Mothers and Daughters - The Health Connection

WebMD Live Events Transcript

In her new book, "Mother-Daughter Wisdom," Christiane Northrup, MD, explores how and why the mother-daughter bond sets the stage for a woman's physical and emotional health for life. Dr. Northrup joined us on March 23 to answer your questions.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Welcome back to WebMD Live, Dr. Northrup. Thank you for joining us today. What prompted you to write this book?

I wanted to write a manual for how to prevent illness starting as far upstream as I could possibly go. The mother-daughter relationship is that place because our bodies were formed in a biochemical soup comprised of our mother's thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and choices.

Why do you say the mother-daughter relationship is the most important link we have?

The mother-daughter relationship is very powerful, in that our mothers' bodies literally wire our immune function, our central nervous system function, and our hormonal function -- starting in utero and into childhood. It is estimated that our core beliefs about ourselves, about life, about health and about what's possible with our lives are in place by the age of 10. Our mothers or caregivers who perform the mothering function are our most potent role models as women. Their beliefs and behavior are a more powerful influence on our thoughts and beliefs than any other factor in our lives. We don't often acknowledge this, but our bodies do.

How does the mother-daughter bond shape us physically?

We inherit our mother's autosomal DNA, which contributes to hair color, eye color, skin tones, etc., but we also inherit her mitochondrial DNA, a type of DNA inherited solely from our mothers -- not our fathers. This DNA determines the day-to-day "housekeeping" of the cell, including feeding energy to the cell.

Our mother's state of health during pregnancy helps determine our birth weight. Our birth weight is a factor in later heart health versus heart disease, and also diabetes. If our mothers smoked we were far more apt to develop respiratory diseases. If our mothers favored our brothers over us our bodies felt that, too.

But, let me be clear. Though our mother's influence on our physical health is enormous, our soul's influence wins in the end. I strongly believe that we choose our mothers and though it's imperative that we feel the inevitable grief, resentment, and anger about our mother's shortcomings, we still, as adult women, must assume responsibility for our own choices and not blame our mothers.

The good news is that our bodies have the same ability to rebirth themselves and rejuvenate themselves -- that is the basis for our existence in the first place. As adult women, we must eventually learn to give ourselves the unconditional acceptance and positive regard that we longed for from our mothers. This positive self-regard and self-acceptance is the basis and motivation for all health-enhancing behaviors, including eating right and exercising.

"Maternal energy is irresistible because it is a source of nourishment. Our job as women is to provide the highest quality nourishment possible starting with ourselves."

As I get older, I find myself becoming more like my mom, the good and the bad. Sometimes I hear myself saying things that almost seem to be channeled straight from mom. Is this inevitable?

I love this question because it gets to the core of why I wrote Mother-Daughter Wisdom .

All of us inherit a legacy of positive aspects from our mothers and also negative things that would be best healed and left behind. I want to read you my definition of legacy from page 210 of Mother-Daughter Wisdom : "I define legacy as the huge amount of information about our own past and our family's past which affects our energy, health, and potential for change in each generation. This information is passed on unconsciously through repeated behavior and consciously in the form of advice."


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