Episode #2 – Using Chinese Medicine to Aid with Cancer Treatment (featuring Dr. Monique Santoro)
In this episode of Wellistic Doses Podcast, we learn from Dr. Monique Santoro about Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbal medicine. This episode ties in with Breast Cancer Awareness month by taking a deeper dive into how Chinese Medicine and how herbal medicine can benefit someone going through chemo therapy. Dr. Santoro gives some practical advice on how to help avoid cancer and how to from the onset notice symptoms that might be displayed in the body.
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:00:00] Thank you, Eddie. And thank you Wellistic for having me on this is great. Eddie: [00:00:26] So I’ve come to learn there are several. Different forms of traditional Chinese medicine. I was wondering if you can give our listeners a high-level overview of Chinese medicine as a whole and perhaps which modalities that you practice?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:00:41] Yeah, of course. So Chinese medicine is sort of an umbrella term for all the things that I do. So under Chinese medicine, there’s acupuncture which tends to be the most common people are most familiar with that. And that is the use of that thin filiform needles. So solid needle to elicit a response in the body.
There’s also popping and Gua Sha Michael Phelps kind of make could have been famous and people are a little more familiar with that as well. But they tend to be really helpful for inflammation in the body and then moving and moving blood as well. And then there’s Moxibustion. So moxibustion is the act of warming an area or the needle and that can just help quicken a response, help move blood, warm the area.
So I always use the analogy of boiling water when you heat up water; the molecules go crazy. It’s sort of the same thing. It’s like, you know, if you’ve got pain putting a heating pad on it to help bring blood to that area to heal and so moxibustion is similar in that way. And then there’s also herbal medicine. So Chinese herbs. Are really great to help with facilitating treatment with acupuncture, but they can also be used alone for those who don’t want the acupuncture and they only want herbal medicine and then maybe like dietary lifestyle change.
Eddie: [00:02:00] When we had spoken previously you had mentioned Echinacea and that was something that I actually took because I was I felt a cold coming on so I asked for your advice and it worked so I really do appreciate that recommendation. And was able to see that that did work for me.
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:02:18] Wonderful. Yeah echinacea is what we call it an adaptogen so it can help. Build up the immune system when you’re going through some cold or having some sinus congestion.
Eddie: [00:02:29] To get a glimpse into the typical patient Journey. What are the most common ailments that your patients are experiencing when they visit you?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:02:37] So this actually is interesting. It comes in waves. So someone could walk in with one ailment and then 10 more people come in with the same thing and then it changes a month later. It’s really interesting how that can happen in the clinic. Currently, I would say just with the weather changing I’m seeing a lot of cold sinus infections and arthritis, so it’s cold and flu season.
So that makes a lot of sense and then arthritis people tend to get pretty stiff joints from the cold weather rainy weather and we’ve had a lot of those weeks recently. So I’ve had a lot more patients dealing with those wanting to help with the stiffness and the pain and then another big one. I would say just in general as neck and back pain. Those are pretty huge. So just whether it be a herniation or arthritis in the back and neck or just general muscular pain.
Eddie: [00:03:25] So focusing on the arthritic symptoms that people typically come to see you for what modality do you prefer to use for those patients?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:03:35] That’s an interesting question. So and that’s a that’s actually a great question because the way Chinese medicine works. Is that it’s different for everyone. It’s really just depend depends on the pathology of the person. So just because someone has a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. So the overuse basically of the joints in there having degeneration of their cartilage just because two people have that that diagnosis does not mean that it’s presenting the same way.
So some people do better with eating. Some people do better with Gua Sha it depends. So actually part of my practice is I take pulses and I do more than just the rate I check different. So by checking the pulses, I’m checking the organ systems and I’m also looking at tongues and that can be a geographical platform for the organ systems as well.
And so that tells me the state of the fluids the blood are the organs communicating with each other because everyone needs to be in harmony working together and so by doing that I can see one person has osteoarthritis for this reason and we need to nourish the fluids in the body and using heat can be one of the ways to do that as well as an acupuncture and herbal medicine and then the next person might come in with that same diagnosis.
They might just have a lot of like stiff like hold presentation. So. You see like they have that aversion of pulled like I was mentioning before and that makes them more stiff. So like using heat there can be really helpful or you know, or they might just have a lot of like stasis there that just need some blood flow and it helps that treatment significant.
Eddie: [00:05:10] So it’s really an individual approach and an overall idea that the body can heal itself?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:05:16] Exactly, exactly, using the medicine to strengthen the body so that I can just basically just helping the body heal itself.
