Uncensored: A Word from Our Doctors
As goop has grown, so has the attention we receive. We consistently find ourselves to be of interest to many—and for that, we are grateful—but we also find that there are third parties who critique goop to leverage that interest and bring attention to themselves. Encouraging discussion of new ideas is certainly one of our goals, but indiscriminate attacks that question the motivation and integrity of the doctors who contribute to the site is not. This is the first in a series of posts revisiting these topics and offering our contributing M.D.’s a chance to articulate theirs, in a respectful and substantive manner.
We always welcome conversation. That’s at the core of what we’re trying to do. What we don’t welcome is the idea that questions are not okay. Being dismissive—of discourse, of questions from patients, of practices that women might find empowering or healing, of daring to poke at a long-held belief—seems like the most dangerous practice of all. Where would we be if we all still believed in female hysteria instead of orgasm equality? That smoking didn’t cause lung cancer? If every nutritionist today saw the original food pyramid as gospel?
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, which has the tagline: “Wielding the Lasso of Truth.” (We also love Wonder Woman, though we’re pretty sure she’s into women taking ownership of female sexual pleasure.)
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.
Here’s to an open and honest dialogue, to open minds and open hearts.
A Note From Dr. Steven Gundry
I have read Dr. Jennifer Gunter’s recent diatribe online about some of goop’s advice, and since one of my recommendations was mentioned, and my credentials and motives were brought into question, I believe I have the right and duty to respond.
First, Dr. Gunter, I have been in academic medicine for forty years and up until your posting, have never seen a medical discussion start or end with the “F-bomb,” yet yours did. A very wise Professor of Surgery at the University of Michigan once instructed me to never write anything that my mother or child wouldn’t be proud to read. I hope, for the sake of your mother and child, that a re-reading of your article fails his test, and following his sage advice, that you will remove it.
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. For a paper to be accepted, a committee of peers (I sat on the American Heart Association’s Review board for fifteen years, for example) reviews the research done, then reads the literature, decides whether the research has merit, and then accepts it for presentation. A discussant, who is an acknowledged expert in the field, is then selected to orally critique the results, and tries to find weak points in the argument or research; the researcher then has time to rebut the discussant’s comments. Others are then invited from the audience to weigh in on their opinion, with similar time for rebuttal. These discussions can sometimes last for an hour on a controversial paper. Yet, an F-bomb is never dropped.
I bring this up because I am writing this on a plane while returning from giving a paper to the 11th annual World Congress on Polyphenols Applications—on the effect of a lectin-limited diet, supplemented with polyphenols with fish oil, on intravascular markers of inflammation in 467 patients with known coronary disease. I won’t bore you, but when we removed high lectin-containing foods like grains, beans, and, yes, nightshades like your beloved tomatoes, their elevated markers of inflammation returned to normal. Great, but I’m not finished. Remember Koch’s postulates that must be fulfilled to prove the agent causes a disease (go ahead, look it up)? Well, once cured, you have to reintroduce the agent and see that the disease returns. Sure enough, in 57 patients, we reintroduced lectins, and back came the inflammation in all 57 patients’ next blood tests. Finally, you have to remove the agent again; which we did, and all 57 patients numbers normalized a second time, proving that indeed lectins were the cause of this process. Conclusion: Lectins cause human disease.
Not good enough for you? Why not look at hundreds of peer-reviewed research articles that I cite in The Plant Paradox, showing the damage lectins cause; why not look at my abstract* on 78 patients with marker proven autoimmune diseases, which became negative on lectin removal and restoration of gut wall integrity with The Plant Paradox program (more on that in a minute)?
Now, back to your tomatoes; the Italians always peel and deseed their tomatoes before making sauces because the peels and seeds are where lectins are concentrated. They do the same with their peppers; go buy a jar of Italian bell peppers: see any peels and seeds? Nope, they’re gone. Still not convinced? Fly down to New Mexico this fall to the Hatch Chile Roast Festival. That’s right, they roast the skins, remove them and the seeds before eating them! Been doing it for thousands of years. But spare the expense; buy a can of chopped green chilies at your store, and open it up. See any peels and seeds? Right, they’re gone as well. Wow, there are a lot of really stupid cultures out there who go to such trouble over some harmless little proteins called lectins, huh?
Now, it’s fine to get into a reasonable discussion about the pros and cons of lectins without throwing F-bombs. Dr. Oz and I just had a friendly discussion on this topic—you might learn something if you tune in.
