True health is not done in isolation, it takes collaboration. This week Dr. Sandi welcomes Dr. Monisha Bhanote, one of the few quintuple board-certified physicians in the country. Dr. Bhanote is passionate about creating a happier and healthier world, and she does so by working closely with health coaches to form an exceptional collaborative care team for her patients.
While doctors and physicians possess extensive knowledge in diagnosing and treating ailments, effective communication with patients can sometimes be a challenge. This communication gap can often lead to confusion and misunderstanding on the part of the patient. That’s where health coaches come in. They bring a unique set of communication skills that complement the expertise of doctors. This powerful combination of medical knowledge and communication skills is the secret behind achieving optimal health outcomes.
- What are the benefits of health coaches working alongside physicians?
- See what a collaborative care team looks like from a doctor’s point of view.
- Learn how Dr. Bhanote uses mind-body medicine to un-stick her patients.
- Check out Dr. Bhanote’s book, The Anatomy of Well-Being.
Meet the Guest
Monisha Bhanote, MD, FCAP, ABOIM
Quintuple board-certified physician
Monisha Bhanote, MD, FCAP, ABOIM, is one of the few quintuple board-certified physicians in the nation. Through her expertise as a cytopathologist, culinary medicine specialist, and integrative medicine doctor, she combines ancient wisdom with modern science to naturally biohack the human body. Known as the Wellbeing Doctor, she has diagnosed over one million cancer cases, provides health programs at DrBhanote.com, and leads wellness workshops and retreats worldwide.
Announcer: Welcome to “Health Coach Talk.” Our goal is to inspire and educate you with in-depth discussions on health coaching, functional medicine, and the latest wellness trends. Now, here’s your host, Dr. Sandra Scheinbaum.
Dr. Sandi: Welcome back to another episode of “Health Coach Talk.” Today, I have a very special guest. I met Dr. Bhanote when I was interviewing her for the Parkinson’s Solution Summit, and we started to talk about health coaches. And I said, “I would love to have you back to talk specifically on this podcast about health coaching.” And we also got to see each other in person at a recent event, and I also learned that she belongs to a listserv group that I’ve been involved in that is about botanical medicine.
So, let me tell you just a bit about Dr. Bhanote, and then she can fill you in a little bit more. So, she really loves learning. She is a quintuple board-certified physician. You name it. And she has training and certification. Functional medicine, integrative medicine, culinary medicine, the list of organizations where she’s trained just goes on and on. And check out her website. It’s an amazing website. And she has a book, “The Anatomy of Wellbeing.” And let’s start there because anatomy…we tend to think of anatomy in medical terms. Anatomy of an illness for example, but tell us about what inspired you to get into integrative, functionary, culinary medicine, and then to write this book.
Dr. Bhanote: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much, Sandra, for having me on “Health Coach Talk.” I’m really excited to share with the community. As many of us probably have, I had a very windy journey in healthcare. And one of the things that inspired me to write the anatomy of well-being is really people don’t have the foundations to have optimal health. We have very many experts out there, but you have to have that foundation before you can layer on the necessities to make you healthy. And I thought, “Well, who better than a formerly trained pathologist who understands that anatomy of the human body and more detail than probably anybody would want to know and really put it into practical terms so people can really use these tools to get healthy?”
So, what I’ve done in the book is I really combined the science of how the human body works, how your cells, your tissues, your organs all work in a nice dance, shall you say, working together simultaneously to do the things that we ultimately want to do in the world. And really I want people to understand that they are so integrated in each other, you can’t look at the organs in isolation. You can’t just say, “Oh, I’m going to focus on the thyroid because I was told my thyroid blood levels are abnormal,” or, “I’m going to focus on this because my gut is abnormal.” It is all so intertwined. And until you get that grasp and understanding, things are just going to keep moving in a direction where you’re not going to feel totally fulfilled in your health and your well-being.
Dr. Sandi: That is so true. And speaking of intertwined, mind-body is intertwined. Can you speak to that? Because I know that’s something you’re very interested in as well.
Dr. Bhanote: Yeah, actually the book hit bestseller in mind-body medicine, so, yeah, very interested in mind-body medicine. And we cannot disconnect that we do have our structural body, and we do have our energetic body, and we do have our mind. And our mind is, as we know, more powerful than we have thought in the past. And one of the concepts I often talk about, when I work with both my patients and in the book, is the concept of neuroplasticity because I find that people get very stuck in their ways, that, “Oh, I was always this way,” or, “I can’t achieve this.” And a lot of this comes from our ingrained beliefs. Maybe a teacher told this to us, or a parent told this to us. And we just got so stuck in that way, that we have a very fixed mindset around that, that we are who we are and we can’t change. Whereas we know both from a scientific perspective, that the brain has the capacity to both functionally change and both chemically change. And we do that with our growth mindset. And having new experiences, whether real or even virtual experiences, that we can transform the way we believe and our mindset. And that’s where coaching really becomes important.
