This week’s topic is: Intuitive Fasting with Dr. Will Cole
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Dr. Will Cole, who is a bestselling author, health advisor and functional-medicine expert and the host of The Art of Being Well podcast. Listen in as Will shares the difference between intuitive fasting and intermittent fasting, how he personally fasts, the benefits of intuitive fasting and how to look and feel your best.
- If fasting alone helps with inflammation…
- Autoimmune diseases and inflammation…
- The difference between intuitive fasting and intermittent fasting…
- Intuitive fasting and the four-week cycle …
- Fertility issues into conception…
- Will shares how he personally fasts and tools to help people with cravings…
- The benefits of intuitive fasting to feel and look your best…
About Dr. Will Cole
Dr. Will Cole is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the world via webcam. Named one of the top 50 functional-medicine and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr.Cole specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the bestselling author and the host of the new podcast, The Art of Being Well.
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Dr. Cole’s Interview
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Kimberly: Hey Beauties, welcome back to our Monday Interview podcast. I’m very excited for our guest today, who is Dr. Will Cole. He was named as one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation. He’s also a bestselling author and he has a new book out called, Intuitive Fasting. We talked about so many different aspects today, of inflammation and getting back into balance. And I have to say, that this podcast was very information packed, and I think you’re going to enjoy it very much.
Fan of the Week
Kimberly: But before we get into our show today, I just want to give a quick shout-out to our fan of the week and his or her name is V-V-F-S and he or she writes, “Amazing shows. I look forward to listening to Kimberly’s podcast daily, always learning more is a gift. So grateful for these shows. Thank you, Kimberly.” Well V-V-F-S, thank you so much for being our fan of the week. Thank you so much for your review. I send you such a big, warm virtual hug. It means so much to me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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Kimberly: And Beauties, for your chance to also be shouted-out as our fan of the week, please just take a moment or two out of your day and head over to iTunes, leave us a review over on iTunes and it’s just a great way to support the show energetically. And while you’re over there, please be sure to also subscribe to our show and that way you don’t miss out on any of these interviews or solo casts or our Thursday, Q&A Community show, as well. All right. All that being said, let’s get right into our interview today with Dr. Will Cole.
Interview with Dr. Will Cole on Intuitive Fasting
Kimberly: Will, it’s so nice to talk to you today .
Will Cole: Thank you.
Why the focus on inflammation
Kimberly: I have your new book here in front of me. I wonder how you even got into focusing on inflammation in the first place. Does it have [inaudible] being with your patients or the society?
Will Cole: Yeah, I started one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers over a decade ago. I’ve been consulting people via webcam, 50 plus hours a week. You see so many different manifestations of chronic inflammation. The concept of inflammation is something that I see on an hourly basis.
Will Cole: Of course, it’s going to be in the things that I write about, because I see the power of the human health. The power of human resilience, when you give the body what it needs, or give it a break sometimes, just start to find homeostasis, to find balance again. Yeah, it’s definitely … Intuitive Fasting, my newest book, inflammation is throughout that book as well, for the same reason. I’m fasting, and flexible intermittent fasting specifically, is a great modulator of lowering inflammation levels. Yeah, without a doubt.
If fasting alone helps with inflammation
Kimberly: Fasting is a concept that’s been used in yogic culture. It’s an ancient practice that’s been around. Would you say that … Is it fasting alone that can really make a difference in inflammation or does it have to be coupled with of course some lifestyle shifts as well?
Will Cole: Well, I mean, if you look at the scientific literature, there’s many studies that show, and this was needed, right? To be done in the scientific journals to see does fasting stand on its own or is the benefits from changing the foods that you eat? Or does it changed from decreasing calories? What’s the actual mechanism at play here? There have been studies done to show the fasting by itself is a modulator of human biochemistry in a beneficial way at lowering inflammation levels or increasing healing pathways. But there are other studies that show if people don’t … If they do just try to fast their way out of a poor diet and don’t change most of the eating, it’s going to work for some people and not work for everybody.
