Best Health Documentaries on Netflix ever (2020)

These films are emotional, sometimes controversial, and definitely worth watching.


A Netflix marathon  may not be the key to staying fit (unless you’re watching while on the treadmill), but there’s something to be said for feeding your mind with information to improve your health  as well. Get up to speed on the latest health research, trends, scandals, and more with these fascinating health documentaries you can stream on Netflix right now.


                       The Game Changer     


      If you're under the impression that vegetarians are unable to build muscle, think again. Voiced by former bodybuilder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Game Changers explores the meat industry and how eating meat is marketed as "manly" to men so that they can build muscle to become stronger. Throughout history and even today, the documentary says some professional fighters are fueled by plants, so its aim is to understand how plant energy makes them so powerful. It also dives into certain health markers in vegetarians, like cholesterol, compared to meat eaters.


                        The End Game (2018)   


   All humans die, but death is something a majority of the world is afraid of. The End Game is trying to change our perceptions of death from fear to acceptance and peace. The 40-minute documentary shows the goal of Zen Hospital in San Fransisco, which guides its terminally ill patients through palliative care, counseling, and hospice. The hospital also helps family prepare for the passing of a family member through coaching.


      Period. End of Sentence. (2018)



After a group of women from a small village in India were stigmatized for getting their periods, American high school students raised money and sent them a low-cost, biodegradable pad-making machine. The inspiring, 25-minute film won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short this past February. “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!” 25-year-old filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi said as she accepted the award. The Netflix documentary shows that, no matter your age or the distance between nations, you can make a real difference in the lives of others.

                 Take Your Pills (2018)  


A widely controversial documentary, Take Your Pills explores the American stimulant industry in which children and adults are prescribed and issued medications like Adderall and Ritalin to not only treat conditions like ADHD, but also to keep people focused through long periods of work.


                 The Mind Explained (2019)  


The Mind, Explained is a part of Vox's limited series Explained, which dives into topics we face today as a society in America, such as the racial wealth gap, DNA editing, and more in 15-minute segments. The focus of The Mind, Explained, is, obviously, all about the mind and its function. Emma Roberts narrates this mini documentary that delves into what's happening inside the human brain, exploring various functions like memory formation  and retention, dreaming , psychedelic drugs, and mental health issues like anxiety .


               My Beautiful, Broken Brain (2014) 



After 34-year-old Lotje Sodderland suffers a hemorrhagic stroke and undergoes emergency brain surgery, she is lucky to be alive. However, she suffers from aphasia, a language impairment that affects one’s ability to speak, read, and write. Almost immediately, Sodderland begins filming herself to document her journey—not quite to recovery, but to learning how to live with her new normal. Co-produced by none other than David Lynch, award-winning My Beautiful, Broken Brain is a deeply personal look at the physical and emotional ramifications of sudden brain damage.

                      Unrest (2017)


This Sundance award-winning documentary shines a spotlight on chronic fatigue syndrome, a widely misunderstood disorder that causes extreme fatigue not related to any underlying medical condition. The film follows Jennifer Brea, a 28-year-old Harvard doctoral candidate who is left bedridden following a mysterious fever. When doctors tell her it’s all in her head, Brea and her new husband, Omar, decide to film her struggles with CFS as she connects with fellow sufferers around the world—all without leaving her bed.


            The Truth About Alcohol (2016)


When the UK introduced new guidelines recommending less alcohol consumption for men (lowering it to six pints of beer a week, the same as recommended for women), British ER doc Javid Abdelmoneim set out to find—you guessed it—the truth about alcohol. In the funny yet informative documentary, he questions what prompted the change in guidelines, what the health risks (and possible benefits) of drinking are, why some folks get drunker faster, and more.



     A User’s Guide to Cheating Death (2017)  


University of Alberta professor Timothy Allen Caulfield discusses how companies capitalize on people’s eagerness to look and feel youthful with trendy wellness products, fad diets, cosmetic procedures, and more. Though Caulfield uses humor to expose marketing tactics aimed at keeping people young, this six-part documentary series is informative in diving into larger ethical concerns of the wellness and beauty industries.


                             Heal (2017)


Heal explores the state of American healthcare. This health documentary emphasizes that Americans are chronically stressed; therefore, our immune systems are compromised and we become sicker as a result. If we learn to understand the connection before our minds and our bodies, then we could prevent, treat, and manage our health better, the documentary says. Experts with medical, psychological, spiritual, and homeopathic backgrounds outline what America is doing wrong, and offers ways we can make improvements.


                           Rotten (2017)


Rotten will make you think twice about your next meal. The documentary explores supply and demand in terms of food and agriculture in America, outlining how the way we grow, produce, manufacture, and eat food is not sustainable. Many in the U.S. do not know where their food is coming from and what it's contaminated with, and farmers are unable to keep up with the demands of the American consumer, the documentary says. It suggests that consumers try to understand where their food is coming from and how to eat more consciously through better consumption choices.                                           


                           Heroin(e) (2017)


This Oscar-nominated film documents the opioid epidemic encompassing West Virginia through the perspective of a fire chief, a judge, and a street missionary. Through hard-to-watch encounters between addicts and the heroines that try to help them, Heroin(e) sparks larger conversations about the ongoing opioid crisis in America.


                        The C Word (2016)


Just after she helped produce Michael Moore’s award-winning health documentary Sicko, film producer Meghan LaFrance O’Hara was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. In The C Word, O’Hara and French physician Steven Servan-Schreiber, MD, examine the connection among nutrition, stress, toxins, and cancer, drawing from her own experience.