Eddie: [00:05:25] That’s awesome and narrowing down the focus to acupuncture since it is one of the better known forms of Chinese medicine is the focus more on preventive care, or is it a break fix? What’s your synopsis of that?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:05:43] So it actually can be both especially with more modern medicine. So actually in ancient China acupuncture and Chinese medicine it basically the doctor treating the Emperor or anyone it was fired if they got sick so they’re different perspective than we use today.
So it’s really interesting, you know, so completely rooted in prevention medicine, but that’s not necessarily the case in with modern medicine today. There’s more of an understanding that like if you have pain if you feel sick, then you go to the doctor. So that’s a little more what I deal with, you know patients coming and they already have the elements.
But the nice thing about it is that patients actually continue a lot of times coming for maintenance or for other things that have come up because they realize that they receive so much benefit for their original Chief complaint. And so they want to continue to be healthy and maybe get off medications or do whatever they can to continue and you know, they’re feeling journey so and I always appreciate that because I appreciate people. Trying to take care of themselves.
Eddie: [00:06:52] Yeah, definitely and how often is it that you see someone that’s tried many different ways with Western medicine to relieve symptoms that they have and then really reaching out as kind of a last resort if you will?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:07:09] That is very common, especially with really serious conditions. But yes, I mean, I’ve had patients with fibromyalgia that they’re like, you know, no one can do anything for me or someone, you know going into kidney failure. Like we don’t know why this is happening or you know side effects from Pharmaceuticals, but there’s no there’s no Rhyme or Reason to what’s happening blood work is perfect scans are perfect.
I have people come in for that kind of thing all the time. I think it’s great that they were able to be open-minded and find another modality of medicine because we’re here and can help. So especially because it’s so individualized. It doesn’t need to show up. I don’t need to see that blood work to find what’s wrong. So that that’s pretty common.
Eddie: [00:08:01] Yeah, I would imagine so it is breast cancer awareness month. So I did want to touch base around breast cancer. And have you give some advice specifically chemotherapy being a popular treatment for cancer aggressive forms chemotherapy has many side effects. I was wondering if you could touch base on how acupuncture can help a patient that is receiving chemotherapy treatment with those side effects may be stiff joints or nausea for instance.
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:08:32] Yeah. Absolutely. I’d say the most common symptoms that patients come in for that time would be nausea, fatigue, dryness, pain, anxiety, you know stiff joints absolutely and acupuncture can really help to relieve these symptoms while they’re going through this chemo treatment.
It’s really important to have to have these symptoms treated because it will help the patients fight the cancer better if they feel stronger if their body is stronger, you’re not feeling fatigued or if they’re able to get food down. They need those nutrients to help fight as well. As you know, if they’re dealing with anxiety anxiety and depression can be a big part of it because there’s a lot of unknown, you know, this is treatment going to work.
Why did I get diagnosed as far as is happening? There’s you know a lot of uncertainty with that. So being able to calm the mind, you know help with anxiety and he can’t attack suppression can be really powerful because calming the mind can help with just overall healing especially when ruminating thoughts can be really inflammatory.
Eddie: [00:09:35] Those thoughts I can imagine with lead to stress in the body, which would tend to get in the way perhaps of healing is that correct or fair to say?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:09:46] Absolutely because the same thing can create an inflammatory response.
Eddie: [00:09:51] Doctor Santoro you’re also an herbalist. So I’m interested in learning how herbs can help fend off cancer and more specifically maybe breast cancer?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:10:02] So yeah, so herbal medicine is really wonderful. So typically how it works is single herbs in Chinese medicine. So Western herbs are a little different like we echinacea is a Western herb.
So in Chinese medicine, it’s a little bit different and how we prepare them. So single herbs are actually combined into formulas to create a medicine that focuses on the individuals needs. So as I mentioned earlier each Focus, each treatment is going to be focused specifically on an individual. So they’re basically specific to how the ailment is affecting that person.
So the same thing if two different people coming with breast cancer and one person will say is I take their pulses and they are very weak and efficient and they don’t seem to be fighting very well. But then the next person has really exuberant pulses. They’re you know, they’re caught they have a lot of like, they’re anxious.
They have a lot of these excess symptoms. Their body is probably fighting it off than the first person so giving some herbs to help with person one to help with immunity. Just helping build them up. And then with the next person really more detoxifying like helping with that inflammation because they’re going to be in a better place that they can go through a detox.