I was thinking about this earlier, as I knew I would be speaking to you. And when we’re younger, we had coaches for, like, our sports, or say you’re on a debate team, and you have a coach to help you, sort of, debate, or I was on the tennis team. You have a coach telling… When we became adults, all of a sudden, this coaching really stopped, and we need coaching into our adulthood. And that’s where really looking at the comprehensive healthcare model of, yes, you have the doctors to be the experts when it comes to the testing, and lab interpretation, and diagnosing and treating, but we need coaches to support us in all this translation.
Dr. Sandi: Wow, so well said. Absolutely. It is to support us in the translation, and that’s where the magic happens. That’s where that change happens. And you talked about having this fixed mindset, and I so agree. And I saw this so frequently when I was working as a psychologist and helping people who had physical conditions, but having a fixed mindset like, “I’ll never get better. It’s just in my genes. It’s in my family. I can’t help it. Oh, I could never do that.” If I was introducing some body practice like deep breathing, “Oh, I’ll never be able to integrate that into my day.” So, it’s that all-or-nothing, black-and-white, often catastrophic thinking, and they can rework it. And the cool thing is that every time they practice reworking it and arrive at a different more optimistic state perhaps, that is that change that’s happening at a cellular level, and their brain is changing. So, I had an old saying. I used to say this forever, “What’s real in the mind is real in the body.” And so it’s so encouraging for you to see this and be promoting it in your patients and now your book.
So, let’s get into your practice. You have a successful practice. And when did you get this realization that health coaches can really be a source of support not just for your patients but can help you to grow as someone who has a big story to tell and is very mission-driven, and health coaches could be the way that you can then free up your time to go and help so many more people?
Dr. Bhanote: Yeah. What I have found is, when you have a mission as big as mine, which is… It’s funny. I was at customs border patrol the other day, and the person asked me, “What kind of doctor are you?” And I said, “Well, the one that’s trying to save the world.” And she’s like, “What does that mean?” And I’m like, “Literally there’s a lot of work we need to get done, and part of that is having your health coach team and really your team that shares that same vision and mission and wants to also see the same thing,” right?
So, when I’m working with interviewing health coaches, I’m building them as part of my team. I have that foundation set with my books, so they already know what I’m about and they know if they’re on board with that. So, I think it’s very important that the coach matches the mission, and otherwise, it will make for a very challenging place to work. We want to both live and work in ease. We’ve all had our toxic work environments. So, we want to live and work.
So, what I had found with adding the health coaches, not just the accountability in helping the patients and being that go-in-between with patients, but it also helps as in, we as doctors or healthcare professionals, we have so much information in our head, and we think that everybody understands what we’re saying, and we just spit it out as if it is general English. And although, yes, it is in English, we speak a medical English. We speak at this higher level that maybe the patient, when we’re telling them something, doesn’t really know, and we’re probably speaking also at the speed of light when we’re going over test results, and we’re talking about MTHFR mutations or we’re talking about this maldigestion.
And it’s really good to have that health coach, one, be like, “Well, yes, but can you explain that to me so I can explain it to the patient in a little bit more simpler way?” Because at the end of the day, our goal is to really have the patient move through their health journey to actually become healthier, not to feel more stuck or to feel like, oh, my God, overwhelmed, which is what really many people are feeling these days. They’re just overwhelmed with the amount of information available to them. They are feeling very confused. They don’t know what to do. So, really simplifying this… I mean, I tell my new patients when they come to me, I’m like, “I put you through med school on your specific body in six months. That’s what my six-month program is. You’re going to learn about your body in a medical aspect, but I put you through that med school. You don’t need to know all the other stuff going on. You need to know what’s going on in your body.” And my health coach helps me do that.
Dr. Sandi: I really like the way you presented this because it is showing that they’re often…it is well-intentioned amongst practitioners, and they know their craft. They have explained MTHFR hundreds of times, so they think it’s pretty easy to understand and not realizing that person doesn’t really understand. And even if they ask, “Are you following me?” they might nod their head because maybe they’re seeing that doctor’s an authority figure or they’re ashamed to say, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” or they know the doctor’s rushed to get onto the next patient perhaps. So, there’s so many reasons why they might walk out, or maybe they understand it at the time, but it’s also stressful when you’re with a doctor especially if you’re anticipating hearing bad news about your health. And so you walk out and like, “I don’t remember what they said,” or, “I don’t know where to start,” or, “I don’t know what this means.” And so the health coach can be that guide. They’re the translator, and they take those doctors’ words and make it something that is so understandable often by telling a story or using analogies that people can readily relate to. So, I love that.
