Omnivore, Herbivore, Paleo, Vegan, High Fat, Low Carb…… We are living in an era with thousands of diets to follow. Cultures, religions, health status, geographic are also the metrics that determine the first solid food that gets introduced to us. While we believe “Eating right is part of self-respect”, our bodies aren’t functioning as we thought they should be.
The numbers of Cardiovascular, Neurological, Autoimmune Dysfunction, as well as Nutrition Deficiency, have reached a new high. Just the United States alone spends more on health care than the top ten developed countries combined, with similar issues bubbling to the surface and become overloaded in Asia as well.
Functional Medicine has been a rising star lately, though it sounds like a buzzword. Little did you know it’s a cutting-edge system medicine, going beyond just a lab test result and blanket statements. It traces down the root cause for individual causes, and implementing a healthier tailor-made lifestyle to live without it feeling like a chore.
This month’s A-Lister is Leading Functional Medicine Expert, #Goopfella host, and Bestselling book Ketotarian Author - Dr. Will Cole. We’re honored to have Dr. Cole here to optimize our health by debunking the health myth on keto diets, intermittent fasting, his perspective of being a father, and the beauty in his eyes.
C O N V E R S A T I O N
NL | Nicole Lui @ NOIRSTONE
DC | Dr Will Cole
- NL | Doctor, Functional Medicine still sounds foreign to some audiences, could you please dive in and explain what this truly is?
DC | Functional medicine approaches medicine from a different angle. Instead of matching symptoms with a medication, we utilize diagnostic testing to uncover the root cause of why someone is going through health problems in the first place to begin true, sustainable healing instead of just managing and covering up symptoms with medication. Instead, we use foods as medicine along with natural herbal supplements and lifestyle changes as necessary.
- NL | I guess the first doctor we’d choose to go is Dr. Search Engine who is an endless vortex of contradicting data. It can be addictive and cause stress that ends up worsening the issues. What’d be your best advice for patients or our audience?
DC | Since every single person is unique – even people with the same diagnosis – Google doesn’t take into account this variability in biochemistry. If you are truly wanting accurate advice on how to move forward, it’s best to seek out a professional who understands what labs to run, how to interpret those results, and translate them into actionable steps pertinent to your individual health case.
- NL | Variety of mutations, dysfunctions, or syndromes have recently been raised, especially in the last 20 - 40 years. Even You and I couldn’t get away from it. I noted that you have MTHFR Mutation. I had a leaky gut, leading to autoimmune disease, tumor, and my kids have neurologically related syndromes as well as vitiligo, we later found out my husband has MTHFR Mutation as well (it sounds like a war).
A tremendous number of families across the globe face similar types of health issues, yet they often see it as “It is what it is”. What would be the first signal that we should look at and acknowledge before it gets too late? And how problematic it can be by having the “it is was it is” mentality?
DC | We are all either trending toward wellness or disease. You don’t just wake up one morning sick, after being 100 percent healthy the previous day. Any symptom that you feel is ongoing, even if it’s ‘’tolerable’’ can be a sign that something should be addressed. It’s also important to remember that just because something is common doesn’t make it normal and it isn’t always a part of ‘’getting older.’’
- NL | You have mentioned “DNA Is Not Your Destiny” in the book as our genes are like buttons, could be switched on and off. Could you simply explain what epigenetics is and how can we work on epigenetics in order to transform our genome?
DC | Studies show that close to 77 percent of your immune system is made up of controllable factors and only 33 percent is due to your genetics. Essentially, these controllable factors determine whether or not any genetic dispositions you may have actually come to light. Triggers can be anything from the foods you eat, the toxins you are exposed to on a daily basis, stress, or medication use. Your triggers are going to be different than someone else and your threshold for these triggers may be higher or lower as well. Ultimately, it is going to be important to minimize these triggers as much as possible in your life.
- NL | The concept of “Fat Is Your Best Friend” is fascinating, however, the old concept of “low fat is better” still lingers in our daily living. Could you explain more about how Healthy Fat works on optimizing our overall wellness? And how Healthy Fat is fundamentally different from “the others”?
