Ask Dr. Christiane Northrup
The answer is no. "The reason they don't have Viagra for women is because for women, sex is multi-modal and it involves your emotions and your feelings and all of that stuff," she says. "This is Viagra for women—turn yourself on to life. I want you to think of the things that bring you the most joy, that give you the most turn on. It might be funny movies. It might be romance novels."
Dr. Northrup also says all women should practice "self-cultivation", an alternative word for masturbation. "You can learn how to rewire yourself for maximum pleasure by connecting all the erogenous zones in your body down to your clitoris and you practice," she says. "I'd prescribe three 30-minute sessions a week minimum, and once you're good at it, you can invite someone else in."
If you're still having trouble getting turned on, Dr. Northrup says to talk to your doctor and look into getting your testosterone and estrogen levels checked. If you have dryness, Dr. Northrup says a lubrication gel or estrogen cream can help. "Sunlight will often turn a woman on, by the way, because it increases testosterone levels," she says. "Not a lot, just a little bit, and it increases serotonin in your brain."
SAD affects people in climates that are gray for a good part of the year. "Seasonal affective disorder is the PMS of the annual calendar," Dr. Northrup says. "What it is, is you're not getting enough serotonin. So the reason you're getting depressed is absolutely real. It's not enough serotonin. Natural light is a nutrient and it hits our retinas and it increases our serotonin in our blood so everybody in Chicago, everyone in the whole northern areas needs some natural light."
If you can't get enough natural light outside, there are other things you can do, the doctor says. "You need to get a good light box that has enough of the regular bright sunlight wavelengths. And those are widely available," she says. "Even, believe it or not, a lightbulb that's full spectrum lighting. Those fluorescent bulbs, and you just keep it out of the corner of your eye, where you can see it, reading at night, that will turn you right around."
So what is HPV? The human papillomavirus. "This vaccine came out to protect women against certain strains of HPV that are associated with cervical cancer," Dr. Northrup says. "That vaccine is of great interest to me because there are over 100 different HPV types and this vaccine only targets four of them."
Dr. Northrup says only 3,500 women a year die of cervical cancer. "And the number decreases every year, so we're doing very well with Pap smears and other screening tests. So you should keep having those," she says.
But Dr. Northrup has some apprehension about the vaccine itself. "I'm very concerned about vaccinating girls 9 and over, every single one of them, with two vaccines," she says. "And I'm a little against my own profession. My own profession feels that everyone should be vaccinated."
Dr. Northrup would rather see the attention HPV is receiving directed elsewhere. "Where I'd put my money is getting everybody on a dietary program that would enhance their immunity," she says.
First of all, don't give up! "Don't let anyone tell you that it's all over by 20. That's just silly," Dr. Northrup says. "We know that women build bone mass throughout their entire lives."
Every woman needs 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, but the real reason osteoporosis is so prevalent is an "epidemic" of vitamin D deficiency. "It's because we have vilified the sun because of fear of skin cancer," she says.
Dr. Northrup says every woman's vitamin D level should be at least 30, but 50 is better. "Those with the highest vitamin D levels have the lowest risk not only of osteoporosis but also of breast cancer, colon cancer and multiple sclerosis," she says.
An easy way to get vitamin D is to spend time in the sun. Dr. Northrup says that people with lighter skin need 10–15 minutes of sun, and people with darker skin need much longer. "Don't ever burn," she says. "That's what's associated with skin cancer. And if you have enough antioxidants in your system from eating lots of fruits and vegetables, there is much less risk of skin cancer."
Exercise also helps prevent osteoporosis. "Vertical vectors of force on your bone from exercising, that builds bone," Dr. Northrup says. "So you need vitamin D. You need magnesium. You need trace elements. You need exercise."
"Have you noticed when you don't get enough sleep, you gain weight every time?" Dr. Northrup says. High levels of cortisol in your bloodstream can make you gain more abdominal fat, which can contribute to heart attacks, strokes and high cholesterol.
