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How bodily wisdom is the key to women’s health

The female body was designed by our Creator to be a source of pleasure, fertility, movement, strength, and well-being. Our bodies connect us with the moon, the tides, and the seasons. They are the temples within which our souls dwell and experience life on earth. And they are profoundly impacted first and foremost by our beliefs about what is possible, by the culture in which we live, and then by the behaviors that stem from these beliefs. If you believe that it is a woman’s lot in life to suffer and sacrifice, this will greatly influence your well-being. On the other hand, if you cherish your body and care for it well, you’ll have the tools to be healthy.


Each and every one of us has the capacity to flourish within a physical body. I suspected this when I wrote the first edition of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom in the early 1990s. Now, almost thirty years later, I have proved it to myself not only personally but also in the thousands of lives I have had the privilege to influ­ence. And there is more research than ever before proving the unity of mind, body, and spirit. More than that, we now know how to take this research and apply it to our own lives to influence our health.


We, the human race, have now come to a crossroads, a turning point, when old, unsustainable ideas and behaviors are breaking down all over the planet. For example, the revelations about the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and his thirty-plus years of sexual abuse of countless women struck a deep chord within me when the news erupted. Not because this kind of abuse of power was anything new—I have witnessed the health effects of this for decades—but because, for the very first time in my lifetime, our society was no longer protecting a rich and powerful sexual predator, and neither was his wife or the mainstream media. It turned out that this was just the beginning of a huge cultural shift that we’ve been building toward for decades.


Women have finally become strong enough and em­powered enough collectively to risk telling the truth. And instead of backing down, we are rising in support. The tide is really turning. And now it needs to turn when it comes to our healthcare.


Back in the 1980s, when I was starting out in my medical practice, I saw the toll that silence and abuse take on women’s bodies. I noticed that many women with conditions such as chronic pelvic pain had been sexually abused. My colleagues denied this and told me my patients were “crazy” and that they only saw “normal” women. I persisted in telling the truth. And it cost me, just as it has cost every whistleblower and rape victim who has ever come forward and rocked the boat, because up until now, our society has been ruled by a belief system known as patriarchy—the rule of the fathers. And those who have challenged it have often paid dearly.


But that is all changing. Quickly. My observations have now become mainstream, and we have the data to support them.


Over the past four decades, my experiences as an ob-gyn physician, mother, midlife woman, and now grandmother have led me to put forth a revolutionary new approach to women’s health and wellness that acknowl­edges the seamless unity of our bodies, minds, and spirits. Though this still isn’t obvious within mainstream medicine, it is now abundantly clear that a woman’s state of health is highly influenced by the culture in which she lives, her position within it, her experiences, and her day-to-day thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.


It is possible to thrive in a female body instead of simply waiting for dis­ease to happen. It boils down to this: Regardless of our individual circum­stances, our pasts, or our ages, each of us has inner guidance available that we can tune in to in order to create vibrant health—now. Inner guidance is a second spiritual (and energetic) system that can override and influence physi­cal reality. It is an innate intelligence that operates within us, one that we can learn to access in order to heal.


We are born with this inner guidance, which comes in the form of the emotions and desires that lead us toward things (including thoughts) that feel good and are good for us, and away from things that feel bad and are bad for us. It is influenced by our conscious intent to be well. It’s that simple. We are hardwired to seek love, joy, fulfillment—and health. Though we’ve too often been talked out of our desires as children, I’ve learned that we can trust those feelings that make us want to get up in the morning. Our desires are the way that the healing life force comes through us and replenishes our bodies. They are what make life worth living. They make up our hopes and dreams. And they invariably hold the keys to healing not only our bodies but also our entire lives.


This is an adapted extract from the new edition of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr Christiane Northrup