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Mother Daughter Wisdom with Christiane Northrup, MD

Understanding the Feminine Legacy of Good Health: An interview with Christiane Northrup, M.D.

As women encounter various life stages, we are called upon to create ourselves anew. But unknown territory is scary. We naturally seek the guidance and support of someone who’s been there before. Someone who knows us well and can show the way. If she’s standing firm in her own wisdom and power, it’s our mother who becomes our North Star, a beacon of strength and practical counsel…

Dr. Christiane Northrup, America’s leading voice empowering women to become active participants in their own physical, mental and emotional development, now shares poignant insights as to how mothers can help daughters grow up and move forward with confidence. And how both can learn to live a joyous, creative and full life on their own terms.

As a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist and the mother of two grown daughters, Dr. Northrup has come to understand that the mother-daughter relationship “has more clout biologically, emotionally and psychologically than any other relationship in a woman’s life.”

Through more than two decades of hands-on healthcare treating thousands of women, Northrup has noted that if a woman’s relationship with her mother is supportive and healthy, and if her mother has given her positive messages about her female body and how to care for it, the physician’s job is easy. “Her body, mind and spirit are already programmed for optimal health and healing,” she says. “My medical skills are a comparative drop in the bucket.”

This well-known author’s main message is that women need an entirely new way of thinking about and caring for our bodies. The key lies in listening to our inner wisdom, “what we know in our bones.” Understanding that our bodies are largely a barometer of our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, we are in a position to change our lives from the inside out. Practicing healthy thoughts and habits prevents problems. Why wait for a life-threatening, chronic or acute illness to catalyze the inner growth we innately know is essential to our health and well-being?

In her newly released book, Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Creating a Legacy of Physical and Emotional Health, Dr. Northrup offers a holistic roadmap for women of all ages. Insights show how to shed limiting beliefs, improve an adult relationship with one’s mother, and give one’s daughter wise advice at any stage of life. Here Natural Awakenings asks the good doctor to summarize what it will take for this generation of women to create a lasting positive legacy for the next.

NA: Your new book, Mother-Daughter Wisdom, was nine years in the making. Why do you think this “birthing process” took so long?”

CN: Though I’ve helped thousands of mothers and daughters through all stages of life, I had to experience the menopause process myself in order to write the book that needed to be written. I’ve learned that menopause involves a significant download of intuition and wisdom. Part of the process was cleaning up unfinished business with my own mother, so that I could approach our relationship in a new, healthier way.

NA: Your approach to creating physical and emotional health is reflected in one of your most powerful statements: “Though health-care modalities such as dietary improvement, exercise, drugs, surgery, breast exams and Pap smears all have their place, not one of them can get to the part of a woman’s consciousness that is creating her state of health in the first place.” Why is this so vital for us to understand?

CN: It’s becoming apparent that consciousness creates our body and our state of health. Research increasingly demonstrates that our thoughts and emotions have powerful effects on our cells. Inherited patterns of thought, known as beliefs, start in the womb and become reinforced in childhood. Optimistic and uplifting be-liefs support health and well-being. Beliefs based on fear, resentment and resignation do just the opposite. When we willingly change our thoughts and beliefs, our behavior naturally changes, and health improves. We’re challenged in that so many ingrained beliefs operate on an unconscious level. We’re not aware of them. Many stem from our relationship with our mothers —the woman in whose body our own was formed.

NA: In your book you identify five facets of feminine power. What are they and how can we strengthen and use them to enhance personal health and empowerment?

CN: I see the following five facets of feminine power as the “engine” that propels us through different developmental stages of life. Mother provides the basic scaffolding for how a daughter will use these five facets in her life. The daughter’s must then remodel this scaffolding to suit her soul’s unique purpose. This is done by closely examining and updating one’s deep-set beliefs and behaviors in the following areas.

• FEMININE BIOLOGY: This is the sure knowledge that the processes of the female body, such as the menstrual cycle, are part of a woman’s inner wisdom and magic. They’re not a mistake from a misguided creator intent on punishing women for being who they are.

• RELATIONSHIPS AND BONDING: No one is an island. Humans are a “herd” species and we need other people. Those who know how to create and maintain healthy, stable, life-affirming relationships are those who enjoy the best health. Under stress, women naturally tend to and befriend others, activating the oxytocin hormone that calms, soothes and facilitates bonding.

• SELF CARE: As our first caregivers, the way our mother cares for us imprints us with what our own self-care looks like. Our job is to learn how to become a good mother for ourself—regardless of how well we were actually mothered. Everyone has the capacity to know what they need to be healthy and happy. It’s up to us to take responsibility for our own well-being once we are old enough.

