Vaginal steaming and raw meat diets – how following wellness trends can harm you

It started with crystal bowls and a $750,000 James Turrell piece.

Now Kendall Jenner has taken wellness to a whole new level with her latest home addition; a ‘wellbeing room’, which she showed fans during the season finale of her family’s reality TV show, The Kardashians.

The room is kitted out with a red light therapy bed worth up to $3k and a hyperbaric chamber retailing at $22,000.

‘For the past couple of years, I’ve been really just loving health,’ she told the cameras. ‘I don’t know, it’s become an obsession,’ adding that she is a ‘major hypochondriac’ who gets made fun of by all her friends.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to treat carbon dioxide poisoning, wounds that are struggling to heal and sickness.

It involves breathing in pure oxygen levels (1.5 to 3 times higher than usual) in a highly pressurised environment. Under such intense conditions, the lungs can gather more oxygen than normal, hoping to fill the blood with enough oxygen to repair certain damage and help body functions.

While the therapy dates back to the 1940s, it is not safe for everyone. According to John Hopkins Medicine, those who have had ear surgery, specific injuries, the flu or people who have lung disease should not take part in hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In rare cases, it can also lead to oxygen poisoning.

The industry

Clearly, any involvement in the wellness industry is going to be costly.

The global wellness market is worth over $4.4trillion, with an annual growth rate of 5 to 10 per cent in recent years, according to the Global Wellness Institute. And in the UK alone, the health and wellness industry was worth €23 billion in 2020, according to data from Statista.

One in $20 spent by consumers globally is on wellness-related products and services, data from the global wellness institute shows.

As it states in the name, the wellness industry is an ‘industry’. 

Despite the promise of a better life and a glowing face, the wellness industry does not always have our best interests at heart – it’s a money-making business, and that’s something we need to bear in mind.

False claims and lack of proof

Esi Ewura, the owner of ethical wellness and beauty brand Nu Elefa Naturals, says that people have become too reliant on products to do ‘all of the work’.

‘I think a lot of trends surrounding skincare and hair care can be unsafe when people follow misinformation,’ Esi tells Metro.co.uk.

‘One trend that comes to mind is the promotion of using vaginal thrush treatments for hair growth. 

‘This trend promoted the long-term use of anti-fungal/anti-yeast chemicals on the scalp. 

‘Though people saw results, there are various possible long-term side effects. These products are only supposed to treat fungal/yeast problems within a few weeks.’

Misinformation spreads like ‘wildfire’ according to Esi, who explains that most of the time, these trends are new to the scene and so have not been backed by science.

Diets, exercise and IVs

Catherine Wilde, a homeschooling mom of three, founder of Soul Care Mom and qualified yoga and meditation teacher, warns against wellness trends that encourage certain eating habits and exercise regimes.

‘It is not maintainable,’ she explains. ‘For example, many people buy into the fallacy that they should exercise intensely every day, even if doing so takes a toll on their job, family, or overall well-being. 

‘Also, the fact that so many people are on diets, supplement regimens, and fitness programs is the single most common reason for people developing eating disorders or becoming seriously injured.

‘The body does not adapt well to extremes. Balance and moderation are the keys to a healthy lifestyle.’

According to Catherine, society tells us that ‘if you want to be healthy and happy, you need to be a certain weight, use special bio-identical hormones, eat special food cooked by certain people in a certain way (with lots of supplements), and remove certain foods and chemicals from your life’.

‘It can take over your life and make you feel miserable,’ she says.

Sophie Holmes, a personal trainer and nutrition coach with cystic fibrosis (CF), knows all too well the dangers of following wellness and fitness trends. 

‘Some of the most dangerous trends are tea-toxes, unregulated IV drips, enemas and drastic dieting,’ says Sophie. She also warns against ‘taking advice from unqualified celebrities or individuals who have been paid to advertise certain products’.