Will Cole: That’s what I see clinically too, is that, yeah, you may get lucky. If you have good resilience and you still eat like crap and you do some flexible intermittent fasting time restricted feeding, you may see some positive changes, and I definitely have seen that clinically, but it’s definitely not what I would advocate for people for long term health. I don’t advocate fasting the way I report. Diet food is such a powerful medicine and using nutrition to improve your health. But you can amplify that with some flexible intermittent fasting, like you said. Humans have done it for thousands of years. It’s just reminding people this is actually a part of humanity for a long time.
Kimberly: Will, before we get into the fasting, which I think is really fascinating and I think people want to know more information about how exactly to do it, can we talk about inflammation for a little bit more?
Will Cole: Sure.
Kimberly: Because we talked about food, there’s sugar, there’s chemicals in the food supply, but I hear so many people saying autoimmune is crazy hormonal issues. Why is inflammation now this level?
Will Cole: This is something I talked about at length with my patients, but obviously throughout Inflammation Spectrum and into the fasting. There’s this evolutionary mismatches, epigenetic-genetic chasm between our genetics, which hasn’t changed in 10,000 years, and the world around us, which has changed very dramatically in a very short period of time. When you putting that into context with the totality of human history, I mean, the food supply has changed very quickly, our air supply, water supply, the hybridization, the genetic modification, soil depletion, chronic stressors, technology, all of these things come with amazing convenience.
Will Cole: I mean, they are good aspects of modernity. Of course, we’re talking to people around the world right now. I don’t think we have to demonize the entirety of modernity. But I think we have to look at some of the price that we paid in through this process. Is there a way to have better checks and balances and a healthier relationship with modernity? Or we don’t have to pick either or it can be both? I think that when you look at this genetic-epigenetic mismatch, our DNA is living in this brave new world. These genetic predispositions have always been there, but they’re being awoken like never before in human history because of the onslaught of these environmental epigenetic triggers, food being a part of that, but not everything.
Will Cole: That is why we’re seeing this epidemic rise of chronic inflammatory issues, which chronic inflammation is this common link, this commonality, between just about every health problem under the sun, when you’re looking at things like metabolic issues, Type 2 diabetes, cancers, autoimmune conditions, even things that impact the brain. I mean, people, they’d like to separate mental health from physical health, but mental health is physical health. Our brain is part of our body, and there’s research looking at inflammation that’s called the cytokine model of cognitive function. How is inflammation impacts our brains work? How does inflammation impact mental health?
Will Cole: This neuroinflammatory is brain inflammation component to anxiety and depression, fatigue, brain fog, ADD, ADHD, autism. All the things I just mentioned, sadly is the majority of the human race to some degree. But inflammation exists on a spectrum. By the time someone is diagnosed with a chronic health problem, whether that be diabetes or an autoimmune condition, something like this, research estimates it’s about four to 10 years prior to that diagnosis is when things were brewing on this inflammation spectrum.
Will Cole: No matter where you’re at on this, inflammation continuum, and what can you do today to start to calm things down? Because inflammation is not inherently bad, it’s a product of our immune system. Inflammation is good when you want it to fight viruses and kill off bacteria and heal wounds and be a protector. The problem is if inflammation is too high for too long, it’s a breaking of the Goldilocks principle, right? You don’t want inflammation too high, you don’t want inflammation too low. You want to just right at the right time. The problem is that we’re breaking this Goldilocks principle because of this evolutionary mismatch, and that applies to everything else in the body too.
Will Cole: Gut microbiome, we don’t want bacterial overgrowth, but we don’t want to deficient. Or hormones, we don’t want hormone excess and dominance, but we don’t want deficiencies of it either. Inflammation is the same thing. We want it just right at the right time. That’s a major part of my work, is to really give people tools to calm this inflammation levels down and then ask the question clinically, and for the person to start asking this question, what’s causing the inflammation in the first place? It’s multifactorial. Foods are a part of it, but it’s certainly only a piece of the puzzle.
