UnWell, the latest documentary series to hit Netflix, explores both the good and bad of the rapidly expanding wellness industry. Quite frankly, the whole thing gave me so many emotions it’s hard to know where to begin.
Let’s Start With The Good
There were some really beautiful moments in this documentary showing the potential upsides of the wellness industry. One of the most powerful for me came in the first episode. There is a mother with an autistic daughter. She found a way to bring her child some peace and calm with essential oils. Calming smells bring her daughter peace, and that is an amazing thing.
UnWell also explains some ancient wellness practices like the use of Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca has been used in indigenous spiritual ceremonies long before it became a wellness trend. These practices have applications in the treatment of addiction, PTSD, and other serious mental health problems, which is something absolutely worth exploring.
There are some truly inspiring stories of successes using Ayahuasca. However, before you sign yourself up, the documentary does explain some significant dangers of the practice. This was arguably the most fascinating part of the documentary.
Some subset of the wellness community is getting creative and working hard to find a way to make people feel better. That’s a good thing. However, there are other subsets of the wellness community that get more than a little out of hand.
One of the most baffling wellness trends is adult humans buying breast milk on the internet for the sake of athletic performance and bodybuilding. Informal milk sharing, however, carries well-documented risks. Not to mention the science shows that the benefits to adults from breast milk are negligible.
There are legitimate ways to participate in milk sharing, through designated milk sharing banks that function similarly to blood banks. This milk largely goes to premature babies and infants in the NICU who desperately need it. There is not enough of this breast milk to go around, making it more alarming that adults are consuming it for bodybuilding. The whole thing is infuriating and based entirely around misinformation from the internet completely devoid of scientific fact.
I watched the first ten minutes of the episode on fasting and decided for my own health and wellness to skip that episode. I spent years purposely depriving myself of food, and I do not need to hear some dingbat telling me fasting is strength. Thank you, dear readers, for understanding that my review will be lacking in terms of that episode.
There were several episodes that had distinct Goop Lab kind of vibes, especially the bee venom one. As a matter of fact, the whole thing seemed like a more advanced version of Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness philosophy.
The abuse, fraud, trickery, and genuine terribleness that abounds in the wellness industry. Whether it’s essential oils or tantric yoga, people who are desperate for relief for what ails them and desire to live a healthy life are being actively harmed by all of this shenanigans. It’s disturbing and deeply disappointing, but an important aspect of this documentary.
In the wake of what the world is currently experiencing, there is an alarming inattention to medical facts from some of the interviewees in UnWell that makes my skin crawl. Modern western medicine has failed so many and has a long way to go. There is validity in holistic treatments if done carefully and under the advice of an educated professional. However, holistic treatments, like any other treatment, can quickly become dangerous if not done carefully.
UnWell tries to represent a balanced view of each wellness topic. For every fringe opinion the documentary covers, they also include careful testimony from others preaching caution. This is how this series touches on the most alarming part of the wellness industry. For every company or practitioner genuinely trying to promote health and wellness, there is a dangerously misinformed or completely fraudulent person looking to take advantage.
Overall, I question the ethics of giving these grievously misinformed folks a platform for the sake of a balanced documentary. However, it can’t be denied that UnWell presents a complete picture of the benefits and dangers of various practices within the wellness industry.