Where is the first person is not really going to be in that place there. They’re going to show a lot more symptoms. If you try to just go through these treatments that are really detoxifying and cleansing they’re going to need more of a build up first so at herbs can be really helpful for that. As well as actually after going through chemotherapy and if someone were to see me after using Chinese herbs to help with actually getting flushing out any radiation found emo anything that’s still in the body. So there’s no residual side effects from that that can be really powerful.
Eddie: [00:11:50] Wow, so this really coincides with the overall idea of Chinese medicine being an individual approach with the modalities of treatment, but also with the herbs that seems to take that same approach with being able to combine many different kinds of herbs together based on where they’re at currently and being able to take out a more individualized approach to Healing.
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:12:15] Exactly. And so like I mentioned with the person who might be their immune system may not be have the power to fight the chemo building a formula for them with a lot of tonics what we do like immune Builders and then maybe trickling in some herbs that help with some detoxing, so it’s not so intense on their system. But it’s still fighting while it’s building up their system.
Eddie: [00:12:37] That’s great. And so you have a wide variety of expertise from your experience. I was wondering what would be a few ways that someone can help to avoid getting breast cancer?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:12:51] Yeah, so I would say a couple different things. So knowing so things that you can’t change right are going to be like so knowing your risks are going to be really important. So things that you can’t change would be like your family history.
Eddie: [00:13:04] Your hereditary or genetics.
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:13:06] Exactly kind of knowing your lineage that kind of thing. So maybe getting tested in that way. Or maybe not. I mean, it’s also OK not to know if you are predisposed because I think there’s also some worried that comes along with that.
But then also if you tend to go through a menstrual cycle longer, so if you say we’re younger than 12 and older than 55 so younger than 12 when you went through menarche. And then older than 55 when you go through menopause cycling for that long having that much Estrogen hormone in your system can be inflammatory and can actually be a risk factor for breast cancer.
So knowing that sort of thing. So just being prepared getting checked always doing self checks can be really helpful to prevent. And then also just being physically active being physically active has shown less rates of breast cancer maintaining a healthy weight after menopause because it is more common for women after menopause to get breast cancer, but it seems like it’s such a large epidemic really anyone can at this point and then also oral contraceptives birth control pills.
And taking hormones during menopause to help with side effects. Those can actually be risk factors for breast cancer. So just being on the lookout if you take a birth control pill. You know just doing those self checks being aware of the signs of breast cancer. If there’s a wrinkle in the breast color change shape changed those can all be things. That show up as abnormal abnormalities especially if it is just happening in one breast over instead of both that can be a big sign so just being aware of those things. Can be very helpful.
Eddie: [00:14:52] That’s great advice really being in tune with your body some of those suggestions that you mentioned as far as being aware and resonate with even just skin cancer or if someone has any sort of change in their skin can oftentimes be a sign of Cancer aside from breast cancer, but, you know just being in tune with your body and noticing changes. Would that be one of the major takeaways?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:15:18] Absolutely, you know the more awareness you have to just you know, even how you’re holding your body or what they said what shows up on your skin and you know how things are changing if you have a mole that’s always look the same and all of a sudden something’s different about it.
And actually, another big one is for women not just with breast cancer, but women who have gone through menopause and then, you know, maybe two years later notice they are spotting having a little bit of blood and they are no longer cycling. This is a big. You know, this might be something to look out on and look at gynecologically so just because it only happens for an hour or for a Day always get those things checked out because you never know what it led to and so the body is always trying to give us warning signs and sometimes they’re really small but they can be really impactful if we find them.
Eddie: [00:16:06] That’s valuable information. Thank you for sharing that with us as we wind down. Can you share with us something that you have recently been learning about it could be a book you’re reading a documentary. You’ve recently watched. Could you share that with us and what you learned?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:16:23] Yeah, so actually I’m if we’d had this conversation maybe last week it would be a lot different because I was actually studying. I just got a new certification for herbal medicine. So just learning more about that. I’m always a student learning medicine. But since we’re having a conversation today, I’m actually going to talk about I was with my sister the last 24 hours as she was in labor.
And I don’t have any children. I wasn’t there for her first child being born. So I hadn’t experienced it before and I was there doing acupuncture on her and trying to calm her down during contractions and I have to say I’m still in awe of the power of the human body and so she did this completely naturally.
She was taking some herbs and then we’re doing acupuncture, but I just I see it every day in the in the clinic how powerful people are and how things can change so quickly but going through that with her. I can’t even say going through that with her. She did it all I didn’t do anything but just being there with her.
