Book Review

Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom

Christine Northrup
Bantam Books

Northrup’s message is not one of empowerment but rather one of acknowledgment of women, acknowledgment that women have inherent wisdom that guides them through their lives. This wisdom gives courage, leads in decision making, and lends expertise in raising children. This book is intended to change a woman from passive to active thinking, teach about the female body, and instruct about changing lifestyle.

Northrup chronicles the negative aspects of external controls on women in western culture, instructing about three beliefs to help women put an end to the addictive, abusive cycle affecting the female body and mind. She advises women to emotionally, spiritually, and physically feel their experiences, leave behind experiences that have created emotional wounds and use body wisdom as an energy force, a constant between the mental, emotional and physical beings. Northrup sees feminine intelligence as a belief system; she feels that, if a woman’s beliefs are strong, she can defend her body against illness. Women’s wisdom also provides inner guidance. Northrup makes a strong case for women to listen to the body and respond to its needs.

In the second half of the book Northrup covers the menstrual cycle, describing it as a source of female power. She discusses problems associated with the menstrual cycle and offers treatment options. She sees the menstrual cycle as a guiding force in a woman’s life and thinks that, if a woman has problems associated with her cycle, she may not be in tune with her body. Northrup discusses the uterus, ovaries and breasts as the center in relationship to oneself, the power in the external world and the capacity for giving and receiving nurture, respectively. She describes situations that oppose internal wisdom and may lead to illness and medical treatment for illnesses associated with the female reproductive organs. The author presents stories of women faced with an illness and their recuperation through medical treatment and by use of their body’s wisdom. She examines female fertility; the body’s inability to maintain a pregnancy, along with difficult deliveries; and treatment options. The author relates difficult menopausal years to unfinished business in previous years and to fear of the aging process. She discusses many symptoms associated with menopause, from hot flashes to fuzzy thinking, as well as osteoporosis, diminished libido and depression. Treatment recommendations range from hormonal replacement and nutritional supplementation to exercise and diet modification. She emphasizes using progesterone: first, for its beneficial effect on osteoporosis; and, secondly, for protection of the endometrial lining; and recommends estriol for its possible cancer- protective qualities and beneficial effects on vaginal and uterine mucosa. She offers the use of triestrogen as a choice for estrogen replacement therapy.

To help women make informed decisions, Northrup suggests they know their mental and physical history; this is the first step in her 12-step guide to healing. She encourages women to sort through their beliefs, respect and release their emotions, listen to and respect their bodies, acknowledge their inner wisdom, and get help and gather information. She also gives advice on choosing a health care provider and treatment options, encouraging women to use whatever means necessary to treat an illness. She discusses food and eating wisely and suggests making a commitment to an exercise program. She encourages women to draw from deep within their own bodies, where not only their beliefs but also their mother’s and grandmother’s beliefs reside, for wisdom that can heal and defend from mental and physical disease.

Reviewed By:  Gina Ford, RPh
In:  Jan/Feb 1998