women 4 hope

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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


17 Responses to “Oprah Show Controversy: Dr. Northrup Seems To Be Blaming Women For Their Diseases”

  1. dovelove said

    These are some sharp women 🙂 They unequivocally know what they’re talking about in this regard. I’ve seen the truth of it with my own health issues. More and more people are seeing the truth of it — we aren’t powerless, we are very powerful. We CAN unknowingly harm ourselves with our power, or heal ourselves with it. It’s crucial that we discover this truth.

    Anyone with any type of illness — or a screwed up life (and that covers a lot of territory) would be wise to be open to this. Very wise. One merely needs to have an open mind and heart, and self-love helps tremendously 🙂 But indeed fear and disbelief will negate such efforts. Certain beliefs, often deeply embedded in the psyche, are a challenge to overcome, but persistence and unyielding “faith” in one’s own power is called for, as is a “letting go” of the outcome. That’s a crucial part of it, it seems that “forcing” the issue (not allowing any outcome to be acceptable) is a form of fear and it blocks this power that we have. Fear is the greatest detriment to our lives in general…

    We do indeed resist healing, even when it would greatly improve our lives. There’s something about change that frightens us so much that we’re subconsciously willing to stay ill rather than allow that change.

    “Believe and it shall be so.” “All things are possible.” Absolute truths. Consider it 🙂 Why not? It’s obvious that our left-brained (“logical”) thinking has gotten us nothing but a world full of very sick, self-loathing, destructive people…destroying the very planet that they live on. Logical? Try “illogical” 🙂 You’d be amazed if you could actually be open to it. But that “opening” in the mind (thought) and heart (emotion) is a requirement.

  2. Hi “DoveLove”

    I agree with you, to the extent that our emotions and thoughts have a huge impact on our overall wellbeing..And I do believe in the mind/body connection. I suffer with chronic illness myself…And I know that if I didn’t believe that even within my illness, I could still have some power over my ability to live a happy and fulfilling life…If I didn’t believe that, I know my health would be much worse.

    So yes, I believe in the power of positive thinking, and the power of attraction. But I also accept the power of my illness. And I don’t believe this is failing myself in any way, with acceptance of my condition I am accepting myself…I can accept my limitations and still be happy (and I am), I believe there is a purpose to my life, and I can attain it even if I am not 100% healthy. I need to be 100% what “I” can be, nothing more and nothing less.

    I strive to be as healthy as I can be, given my physical condition, I continue to believe in myself, and I won’t let my illness define me. I know…and I am 100% certain, that I am NOT to blame for my physical condition (and neither are any other people suffering with chronic illness – or any illness for that matter). When you have a disease process that will be with you your entire life, acceptance of that is key to your being able to find happiness and peace in your life.

    Just as I believe that the majority of illness and disease can be more successfully treated with a holistic approach (including both traditional and alternative modalities). I also believe that the health of our mind/spirit needs to be cultivated with both positive thinking and a belief in our inner power to change and heal ourselves…along with acceptance of the things we can not change.

    Acceptance is not failure, it’s simply a path to our personal empowerment.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. dovelove said

    We should definitely accept, and most importantly love our bodies no matter what state they are in. In fact, that’s a most significant part of the self-healing. If we can truly do that, the body will definitely respond in a positive way.

    Your illness has no power, except what you give to it with your “I accept the power of my illness.” You have all the power 🙂 And I don’t see this as “blaming” at all. What you don’t seem to understand is that your conscious thoughts — which you are stating have great power (“huge impact”) — are not the whole deal when it comes to our beliefs. There is so much in our subconscious, old negative beliefs from childhood and beyond. And that “energy” is what invariably creates our lives. That energy is dominant because most of us don’t counter it with continual passionate (fueled with emotion to establish a “belief”) affirmations. When we begin to do this, we begin to heal our bodies and our lives. But even that isn’t the entirety of it.

