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Archive for October 23rd, 2007

Oprah Show Controversy: Dr. Northrup Seems To Be Blaming Women For Their Diseases

Posted by Catherine Morgan on October 23, 2007


Is Your Illness All Your Fault? — by Catherine Morgan (cross-posted at BlogHer)

It seem that Oprah has ruffled a few feathers while explaining her recent bout with thyroid problems. Some are saying that she is just using a thyroid problem as an excuse for a recent 20 pound weight gain. Others find her method of treatment [a one month trip to her Hawaii estate for total relaxation and healthy eating] to be a bit grandiose, and not exactly a treatment available to the average woman with thyroid disease. And then others are a bit taken back by her “expert” Dr. Northrup, and her attempt to blame the patients (mostly women) for their thyroid disease.

See what I mean at Oprah’s Thyroid Club (with 85 comments) —From The New York Times

…The downside is that the talk show host has been vague about her diagnosis and treatment and even suggested that her body’s imbalance of thyroid hormones was the result of working too hard and not relaxing enough. Her main “treatment” approach seemed to be quitting work for a month and eating only fresh food at her tropical Hawaiian estate.

“While good nutrition, exercise, and self-care are certainly part of overall good health, they are not likely to cure your thyroid condition,’’ writes Mary Shoman, founder of a well-known thyroid disease Web site and the author of several books on the topic. “It may have worked for Oprah, but …I doubt most of us could ever aspire to such a luxurious recuperation.”

Ms. Winfrey hasn’t detailed her specific diagnosis, but Ms. Shoman says the description sounds like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that is characterized by the thyroid’s gradual decline into hypothyroidism, interspersed with periods “when the thyroid sputters to life and becomes temporarily overactive.” Avoiding medical treatment is only an option for those with very mild thyroid problems, notes Ms. Shoman, who worries some women may try to self-treat rather than consulting a doctor about their symptoms…

BlogHer Contributing Editor Laurie wrote:

“Here’s what else Dr. Northrup has to say about thyroid disease:

“In many women thyroid dysfunction develops because of an energy blockage in the throat region, the result of a lifetime of ‘swallowing’ words one is aching to say. In the name of preserving harmony, or because these women have learned to live as relatively helpless members of their families or social groups, they have learned to stifle their self-expression….It’s no coincidence that so many more women than men have thyroid problems. Thyroid disease is related to expressing your feelings…””

For me, there is no doubt that some degree of a mind/body connection exists. Personally, I know that when under great stress or anxiety, that my medical problems will often become worse. However, there is a thin line between “connection” and “blame”…and it seems this Dr. Northrup may have just crossed that line.

This is what she had to say…

Dr. Northrup says your health depends on what’s going on with your mind, body and soul, and your symptoms are actually your soul’s way of bringing deeper issues to your attention. “You’re in labor with yourself because everything that no longer serves your highest purpose and your optimal health starts to go away and your body gives you signals—’Hey, you’ve been putting too much stuff under the carpet emotionally, nutritionally, not exercising … putting everyone else first. The kids, the husband, the job, whatever,'” Dr. Northrup says. “And your soul is saying, ‘What about me? What about me?’ And your body will start getting symptoms to hit you over the head with till you wake up.”

Well, that just doesn’t make much sense…There are plenty of depressed people that don’t have a single medical problem wrong with them, as there are plenty of people who suffer with numerous medical issues that are not in the least bit depressed.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all just go to our “happy place” and will our medical problems away? Yes, it sure would be…But, in “reality” medical problems happen…regardless of your state of mind. So all of this talk about Thyroid disease stemming from an underlying emotional problem…well, no wonder why people are getting a bit upset. Oprah may be spotlighting thyroid disease, but the medical community blaming the patient for their health problems is not new at all. Just ask anyone who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowl Syndrome, just to name a few. And actually, Dr. Northrup names many more…

The first thing Dr. Northrup wants Rachel to do is to make a list of five things she wants to do—and then do them! The five things Rachel chooses to do may help improve her health in the long run. “When you do those, they decrease cellular inflammation. This isn’t just some kind of pop psychology. They decrease inflammation in your cells and cellular inflammation is the beginning of all chronic degenerative disease,” she says. “So headaches, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, it all begins with cellular inflammation. Things that bring you joy quell stress hormones in the body and decrease cellular inflammation.”

I imagine Dr. Northrup doesn’t actually suffer from any of these pesky “cellular inflammations”, otherwise how could she even say any of this with a straight face. She is basically saying that people with cancer, thyroid disease, and many other chronic illnesses, have brought this all on themselves. When someone suffering hears this kind of crazy talk, they actually begin to believe that their illness is their own fault. And that’s not even the worst thing. What is worse, is when that person believes that if they could just emotionally “fix” themselves, they could make themselves better [in this case, just like Oprah]. And when they don’t get better…again, they will feel it is their own fault.

From Stop The Thyroid Madness

And when she finally has a program which somewhat addresses the thyroid issue this week, she allows her hallowed guest, Dr. Christiane Northrup, to state “your symptoms are actually your soul’s way of bringing deeper issues to your attention.” Hogwash! And thyroid patient Mary Shoman has rightly proclaimed that “thyroid disease is NOT your fault, despite what Dr. Northrup says.”

How do you feel about these comments by Dr. Northrup?

Also See:

Domestic Divapalooza

The Beach Life


What’s the number, Oprah? — from Cardiogirl

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
also at CatherineBlogs.com and The Political Voices of Women


Posted in blogging, BlogHer, blood pressure, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic illness, depression, Health, heart disease, life, motherhood, opinion, parenting, thoughts, Women | 17 Comments »