Dr. Bhanote: Yeah, absolutely. And, also, I mean, when we’re in the integrative and functional health space, we are also doing very complex labs, right? So, it’s not like the person is just going to Quest and they have their script with them and the blood works being drawn. There might be a buccal swab. There might be urine. There might be plasma. There might be all these things and multiple tubes of different things. And in order for them to get it right, because very often what ends up happening is there’s a little bit of curiosity on the end of the patient. They get this test kit in the mail and they’re all excited. And they take everything out and then we don’t know what they put back in to actually bring to the lab, right? So, there is that secondary dialog and support that health coach, as they’re seeing them in the in-between appointments, we can make sure that the patient in their customer journey is headed in that right direction.
Dr. Sandi: Yeah, absolutely, and I think as these lab companies proliferate, and especially the direct-to-consumer labs, people might just be going online and they’re ordering these tests. And then maybe they don’t even tell the practitioner that they’re doing this, and then they get results back, and they’re Googling what’s wrong with them, so self-medicating. Yeah, and that’s where the health coach.
Dr. Bhanote: Since you mention that, I must put a comment in on that, because there are definitely many people doing their own tests and many people taking their results and going into the drug store and trying to match things up because they don’t want to spend the money to invest in themselves yet they still want to try and do something, and they think they listened to a podcast or they read a book. And now they have the, let’s just say, 30-years experience that I acquired in order to do that.
And it actually becomes quite dangerous because they create a new imbalance. And I understand the challenge in finding the right doctor, so I always recommend to patients like, “Go to the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine website. Find somebody in your state. They have a listing there. You want to make sure that your practitioners are trained and also able to interpret the results.” And that’s where, of course, three of my specialties come in hand. I have clinical pathology as a board certification, so we are the ones who validate all the lab tests.
And there are so many lab tests on the market, that I wouldn’t even use those on my patients because, one, they’re not actionable and, two, it’s not going to do anything, right? So, we want to make sure whatever we’re actually testing has something that we can modify in our life and then we can address it. So, I always hold a little bit of caution. I know have patients that, when they start with me, they upload hundreds of pages of tests, and I’m like, “Okay, what were you doing with this?” And they’re like, “Oh, this doctor ordered it,” or, “That person ordered it,” or, “I ordered it.” And I’m like, “Okay, but what did you do with it?” “Nothing.” So, save your money on things that aren’t going to do anything for you and really invest the time and energy in the right practitioner to support you, who understands what to do with the testing is also very important.
Dr. Sandi: That is so important. And at Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, we train our health coaches to be the educators to support the doctors but not to be the ones ordering labs themselves because that’s also a minefield. They didn’t go to medical school and unless they have that training, they have a prior license that would allow them to order and interpret labs. The model that you have created is the ideal where the coach is helping with behavior change and helping to educate what these tests mean, helping people to stay on track with their wellness goals and communicating with you when issues arise.
Dr. Bhanote: Absolutely, 100%. This is why integrative health is a team effort. It’s your practitioner, your physician. It’s your health coach. It’s also your maybe body worker. It might be your energy worker. It might be all… And then your conventional doctor. And all of these people are built into a team.
True health is not done in isolation. So, whether it’s a health coach listening to this podcast and going, “Oh, where is there an opportunity for me to work?” versus maybe a practitioner listening to the podcast, really think of everybody as your team of support because, at the end of the day, we got to remember the patient has certain needs, and we have to be able to fulfill those needs in the best of our ability. And I’m not sitting here trying to be a health coach. I know where my talent lies is being a doctor, and that’s why I employ health coaches because they need to do what they need to do best and I do what I do best.
Dr. Sandi: I’d like to speak to that if you wouldn’t mind discussing what it’s like for you personally in terms of your work as a physician and having a health coach to personally support you. So, we’ve talked about their benefit for your patients. But what about benefit for you as the doctor? Because we see so many people overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted, whether they’re conventional, or functional, or integrative, many people are just overwhelmed. They’re trying to do everything themselves. So, if you could share your insights on that, how it’s affected you personally.