Autoimmune diseases and inflammation
Kimberly: Well, let’s say … Let’s talk about autoimmune, for example, because I feel that, especially in the past three years and I’m sure you’ve seen maybe five years, two years, whatever it is, there’s just been so many people that have come out, and maybe it’s nonspecific or maybe it gets … Or some people say, “It’s Lyme disease.” Whatever it is, but there’s been this huge rise. In your opinion, how much of autoimmune diseases, how much of it is caused by inflammation? For instance, if they follow your program and they’re able to really focus on the inflammation piece. I know it’s hard to say specifically. But what would you estimate? How would that help alleviate suffering for those with autoimmune?
Will Cole: Yeah. I mean, we break that word down autoimmune, it’s when the immune system turns against itself. Inflammation is a product of the immune system. There is an inflammatory component to every autoimmune condition. It’s not something that is up for … It’s the pathogenesis of the actual disease. It’s when the immune system loses recognition of self. The immune system has this beautiful ability to normally, under normal circumstances, to see an invader like a virus or bacteria, a pathogen and attack it. It tags it with an antibody and then attacks it. Well, autoimmunity is when the immune system loses recognition of self and there’s a phenomenon called molecular mimicry.
Will Cole: It’s sort of the case of mistaken identity. When the immune system thinks that the thyroid, or thinks that the joint, or thinks that the gut, or thinks that the brain, the nervous system, is a virus. Then it tags it with an antibody and attacks it as if it was an invader. The immune system is losing recognition of self. There’s so many. I mean, that’s so symbolic. I think of a lot of what’s going on in humanity, we are losing recognition of self. How many people have turned against themselves on a mental emotional level and a spiritual level? That’s what’s happening in many people’s bodies on a physical level too.
Will Cole: If you look even on another symbolic level, look at what’s going on globally, the amount of climate change and global warming and … We have individual physiological climate change going on in the form of chronic inflammation. As above, so below, and we’re part of nature. What’s happening globally because of what we’ve done to planet earth is also happening to our body in the form of chronic inflammation, that breaking up that Goldilocks principle. It’s definitely a problem. But all of these things are inflammation. But the body is amazingly resilient, and we can calm that down.
Will Cole: Researchers estimate that genetics play a part of autoimmunity for most people. It’s about a third genetics and two thirds epigenetics. Instead of thinking genetics is nothing, it’s something, but why is it being triggered? Why is it being awoken? That’s the issue, is why is there 50 million Americans happening autoimmune disease now? Why is it growing by leaps and bounds when our genes haven’t changed in 10,000 years? Better diagnostics is part of it, but it doesn’t explain the full breadth of what’s going on today.
Autoimmune diseases, inflammation and remission
Kimberly: What is it that once someone has autoimmune, can they eradicate it or is it only to your word, calming it down? I have a friend who has Crohn’s and she hasn’t had an outbreak in 10 years, and now all of a sudden she’s going … Her body is just completely breaking down. It’s been 10 years. Is it actually possible to say, “I’m cured of autoimmune,” or is it below the surface and we’re just trying to control it?
Will Cole: Yeah. The clinical objective for most people in full-blown autoimmune diseases to put it into remission. That would be the correct understanding of what’s going on. Because there’s really no research to show you’re going to be cured of it or completely gone. But look, there’s a larger continuum here. On one end of the autoimmune inflammation spectrum is silent autoimmunity. Meaning if you ran labs, you’d see positive antibodies made positive [inaudible] but the person feels fine. They have no symptom. They’re on one end of that inflammation spectrum, silent autoimmunity. Stage Two is autoimmune reactivity. A lot of my patients are here. Not all of them. Many of them are diagnosed already.
Will Cole: But many people are in this stage two of autoimmune reactivity, meaning they are symptomatic. They do have symptoms, labs show that there’s autoimmune components to their case, their doctors often even say, “Well, it looks autoimmune,” they have a family history of autoimmunity, et cetera, but they’re really not given many tools and they’re labeled with things typically like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome or IBS, or these inflammatory symptoms. But what can they do today to start to arrest and calm and to have agency over their health? Whether you’re in autoimmune reactivity or autoimmune disease, the goal is to calm down the severity and the frequency of these things. There are people that get radical remissions and they never have a flare up again. I mean-
Will Cole: But my clinical objective for most people that are diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, meaning that it’s been about four to 10 years prior to that when things were brewing on this inflammation spectrum, is to put it into remission, to start to decrease the severity in their frequency of their flares, which takes time and certainly not a quick fix, but that’s the goal for people.
