Wellness used to mean a blend of health and happiness...it has become a false antidote to the fear of modern life and death...The wellness industry takes medical terminology, such as “inflammation” or “free radicals,” and levigates it to the point of incomprehension. The resulting product is a D.I.Y. medicine for longevity that comes with a confidence that science can only aspire to achieve.
...take the trend of adding a pinch of activated charcoal to your food or drink...it’s sold as a supposed “detox.”..It has the same efficacy as a spell from the local witch...“Toxins,” as defined by the peddlers of these dubious cures, are the harmful effluvia of modern life that supposedly roam our bodies...for without these toxins there can be no search for purity — “clean” tampons, “clean” food, “clean” makeup. There are also sacred acts and rituals to follow...Medicine and religion have long been deeply intertwined, and it’s only relatively recently that they have separated. The wellness-industrial complex seeks to resurrect that connection. It’s like a medical throwback, as if the halcyon days of health were 5,000 years ago. Ancient cleansing rituals with a modern twist — supplements, useless products and scientifically unsupported tests.
The dietary supplements that are the backbone of wellness make up a $30 billion a year business despite studies showing they have no value for longevity...So what’s the harm of spending money on charcoal for nonexistent toxins or vitamins for expensive urine or grounding bedsheets to better connect you with the earth’s electrons?..Here’s what: the placebo effect or “trying something natural” can lead people with serious illnesses to postpone effective medical care.
Moving the kind of product that churns the wheels of the wellness-industrial complex requires a constant stream of fear and misinformation. Look closer at most wellness sites and at many of their physician partners, and you’ll find a plethora of medical conspiracy theories: Vaccines and autism. The dangers of water fluoridation. Bras and breast cancer. Cellphones and brain cancer. Heavy metal poisoning. AIDS as a construct of Big Pharma.
There are symptoms that I believe have been with us since the beginning of time, so common that they are likely part of the human experience: fatigue, bloat, low libido, episodic pain, loss of vigor. When medicine can only offer a therapy, not a cure, or when doctors give undesired answers — suggesting attention to sleep hygiene, for instance — it isn’t hard to see how the intoxicating confidence and theater of wellness could beckon.
I admit that doctors can learn something from wellness. It’s clear that some people are looking for healers, so we must find ways to serve that need that are medically ethical...We doctors can do more to provide factual information about hazardous substances, such as carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals, in products and the environment from medically vetted sites with no products to sell, such as the National Cancer Institute and the Endocrine Society...Many people — women especially — have long been marginalized and dismissed by medicine, but the answer does not lie in predatory conspiracy theories, a faux religion or expensive magic.