The Cana­dian doc­tor who’s tak­ing on Gwyneth’s Goop

Dr. Jen Gunter’s will­ing­ness to call out pseudo-sci­ence is get­ting Pal­trow’s at­ten­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - ZOE MCKNIGHT

When Dr. Jen Gunter had down­time as a med­i­cal res­i­dent in the ’90s, she’d scan celebrity tabloids scat­tered around the hospi­tal’s wait­ing rooms.

She wasn’t look­ing for Hol­ly­wood gos­sip. The back pages of those mag­a­zines are filled with diet tips and health trends.

“That’s when I got in­ter­ested in the whole idea of pop cul­ture and medicine and how im­por­tant that was. You’d read about this stuff and then sure enough, a cou­ple months later, peo­ple were ask­ing you about it,” the Win­nipeg-born Gunter said.

Gunter, now 50 and prac­tis­ing in the U.S., didn’t know then her ca­reer as an OB-GYN would in­ter­sect with celebrity cul­ture and es­pe­cially Gwyneth Pal­trow, who has re­fash­ioned her­self into an al­ter­na­tive health guru through her well­ness com­pany, Goop.

In June, a head­line on the cover of In Touch Weekly screamed: “Goop Un­der Fire: Doc Slams Gwyneth’s Dan­ger­ous Ad­vice” along­side sto­ries about Tom Cruise and one of the Kar­dashi­ans.

In­side, Gunter blasted the ac­tress for pro­mot­ing the myths that bras cause breast can­cer, toma­toes cause obe­sity and con­doms are car­cino­genic.

Last week, Pal­trow tweeted out a re­but­tal to the in­creas­ing crit­i­cism of Goop’s pseu­domed­i­cal cov­er­age and al­ter­na­tive health ther­a­pies, specif­i­cally men­tion­ing Gunter. “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,” the Goop.com post read, in part. A let­ter from a Goopas­so­ci­ated doc­tor also crit­i­cized Gunter’s use of the “F-bomb.”

Two decades ago, Pal­trow was still an ac­tress and mag­a­zines were full of sto­ries about the grape­fruit diet and breast im­plants. To­day, Pal­trow sells vi­ta­mins and pro­motes some­thing called Moon Dust. Gunter reads Goop in an ef­fort to dis­man­tle some of the more out-there claims. She has amassed 47,000 Twit­ter fol­low­ers and 6,100 fol­low­ers of her blog. Af­ter the Goop salvo, she wrote her own re­but­tal — the spat was cov­ered in main­stream news — and col­lected thou­sands more.

The posts are pithy, but the in­ten­tion is se­ri­ous.

“Dear Gwyneth Pal­trow, we’re not f---ing with you, we’re cor­rect­ing you, XOXO Sci­ence,” reads a post from May, a sum­mary of many “crack­pot the­o­ries” that ap­pear on Goop. Some of the most widely ridiculed Goop-sanc­tioned strate­gies in­clude the use of jade eggs for bet­ter sex, and vagi­nal steam­ing.

“I see the con­se­quences of women do­ing harm­ful things they read about on­line,” Gunter said. “It breaks my heart when I hear peo­ple tell me about all the use­less ther­a­pies they’ve wasted their money on.”

Gunter at­tended med­i­cal school at the Uni­ver­sity of Man­i­toba and com­pleted her res­i­dency at Western Uni­ver­sity. In 2005, she and her fam­ily moved to Cal­i­for­nia, where she now prac­tises in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area.

Gunter has been blog­ging about health and ev­i­dence-based medicine for seven years, at first on main­stream top­ics such as vac­cine myths, weight loss and re­pro­duc­tive rights. Two years ago, some­one sent her the vagi­nal steam­ing ar­ti­cle.

Gunter’s area of ex­per­tise is vagi­nal health. She fired off a blog post about the risks. “Ms. Pal­trow rec­om­mends a V-steam,” she wrote. “My re­sponse: Don’t.” It went vi­ral, seen 234,217 times in the month it was pub­lished, and shared over 10,000 times on Face­book.

“The Goop stuff re­ally caught on, I guess, be­cause there weren’t re­ally any doc­tors coun­ter­ing it,” she said. “There’s all these peo­ple on­line talk­ing about health but there’s very lit­tle good in­for­ma­tion from physi­cians that pa­tients can turn to.”

Gunter knows that first­hand, in a per­sonal and dra­matic way. In 2003, her twin sons were born 14 weeks pre­ma­ture. They were on oxy­gen for a year and re­quired mul­ti­ple surg­eries. Dur­ing those days as a pa­tient and par­ent, she searched on­line for good ad­vice but found web­sites ad­vo­cat­ing treat­ments she knew were un­proven or in­ap­pro­pri­ate for her kids’ con­di­tions.

Her blog isn’t all Goop, all the time. She de­bunks all kinds of health myths and weighs in on poli­cies af­fect­ing women’s health. (“I was blog­ging about pseudo-sci­ence long be­fore Pal­trow first squat­ted over a pot of steam­ing al­ler­gens and lever­aged her celebrity to draw at­ten­tion to her web­site,” she wrote in July.) In June, she at­tempted a Goop-ap­proved detox smoothie and wrote about its re­sult­ing bloat and mys­te­ri­ous in­gre­di­ents. There were a lot of ex­ple­tives.

Gunter main­tains an ac­tive prac­tice and runs a women’s health clinic. She tweets when her kids are at pi­ano lessons and when walk­ing down the hill dur­ing a run­ning work­out. Some peo­ple watch TV for two hours a day, she said. Gunter scans so­cial me­dia and reads up on health trends.

“You can’t read about this stuff in med­i­cal jour­nals,” she said.

Still, Gunter be­lieves in cor­rect­ing what she sees as bad sci­ence.

“Fight­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion is re­ally hard,” Gunter said. “I’m just try­ing to get out there and swing the bat, I guess.”

“I see the con­se­quences of women do­ing harm­ful things they read about on­line,” says Gunter, who cur­rently prac­tises medicine in Cal­i­for­nia.

In June, mag­a­zine In Touch Weekly fea­tured Gunter’s Goop crit­i­cism.

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