Kimberly: What is the link between inflammation and fertility? It’s something we talk about a lot in our community, and I’m sure you hear about it as well. There’s so many women struggling to get pregnant, to [inaudible] a pregnancy. What’s going on there?
Will Cole: Wow. I mean, it’s a major part. I mean, you look at our endocrine system and we have the brain’s brilliant communication with our rest of our endocrine system. We have the hypothalamic pituitary, ovarian axis, statisticular axis, all of this stuff, and then thyroid is a major part of the hypothalamic pituitary thyroid axis. All of these things are constantly and dynamically flowing and communicating with each other and influencing each other too. There’s many complex reasons why somebody could be having infertility. My job as a functional medicine practitioner is to try to get out of the way and do a comprehensive health history.
Will Cole: Really listen and hold space for this person to understand, “Okay, what’s the nuances of their case,” because every case is different. But also through that process, determine what labs would be the most appropriate for them. What’s going to give us the best data to find out what’s their pieces of the puzzle, because it typically isn’t just one thing. It’s normally is that confluence of factors, that perfect storm of variables that are giving rise to their symptoms or experiences like infertility. I am always looking at this dance between the gut-brain axis, I mean the connection between the gut and brain, and for the people to understand that your gut and brain are actually formed from the same fetal tissue.
Will Cole: So when babies are growing in their mom’s womb, their gut and brain are formed from that same tissue, and they’re inextricably linked for the rest of our life through, what’s known as the gut-brain axis. The intestines, if you think about even resemble the brain, but 95% of serotonin is made in the gut, stored in the gut. It’s referred to as the second brain. But I see this is … Your gut, it’s also home to 75% of the immune system. When you’re dealing with inflammatory problems, which is the product of the immune system, you want to look at where the predominance of the immune system [inaudible] in the gastrointestinal system.
Will Cole: There’s a inflammatory component, but the guts not healthy. There’s also a conversion issue of many hormones. I see a lot of times people that have low T3 levels, in part because of their gut not being healthy, their body’s not activating T3, which is needed for proper fertility, and also too when the body is stressed out to the gut-brain axis. I don’t just mean mental emotional stress and trauma, which is a part of it too. But mental emotional trauma, but I’m talking about physiological trauma too, like underlying gut issues and chronic infections and the ripple effect of chronic inflammation throughout the body.
Will Cole: That stress, that sympathetic fight or flight, my body’s always an overdrive physiologically and probably externally as well, that really shifts the body away from parasympathetic, which is resting digesting hormone balance. I see so many women that are cycling that are trying to get pregnant. You look at their estrogen levels, you look at the progesterone levels, you look at their testosterone levels, you look at their cortisol levels just because it’s on the same test, all of their hormones, in addition to their thyroid, are all completely out of balance, in part because the amount of chronic inflammation and stress that their body is under.
Will Cole: That’s not to say that’s the only reason for their infertility, but it definitely is a piece of the puzzle that needs to be addressed. What my experience is, is for a lot of women, when they start dealing with these upstream root issues and start untangling these inflammatory cascades, the body can start to chill out a bit and get into the more of the parasympathetic resting, digesting. They’re eating these nutrient dense nourishing foods to impart help with that and support that. It is an amazing thing when you give the body the time it needs and you go upstream and find out what’s causing the problem in the first place, things happen a lot more unimpededly and a lot more effortlessly over time. Yeah, inflammation is linked to many different types of inflammatory problems.
Kimberly: Will, while we’re talking about fertility, I think we focus so much on women, but obviously it affects men and their sperm and their testes.
Will Cole: Yeah, right. Let’s not talk about women now. Oftentimes, you’re right. It’s absolutely. The guys are completely … The guy typically is in such an inflammatory state and it’s the low testosterone. It’s impacting sperm count and sperm health. Yeah, both sides need to be looked at.
