It’s not always easy to find the time to look after ourselves. Even after carving out the time, ever-changing advice makes it hard to know where to start. Fortunately, Netflix has a vast selection of health documentaries to bring you up to speed with current thinking.
If you’re ready to take the next steps, these are the best Netflix health documentaries you can watch right now.
If you’ve been considering switching to a vegan or plant-based diet, the idea that vegans consume less protein and essential vitamins is probably a concern. The Game Changers uses scientific studies (with full references in the credits and accompanying website) to show that a vegan lifestyle provides just as much protein as a meat-based one.
While some people switch to veganism due to animal welfare or climate change concerns, the documentary focuses solely on the diet’s fitness and muscle-building benefits. There are big names involved, too; the film is presented by former UFC fighter James Wilks and produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jackie Chan.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is often misunderstood as everyday tiredness. However, CFS is often debilitating, with sufferers experiencing life-changing and disabling symptoms. To highlight the severity of the condition, Unrest tells the story of Jennifer Brea, who experiences a sudden onset of CFS. Her condition worsens, despite doctors claiming that the symptoms are only in her head.
After some online research, she discovers a community of people who live with the chronic illness. As it becomes clear that she also suffers from CFS, she arranges virtual online interviews with other patients having become bed-bound. Unrest raises awareness, not just for CFS but also for the challenges that those with chronic conditions have to overcome.
Cowspiracy, the 2015 documentary executive produced by Leonardo Dicaprio, is one of the most popular health documentaries on Netflix. The film examined the ecological impact of global food production. The team behind that famed documentary returned with 2017’s What The Health.
This time around, the film focuses on our diets’ impact on our overall health and the malevolent businesses involved in promoting unhealthy junk food and meat-based products. Although some critics have labeled What The Health as vegan propaganda, it does delve into essential topics like antibiotic resistance and the food industry’s perverse financial interests.
The COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 impacted all areas of our lives. This global health issue was distorted by biased media reporting and politics. As a result, accurate information about how we become infected, its effect on us, and how scientists are working to treat it has been hard to find.
This limited Netflix series is split into three parts; the science of the virus, how vaccine development works, and how to cope with the infection and the mental health and wellbeing effects of the pandemic, lockdowns, and Shelter in Place orders. Each episode is only 20 minutes long so that you could breeze through the series in one sitting.
Since the late 1990s, the US has been at the center of an opioid epidemic. In 2017 alone, there were 47,600 deaths from drug overdoses involving opioids. Heroin(e) focuses on Huntington, West Virginia, where the overdose rate is 10 times the US average.
The film follows three women on the frontline of the region’s response. It is noted for its compassionate portrayal of the devastation the drugs cause to addicts, overdose victims, and those left behind. Despite the heavy subject matter, Heroin(e) strikes an optimistic tone, showing what can be achieved when communities work together to help others.
My Beautiful Broken Brain is an intimate documentary that follows Lotje Sodderland, a 34-year-old stroke survivor. As a result of her stroke, Lotje lost the ability to read, write, and speak coherently. After recording some first-person videos during treatment, Lotje contacted documentarian Sophie Robinson to help capture her recovery.
The film was initially funded through Kickstarter and filmed mostly on an iPhone. Rather than viewing the story from the outside, the documentary invites us to see the various hospital appointments, setbacks, and improvements from the perspective of Lotje Sodderland.
The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) estimates that the wellness industry, broadly defined as products and services designed to make us feel good and improve our health, accounts for a staggering 5.3 percent of global economic output. Given the financial stakes, it’s no wonder that some wellness trends could do more harm than good.
(Un)Well is a six-part Netflix series taking a critical look at some of these wellness trends. From fasting to bee-sting therapy, the documentary casts a skeptical eye across the industry while still maintaining empathy for the people involved.
Goop, the lifestyle brand founded by Gwyneth Paltrow, has been subject to heavy criticism and ridicule. Despite this, it has grown into one of the largest wellness brands in the world. Its first documentary series, The Goop Lab, takes an alternative look at various health and wellbeing topics.
The Netflix Original series has been described by some as a win for pseudoscience, and includes some contributors’ subjective experience over peer-reviewed scientific studies. However, the show also won awards for its coverage of women’s health. Overall, The Goop Lab is an interesting starting point for your own research into the issues and topics raised throughout the show.
Death is, understandably, a topic that most of us don’t feel comfortable confronting on a daily basis. Sadly, that does mean that we are often sheltered from the reality of end-of-life care. This 2016 short documentary follows ICU and palliative care specialist Dr. Jessica Zitter as she guides families through some of the most challenging decisions they’ll ever have to make.
Throughout Extremis, we are introduced to five patients. The doctors can make suggestions and help relatives through this complicated situation. We are also shown the life and death decisions and challenges medical professionals face daily.
Given that the human brain is something we all possess, scientists are only just beginning to understand how complicated this organ is. The Mind, Explained is a Netflix Original limited series consisting of five episodes, each around 20 minutes and narrated by Emma Stone.
Each episode covers a different topic or experience of the mind. For instance, there are segments on dreams, anxiety, memory, mindfulness, and even psychedelics. Given the short runtime, The Mind, Explained is an entertaining and informative show to put on, even if you only have a limited time to sit down and watch.
Netflix is one of the best places for streaming health documentaries. Whether you’re looking to shake up your diet or want to learn more about the way health conditions impact those who live with them, there’ll be a documentary here for you.
That said, health is a complicated topic, and there are many organizations involved with vested interests. While these Netflix health documentaries are a great place to start, it’s always important to follow up with your own research.