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If you’ve heard about Goop, it’s probably related to Gwyneth Paltrow discussing her fondness for steaming her vagina, but with the magazine launching later this month, it’s about to become far more ubiquitous.

Goop.com is basically a health and lifestyle blog, store, and magazine all rolled into one. The approach is similar to InfoWars.com, with a news and entertainment website/podcast/blog being used to sell questionably priced products and advertisements.

Goop was started by actor turned health guru, Gwyneth Paltrow, after her personal experiences with alternative medicines and homeopathic remedies went well. Her website now has a huge following of 1.8 million monthly readers and she’s selling out events with $1,500 tickets.

The cover of the first issue of Goop (Goop.com)

Paltrow picked a great time to launch a health and wellness publication, piggybacking off the organic food and nutritional supplements trends. According to Adweek, Goop’s average reader is 34 years old and has a six-figure household income – indicating that the readers are probably well educated. The success of her website and its highly sought-after readers lead Conde Nast to partner with Goop to publish a print magazine – a bold decision given the current state of many health magazines.

It’s easy to see why Goop appeals to certain people… we’ve all seen the basic chick at the office consuming only water, lemon juice, and peppers for two days to ‘detox.’ We all have those friends who share annoyingly delicious looking recipes on Facebook (Buzzfeed’s Tasty page has 89 million followers). Goop caters to all these fancies: beauty, food, style, travel, wellness, and work. The site includes cooking videos, gift guides, and a ton of click-bait topics that people love to share on social media.

The critics contend that Goop is essentially a snake-oil sales platform, utilizing pseudo-scientific claims to sell untested products. The most outspoken critic, Dr. Jen Gunter, has blogged numerous times about Goop’s products and articles, even trying the recommended ‘Morning Matcha Smoothie‘ recipe before learning it contained trace amounts of arsenic.

Dr. Gunter has declared war on Goop’s pseudo-medical advice, and other doctors and journalists are joining her fight. This additional scrutiny caused Goop to release a statement from their doctors that fires shots at Dr. Gunter and her vaginal confidence:

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—even though there is no study/case/report which links the two—and also stating with 100 percent certainty that conventional tampons laden with glyphosate (classified by the WHO as probably carcinogenic) are no cause for concern. Since her first post, she has been taking advantage of the attention and issuing attacks to build her personal platform—ridiculing the women who might read our site in the process.

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. That’s why we do unfiltered Q&As, so you can hear directly from doctors; we see no reason to interpret or influence what they’re saying, to tell you what to think.

And speaking of doctors, we are drawn to physicians who are interested in both Western and Eastern modalities and incorporate the best from both, as they generally believe that while traditional medicine can be really good at saving lives, functional medicine is more adept at tackling issues that are chronic. These are the doctors we regularly feature on goop: doctors who publish in peer-reviewed journals; doctors who trained at the best institutions; doctors who are repeatedly at the forefront of medicine; doctors who persistently and aggressively maintain an open mind. The thing about science and medicine is that it evolves all the time. Studies and beliefs that we held sacred even in the last decade have since been proven to be unequivocally false, and sometimes even harmful. Meanwhile, other advances in science and medicine continue to change and save lives. It is not a perfect system; it is a human system.

While we have earned a reputation for often seeking the alternative, it would be a gross misunderstanding to believe that we reject Western medicine. On the contrary. We would never suggest that someone skip a colonoscopy, pap smear, or a mammogram, that they refuse chemotherapy or radiation, that they not have that clogged artery in their heart attended to. There is much in Western medicine to marvel at. But where we have found our primary place is in addressing people, women in particular, who are tired of feeling less-than-great, who are looking for solutions—these women are not hypochondriacs, and they should not be dismissed or marginalized.

Asking questions is the job of all of us; it is also the job of the doctors and scientists who collectively move our health forward. There is much that we do not know. It is unfortunate that there are some who seem to believe that they already know it all, who pre-judge information before they’ve even taken the time to read or understand it, who believe that there is actually nothing left to learn, who believe that they, singularly, own the truth. That is troubling, and that is dangerous.

All this outrage over a Q&A session titled ‘Jade Eggs for Your Yoni,’ which suggested inserting jade eggs into your vagina to improve your sex life. The proponent of this therapy is a “beauty guru/healer/inspiration/friend” named Shiva Rose, according to the Q&A published on the website.

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Dr. Gunter, who refers to their medical advice as “goopshit,” says she has concerns about the effect misinformation has on her patients, “I worry that you make people worry and that you are lowering the world’s medical IQ” (more).

Claims of dubious products may not be exaggerated. Truth In Advertising has compiled a database of over fifty Goop or Goop-promoted products that claim to “alleviate, heal, cure, reduce the risk of, etc.” all manner of maladies, and the first issue of the magazine hasn’t even hit the shelves yet. Mark Bricklin, the former editor of Prevention, told The Atlantic, “Goop is total BS. It would flunk fact-checking in 15 seconds.”

Meanwhile, Goop’s editors and doctors claim that people should be allowed to make their own decisions regarding the potential efficacy of any suggested treatment in their content. Based on Goop’s growth, it’s seems a lot of people agree with that thinking.

While most people enjoy the consumer protection provided by government agencies and the medical community, there’s a perception that these same agencies work very slowly and often ignore treatments that don’t directly benefit a major drug company. Add in people’s real world experiences with natural substances like kratom and marijuana that the government says you shouldn’t use (Opioids seemed safer?), and you can see how a publication like Goop can thrive.

In reality, Goop isn’t that much different than Seventeen or Cosmopolitan. They all offer health, beauty, lifestyle, and relationship advice… and the essential products to achieve that lifestyle. The difference seems to be Goop’s reach into multiple channels, like their own clothing and fragrance labels, and a store built right into the website. It’s a somewhat genius way to run a lifestyle brand, writing articles to promote your own clothing, fragrances, and makeup. However, Goop’s original focus, content promoting non-traditional medical treatments, continues to rub a lot of people the wrong way.

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Perhaps the most damning indictment so far comes courtesy of The Atlantic, who asked Scott Kahan, the director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness, his opinion of the website:

“A well-presented mix of a lot of harmless pseudoscience combined with a lot of high-profit-margin snake-oil promotion, combined with some potentially harmful pseudoscience and product sales, and also combined with some reasonable, if repackaged, recommendations, that are completely accepted but by themselves aren’t enough … to sell copies of their products.”

The article suggests that this kind of fact-check-free health journalism could be the future, as leaner news outlets choose not to pay for dedicated fact-checkers and editors. Goop relies on various contributors to write their articles, including Gwenyth Paltrow (GP). The Atlantic states that many of these doctors and expert contributors would not be used as a source by traditional health publications since they sell supplements or make dubious claims.

Goop.com

The celebrity endorsement seems to carry a lot of weight around the Goop world. Paltrow writes a newsletter and recommends essential products for her followers, some of which cost over $1000. Yet, Goop acknowledges no hint of potential bias as they shamelessly promote their own brand. They do however, offer this disclaimer after each article:

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of goop, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

My main concern with Goop.com is the lack of community input on the website. You would think a website that just said this, “asking questions is the job of all of us,” would allow users to comment on articles… nope. The website should allow users to leave reviews and share whether the advice was successful for them, thus encouraging a true discussion about homeopathic and non-traditional medicine.

Instagram / FastCompany

Additional Reading

The Baffling Rise of Goop

Goop Could Face Consequences for Making Deceptive Health Claims About Its Weird Products

Is This the Beginning of the End for Goop?

Gwyneth Paltrow: Goop critics are sexist and need to do their ‘homework’