Gwyneth Paltrow’s COVID-19 ‘detox’ regimen could be ‘harmful,’ experts say

Even wellness guru Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t immune to COVID-19.

The actress and Goop founder said in a recent blog post that she had COVID “early on” and has been experiencing lingering fatigue and brain fog. In the Goop post, Paltrow shared the “longer term detox” regimen she has been following to help with the prolonged side effects, including dizziness and increased heart rate, both of which are common among COVID-19 long-haulers.

Paltrow said that in January she had “some tests done that showed really high levels of inflammation in my body.” So she turned to functional medicine practitioner Dr. Will Cole, who recommended an intermittent fasting plan that Paltrow describes as “keto and plant-based but flexible” and includes fish and some meats.

Along with instructing her to cut out sugar and alcohol, Cole has Paltrow taking several vitamin and mineral supplements, ranging from vitamin D3 to zinc and selenium. Paltrow added that she works out in the morning and fasts daily until 11 a.m. “Everything I’m doing feels good, like a gift to my body,” she writes.

Dr. Christian Sandrock, an infectious diseases, pulmonary and critical care physician who helped start UC Davis Health’s Post-COVID-19 Clinic, tells Yahoo Life that the fatigue and “slowness,” or brain fog, that Paltrow is experiencing are common symptoms of acute post-COVID syndrome. “It’s probably upwards of half of people who had symptomatic COVID will have [acute post-COVID syndrome],” Sandrock says.

The inflammation that Paltrow described is also common. In patients with “prolonged symptoms, we do see they have high levels of inflammation,” says Sandrock. “There are a couple of blood tests that generically say you’re inflamed. We see this with so many different illnesses. The million-dollar question is, which treatments are going to help? There isn’t a protocol. [The symptoms are] so extensive that it’s really become very individualized now.”

Although the symptoms that Paltrow is experiencing are consistent with long COVID, the treatment she's trying isn't something that experts recommend — and, in fact, may actually be detrimental to recovery.

Sandrock says that “fasting can reduce some levels of inflammation” but that there is currently no data “specifically with acute post-COVID syndrome” and fasting. For COVID-19 patients, Sandrock adds that there’s also “no data that fasting improves your outcome” with the acute illness and that it “could, in fact, be harmful. … You can have fatigue and dizziness from not eating. We don’t recommend fasting [for COVID-19 patients]. We recommend not overeating and eating nonprocessed foods.”

As for Paltrow’s routine of working out in the morning while fasting, registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, creator of and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table, tells Yahoo Life that isn’t doable for everyone, especially if you’re dealing with long-term side effects of COVID-19. “Some people, when they eat before they work out, they actually don’t feel well,” says Taub-Dix. “For other people, if they don’t eat they don’t feel well. They might feel lightheaded or fatigued and don’t have the energy to work out.”

While Taub-Dix commends Paltrow for “trying to eat more healthfully and exercising and taking care of herself,” she says, “I'm not a big fan of diets that are so restrictive, like keto. With Paleo or keto [in general], you don’t really have a lot of carbohydrates in your diet … or fruits, vegetables or whole grains — all of which are rich sources of fiber.”

Taub-Dix adds: “Someone like Gwyneth Paltrow is a role model. She looks amazing, she talks about healthy habits, and people are listening to her. So I just wish celebrities like this would be talking about healthy diets with balance, allowing all foods in without demonizing foods or saying you have to cut out all of XYZ to be healthy. Young people are listening to celebrities, too — not just older people who have the means to buy these things.”

However, Taub-Dix is pleased to see Paltrow incorporating plant-based meals in her diet, and says you don’t have to become vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits. “You can have plants play a starring role on your plate,” Taub-Dix says, noting that having a meatless meal once a week is a good place to start. “Introducing plants slowly can make a huge difference in your diet and in your life.”

Both experts agree that the supplements Paltrow is taking don't raise any red flags, but they may not be helping either. “Our general rule when patients ask about supplements is, I have no data whether this is either harmful or helpful,” says Sandrock. “If you’re taking these as supplements, they're generally not harmful. If you have the financial resources, I don’t have a problem with you doing it. I just don't have any data that it’s going to help you.”

Taub-Dix points out that most of those vitamins and minerals can be found in actual foods. Paltrow said she takes the supplement butyrate, which Taub-Dix says “could be good for you because it does help in terms of gut health and fueling good bacteria.” However, she adds that a diet rich in fiber also helps improve gut health “because it leads to your colon producing more butyric acid, which is butyrate.”

Paltrow also takes zinc and selenium supplements, which Taub-Dix says help support the immune system, and selenium also helps with thyroid function. “If your thyroid is off, you can feel fatigued, listless, and have weight issues,” explains Taub-Dix. “It could be that her thyroid levels were thrown off by COVID.”

But she adds that you can find both minerals in a variety of foods. Selenium is found in Brazil nuts, sardines, whole grains, eggs, oatmeal and beans, while zinc is found in meat, shellfish, legumes (such as pulses and beans) and nuts. Legumes “are really good foods,” says Taub-Dix. “These are the most underrated foods in the store.”

Paltrow also takes at least 500 IUs daily of vitamin D3, which Taub-Dix says is helpful in terms of supporting a healthy immune system. Unlike the other supplements in Paltrow’s regimen, Taub-Dix notes that vitamin D is harder to get from food, though you can find it in oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, along with eggs and fortified milk and orange juice. You can also get vitamin D through sun exposure. “But I’m assuming Gwyneth wears a lot of sunscreen,” she says.

Taub-Dix says people often take vitamins as “insurance” to make up for nutritional gaps in their diet, but she notes that a lot of vitamins are meant to be taken with food. For example, “vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so when you eat fat, it helps absorb the D,” she says, adding: “It’s fine to take a supplement, but I’d prefer to eat something than get it from a powder or a pill.”

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