DC | The ‘’low-fat is better’’ mantra couldn’t be further from the truth. If you just look at it from an evolutionary and biological standpoint, we started out our lives relying on fat in the form of breast milk for energy and development, and currently our adult brains are comprised of 60 percent fat. It makes sense that we’d want to feed our brains exactly what it is made of – not deprive it. Ultimately, fat is a more sustainable form of fuel than glucose from sugar. Where sugar acts like kindling to a fire, providing us a burst of energy than quickly dying out, fat is like a log to a fire – slow burning and long lasting.
- NL | In East Asian culture, rice and soy are in their blood. In South Asia, Sugar and processed oil are inseparable for daily living, and not to mention the standard western diets. It must be quite challenging to guide patients through their journey from different cultures and backgrounds. How would you unfold this mystery of Ketotarian and help them implement this new lifestyle in their daily living while respecting cultural differences? How do those cultural differences affect a Ketotarian lifestyle?
DC | I understand the deep connection many different cultures have with certain foods. It’s important to honor this and come up with solutions and substitutions to be able to still enjoy these various foods. For example cauliflower rice is a great Ketotarian-friendly substitution for white rice and coconut aminos is an amazing soy sauce alternative. Thankfully, with more people aiming to eat differently, brands are responding with creating healthy alternatives for many popular cultural foods.
- NL | You have been a plant-based supporter for a couple of decades but have also experienced a health crisis at one point. We usually get the misconception of “plant-based equals healthy”. How do we know or what should we keep an eye on when a plant-based diet or any other type of diet go wrong?
DC | We have to remember that since everyone’s biochemistry different, what diet works for one person isn’t always going to be optimal for the next. Plant-based diets in particular can have a lot of pitfalls if you aren’t careful. Conventional plant-based diets can contain a lot of grains and legumes, which are ok for some people, but can be extremely inflammatory for most – especially if you are going plant-based to help an ongoing health problem. Grains can contain similar proteins to gluten and legumes contain lectin and phytate proteins that can irritate an already compromised gut which can perpetuate inflammation and ongoing health problems.
- NL | Talking about plant-based, I love that you are the bridge builder and marry the notions of both plant-based and keto together. What was the most difficult task to reintroduce a better way to consume the fuel to each group of supporters?
DC | I think the most difficult part was showing people that it is possible to merge these two seemingly contradictory ways of eating. But when it comes down to actually living out this lifestyle, it was second nature to me as I already ate this way personally and advocated for a similar way of eating for a lot of my patients as Ketotarian was really born out of over 10 years of clinical experience, seeing what worked and what didn’t for my patients. One can’t argue that vegetables are good for you and more and more research is confirming the benefits of being in ketosis and eating more healthy fats. So it was an easy switch in my mind to focus on plant-based sources of healthy fats.
- NL | If someone who has the desire to give Ketotarian 28day challenge a try, what is the first thing that they should look at or change?
DC | I suggest following the food plan as closely as possible and track your macros in an app to ensure you aren’t eating too many carbs. This can help you make adjustments and become fat-adapted so you can really determine if Ketotarian is working for you. But if you want to ease into the diet that is ok too. Just decreasing carbs and upping your intake of healthy fats can make a huge difference in your health – tracking and aiming for ketosis can come later if that is easier and less stressful for you. Ketotarian is all about removing dieting dogma and shame. There should be a grace and lightness to wellness so if you need to press pause of tracking that is ok too and just focus on making the food switch in the beginning.
- NL | We believe Conventional, Chinese Herbal, Indian Ayurvedic, Functional Medicine, Naturopath serve a good purpose, how would you find the middle ground?
DC | It all goes back to bioindividuality. Some aspects of each practice can work for someone, but not everything. It’s looking at a person’s health case as a whole and finding the right tools to optimize their health regardless of what background that resource comes from. Even in conventional medicine some surgeries and medications can be life-saving. At the end of the day in functional medicine we are looking to find the right healing tool that has the maximum amount of healing potential with the least amount of side effects.
