Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, D.C is a leading functional medicine expert and course instructor for mindbodygreen and Goop. He uses his expertise in health to help patients to heal from within. Clients globally receive custom clinical consultations on various illnesses such as autoimmune conditions, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Through proper diagnostic testing, Dr. Cole investigates the root causes of their illness physiologically, biochemically, and hormonally through webcam. In Dr. Cole’s philosophy, self-care is the answer for us all to reclaim our health.
The game plan to change standardized healthcare from one fits all to customized treatment programs in health and wellness lead Dr. Cole to write bestselling books. The Inflammation Spectrum, where he explores how inflammation is pivotal in serious health issues and a program to fight inflammation and food triggers with a ketogenic diet.
A plant-based twist to the traditional Keto diet, Ketotarian, took 10 years in the making for Dr. Cole to asses the diet plans of his patients. A book for anyone from vegans to vegetarians, there are 75 recipes to boost metabolism and energy to renew your health to reach goals in weight loss and better brain function.
Mess Magazine asks Dr. Will Cole questions to help you get inspired to get on your diet plan without wasting time on trendy diet fads.
1. What inspired you to make your practice a focus on functional-medicine as opposed to other aspects of medicine? How long have you been in the field?
I started one of the first telehealth functional medicine clinics 12 years ago and it has always been my passion to make wellness and functional medicine accessible to everyday people around the world. Growing up, my family was drinking adaptogenic elixirs before it became trendy. Needless to say, for a kid growing up in Western PA in the 80s, this didn’t make my house the go-to hang out spot for my friends since they knew pizza wouldn’t be an option. But it laid the foundation for my knowledge and interest in health. I also had family members who struggled with autoimmune diseases, so I knew from a young age that was something I wanted to help others overcome.
2. What inspired you to write “Keototarian?” Was it your personal experience with traditional keto diets that put you off?
Ketotarian was born out of over 10 years of clinical and personal experience seeing what worked and what didn’t work in my own life and my patients lives. I had seen countless people over the years benefit from eating more healthy fats and plants. I have also seen the countless pitfalls that can come with traditional vegan and vegetarian diets as well as the food sensitivities that a lot of people have from dairy which is common in conventional keto diets. While both traditional plant-based diets and ketogenic diets have their benefits, I aimed to put into words the benefits I have experienced with combining the best of these two ways of eating.
3. What we really liked is your openness to share that veganism didn’t really work out for you – nor eating meat everyday. Did you completely give up eating meat (except bone broth) and if yes, was it hard for you?
I am already not a huge meat-eater so giving it up while I was vegan wasn’t that difficult for me. In fact, adding it back in wasn’t because I missed eating it, it was more because I was at a point where I knew my own personal health would benefit from having it occasionally.
4. You talk a lot about autoimmune diseases and how inflammation fuels them. Any advice to those who are in the beginning (or trialed a lot and failed) of their journey and want to cut down on inflammatory foods?
An elimination diet is my gold-standard for cutting down on inflammatory foods. By going through the process of eliminating certain foods and reintroducing them one and a time, you’ll be able to really determine which foods give you an inflammatory reaction. And once you notice how a certain food makes you feel, it’s more of an encouragement to eat differently so you don’t have to feel that way anymore.
5. How does a diet plan affect a person with an autoimmune disease? What does a good diet plan look like?
Autoimmune disease is characterized by chronic inflammation. A healthy diet for autoimmunity aims to lower inflammation through eliminating inflammatory foods and eating more foods that work to fight inflammation. In functional medicine, we look at the root cause of why someone is going through health problems to tailor a diet plan that is best for them since every person’s biochemistry is different.
6. Autoimmune diseases are usually ‘invisible’ conditions and often, for many years misdiagnosed as well. What are the main signs that someone might not be doing well?
Since every person is different and there are close to 100 recognized autoimmune diseases, symptoms can vary greatly for each person. However, the most common symptoms I see are fatigue, brain fog, and weight gain – all of which most people attribute to just getting older since a lot of people deal with these issues. But just because something is common doesn’t make it normal.
7. Can you break down for us the gut – autoimmune connection? What’s the best (if there is any) solution for all to heal?
One of the central tenets of functional medicine is that increased gut lining permeability, or a “leaky gut,” is a precursor to autoimmunity. When the gut lining is compromised it can cause undigested food proteins and bacterial endotoxins to leak into the bloodstream where they don’t belong which can lead to inflammation and autoimmune disease.
8. You also mention intermittent fasting a lot as an ultimate way to feel better and become healthier, can everyone do it?
In general, intermittent fasting is safe for most people. However, women and those with blood sugar issues might want to be monitored when they first start. As always, it’s always best to start slow, listen to your body, and make adjustments if needed.
9. How often would you recommend the average person to engage in intermittent fasting to increase their cellular energy?
For the average person, an 8am-6pm window is a great option. This allows you to have all three meals while also allowing for 14 hours of uninterrupted fasting time between dinner and breakfast the next day. You can also extend your fast to 12pm and skip breakfast if you want a longer fast.
10. For people who have a chronic disease, what have you found to be the most healing ingredients to implement in a diet plan?
This can also be individual for each person, depending on what their main symptoms are. For example, if someone has severe gut dysfunction, bone broth can be a great food medicine to help heal and restore the gut lining.
11. How do you know that a certain food works with a diet plan for those with autoimmune and chronic diseases? How long do results show?
Again, since everyone is different we don’t always know right away what will work for someone or not. Diagnostic labs can help us give more accurate clinical advice since it shows us the underlying cause of someone’s condition and symptoms. However, there are some times where adjustments need to be made, especially as someone starts to heal and we can reintroduce more foods.
As far as healing goes, that can also vary but it does take time. While you may experience gradual improvement it can take more significant time to see more long-term, sustainable healing. For example, the average adult gut takes anywhere between 12-24 months to heal.
12. Let’s get into diets, as Hypocrates said, “Diet can be the source of healing.” How do we properly have a food experimentation diet? How long does it take to properly find what works for us?
In my book The Inflammation Spectrum, I lay out exactly what foods to take out and how to reintroduce them. Ideally, you are supposed to remove all foods between 30-60 days. Some people may need to remove foods for longer though depending on how severe their health problems are.
13. Is an elimination diet always essential?
For those who don’t struggle with chronic health problems it can be enough to just avoid common inflammatory foods such as dairy and gluten. But for those with chronic health problems or ongoing symptoms, an elimination diet might be the next step.
14. How much time do we need to properly discipline ourselves to find the best foods that work for us?
Reintroduction looks different for each person. We also can’t put a timeline on healing. We need to give our bodies grace to take as much time as needed to adjust to the process.
15. For the people on the lower socio-economic level, who may not have access to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, how would they successfully implement good wellness? Clean, whole food sources are the foundation of a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables are unprocessed staples and can be supplemented with protein from seafood and other sources of animal protein. Just remember that even if you can’t buy organic, wash fruits and vegetables well and choose lean cuts of meat as conventional fat typically stores toxins. Wellness doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy. Just say no to processed foods as much as possible as that is where a lot of unhealthy ingredients hide.