It just really reminded me of how strong the body is and I think that that really translates with just in general health. So just those who are struggling with their health and they don’t know what to do. Nothing seems to be helping just know that there are ways to make your body stronger. You are a strong individual and your body can handle a lot and so just know that there are ways to handle your struggles and natural medicine is a really valuable tool.
To help with with that so but yeah, I’m just I’m still in all I think.
Eddie: [00:18:15] That’s powerful. Definitely you being there to witness and be a part of it. I’m sure meant a lot to her as well and helped ease, maybe some of the anxiety that she was going through to help her through that for my final question. How do you deal with stress?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:18:31] Well, that is a good question. It’s definitely changed over the years for sure. I would say more recently. I have found that changing my mind about stressful situations makes all the difference. I’ll give you an example of something that happened recently just to make some sense of this.
So I paid off my car loan, you know several months ago and they lost my title and so it goes, you know wasn’t really sure what I was like a white. What do you mean I gave you all this money you have to have it and so they were saying that the original bank had it and an original Bank said no you refinance.
They have a we sent it, you know, so I ended up going to the DMV four times over this and so. Nobody wants to go to the DMV once a year. I went like in a couple of months four times. So the very last time I went this also included about three to four trips back and forth to different places that they kept sending me because they wouldn’t tell me all the things to do it once.
It’s like one step at the time. I don’t know why that was and so and it was a hot summer day. It was just everything was just felt like it was going wrong. And so as I was driving, I could feel my shoulders and my ears my neck tightening and I just thought I’m going to get a headache. I’m so stressed out this sucks.
But then, you know just in that moment, I realized okay don’t like I need to just calm down. And so then I just started realizing wow. I am so lucky that I had the free time to handle this today, and I you know. It is such a beautiful day outside like that is so lucky that it’s not raining while I’m going through this and wow.
I paid off my car loan. I don’t have to deal with a car loan anymore. How lucky is that? And you know how blessed am I to, you know be able to drive this car from the DMV to the bank and not have to worry about it like, you know, and it just going through that just realizing that. Helped me calm down so much that my shoulders left my ears and my neck, you know, just completely released.
I didn’t get a headache and I just took a natural deep breath and I was in a good mood again, and you know, just realizing you know, what you have being able to change your mind in those moments and some might say, you know, that’s just a day in the life. That’s an easy situation, but there are a lot harder situations that we have to deal with with children feeding children and.
You know money job people losing their jobs dealing with death. Like there’s a lot of hard things we have to deal with every day, but if you can find a moment to calm your mind and bring awareness to how you’re feeling. Then you then it’s easier to be able to make decisions about your next step.
Like what am I going to do next instead of feeling angry or frustrated or sad and not thinking that there’s no end in sight being able to be calm and make that next decisions going to be really helpful and I find that meditation can really help people. With changing their mind and helping with Stress and Anxiety because it really is calming and it brings awareness to how you’re holding your body and just paying more attention to those sort of things and even guided meditation for those who don’t like to sit completely still, you know, doing a guided meditation where they’re bringing you through.
You know the top of your head your forehead, how are you holding it your eyes your jaw your shoulders everything down to your toes and the more you do that the more awareness you’ll have and the more calm you can be in those sorts of situations.
Eddie: [00:22:03] See you took that negative situation and turned it into a positive by focusing on it sounded like the things that you’re grateful for. No matter the circumstances that we’re going through. I feel that there’s always a light shining. Sometimes it’s more difficult to see that light but there’s always something to be grateful for and when you can break away from what’s troubling you in a moment and focus on to be, grateful for those small things that you’re grateful for add up and they build up and then when you are dealing with some of those more intricate issues and problems that we face in life. You’re more conditions to be able to adapt to those situations better.
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:22:45] Absolutely there’s more of a foundation.
Eddie: [00:22:48] Dr. Monique Santoro. I appreciate you sharing your time with us here today. I will list how folks can reach out to you in the description of this podcast. Obviously one of those being through Wellistic, is there anything else that you would like to share before we end this segment of Wellistic doses?
Dr. Monique Santoro: [00:23:09] Yeah. No, I just want to say thank you for having me on people just have questions about certain things that they’re going through. I’m always happy to answer questions, anything else that could come up more about specific ailments that you mentioned earlier that people don’t seem to nothing seems to be helping, so I’m always happy to answer questions and help any way I can so thank you so much for having me on and appreciate it.
Eddie: [00:23:34] Awesome. Thank you again for taking the time to be here on Wellistic Doses. I hope you have a great day. Thank you.
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