A wellness craze travels quickly — but often features little-to-no evidence to support its claims.
Few experts stand by these so-called “wellness trends,” as they often leave people disappointed in their results — or in worse health than they were before. So, while the idea that something as easy as apple cider vinegar or a waist trainer could deliver the goals that you have been working towards, it is important to take a pause and research before hopping on the bandwagon.
Here, health professionals share what they wish everyone would just stop trying:
Skip: The Keto Diet
Try: Clean eating
There are a handful of celebrities — from Halle Berry to LeBron James — that can’t get enough of the ketogenic diet — or keto, for short. In a nutshell, this way of eating is focused on high fat, normal protein and low carbs, and was originally used to treat epilepsy in children, according to Jessica Wright, M.D., a board-certified surgeon. For those on the keto diet, the intention is to send your body into a fat-burning mode by eating a very specific chemistry of foods at a very specific time. Though it is taking over headlines, Wright says you shouldn’t be afraid of fats and carbs, since it is possible to improve your health with them. “Some fat is amazing for you, like monounsaturated fatty acids,” she explains. “You need carbs for proper brain function and energy levels. Our kidneys can struggle to process such high amounts of protein, while saturated fat can cause other issues, like heart disease.”
If you want to slim down, her best solution is to have a balanced, fulfilling diet that doesn’t shy away from specific ingredients just because they don’t fit into the keto lifestyle. “Limiting carbs can be great for weight loss, but don’t take it too far,” she recommends. “And don’t cut out fruits and veggies that have other health benefits. Your brain needs those blueberries!”
Skip: Eating activated charcoal
Try: Drink water and eat fiber
In an effort to get rid of toxins in our body or induce a cleanse via their bowels, many people are consuming small amounts of charcoal. But nutritionist Monica Auslander Moreno says you may be causing even more damage to your insides. As she explains, eating coal will not bind up your toxins because any toxin in your system is going to get metabolized by the intricate physiology your body has to do so. “Charcoal can be downright dangerous and bind nutrients you need, leading to digestive and motility issues, like difficulty swallowing or using the bathroom,” she continues. “We use a form of activated charcoal in severe drug and alcohol overdoses in the hospital, and it’s not pretty medicine.” Many people will use charcoal to feel better after a night of binge eating or drinking, but what you should really use is water and other fiber-rich foods, since they keep your digestive system running smoothly and easily. Moreno recommends drinking a lot of fluids, exercising daily, and getting seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, as well as seeds, nuts, beans and whole grains for all the good fiber.
Skip: Kitty litter exfoliation
Try: Natural exfoliators
YouTubers like Michelle Phan mix kitty litter with coconut oil to create a natural solution. While it may make some folks gag at the thought, the concept is that it is able to break through grime due to its texture. Naturopathic medical doctor Donese Worden, N.M.D. says this isn’t the case — and using this product intended for cat waste can actually cause upper respiratory or lung issues from the silica dust that is often in litter. “Many litters also include chemical fragrances and are not only toxic to the cats but not something you would want on your body, especially your face,” she says.
Instead, it is better to use an exfoliator from a brand you trust or to make your own using ingredients recommended by your dermatologist.
Skip: CBD oil for anxiety
Try: Therapy for anxiety
No matter which way you turn, CBD — or cannabidiol — oil is everywhere. It has been touted as a superstar for inflammation, acne, insomnia and a slew of other conditions. But when it comes to anxiety and chronic pain, internist and author Alex Lickerman, M.D. says it is important for people to look deeper than a magical oil that claims to heal everything. He says there is some research around this booming trend, but there isn’t enough to support every claim. “Though some studies suggest the compound is deserving of more research, there isn’t nearly enough evidence to support the widespread use it’s now enjoying,” he continues. “What’s more, it’s being produced without regulation, which results in a wide range of purity and quality.”
If you find yourself struggling to calm your nerves or feel as if you’re always sore from something, Lickerman says it is important to seek the attention and the guidance of a physician. Traditional treatments, like speaking with a psychologist, can improve your mood and feelings. “Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) can be quite useful for anxiety. ACT turns the notion on its head that painful feelings should always be avoided, asking people to view unpleasant feelings in the spirit of acceptance,” he explains. “This builds true resilience and is especially useful in combating one of the core delusions that stand in the way of happiness in general, namely that what’s required for happiness is a life free from pain.”
Skip: Jade eggs for vaginal health
Try: Book an appointment with your OBGYN
Once upon a time, a lifestyle website recommended a jade egg to be inserted into a woman’s vagina. Their claim, according to reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist Jane L. Frederick, M.D., was that it would increase vaginal muscle tone, hormonal imbalance and feminist energy. What did it do? Nothing, she says, and ended up getting the company sued for $145,000 in damages. If you feel as if you need a little help downstairs, chat with a gynecologist who can recommend treatments or exercises.
Skip: Charcoal toothpaste
Try: Whitening toothpastes
We already know not to eat charcoal — but what about brushing our teeth with it? Dentist Irina Sinensky, D.D.S., of Dental House says this is a terrible idea, since it won’t deliver the promises it claims — and it can be bad news for your digestive system if you swallow a bit in your mouth. “It is extremely porous and can trap gas and toxins onto itself very well. Because it is not absorbed readily in the body, it carries those substances out with itself,” she continues. “Also, it will not take out the stains or internal pigments from the pores of your enamel, only peroxide can do that. Charcoal toothpaste is grainy and abrasive and has shown to wear away healthy enamel and gum tissue.”
Generally speaking, she says it is best not to reinvent the wheel of toothpaste since there are plenty of products that have been proven safe and effective. When looking for a way to whiten your teeth while keeping them protected and healthy she says ingredients like peroxide do the job. You can also consider a flouride rinse that can strengthen enamel and reverse small cavities. “No other product has been proven as effective to date. Even the natural brands of oral care products are catching on and producing natural toothpastes and mouth rinses which contain fluoride,” she adds. Her favorites include Hello, Tom’s and Green People.
Skip: Drinking kombucha
Try: Eating other fermented foods, like kefir
Kombucha — stockpiled at health food stores and recommended by yoga teachers, influencers and other wellness nuts — isn’t bad, per se, according to Moreno. But it poses health threats few know about, and it probably won’t improve your overall vitality in the ways it promises. This unpasteurized drink does have plenty of probiotics, but it isn’t a cure-all in the way that many perceive it. “Guzzling kombucha all day won’t make you ‘healthy’ since health is more complicated than fermented tea,” Moreno says. “You’re really better off drinking water and saving kombucha as a treat.”
If you do want to try out how fermented foods work for your digestive system, she suggests trying kefir, which has a whopping amount of protein and calcium — and doesn’t run the high price tag or risk that kombucha does. This fermented drink resembles super-thin yogurt because it is made of a specific type of mesophilic, symbiotic culture. Called ‘kefir grains’ it is created by inoculating sheep, cow or goat milk with kefir grains.
Skip: Honey to treat eye issues
Try: Only eye products cleared by your doctor
Repeat after Worden: you should never, ever put honey in your eyeballs. Though the thought may have never occurred to you while you were brewing your morning tea, some folks have tried to treat cataracts or glaucoma with this sticky substance. This all-natural treatment is meant to clean through the gunk in our eyes, leaving them clearer and healthier. However, Worden says it can actually cause your even more pain, since it can lead to bacterial infections and other issues. “Eyes are very susceptible and anything you’re considering putting near them needs to have been tested for purity and efficacy,” she shares.
When you are struggling with anything eye-related — from redness and dryness and more — speak with a specialist who can recommend a solution that won’t wreak havoc on this sensitive area.
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