A few months ago I saw Dr. Christiane Northrup speak for the first time alongside my friends, Dr. Frank Lipman and Kris Carr at Urban Zen. Needless to say, I was blown away as her empowering approach to women's health and wellness is second to none.
Dr. Northrup is a leading proponent of medicine and healing that acknowledges the unity of the mind and body, as well as the powerful role of the human spirit in creating health. Following a career as a practicing physician in obstetrics and gynecology for over 25 years, Dr. Northrup has dedicated her lifework to helping women (and the men who love them) learn how to flourish on all levels by creating health, prosperity, and pleasure in their lives. She says, “I’ve spent the first half of my life studying and footnoting everything that can go wrong with the female body—and figuring out how to fix it. I’m dedicating the second half of my life to illuminating everything that can go right with the female body, including teaching women how to truly flourish.” Wow!
I was fortunate enough to talk to Dr. Northrup and tried to cover as much as I could -- from osteoporosis to self-empowerment to yoga -- this woman is an unbelievable wealth of wellness knowledge!
MBG: Could you speak about the misconception that women need to take supplements to prevent osteoporosis and what they could be getting from their diet?
CN: When the Women’s Health Initiative stopped abruptly in 2002, up to that point, for 20 years, women were being prescribed estrogen, in the form of Premarin, the urine of pregnant horses, as a way to keep bone mass steady after menopause. It’s fairly well documented that bones lose some mass when estrogen levels drop. But they don’t drop into the fracture range because of menopause-you just lose bone mass. The first Premarin scare in the 70s, where it was noted that women who were on Premarin had a higher risk of endometrial cancer, was the first time that Premarin fell off the stage as the panacea for everything. Then, in the early 80s, drug companies made another case for it and osteoporosis was the main indication. It was seen as the pill to keep you young forever, to keep your heart and bones healthy. But the risk of breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease increased for some women.
So they had to invent something else to prevent osteoporosis, with the mindset being that osteoporosis and fractures were a normal consequence of aging. That’s not the case. It’s not inevitable. Bones are living tissue and you can get bone mass back through weight bearing exercise and Vitamin D from supplements or sunlight. For last 30 years, we’ve vilified the sun, so now we have a worldwide epidemic of osteoporosis. But it’s also the fact that our standard western diet is acid. The bones are a huge reservoir of minerals such as calcium. They are the blood’s major source of alkalinizing calcium, so at night when you’re sleeping, to keep the blood slightly alkaline, the bones will dissolve. If we look at the standard western diet, it’s primarily acid-forming foods: grains, sugar, meat. We need those things, but we want to balance it with greens. To make the body alkaline, we need greens. The general thought is 4-5 servings of vegetables per serving of protein or grain. Every time you take a green drink, you give your body a load of alkalinizing, nutrient-rich substances that help counteract the effect of too much acid in the diet. Most fruits and vegetables are alkalinizing to the body.
What we’ve done in the west, thinking that everything is a drug deficiency, is that we’ve developed alendronate drugs like Boniva. They change bone metabolism that block osteoclastic activity, which breaks down old bones so that osteoblast can build new bone. Bone metabolism is supported by a critical balance between the construction crews and building crews, just as the health of a home or city is supported by a balance between what needs to go and what needs to be built. It’s a daily process. What the alendronate drugs do is by stopping the normal breakdown of bones, they favor the buildup of old bone that becomes brittle over time and becomes so hard and dense that the normal blood supply cannot get into the bone.
These drugs bind to bone in a way that’s not reversible, so nobody knows how long that effect stays in your system even after you’re off the drug. Plus, they’re being given relatively young women to prevent something that might happen years and years and years later.
So what do we do prevent this?