along with the sugar. I’m still experimenting with substitutes for the morning java. After trying everything from chicory root to vanilla yerba mate, nothing holds a candle to the old fashioned sugar laden cup of coffee. The only other time I managed to quit sugar was in the seventies after reading a book called “Sugar Blues.” It wasn’t long though, before I lapsed into my old ways. Ha! But this time I’m serious. I think last time I lasted about a year, so only time will tell.

Part of the initial adaptation to decreasing or eliminating added sugar is in screening the labels on everything you buy. You need to take a light loupe to the grocery store to read the tiny fonts on the labels. There are a few sugar free salad dressings. Most sauces have added sugar. Almost all processed food has sugar and additives. I find it easiest to stick with fresh whole foods and fresh baked artisan bread. There are also brands of nut butters without any added sugars.

There are things in both conventional medicine and alternative medicine to be embraced by people keen to regain their health and vitality. On the flip side, both have a multitude of things to be avoided. Personally, I would never take chemotherapy. Nor do I go for mammograms as I think they are a hoax. The thought of a CT scan gives me claustrophobia. I skip all pre-screening tests and always have. Denial has its place in life.

Whether we agree with another person’s choices or not is irrelevant. So many of our health choices are based on fear. Many other decisions are based on what some other authority tells us is best for us. We get so used to hearing what is best for us, we hand over our better judgment simply to serve someone else’s profit motive. Don’t expect anyone other than those who love you, to be THAT interested in your health or well-being.

We fail to realize fear itself is the cause of much disease and disharmony in the body. Our psyche, emotions and spirit inhabit our physical bodies, yet we are hesitant to factor those in when we start fretting over our health.

Aging and death are inevitable. We don’t need piles of pills and supplements. As a rule, they do more harm than good. In long-term-care one of the most glaring things I noticed was that those who were the most out of control also took the most psychoactive medications. The healthiest ones could be a hundred years old, and all they took was a baby aspirin each day.

My own advice for optimal health, which I most certainly have not always followed myself but am more inclined to do now: Listen to your body and trust your intuitions. Reduce dependency on medications. Don’t quit any medicine cold turkey, but taper it down gradually. Avoid surgery if you can heal without it. There is always a risk of infection and/or developing scar tissue that can cause problems later.

Lean toward holistic and individually tailored approaches to healing and therapy with careful research. Monitor your progress based on how you feel. Be patient and trust in the body’s incredible capacity to heal.

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2018). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Valerie Hayes

Quiet West Vintage represents a private vintage and designer collection that has been gathered and stored over a thirty-five year period. I now look forward to sharing this collection and promoting the "Other Look" - a totally individualistic approach to style.