How long before you can see benefits with intuitive fasting
Kimberly: Yes. Let’s talk about your new book, Intuitive Fasting in general. Let’s say someone has a particular health goal. They’re trying to get pregnant or they’re just trying to feel better. They had some of the symptoms you talked about a lot, the fogginess and the runny nose and the bloating. I mean, I know this is such a … It’s so hard to make a generalization. But let’s say someone starts to pay attention to the inflammation in their lives, they start to want to reduce it, they start to do some of the fasting. How long have you seen in your clinical research with your patients, how long can you actually start to see benefits?
Will Cole: Wow. If we’re leaning into these aspects, I mean, this goes without saying, but everybody’s coming in at different points of their journey, right? I mean, that’s same with clinically. I’m meeting people that have been dealing with these things for 40 years and for four days. It’s all different types of where am I out on my journey? Most of the time, it’s chronic. Most of the time, it’s months and years, that they’ve noticed these things in their life. These chronic inflammatory problems that’s impacting their brain, it’s impacting their hormones, it’s impacting their digestion, it’s impacting their energy levels, it’s impacting all of these things. It’s impacting their sleep.
Will Cole: We are looking at all of these things, and it’s taken years to get there. But the body is so resilient. You never want to discount what the body’s healing and resilience capacity is. What I’ve done it with Intuitive Fasting, I built a four-week protocol for people to check in with themselves. Not to say everything is going to be resolved in four weeks, but I want them to be at least encouraged, at least to know intuitively I’m moving in the right direction. This isn’t in vain. I’m actually seeing less severity and lead bus frequency of these issues, whatever that case may be.
Will Cole: I started off the Intuitive Fasting book with a quiz that I adapted from questions that I asked patients, for them to check in with their house and then lean into the protocol and then retake that quiz after four weeks and then see the scores should be coming down. But to say it’s nothing, obviously I want them to be realistic but still being encouraged and positive. But I would say, I want to see consistent improvements, moving in the right direction, four weeks at a time. But building a foundation of sustainable health takes longer than four weeks for most people struggling with chronic health problems. You’re going to see considerable changes-
Will Cole: … gut inflammation hormones, subsequent over like a crescendo over the course of the year. But I would say most people with chronic inflammatory gut issues, it’s about 18 to 24 months for most people to get to the place of, “Whoa, I’m either entirely better or I’m pretty dang close to being better.” Obviously, there’s exceptions to that, people that move slower and people that move faster, and some people … Like you said, if somebody has had Crohn’s disease for a decade and flare ups, you’re never going to regenerate their gut entirely better, but they still have a lot of agency over their health in most cases. Yeah, it’s not to say that you’re going to be this perfect angelic being after two years, but most people have amazing resilience capacity if they give their body the time to do so.
The difference between intuitive fasting and intermittent fasting
Kimberly: I love the word intuition, intuitive because it’s about self reflection. Can you explain the difference between intuitive fasting and intermittent fasting?
Will Cole: Yeah.
Kimberly: That term gets tossed around a lot.
Will Cole: Yeah, you’re right. I called it Intuitive Fasting, A, because it’s something that clinically I’ve talked about with my patients for 10 years. I always say that I want this to be an intuitive thing. I want them to build such a resilient center for themselves and for them to learn so much about their body and what their body loves and what their body hates. There will be this natural discernment, this understanding, this knowingness they have with their body, that they’ll be able to intuitively eat and intuitively fast, mindfully eat and intuitively fast. This should be not conflated with the …
Will Cole: The book that was written in the ’90s, intuitive eating for people that have disordered eating, et cetera. This is not the same thing. This is not for people with eating disorders. I’m not an eating disorder specialist and I say that throughout the book. If you have an eating disorder, it’s not that you can’t do this, but you should talk about to your eating disorder specialist. You should talk with your doctor. But intuition is something we all have. I have an intuition, my patients have an intuition, you have an intuition. I want people to have that. You get this because you’re in the wellness world and you live and breathe this, how you live your life is governed by your intuition.
Will Cole: When you have metabolic flexibility, you will have an intuition on what your body loves and what your body hates. It’s paradoxical on the front end, right? Intuitive fasting, because if someone’s metabolically inflexible, fasting will never be intuitive for somebody that’s metabolically inflexible. Meaning they’re hungry, they’re fatigued, they have insatiable cravings, their blood sugar’s all over the place, that chronic inflammation is all over the place. You tell them that fasting will be intuitive? Heck, no. But that craving for that donut will be “intuitive.” But we know that when you start looking at hungriness and insatiable cravings and blood sugar imbalances, those things will mask themselves as your intuition.