• PASSION AND PURPOSE: Each of us was born with a unique passion and purpose, a role that we’re meant to fulfill. Though we have individual will to accomplish this, often we become aware of our true purpose only in retrospect. Our ability to access our enabling creative energies requires self-trust and faith each step of the way. Fortunately, we are all born with innate instructions. We simply need to learn how to “read” them.

• RESOURCEFULNESS AND ADAPTABILITY: Finding and living one’s passion and purpose is never a straight line. We must learn how to work with ever-changing circumstances. Success depends on figuring out how to work around obstacles and keep going. When we understand that it’s our thoughts and consciousness that effect our circumstances and we develop faith in this, it becomes much easier to adapt to life’s challenges.

NA: How did your own mother and two daughters respond to your including them as central characters in your book?

CN: They’re proud of me and enthusiastic about this work. I believe that we choose our mother, and I’m grateful that my daughters chose me. I share our family’s stories in order to teach and enlighten others—not to pass judgment on anyone. It’s nothing they haven’t heard me talk about publicly before. We have a history of respecting each other through every stage, so we need not “walk on eggshells.” Among ourselves we tend to speak freely about the trials and triumphs of all our striving and growing.

NA: Today we’re confronted by oftentimes conflicting theories on how to achieve optimal nutrition, diet and weight control. How do we help our daughters find the best personal choices?

CN: Achieving optimal nutrition is not as difficult as it’s portrayed. An estimated 75 percent of the U.S. population, including myself, simply cannot eat whatever we want whenever we want it and maintain a healthy weight. Today’s highly processed foods and sedentary lifestyles work against us. Everyone needs lots of vegetables and adequate protein to maintain a productive activity level. Most of us do better by including some animal protein like fish, eggs, chicken and lean beef. It’s not that hard to cut down on “white” processed foods like bagels, bread and pasta. For children, I recommend a diet of mostly healthy organic “good” foods. But I do allow some occasional “junk,” so that children don’t grow up being afraid of things like french fries and pastries, which are so common in our culture. In my book I spell out practical steps for promoting healthy eating habits in the home. I believe that everyone needs to supplement contemporary food with additional vitamins and minerals. I also address common problems like sugar and carbohydrate addiction, glycemic stress and insulin resistance. The most important food lessons a daughter learns, she learns by watching her mother, regardless of what her mother says. At home or away, a cook’s consciousness affects how food is assimilated. Food made with love also tastes better. We feel better when we not only improve our food quality, but also eat more slowly, savor each bite, and relax at mealtime.

NA: You’re known as the foremost expert in holistic health for women today. What is the most empowering truth and practical guidance you can offer?

CN: The most vital truth I can share with you is that there are no “accidents” or illnesses that just jump out of the closet and land on us. We are not helpless victims of anything. But we’re not to claim blame either. It’s a paradox. The part of us that’s creating an illness or circumstance is not the ego part that’s feeling the pain. It’s self-defeating to go around being afraid of “catching” something or being a victim of our genes. Our soul’s supreme role is to support and cheer us on to become more compassionate, enlightened people. When we decide to take responsibility for our life choices, we’re on the road to health and freedom. I often share my own stories of personal struggles with fibroid, corneal ulcer, astigmatism, menstrual cramps and divorce in order to illustrate the big picture and make it clear that I experience the same emotions and challenges as anyone else. We’re here to learn and grow. No one can be expected to live a perfect life. I’ve found that our biggest challenges can turn out to be our biggest gifts if we’re willing to get out of our own way. Once we understand this, our whole landscape of self-care and health changes for the better. We naturally start eating better and exercising. We come to treat ourselves well, not because we “should,” but because we value our life.

NA: What can we look forward to? What’s next on your horizon?

CN: I see Mother-Daughter Wisdom as both a wrap-up of my work to date and the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I trust that the next steps will make themselves known when it’s time. Recently I launched a newsletter, and I publish a free monthly e-letter. Both are available at I believe that my work will move ever more strongly into bridging the metaphysical and the physical and medical. Thought and emotion have powerful effects on our DNA. We live in a conscious-living, relationship-based universe and we’re only just beginning to realize the implications of this on the health of our bodies and our planet. I’m fascinated by the feminine, receptive aspects of all this and will be writing more. So stay tuned.

Christiane Northrup, M.D. is the best-selling author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, The Wisdom of Menopause and Mother-Daughter Wisdom, released in March 2005. She is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with more than 20 years of clinical experience. A resident of Maine, she is past president of the American Holistic Medical Association and has helped pioneer the partnership between conventional and alternative medicine.

For more information about her work or to receive her newsletters, visit


Cynthia Chatfield is a consultant and writer in the field of natural health. She is the former Vice-President of Educational Services at the National Foundation for Alternative Medicine and is currently collaborating on a report for cancer patients on cutting-edge mind-body healing research. See

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