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Since taking a break from acting in 2008 to launch her lifestyle website, Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow has transformed her once-tiny health blog into a full-blown empire with a podcast, magazine, and shop filled with Goop-branded beauty products and supplements. But not everyone is a fan of the 45-year-old actress-turned–wellness guru’s success.
In the decade since its launch, Goop has come under fire several times by doctors, scientists, and readers for its controversial wellness lessons. Though a majority of Goop’s articles are fine, a handful that have been criticized by experts have tainted the brand’s name and given it a bad track record when it comes to providing readers with health, fitness, and diet tips. We’ve rounded up Goop’s wildest, most controversial wellness advice.
Use Stickers Made of Space Suits to Rebalance Energy
In June 2017, Goop promoted $120 stickers, which readers could stick on their arms to “rebalance energy frequency in our bodies.” Goop claimed that the stickers, which were from the brand Body Vibes, were made out of the same material as NASA space suits, which are allegedly designed to monitor astronauts’ vitals. Goop reasoned that this allowed the stickers to “target imbalances” in the body and correct them.
“Human bodies operate at an ideal energetic frequency, but everyday stresses and anxiety can throw off our internal balance, depleting our energy reserves and weakening our immune systems,” Goop wrote in a now-deleted post. “Body Vibes stickers (made with the same conductive carbon material NASA uses to line space suits so they can monitor an astronaut’s vitals during wear) come pre-programmed to an ideal frequency, allowing them to target imbalances.”
Shortly after the article went live, Mark Shelhamer, former chief scientist at NASA’s human research division, called the stickers “a load of B.S.” In an interview with Gizmodo, Shelhamer said that the suits were made of synthetic polymers, spandex, and other materials—not carbon, like Goop claimed. Shelhamer also argued that if the suits were to include carbon, it would be to add strength to the suits and not to monitor vital signs.
“Not only is the whole premise like snake oil, the logic doesn’t even hold up,” Shelhamer said. “If they promote healing, why do they leave marks on the skin when they are removed?”
Steam Your Vagina with Mugwort to Balance Hormone Levels
In a post recommending different saunas, detox spas, and colonic centers around the world, Goop praised “V-Steams,” vaginal steams that uses infrared and mugwort to not only clean your uterus and vaginal area, but also rebalance hormone levels. “You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels,” Goop wrote.
In an interview with LiveScience, ob-gyn Draion Burch, MD, countered Goop’s claims, arguing that there isn’t scientific evidence to prove the steam’s health benefits and that the method could actually result in burns and bacterial infections. “The vagina cleans itself,” Burch said.
On a post on her blog, Jen Gunter, MD, another gynecologist, also warned readers against Goop’s vaginal steam. She argued that “balancing hormones … means nothing medical,” and that there are no hormones in the plants Goop is recommending, so they do nothing to hormone levels. “Steaming your vagina with wormwood or mugwort will not do anything to hormones because these plants are not hormones,” she wrote.
Gunter also countered Goop’s claims that the steams could reach the uterus. “The people who push V-steams also need a little anatomy lesson … steam isn’t going to get into your uterus from your vagina unless you are using an attachment with some kind of pressure and MOST DEFINITELY NEVER EVER DO THAT.”
Put a Jade Egg in Your Vagina to Strengthen Your Kidney
In January 2017, Goop published a Q&A with Shiva Rose, a “beauty guru/healer/inspiration/friend,” as the website described, touting the benefits of inserting a jade egg, an egg-shaped stone made of nephrite jade, in the vagina. Rose claimed that keeping jade in your vagina can “increase orgasm,” “tighten and tone,” “create kidney strength,” “intensify feminine energy,” and “invigorate our life force.” Soon after the Q&A was published, Goop also began selling its own jade egg.