Will Cole: I’m craving that, whatever that food is. Was that really your intuition? I want people to get to that place of authentic intuitive living, but on a health level, and I’m coming from a functional medicine perspective, you have to have some semblance, some level of metabolic flexibility to actually hear that still small voice of intuition, to have that knowingness because when things are calmed down, inflammation is calmed down, blood sugar is more balanced, things are chilled out physiologically, that Goldilocks principle is restored, you’ll be able to know, “I can eat when I’m hungry. I can go longer without eating. I’ll be able to fast inherently and intuitively,” not because it’s some arduous restrictive thing.
Will Cole: I could just go longer without eating because my blood sugar’s more stable and I feel great doing that. But I can break my fast when I want to and I can go into fasting when I want to, this is healing there and this healing, we’re using fasting and food as medicine, and we’re using fasting and food as a mindfulness practice, so you can mindfully eat and mindfully fast. This is normal human physiology. I know it’s earth shattering for many people living in modern life, but humans did this for a long time.
Intuitive fasting and the four-week cycle
Kimberly: It’s true. It’s true. I mean, I think that people have become so attached to food beyond nutritionally needs, of course, for shifting their mood, because it just … There’s just this attachment. I know you mentioned this four-week cycle. Can you run us through? Because I think the word fasting for some people are like, “Oh my God, how long do I not have to eat?” There’s tremendous, tremendous research and information in your book. But in a four-week cycle, lets say, given also a woman getting her period, what does that look like? How many days? How many without eating? How does that flow with how are you eating?
Will Cole: I’ll break it down. This is the other thing people could probably be thinking too. Well, he’s calling the book Intuitive Fasting, why is he giving us a protocol when he talks about intuitive fasting? [crosstalk]
Kimberly: Well, exactly.
Will Cole: That’s what I’m saying, is that we’re building metabolic flexibility so you can have intuition when it comes to eating and fasting. It’s like going to a yoga class. If I go to yoga and I’m not good at yoga, my hamstrings are tight, I’ve never done yoga before and I go to yoga the first time, I’m like, “What the heck? This is unnatural, the body doesn’t move like this.” I can blame yoga. Yoga is not for me, yoga is super restrictive and super difficult. Well, it’s not yoga’s fault. It’s actually my inflexibility. It is something new. Many people’s metabolisms are inflexible. They’re in sugar burning mode, they’re hungry, fatigued with insatiable cravings, and then they go and they do an advanced yoga class.
Will Cole: Well, yeah, that’s not good because it’s too much fasting. They’re doing an advanced fast when they need to meet their body where they’re at. I start off the week one because I realize most people are metabolically inflexible or metabolically rigid. We start off with an easy 12-12 time restricted feeding window, which goes back to the adage of just don’t eat too late, allow your body to fast through the night until you [crosstalk] your fast in the morning. Yeah. That’s easy way to prep the body. Every week, it’s a new fast, but I call it the body reset fast because it’s just allowing your body to actually repair through the night while you sleep.
Kimberly: I love that. 12 hours when you don’t eat. Let’s say you started 7:00, you’re done with dinner at 7:00. Very simple.
Will Cole: Yeah exactly. I’m pairing that with a very nutrient-dense healing, mostly plant-based clean ketogenic diet, what I call [crosstalk] Ketotarian. It is the name of my first book. But why am I saying that? It’s because … I mean, you can use food to complement the fast. If you’re focusing on healthy fats, lower carb but lots of rich plant foods, you are able to mimic fasting without actually fasting. So it’s fasting mimicking. We’re doing that with week one and then week two, we’re digging into about a 14 to 18 hour window fast. That’s a big window but I want people to find that sweet spot of meeting their metabolism where it’s at, but still progressing and moving the needle in a positive direction. Even if you took the upper limit, it’s a 18 hour fast. It’s a six hour eating window.
Kimberly: Every day.
Will Cole: Every day for week two, yeah.