    Most of us have old trauma, old negative energy still in our bodies that we haven’t released. The statistics are staggering on women who have been sexually abused, and we tend to push such pain down deep inside us. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it go away, and ultimately it comes out as some dis-ease. Emotions are that powerful. Again, we should become aware of this. But to heal that old, horribly painful stuff, we have to bring it up to the surface and that is not a pretty part of the healing process — most people simply can’t get themselves to do it. But we either get that crap up and out of us, or it will kill us…eventually. Simple as that.

    Acceptance is not a path, but it is a very significant part of our healing journey. But to stop there is doing oneself a great disservice. Again, ALL things are possible, we do have the ability to heal ourselves of anything. But no, it’s not an easy process, but it can be done. And, again, more and more people are discovering this.

    I’ve lived with health issues my entire adult life, I’ve taken all the supplements, tried all the diets, gone to all the various alternative therapists (only after allowing mainstream docs to screw me up more with their drugs to further push down dis-ease), I made little to no progress with any of that.

    Only now I am healing. What changed? I did. I decided not to hold back anymore 🙂 and I am slowly clearing out the old trauma… But I especially noticed a difference when I stopped holding back, and simply allowed myself to be who I am, no longer giving a rat’s ass what others think of that. After decades of ill health, I can actually NOW see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wish I had known/believed years ago that dis-ease is invariably rooted in our emotional issues, and how trauma stays in the body until we release it or it manifests as dis-ease…

    I hope someone reads this and begins real self-healing by releasing the belief/lie that illness has power. It doesn’t. Again, it’s power comes from OUR BELIEFS. Anything that has power over us, in our lives, we have given it such. You can find all kinds of books written by people who reversed very serious illness without any medical treatment whatsoever.

  4. With all due respect Ms “DoveLove”…I think it’s a bit presumptuous of you to assume that just because you have had a positive affect with your rejection of medical treatment, that this would not actually be detrimental to others who might try this themselves. As a nurse, I can assure you that for as “beautiful” as these thoughts are, a person who is sick may need medical treatment regardless of their belief in the power to heal themselves…and suggesting otherwise is doing a disservice (harm) to anyone who believes what you are saying. Should cancer patients stop chemo? Should diabetics stop using Insulin? Should heart patients stop taking their medications? The answer is NO. NO. NO!

    I think what YOU “don’t understand” is that not everyone has had a traumatic childhood, and conscious thoughts can not cure cancer, (there was actually a recent study that showed positive thinking had no affect on the outcome of cancer patients…regardless of your attitude the treatment will either work or not work). Positive thinking is helpful, but it is by no means a cure, and no one should assume otherwise.

    Unless you can state some scientific case studies on how your proclamations have been proven to be true (and I am 100% certain that you can not)…I have to ask that you stop coming here to try and convince trusting readers of this blog to follow your advise.

    For the record…I am FOR the power of positive thinking and even the law of attraction. But turning a blind eye to reality will most certainly do more harm than good. And, I am sure you mean well and would not want to cause harm to people…so I suggest you scale back a bit on telling others how they should heal themselves. What works for you, is not necessarily going to work for others…not unlike many chemo drugs that work successfully for some, and not at all for others.

  5. sbpoet said

    “Most of us have old trauma, old negative energy still in our bodies that we haven’t released. The statistics are staggering on women who have been sexually abused, and we tend to push such pain down deep inside us.”

    Uh huh.

    This is one of those commonly quoted things that make me cringe. Yes, many more women than generally acknowledged have experienced sexual abuse and assault. And these experiences can have long-lasting effects.


    So if you look at a ‘healthy’ group of women, you are going to find a high rate of previous sexual assault / abuse.

    And if you look at a group of ‘ill’ women, you will find the same thing.

    And this proves, what, exactly?

    You know, if you look at a group of people with broken arms, you will find a very high rate of broken arms.

    And a lot of folks abusing aspirin.

    These correlations — and the psychological/ mystical / spiritual conclusions folks draw from them are — well — unscientific, to say the least.

    There is one psychological mechanism with lots of support though — that we want to feel in control. We want to believe we can effect our lives, our health, our ‘recovery’.

    So we do.

    Believe it, I mean.