The key to getting more sleep is embracing bedtime, Dr. Northrup says. "I want women to get enough sleep, but I bet you feel guilty if you sleep more than eight hours. ... When I can, I'll get 15," she says. "When I can, I'll sleep that long and it does me a world of good. So I want to give you permission, all of you, when you have the chance, do that. Okay? It's a beauty treatment."
Dr. Northrup says not to worry—she still has them, too! "Have you ever done like a juice fast or any kind of detox or whatever? Because I think your body is detoxing something to get that wet like that," she says. "People do that after they've had a baby. Any of you had a baby and noticed you had night sweats for a long time? It's like how you detox after a baby. Your body's throwing off old toxins and trying to have you stay really healthy."
Jeanine tells Dr. Northrup she was recently diagnosed with diabetes. "Well, that's interesting. It could be related to your blood sugar," she says. "Blood sugar will cause all kinds of problems like that. All kinds of things that don't seem to be related to it. I'll be very interested to see what happens when you get your blood sugar under control."
It's not all in your head, Dr. Northrup tells Jill. "You're going along and you've got some nice estrogen and testosterone, which is the hormone of desire," she says. "And then you have your surgery. Boom. It's all gone. And you think that's in your head? No. It's not."
Jill can work on getting some of her sex drive back by practicing self-cultivation, Dr. Northrup says. Another exercise that can help her get it back is called chi kung. "Chi kung is where you use your mind to increase energy flow to the body," she says.
Watch Dr. Northrup demonstrate chi kung and try it at home!
"Here's the thing. You feel like something's missing there. Right?" Dr. Northrup says. "So I want you to know that you can use your mind and your breath to energize. Send a big ball of energy down here. Because you know what? They didn't take away your clitoris."
If you don't think Kegel exercises work, Dr. Northrup stresses that it is important to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. "I'd go to a physical therapist who specializes on the pelvic floor because a lot of women do not know how to do them properly—and if you do them properly—they're very, very effective," she says.
"The other thing that works, before aerobics or anything where you're going to be jumping up and down, you can put a tampon in your vagina and that will hold the bladder up at the right angle so you won't leak," Dr. Northrup says.
"I believe everyone should do [Kegel exercises] because it enhances pelvic power," she says. "And it also increases your sex life and it also turns you on—because it brings blood into this area of the body. Remember, the clitoris isn't just that little eraser-sized thing that you can see out there, it goes through deep into the tissues along your pubic bone. And when you do Kegels—when you strengthen those muscles and you think sexy thoughts at the same time—you're engorging the area, you're bringing fresh blood in there, and you're strengthening the muscle. So it can be a very fun exercise that increases the joy we were talking about earlier and is good for your overall health."
Dr. Northrup says that Kristin's thinning hair may be a result of a hormonal imbalance. "You can get it back by eating a low-glycemic diet, making sure that you are on supplements," she says.
According to Dr. Northrup, glycemic foods can cause dramatic changes in the body. "One of the things that often happens in mid-life to people is if they have a lot of stress hormones in their system and they're eating a high-glycemic diet, and the high insulin is in their blood from the high sugar ... that actually changes the way hormones are metabolized. So you actually begin to shoot your estrogen and progesterone into androgen-like substances that produce male pattern baldness in women. Have you seen this—where [women] start to get a beard and they get thinning of the hair at the temples and so on?"
Other than a low-glycemic diet, Dr. Northrup has one other recommendation for thinning hair. "Acupuncture can be very, very helpful for it," she says.
"It's anaerobic bacteria," Dr. Northrup says. "Remember that the vagina and the bowel, they're all very close to each other." Dr. Northrup explains that the vulva sweats more than any other area of the body, so not bathing and wearing clothing that is too tight can cause odor.