The article was quickly criticized by Dr. Jen Gunter, who called Goop’s advice “a hot mess” and explained that holding a jade egg in your vagina can cause pelvic problems, as pelvic muscles are not meant to contract continuously. Gunter also argued that keeping an egg in your vagina can allow bacteria to enter, leading to a greater risk of toxic shock syndrome, which is deadly.
“The only thing your post got right is to check with your doctor before using one,” Gunter wrote on her blog. “So let me give you some free advice, don’t use vaginal jade eggs.”
Do Colonics to Remove Toxins from Your Body
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Goop also faced backlash for an article with Alejandro Junger, MD, founder of the Clean Program, who spoke highly of colonics, a procedure that cleans out the colon with water before colonoscopies, as a way to “eliminate extra mucus,” remove toxins, and promote gut health. The procedure was criticized by Michael Picco, MD, a physician at the Mayo Clinic, who stated that colon cleanses can often be harmful.
He explained that colonics, which often only are done so that a doctor can better see your colon for colonoscopies, a screening for colon cancers, can result in side effects such as dehydration, infections, vomiting, and bowel ruptures. Your digestive system and bowel already eliminate waste material and bacteria from your body, “Picco wrote in a blog for the Mayo Clinic.”[Proponents] believe that colon cleansing improves health by removing toxins, boosting your energy, and enhancing your immune system. However, there’s no evidence that colon cleansing produces these effects. And colon cleansing can sometimes be harmful.”
Likewise, according to a research article in a journal for family doctors, “Colon cleansing has no proven benefits and many adverse effects.”
Bra Underwires Could Cause Breast Cancer
In 2017, Goop came under fire when the website published an article speculating that underwires in bras could be linked to breast cancer. The article was debunked by many experts, including those at the nonprofit BreastCancer.org, who pointed out that there is only one scientific study that looked at the possible cancerous connection between breasts and bra wires. The study came to the conclusion that there is no proven association between the two, as seen by its title, “Bra Wearing Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-Based Case-Control Study.”
Likewise, David Gorski, MD, a breast cancer surgeon, criticized the claim, further explaining that there is no scientific evidence to back up the idea that wearing bras leads to breast cancer.
“According to this study, there was no increased risk of breast cancer due to wearing a bra, a result that, to breast cancer specialists, was about as surprising as the observation that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, water is wet, and gasoline flammable,” he wrote in an article for Science-Based Medicine.
Let Bees Sting You to Get Rid of Inflammation and Scarring
One of Paltrow’s most infamous wellness controversies was when she revealed to the New York Times that she has let bees sting her to fade scars on her skin and reduce inflammation. “Generally, I’m open to anything. I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy,” she said. “People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring. It’s actually pretty incredible if you research it. But, man, it’s painful.”
The controversy resurfaced in March 2018, when the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology reported that a 55-year-old woman in Spain died from undergoing the bee-sting therapy. The journal reported that the procedure’s benefits and proofs of its safety are “limited” and “scarce,” and that bee-stinging can result in serious side effects, including death.
“In sensitized persons, venom compounds can act as allergens, causing the release of mast-cell mediators and a spectrum of allergic reactions that can range from mild, local swelling to severe systemic reactions, anaphylactic shock, or even death,” the journal wrote. Furthermore, repeated exposure to the allergen was found to carry a greater risk of severe allergic reactions than in the general population.”
The journal also suggested that the more someone participates in the therapy, the more sensitized they are to bee stings, increasing the risk of danger, which is what they believe happened to the 55-year-old woman. In the woman’s final therapy session, she began wheezing during the procedure and eventually lost consciousness. She passed away after a few weeks at the hospital.
How to Live Your ‘Leanest Possible Weight’
In February 2018, Goop came under fire when it published an article with advice on how readers can achieve their “leanest livable weight,” which the website described as “the weight at the low end of your ‘set range.’” The article was immediately criticized by the internet, with many believing that the phrase leanest livable weight translated to “how to be as thin as possible without dying.” Despite the article being about “busting diet myths,” many readers criticized Goop for promoting thinness and unhealthy weight loss.