Speaking of learning something, a Google search would have shown you that fifteen years ago I resigned my position as Professor and Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at a major medical school to devote myself to reversing disease with food and nutraceutical supplementation, instead of bypasses, stents, or medications, just like Hippocrates asked you and me to do when we took our oath: “Let food be thy medicine.” He also instructed that all disease begins in the gut. And finally, he taught that a physician’s job was to search out and remove the obstacles that are keeping the patient from healing themselves. For the last fifteen years, I’ve been doing just that seven days a week (yes, you read that right, Saturday and Sunday as well, just ask my overworked staff).
And yes, I do have a few famous concierge patients, but 95 percent of my practice is Medicare, insurance, and (spoiler alert!) Medi-Cal/Medicaid. Shockingly, I think everyone is entitled to vibrant health regardless of income or ability to pay and I’m sure that you and I can agree that our current system is failing all of us miserably. Even more shockingly, they allow me to teach my crazy ideas to medical students and family practice and internal medicine residents at my current hospital; they now do monthly rotations in my clinic, so perhaps the tide can change and maybe I’m not as crazy as you make me out to be. (Dean, do we need to re-assess those poor medical students after reading Dr. Gunter’s article?)
Earlier I mentioned my research in autoimmune disease and during your diatribe you mentioned a child with thyroid issues. About 50 percent of my patients have, or have recovered from, autoimmune diseases, including a large number of pediatric patients whom I profile in my book. Read about their successes. If it strikes a note of hope, I’m happy to work your child into my clinic. No, I wouldn’t tell you it’s EBV (it’s not), it’s not candidiasis (maybe seen it twice, and never needed antibiotics to get rid of it), it’s not adrenal fatigue, etc. I would like to get some blood tests that insurance covers. And I promise that I will not look for auras around her/his head and give you a prescription for Eye of Newt and burying a Ram’s Horn filled with manure during a full moon (although, the latter might help biodynamic grapes up there in Napa grow better, but I digress). And no, I do not sell supplements in my office, but I can bet his/her vitamin D level isn’t 100ng/ml and his/her Omega-3 Index isn’t 10-12. And I don’t need food allergy tests; I already know he/she is eating lectins because you “know” that they have nothing to do with the problem.
Fifteen years ago, a guy named Big Ed shook my core beliefs and challenged everything I “knew,” and changed the arc of my life’s work. I was lucky enough, or alert enough to have had my eyes open that day so I could “see” it. With the belief system that I had in place at that time, I could just as easily have tossed him aside with an F-bomb. My hope for you, if you read my book, is you’ll read it with your eyes wide open! If not, then discourse begins and ends with civility. Think about it. If that still doesn’t work, go show your article to your mother and kids. Really.
To your good health,
Steven R. Gundry M.D.
The International Heart and Lung Institute
The Centers for Restorative Medicine
Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, CA
A Note From Dr. Aviva Romm
If women seeking wellness is a trend, I’d say that it’s a positive one, particularly in a country facing diabetes, obesity, chronic disease, and narcotic-related death epidemics of epic proportions. Further, let’s not forget that many common medical practices that were not too long ago considered wellness trends, at best, unscientific bunk, or at worst, dangerous, are now widely incorporated into conventional patient care. Fish oil for heart health, a Mediterranean-style or vegetarian diet for prevention of cardiovascular disease, probiotics for inflammatory bowel disease, or St. John’s wort for depression, are just a few we’re all now familiar with due to “wellness trends.”
Do all wellness trends pan out to be scientific and reliable? Of course not. Then again, neither do many of our trusted pharmaceuticals, tests, and procedures when given the test of time. And of the mainstream trends that turn out to be overtly dangerous—those fade fast. Do I think medical testing and treatments—including alternative ones—should ideally be safe, effective, and scientifically validated? Absolutely. Unfortunately, much like what happened with some of those I mentioned above, research was only done when the demand from consumers became loud enough to be heard or something became a big enough trend to merit attention.
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.
To women’s wellness,
Aviva Romm, M.D. (Yale School of Medicine)
Author of the textbook Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health
And the #1 bestselling book The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution
*Gundry, S.R, 2016. Curing/remission of multiple autoimmune diseases is possible by manipulation of the human gut microbiome: The effect of a lectin limited, polyphenol enriched, prebiotic/probiotic regimen in 78 patients. Journal of International Society of Microbiota 3(1).
Dr. Gundry is the director of the International Heart & Lung Institute in Palm Springs, California and the founder/director of the Center for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara. He is the author of Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution: Turn Off the Genes That Are Killing You and Your Waistline and Drop the Weight for Good and The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain.
Aviva Romm, M.D. is a Manhattan-based integrative women and children’s physician, and author of The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution. Romm did her medical training and internship in Internal Medicine at Yale School of Medicine and her residency in Family Medicine with Obstetrics at Tufts Family Medicine Residency. She’s also a midwife and herbalist, and a graduate of the University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Residency program.
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.