"And also, women don't get enough probiotic bacteria in their food through yogurt and so on," Dr. Northrup says. "So you can actually buy [probiotics] as a supplement, or eat good yogurt, and that sort of really cuts down on the odor, too."
Dr. Northrup says it sounds like Devonne is in the beginning of perimenopause. "When you have a hysterectomy it changes the blood supply to the ovaries so your ovaries were obviously left in. But the blood supply was decreased a little bit," she says. "So what you can do to increase your estrogen and your testosterone and your progesterone—because the ovaries make all three of those things—you've got to make sure your stress hormone levels are low."
Following a low-glycemic diet, eating omega-3 fats and exercising can help tremendously, she says. "And it might not be such a bad thing what you're going through now, but I would do flaxseed, maybe some soy, that kind of thing and see what happens," Dr. Northrup says.
Dr. Northrup also says acupuncture can make a big difference. "Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture can work wonders because it works with the chi of your body—the energy flow—and we have good scientific evidence that shows that acupuncture meridians are absolutely real and there," she says.
Dr. Northrup explains that although Patty is not eating differently, her body is changing. "As we age, we have more trouble producing the gastric acid in our stomach to fully digest the food. So you need some enzymes, digestive enzymes, to help you digest your food. You can get those as a supplement. Just take them 30 minutes before a meal and they can make a huge difference," Dr. Northrup says.
"The other thing you want to do is cut way back on grains. The body has a difficult time digesting grains much after the age of 50," she says. Although grains are important for fiber, Dr. Northrup says, "people tend to eat too much wheat in general ... and that leads to gas and burping and that kind of thing."
Dr. Northrup suggests Patti should cut out all grains for one week and then add a little back in and see what happens. "Many women notice right away the bloating and all of it just goes away."
"What the ovaries do is they form cysts. That's their job. And sometimes, you know, you'll ovulate and then the cyst where you ovulated won't just resorb, and it sits there for a while, and then it will go away over time," Dr. Northrup says.
Thomasina says her doctor has been monitoring the cyst for almost seven months and has suggested removing the cyst with a laparoscope. "You know what, sometimes that's just easier than worrying about it," Dr. Northrup says. "You're in and you're out the same day."
Dr. Northrup says that she once had a fibroid and had it removed. "I got so tired of dressing around it that I finally got it removed just for vanity, because I wasn't having any problems either," she says. "It wouldn't inhibit weight loss. It depends on how big it is, though. Do you feel like it's big enough so that you can see it when you're lying down? Like you look pregnant a little bit?"
"Yes, and there's several of them," Kimberly says. Dr. Northrup says that Kimberley needs to decide whether or not she wants to have them removed. "In the vast of majority of women, they do nothing. And they go away after menopause. They really, really shrink. In the average age of menopause, the final menstrual period is 52. Okay? So if you can hold off, you know, nothing needs to happen. But there's some kind of cool new treatments. There are treatments with uterine artery embolization. They just thread a little thing up into your femoral artery and put little spheres in there to cut off the circulation to the fibroid and it will shrink that way. They're doing some things with ultrasound. Surgery is actually quite easy—you're in, you're out. So it just depends on how far they're bugging you."
Dr. Northrup says that although no one knows what causes fibroids, she has her own mind-body interpretation. "It's creativity that hasn't been birthed yet because [the uterus] is our creative center, the low heart. Or it is shoving your creative energy into a dead end job or relationship."
By understanding that there is a greater meaning, Dr. Northrup says you will be able to look at your symptoms differently. "What an awful thing to think that your breasts are two premalignant lesions sitting on your chest or you're a heart attack waiting to happen or your uterus is going to drop at any moment. I mean, who would ever want to live that way? But when you know it's related to your life in some way and it's guiding you home, it's guiding you to something fuller, to more optimal health, then life becomes such an adventure and your body is your ally in this," Dr. Northrup says.
"And your body is always talking to you. Just as your life is talking to you," Oprah says.
Take control of your health.