- NL | Even though we believe in Functional Medicine, food is the first thing to support healing, however, the food nowadays might not be the same as back then and not each individual of food contains the same amount of nutrients. Would you recommend supplementing to help support our well-being?
DC | Ideally food should be our primary source of medicine since we can’t supplement our way out of a poor diet. With that being said, certain nutritional deficiencies may require supplementation as a boost to get levels back to normal and then food can take the lead from there as maintenance. Some supplements can also be good in a short term if you are needing a boost of Vitamin C and Zinc to help get over a cold for example. Again, since every person is different the level and length of supplementation is going to vary from person to person, but the key takeaway is that you can’t rely on supplementation alone to fix your health problems if you aren’t addressing your diet and other lifestyle factors that play a role in your symptoms.
- NL | As a parent and health advocate, the most burning question would be “how to stop kids from consuming sugar”. Grains, high carb, sugary and processed food are fully packed in the grocery store, being the must-have on the list. How would you go about educating on the lesser considered sugars like grains and carbs, which have similar results to candy and sweets?
DC | I try to tell my kids to focus on what you can’t have instead of what you can have and give healthy alternatives such as things sweetened with fruit, stevia, maple syrup, or raw honey instead of sugar.
- NL | Have your kids ever debated and negotiated with you about their choices on food? How would you guide them through?
DC | Make food fun and not dogmatic and teach them all the ways to use food to make them feel great and alleviate shame around food.
- NL | Your statement at the beginning of the book truly caught my eye - “Through the hills and valleys, without Love, everything else is meaningless”.
Why is this statement so important for you that you felt it needed to be placed in the book, especially so early on in the reading?
DC | It’s my dedication to my family and without them and their support I wouldn’t be where I am today.
- NL | Wellness is a new fashion. It tends to have an overload of frequently changing information. With society getting and less patient, we see the majority of people switch from one thing to another before seeing the results of the previous. Let's say skin takes at least 6 months and gut takes years to heal. How do you get your audience to take a step back and actually work with the process rather than chase the “magical fix-it-all now”?
DC | I try to communicate that as much as possible in my one-on-one conversations with my patients as well as my articles and larger scale platforms. It all comes down to a lifestyle change and once you have made that change, it is harder to go back from that, and it’s less about the one thing that healed you it’s the entire process – diet, supplements, stress reduction, and more.
- NL | How do you see our society changing a decade from now? Do you see getting there be increasingly difficult with the current trend-chasing?
DC | I try not to compare myself with others and stay in my own lane and focused on how I can be the best that I can be. Comparing and trend-chasing is transparent to your followers and inhibits you from being authentic and can ultimately lead to burnout.
- NL | What does #selflove mean to you?
DC | Loving yourself enough to nourish your body with delicious food medicines.
- NL | What is “Beauty” in your eyes?
DC | Being at peace with yourself is beautiful.
- NL | If you were to meet your younger self, what advice would you give him?
DC | Be present because it all goes by quick and you can learn a lot from the present moment.
- NL | What’s that one question you’d like to ask our NS Insiders?
DC | What is the one thing in your life that makes you want to live a healthier life? This will keep you going in the hard moments.
NL: Dr. Will Cole, you put your hard work on research, work with EWG on the food source, create nutritious recipes and meal plans, as well as explaining how biochemistry works with physiology in a consumable way in one book. I really appreciate your book as well as your insights for this interview, Thank you.
D R . W I L L C O L E ' S C H O I C E
| Snack(s) |
The spiced nuts from my book Ketotarian
| Drink(s) |
Earl Grey Tea
| Song Of The Month |
Somebody Else by 1975
| Book(s) |
The Power of Now
| Mentor(s) + Inspiration(s) |
Terry Wahls and Alejandro Junger
| Stress reliever(s) |
Being in nature
| That 1 Thing You Keep Telling Yourself |
Be present and trust God’s timing
| Daily Routine |
Wake up, work out, intermittent fast and a cup of earl grey, work, break my fast at lunch, finish work, and spend time at home with my family.