Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a board–certified obstetrician/gynecologist whose best selling books, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause, have set the standard for women seeking a balanced and knowledgeable perspective on both conventional and complementary methods for restoring and maintaining health.
Her latest book, Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Creating a Legacy of Emotional and Physical (Bantam 2005) explores the mother-daughter bond. She is also the host of a PBS special on the same topic (airing in March 2005). She has also hosted four previous public television specials and authors a popular monthly e-letter on her website, www.drnorthrup.com, and a print newsletter, The Dr. Christiane Northrup Newsletter: Women’s Wisdom for Optimal Health and Healing. Her work has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today Show, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, The View, and Good Morning America. She and her family live in Maine.
In his interview with Dr. Daniel Redwood, Dr. Northup describes ways to use the physical and emotional changes of the female life cycle as tools for growth and transformation, discusses the symbolic and emotional aspects of illness, and offers suggestions for attaining optimum health at all stages of life.
DANIEL REDWOOD: What first led you to venture beyond conventional medical approaches to women's health care?
CHRISTIANE NORTHRUP, MD: I was brought up that way. My parents were into Robert Rodale, organic gardening, composting, taking vitamins, whole foods, all of that. So it was kind of a natural transition, though I must say that when I got into medical school, I was temporarily very enamored with the medical model. So it took a while to actually combine the two worlds of natural medical approaches and the techno-medical model. I met Michio Kushi, who was the founder of the American macrobiotic movement, right at the end of my OB-GYN residency. I sat in with him as he did consultations and watched people change their health after being on a macrobiotic diet for a number of months. Because he had all of their medical records in front of him, I was able to review the charts and then see how people’s health dramatically improved with a change of diet. Because that came right at the end of my standard residency training, it was a perfect segue into private practice and I began to put the two things together.
REDWOOD: What's your view at this point as to what comprises a healthy diet?
NORTHRUP: It has changed over the years. I believe that the healthy diet generally is anything that fully nourishes the cells with antioxidants and provides enough fiber. Most people do not eat as many vegetables as they should. Most eat too many grain products, but it’s devitalized grain products, the white foods and so on. So a healthy diet to me contains some animal protein or fish, enough omega-3 fats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and that's it. I don’t think everyone needs dairy food. In fact, for some people that's contraindicated. The same thing goes with wheat products and some grains.
REDWOOD: Following the release of your first book, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, you were the only woman and the only OB/GYN among the several leading physician-authors in complementary medicine. What was that like? Was it exhilarating? Stressful? How has it changed you?
NORTHRUP: It was terrifying, initially. When I first went into my hospital grand rounds after that book came out, I had never really talked with any of my colleagues about these ideas in an open forum. I had been president of the American Holistic Medical Association, so I certainly had my complementary-minded colleagues. But my OB-GYN colleagues were pretty much in the conventional realm. When the book came out, those two worlds, which I had kept separate, needed to come together. So I was very afraid but also extremely gratified with the response from the readers. Women said to me, "you have put into words feelings and thoughts that I've always had, but which I've never heard a doctor say." So I touched a nerve which many women, and some men, have felt for a long time. And that was extraordinarily gratifying.