‘While the IV vitamin drip might not be new to the wellness scene, its marked increase in demand reflects contemporary attitudes towards health,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘There are pros and cons to this type of therapy, they can be pricey, and with little evidence of how effective they are, they potentially are placebo.

‘It is suggested that the pros include; getting nutrients into your body faster, helping with hydration, making improvements to your immune system, increasing your energy, and as a “hangover cure”, but there are always risks of infection, bruising, itching or redness around injection sites, and it can be painful.

Sophie recommends leading a ‘healthy lifestyle with balanced nutrition and exercise’ rather than ‘sitting hooked up to a drip’.

‘Millions of young and impressionable minds are seeing these dangerous health trends every day and may not understand just how unhealthy they are, and can have severe life-threatening implications,’ she says.

‘Do your research – even if your favourite influencers or celebrities seemingly do them, they may also be being paid a large sum of money to post or talk about them.’

When starting up any wellness trends, Sophie suggests taking advice from qualified professionals, ‘especially with a life-threatening disease like CF’.

Vaginal steaming

Another ‘wellness’ trend that won’t go away – vaginal steaming, which has been pitched as a treatment for everything from fertility issues to vaginal dryness.

Gwyneth Paltrow, Chrissy Teigen, and Kourtney Kardashian have all shouted about sitting on steaming chairs and soaking up herbal fumes, but Nina Julia at CFAH warns against this treatment.

‘Steaming the vagina can interrupt its natural pH balance and cause irritation or infections,’ she tells us.

Remember, steam vegetables, not your vagina.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkMVdN9HQGb/

Raw meat diets

We all saw the pictures of TV personality and singer Heidi Montag eating raw meat while out and about in March.

But this diet presents a ‘real danger’ to those hopping on the trend.

‘Some people that follow this trend have claimed it is the best cure for depression as they get a high feeling from consuming rotten, raw meat,’ explains Sas Parsad, the founder of The Gut Co.

‘I’m sure it’s obvious, but it is NOT a healthy thing to do’, they tell Metro.co.uk. ‘Particularly if it is rotten.

‘In fact, raw meat can cause huge gut issues, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and pain. 

‘Rotten meat can be full of harmful bacteria that can result in gut issues or even death.’

Sas explains that those who follow the trend believe that the explosive diarrhoea ‘detoxes’ the body and improves wellness.

‘Actually, explosive diarrhoea caused by rotten, raw meat is your body having a terrible reaction to all the harmful bacteria, and it can make you very unwell,’ Sas warns. 

‘If you want to detox your bowels by removing anything trapped inside, opt for colon cleansing by a registered practitioner, rather than putting harmful food inside your body.’

Toxic positivity

‘People want to live healthy lifestyles, but “toxic positivity” narratives that attempt to blame them for their own issues have made many wary of disordered obsessions with wellness,’ says Alex Quicho, Head of Cultural Intelligence at Canvas8.  

‘Some people will always find the idea of pursuing their “best self” motivating, but more people now prefer to value themselves as “enough”. Eating and exercising to feel (rather than look) good is on the rise as people redefine being well as an enjoyable equilibrium.’

In recent years, Gen Z-ers have begun to question whether it is really in their interest to be forever pursuing their “best self”, explains Alex, who goes on to suggest that many young people are starting to view the whole narrative around self-betterment as ‘consumerist dogma intended to keep people self-doubting and susceptible to quick-fix wellness products’.

What’s next?

James Fox, an associate director at Canvas8 says: ‘There are so many ways in which the commodification of health and wellness can be dangerous. The conflation of thinness and Euro-centric beauty standards with physical health and its impact on self-worth is particularly prevalent.’

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. James says that the pandemic has reversed some previous trends.

‘With an increasing trust in science and younger generations questioning the value of career ambition in the face of burnout culture, many people are actually better informed about their holistic health and wellness needs than they were before,’ he says. 

‘Hopefully, we’ll see these trends continue with a post-wellness vibe shift.’

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