Dr. Bhanote: Yeah, absolutely. So, one of the ways is my patient portal. My patient portal… Patients are very interesting. They think doctors are working 24/7, and I will get patient portal messages on the weekends when the office isn’t open. I’ll get them in the middle of the night, and nothing’s an emergency because technically I don’t even handle emergencies in my practice. But sometimes it’s just a simple like question, “I got the test kit.” A lot of it’s they couldn’t remember what was told to them, and they don’t know where to go in the portal to find it, even though everything is available, because 99% of patients when they’re coming to you, their prefrontal cortex is not working to the best of their ability. We have to give them some grace and that there will be some questions being asked, even though as a practitioner or physician, you have provided that information.
So, the health coach is great to be able to go through that portal, clean it up. Health coaches definitely have a lot more patience for patients than maybe a healthcare provider might have because we’re juggling a lot of different things. So, I think that is one avenue. And as solo practitioners in the integrative and functional space, we’re also doing a lot of other things. Like, we might be speaking on a podcast. We might be speaking on a summit, or we might be at a conference, and we’re not available during those days or times that a health coach can provide that continuity of care for our patients. So, it’s not like they don’t have anybody there.
Dr. Sandi: Such a good point. And then you can be fully immersed in your conference and not be getting text messages or getting interrupted with these questions or issues that a health coach trained in communication skills can certainly handle and handle very well. What are your plans for expanding your work and then what you see is the role of health coaches in that?
Dr. Bhanote: Yeah, great question. So, my work is expanding. And besides my practice, I also run retreats. And I love my retreats. I think they are great, immersive experiences. I’ve even had healthcare providers, doctors, nurses attend my retreats, and they have just found that there was a lot of stuff they didn’t know. And the whole immersive experience of really spending six days, spending a week on your health and then going back with the tools to actually apply it has been a game changer, whether it’s like a pick-me-up in the middle of your health journey or you’re starting your health journey that way or maybe you’re rewarding yourself for such a health journey, right? So, retreats are a great way to regroup, rebalance, make sure you’re still heading in the right direction.
So, utilizing health coaches as part of the retreat also is a way. And I don’t know if many practitioners are doing that, but my 2024 retreat, my health coach will be doing health coaching during the retreat. So, like I said if you have a certain mission… Mine is to create a happier, healthier world. The more people that can help you do that, the further the mission will be able to succeed.
Dr. Sandi: Oh, absolutely. Well, we share the same mission, and I wonder if you could comment about what you see as the growth of health coaching as a profession.
Dr. Bhanote: I hope to see that health coaching will make it into mainstream conventional care. We might be a long way off from that, but I do hope just like integrative medicine will make it into conventional care, I hope we are heading in the right direction because I think patients have finally… They’re now awake to the additional care that they need. Conventional needs to be there. If you break a bone and you need surgery, absolutely 100%. But there’s this part in our healthcare that has been missing, and that missing part is really looking back at the human, not looking at the disease. And this is where integrative care, using health coaches really can take that next level. And I think patients should be asking for it. When they go to their doctor’s office, they should be asking for it, right? Because the more they ask for it and the more that health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies and all this see, then hopefully at some point they will start slowly getting on board. Now, I’m not naïve to the way the system works, but at the end of the day, the system is driven also by the consumer. So, the consumer has to be louder than the pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies.
Dr. Sandi: Such a good point. And every listener out there, let your primary care practitioner know, let your specialty doctor know that, “Hey, I would like to work with a health coach,” or, “Do you have health coaches in your practice?” We have many students actually who came to us because their doctor said, “You make a great health coach,” and encouraged them to take that route.
Well, this has been a delightful conversation. You are such an inspiration, such a role model for other doctors. And I love what you have created, adding now retreats. So, how can people find you if they want more?
Dr. Bhanote: Absolutely. I’m very easy to find. My website is drbhanote.com. On social media, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, I’m Dr. Bhanote. So, very straightforward, easy to find.
Dr. Sandi: Well, she has a beautiful website, so I suggest you check it out. Check out her book, “The Anatomy of Wellbeing.” And, again, thank you for taking the time to be with us today and for really just being a role model to advance the profession of health coaches by having a coach in your practice.
Dr. Bhanote: Thank you so much, Sandra, for having me on today.
Announcer: Thanks for listening and stay tuned for more episodes of “Health Coach Talk.” Are you ready to continue your own health coaching career journey? Visit functionalmedicinecoaching.org to learn more about our health coach certification program. Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, Inc. is providing this podcast as a public service, but it is neither medical advice nor a statement of policy. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation. Views and opinions expressed by our guests are their own. Discussions are not medical advice. Be sure to consult your practitioner for your healthcare needs.