I have been following the 'wellness' trend with interest for some time now, but have declined to comment or write too much about it. Even though I disagree with the way some of these so called 'experts' peddle their messages, I do think that encouraging people to eat a more whole-foods based diet is a good thing. And unfortunately, our society often values the opinions of celebrities, wellness gurus or people who have (claimed to have) a condition themselves, over real experts.
This week, revelations in the Australian Women's Weekly that Belle Gibson (founder of wellness app 'The Whole Pantry') fabricated her cancer, and recovered using natural means really has my blood boiling.
From my perspective, it is awesome when someone, regardless of who they are, is encouraging others to eat a diet which revolves more around 'real' food. By this I mean food that is found in its natural form, not something processed from a packet.
But where do you draw the line?
I often have clients saying to me that they want to see if they can manage their disease with diet over medication. Yes, for some conditions this is often the case, but not all. Yes, some medications, particularly some of those taken for inflammatory conditions may have some horrible side effects. And I am all for managing through food, if possible ... But only after consideration from their doctor. Why? Because whilst healthy diet may be able to improve quality of life, it alone may not be enough to manage the condition. If one of my rheumatology clients wants to try the 'medication free' route, my response will always be, 'have you spoken with (insert Rheumatologist's name) about this?... I recommend you do, as they are the expert in your condition'. I will often then direct them to this post from Irwin.
I know the Belle Gibson story is about cancer survival, not managing chronic inflammatory conditions, however there is people out there saying that these conditions can be cured with food. Yes, nutrition can, and in many cases will help significantly. But from our current knowledge about these conditions, it is not enough to cure.
Whilst good nutrition is undoubtedly important, it is absolutely horrific that 'wellness gurus' are duping people with debilitating conditions, who are then missing out on treatment that would dramatically improve their quality of life.
Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
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