  6. Hi “Sbpoet” — Thanks so much for your comment. I agree 100%.

  7. […] Catherine Morgan placed an interesting blog post on Oprah Show Controversy: Dr. Northrup Seems To Be Blaming Women For ….Here’s a brief overview:“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 … […]

  8. […] Catherine Morgan added an interesting post today on Oprah Show Controversy: Dr. Northrup Seems To Be Blaming Women For ….Here’s a small reading:“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 … […]

  9. edwina said

    no matter how many times i could go to my ‘happy place’, it still would not bring me back to a fully healed body of hep -c and fibromyalgia and all the other health issues i have been battling for many years.
    mrs. winfrey seems to have all the guests with the right ‘answers’ yet seems unable to be healed herself of doing anything without a expensive trip or fancyfoods, which like many of us cannot even come close to having.
    please forgive me if im wrong.

  10. dovelove said

    You’re right about one thing, I don’t belong on this thread. I welcome and encourage you to delete my post. Those who are ready and willing to heal will find the right information for them at the right time. No forcing needed. I think I temporarily forgot that in making the erroneous decision to make a post on a blog, um, like this one. Enjoy your misery, many seem to.

  11. thecanvasgrey said

    To boil everything down to positive and negative thoughts or medication as the answer is just too simplistic. I have to go with balance. We still know far too little about ourselves physcially, mentally and spiritually and how they intertwine. We can get up every morning and think positive and surely that is a boost to our body, mind and spirit but it surely won’t take away serious ailments whether they are caused by our genetics, environment, thoughts or a combination. With most anything I absorb during the day (body, mind, spirit) I must draw upon a more negative tone to analyze or discern what positive things I can take from the experience to help me and mine.

    I find that Oprah, like all of us, is on a journey to understand herself and she is sharing it through her show while she makes millions of dollars. She is in a class all by herself. I imagine she gets full body MRIs and any little ache and pain is analyzed indepth. I’m sure she has the best doctors, some of which will tell her anything in the hopes of becoming the next Dr. Phil. I think sometimes we need to keep that in mind and keep a balanced perspective.

  12. Kimbo said

    You’ve missed the point. Northrup is saying “listen” to what your body is telling you and DO something about it. Positive thinking is not doing something about it and bitching about how Oprah has more money than you is just cultural cringe. I agree with Dovelove, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

  13. Erol said

    Seems the core flaw in this article is “blame”. Ours is a victim-based culture that uses blame unconsciously. I’d suggest the original sin was Adam blaming Eve rather than them simply accepting some part in the situation.

    When we unconsciously are holding blame we think others are blaming. Why are we trying to blame someone or something for illness? Because our culture looks first to blame rather than solution. Thus the author see Dr. Northrup is seen as blaming patients. Blame isn’t even in the doctors consciousness. Rather, the doctor is simply taking a holistic approach looking at all possible causal factors in humans.

    Western medicine unfortunately can only see physical/measurable causation, since we are a physically-based paradigm. Anything non-physical, non-blame is quickly discarded.

    For everyone, and the author, let’s drop the blame glasses and see all possibilities for healing and causation. The goal is healing, not finding faulth. Let’s end the attorney minded finger pointing and heal patients!

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  15. kathy said

    I just bought Dr. Northrups book after reading some hormone related issues on Oprah.com. I was at Borders bookstore trying to decide if i should her Dr Northrups latest book or a book by Dr. Love. A very helpful salesperson a borders warned me that the Dr. Love book was more “scientific”. After reading the first few chapters of Dr. Northrup i now get what she meant. I have had a lifelong thyroid condition. Hyper thyroidism almost killed me! Some of the “rest and relaxation” advice is dangerous. If i had not made my way to an endocrinologist iam sure it would have killed me. I am now hypo thyroid (burned out graves disease) I take synthyroid and cytomel. If you don’t treat these conditions you can develop heart problems and a multitude of other things. I am all for the mind body connection and strongly support it, However, I don’t think i caused my thyroid issues or my fybroids that i now have in my uterus. I think the science of our bodies is complicated and I don’t feel that I created my health issues. I do rather resent that way of thinking. I also had bladder cancer at age 39, i don’t think i should have to defend that either. I am not convinced that her approach is healthy for women! We have enough guilt already.

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