                Sustainable (2016)


A seventh-generation farmer from Illinois works with director Matt Wechsler to argue that the ways we are producing food as well as the type of foods we’re eating in the U.S. are economically feasible short term solutions that may not sustainably fuel future generations. Wechsler wants to change the way food is produced in the U.S. by helping people reconnect to the food supply and encouraging everyone to shop locally.


                 Forks Over Knives (2011)


Forks Over Knives sets out to convince viewers to adopt a plant-based diet—and not necessarily for ethical reasons, but rather for health. The documentary focuses on research that indicates that the risk of developing some chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes may be decreased by eliminating animal products from our diets. The film follows researchers in the field as well as everyday people who have had success switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet to cut dependence on pharmaceuticals and take control of their health. Even if you’re not ready to swear off meat for good, this important documentary is worth a watch.


                        Icarus (2017)


Director Bryan Fogel embarked on this Academy Award-winning documentary with a simple premise: He would take performance-enhancing drugs and then compete in a renowned amateur cycling race, with the goal of proving how easy it is to get away with doping in the cycling world. But the end result proved much bigger than anticipated as Fogel and Russian scientist Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov end up blowing the whole lid off the state-sponsored Olympic doping scandal in Russia. It’s a wild, entertaining, eye-opening ride.


                      Cooked (2016)


Author and culinary crusader Michael Pollan is on a self-described mission to change the way people eat; however, he takes a balanced, rather than hysterical approach. He warns against factory farming but makes a case for eating ethically sourced meat, questions modern day bread production while pushing back about the widespread gluten free movement, and points a finger at misdirected government farm subsidies. The overarching idea behind this four-part documentary is that we all need to get into the kitchen and foster greater connections with our food to sustain both the environment and our health. If you enjoyed Pollan’s earlier documentaries, In Defense of Food and Food, Inc., then definitely give this a watch.


                  Born Strong (2017)


Whether or not you’re a fan of strongman competitions, Born Strong is an interesting and compelling watch. The documentary delves into the motivations behind those who compete (complete with force-feeding yourself over 10,000 calories a day and almost certainly shortening your life span) and delves into the lives and training of four legendary competitors in the 2015 Arnold Strongman competition (yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appearance). Ultimately, the documentary aims to highlight the drive and athletic achievement of these 400-pound competitors.


               The Bleeding Edge (2017)



Described as “a searing exposé of the medical device industry,” The Bleeding Edge questions whether the devices that are meant to be saving lives are, in fact, harming and even killing patients. Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering zero in on the lax regulations, FDA loopholes, and profit-oriented corporations that drive the $400 billion industry while sharing the heartbreaking stories of individuals who have been negatively impacted.


         What the Health (2017)

If you have a friend who has recently gone vegan seemingly out of the blue, there’s a good chance they’ve watched What the Health. The controversial documentary draws links between consuming animal proteins and getting cancer, type 2 diabetes, and generally poisoning us with toxins. Critics argue that the film’s claims (i.e. eating eggs is as bad as smoking) are frenzied and overblown, while supporters say that there’s nothing overblown about discussing the merits of a plant-based diet. Watch it and decide for yourself.


           Period.End of Sentence.

When 25-year-old filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short in February, she had one of the best lines of the night: "I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!" You will be amazed and inspired by this 25-minute film that shows how women and girls in a small town in India were stigmatized for the normal, healthy act of getting their period — and how a group of American high school students raised money to send them a sanitary-pad-making machine that changed their lives. You will never look at a box of maxi pads the same way again.


A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana

As politicians debate the legalization of recreational marijuana, an entirely different narrative has been playing out for patients who use the drug to relieve debilitating nausea and pain from cancer treatments and other conditions. Australian journalist Helen Kapalos takes an intimate look at the controversial topic through a 24-year-old man whose use of cannabis during chemotherapy changed the minds of an entire city — including his dad, a former drug-busting police officer.


   Why Are We Getting So Fat?

In this BBC documentary, Cambridge University geneticist Giles Yeo takes a look at the obesity epidemic sweeping England. Though the Brits call their burgers "takeaway" instead of "takeout," the issues are completely relatable to the U.S. audience. Without putting the blame on anyone, he examines how genetics, gut bacteria, the abundance of inexpensive fast food, and emotional health play into our ever-increasing waistlines, and explores some promising new treatments. Yeo empathizes with every clinically obese patient he meets in this one-hour doc, and you will, too.


          Prescription Thugs

With the opioid epidemic raging across the U.S., there may be no more timely documentary than Prescription Thugs. Director Chris Bell first explored the use of illegal steroids in pro sports in 2008’s Bigger, Stronger, Faster, but a family tragedy led him to this very personal look at the billion-dollar business of prescription painkillers, which kill tens of thousands of Americans every year.


               Heal  (2017)

Scientists and spiritual teachers discuss how thoughts, beliefs, and emotions impact human health and the ability to heal. A documentary film that takes us on a scientific and spiritual journey where we discover that by changing one's perceptions, the human body can heal itself from any disease.


          Feel Rich 

Feel Rich advances the revolutionary shift in hip-hop to promote healthier lifestyles with a holistic approach to eating better, exercising more, and meditation. This documentary focuses on urban minorities, but the advice and concepts are relevant to everyone. ... Feel Rich is available for streaming on Netflix.


      What's with Wheat?

What's With Wheat is the story of how wheat production has changed over the course of millennia. Surprisingly, the wheat plant we know today is not the same as the plant our ancestors once harvested. This could be the reason behind the increase in celiac disease and gluten intolerance all around the world. 

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