The XX Factor

Goop’s New Beauty Book Is Very Worried About Your Gastrointestinal Tract

Gwyneth Paltrow attends a Goop party on Nov. 20, 2014, in Dallas, Texas.

Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images for Goop

At this point, readers of Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle newsletter and website, know what they’re signed up for: luxury-brand fake news, where rather than Crooked Hillary, Crooked Toxins are to blame for all of society’s ills. The Goop life is one of Himalayan sea salt, cashmere capes, and libido-enhancing laser treatments. So it should have come as no surprise that the new Goop beauty book contains some very expensive and very you-literally-need-to-be-Gwyneth-Paltrow-to-do-it advice. Even so, I was somewhat naïvely expecting it to be a book about beauty: you know, makeup. Lipstick. Hair, maybe?

How wrong I was. Goop Clean Beauty is primarily a text about the gastrointestinal tract. Beauty, it turns out, “really does begin on the inside—and perhaps more specifically, in your gut,” the book asserts. It is only after several extensive chapters on gut health that the book begins to broach the topic of cosmetics. You have to read all the way to the second-to-last chapter to get the Goop take on no-makeup makeup. If you want to even begin to approximate Goop-worthy natural beauty, the first step is getting right with your intestines.

This book, it should be noted, isn’t technically by Gwyneth Paltrow. (You could argue that her earlier ones weren’t either, but that’s a subject for another day.) Paltrow may be standing on the cover of Goop Clean Beauty in a casual beach cover-up, but make no mistake, this book is credited to “the editors of Goop.” Think of Goop like Marvel Studios: After three solo cookbooks (Paltrow’s Iron Man franchise, basically), Goop Clean Beauty is the first attempt to expand the Goop Cinematic Universe, Paltrow’s bid to nourish her lifestyle behemoth into an entity bigger than any single individual or individual’s gut.

Goop’s gut mania comes in the larger context of culture’s increased focus on the intestinal tract over the past few years, which has also brought us a wave of articles and best-selling books about the gut, bacteria, and the microbiome. But when we talk about our gut—which, remember, is the key to beauty according to Goop—are we really talking about … pooping? No one will ever come right out and say it, but yes, I gather that Goop Clean Beauty is talking about, or at least around, bathroom stuff, in that improving your gut health goes hand in hand with improving your bowel movements. The unspoken theme of Goop is poop.

And just how does one go about beautifying her gut? The editors recommend beginning with a 10-day detox. All you have to do is follow these 15 simple guidelines:

  1. No alcohol.
  2. No caffeine.
  3. No dairy.
  4. No eggs.
  5. No beef, no pork.
  6. No shellfish, no raw fish.
  7. No gluten.
  8. No soy.
  9. No nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers).
  10. No strawberries, oranges, grapefruits, grapes, bananas.
  11. No corn.
  12. No white rice.
  13. No added sugar.
  14. No peanuts, though other nuts are fine.
  15. No processed oils and butters (margarines, spreads, and the like), and no vegetable seed oils like canola and corn. Stick to cold-pressed olive oil, coconut, sesame, almond/walnut, and pumpkin-seed oils.

Is it just me or does that about cover … all food whatsoever? There was a brief moment when I thought I found a loophole and was permitted to eat pasta under this regime—the list says nothing about wheat! Plain, unbuttered pasta with no tomato sauce (nightshade shade), here I come. Then it was pointed out to me that pasta contains gluten. Or is made of gluten? Is a form of gluten? [Editor’s note: Wheat contains gluten.] I’m scared to ask whether salt is allowed. While others have flirted with Gwyneth-endorsed eating plans and found them surprisingly agreeable (though pricey), this diet is probably not geared toward people with such a tenuous grasp of nutrition. My poor gut.

The book follows up this list of banned substances with a bunch of recipes to get you through the detox, things like Breakfast Porridge With Cinnamon and Blueberries (here is where I admit I thought porridge was a made-up food from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”), Kimchi Turkey Burgers, and Roasted Fennel. On Twitter, one reader pointed out that one of the more creative recipes is for Canarino, an “Italian tea” for those who find lemon water too extravagant—this purified version contains no actual lemon juice, just soothing peel. Note that the recipe serves two; a detox is no time to overindulge.

After 10 days of consuming such recipes (but not storing them in plastic! toxins!), your gut will be in tip-top shape, and “less bloating, more energy, and clearer skin” will soon follow, the book promises. (Bloating is another code word concerning poop, right?) Goop editors worship at the altar of the gut to the point that they refer to it as “the second brain”: “the gut is home to a nervous system that is actually physically larger than the one inside our skulls—and [it] holds three-quarters of our immune system tissues.” Think of all the years you probably wasted focusing on your head, both the inside and outside of it, when your gut was the key all along, not the stupid thing on top of your neck.

Beside toxins, another villain in the Goop beauty world is “leaky gut,” which is ostensibly what happens when the gut lining gets irritated and holes form in the intestinal walls. (Leaky gut is not a clinical diagnosis, but Goop Clean Beauty doesn’t get hung up on details like that.) The book’s passages on leaky gut are great for creating that studying-for-a-biology-test feeling everyone is looking for when they purchase a celebrity beauty guide. According to Dr. Alejandro Junger, the Goop-approved gut expert the book quotes, “The integrity of the gut lining and the health of the intestinal flora are the two Achilles’ heels of the gut.” I just love that metaphor, the idea that inside my body, there are guts that are like smaller human bodies with mythically messed-up feet. Junger candidly answers very open-ended questions throughout the book, such as, “In your experience, do a lot of people have at least one food sensitivity that aggravates the gut?” In fact, he says, a lot of people do!

After several chapters of gut talk, the editors of Goop go on to teach you how to sleep, when to get a colonic, and why Botox, despite its name literally containing a shortened version of the word toxinGoop’s sworn enemy, is fine. (“While ‘neck Botox’ sounds extreme, the results are natural looking.”) It’s what’s inside that counts—but for everything else, there’s Botox. It’s too bad that the gut itself isn’t a candidate for Botox, that it can’t simply be nipped and tucked into submission, tended to by a team of handlers like an actress ready for the red carpet. But alas, the only way out seems to be through, to the toilet.