Will Cole: You could do that. Again, you can adjust it. You could do 14 hours one day, 16 hours the next day, then go into 18 hours. You could lean into it. You don’t have to do 18 hours every day. But it’s 12:00 to 6:00 PM. You can move those eating windows wherever you want. You could do it in the morning if you love your breakfast, you could do it in the afternoon. Doesn’t have to be stringent, and should be flexible. Week three, it’s a cellular renewal fast. It’s an every other day, non-consecutive, almost OMAD fast, which OMAD is an acronym for people in the fasting world. It’s one meal a day.
Will Cole: It’s a little bit flexible than that, because I saw some studies about the PKR [inaudible] pathway where studies show that if you’re eating all your calories in such a small window, it can increase something called metaflammation or systemic inflammation. I don’t want that. Remember, this isn’t about chronic caloric restriction. We’re still eating all the calories we need for the day, just in specific windows. We’re doing that every other day to tap into the deeper autophagy pathways, the cellular recycling, the anti-accelerated aging, the stem cell, the longevity benefits of fasting.
Kimberly: Will, can I … Sorry to interrupt you, but I’ve read that sumo wrestlers eat once a day because they want to gain weight. Like, “Oh, I’m just eating all at once.” How does that … Tell us about how that [crosstalk]
Will Cole: Yeah. Well, eating clean foods on those days [inaudible] Yeah, so we’re definitely like … I can definitely see that. If you’re gorging junk food in a short period of window, that’s a big bolus of food. But now we’re getting benefits during the fast and then we’re breaking the fast with a break the fast meal, which is soups and stews. It’s very gentle on the gut. Because you’re right. I mean, cortisol is going to be a bit higher during the fast because it’s actually a good part of the fast. It’s part of the hormetic effect or hormesis, which is this good resilient stress. Similar to high intensity interval exercising, that raises cortisol. Sauna therapy raises cortisol levels.
Will Cole: Cold therapy, like ice plunges, raises cortisol. All of these are hormetic effects. They’re good because they actually increases autophagy and longevity benefits. It’s that good stress. Your villa and your gut are going to be a bit blunted, cortisol is going to be a little bit high in this hormetic healing state of fasting, so you’re leaning out of that with some soups and stews, some soft things, easy to digest. You’re not raising inflammation levels, you’re not raising cortisol levels even more and you’re not stressing out insulin and blood sugar and all that other stuff, because you’re going to be more insulin sensitive coming out of that fast too.
Will Cole: Then you’re getting your calories in … But the re-feeding day’s really important. After you do you’re almost OMAD meal, which is about a two to four hour eating window, it’s not super strict in the book, but then you go back into a 12-12 on the odd days in week three, and then week four, we’re going back to 12-12. We’re vacillating these-
Kimberly: I like 12-12.
Will Cole: But you’ll like all of these once you lean into it, because you get-
Kimberly: Of course. Of course. It’s just like training the mind because-
Will Cole: Yes, and training the body. Yeah.
Kimberly: You do get into a flow. But then what happens after the month? How do you sustain the program?
Will Cole: So 12-12 you go back … you’re vacillating, you’re ebbing and flowing, expanding, contracting, that is like that yoga class.
Will Cole: Week three, we’re almost [inaudible] that’s like doing the deep Warrior II pose. You’re like, “What the heck?” This is-
Kimberly: And you’re holding the …
Will Cole: … the natural. But it’s not for long. You go out of it. You go back into it. Then week one and two, you’re prepping for this. You’re doing your vinyasa flow. Then week four, you’re in the shavasana laying down and relaxing like, “What the heck. I just did that for three weeks,” and it’s really chill out, because we’re increasing clean carbohydrates. To answer your question about cycling women, people that are menstruating, doing lighter fasts on the beginning of your period and then around ovulation, and you’re increasing your clean carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and more fruits and rice and things like that to support progesterone and thyroid conversion as well. This all intuitive modifications that I put in there for people to learn about their bodies. It shouldn’t be the static thing to say women shouldn’t fast. Well, how is she doing the fast for her body? Right?
Will Cole: All women are different anyways. It’s very insulting, I think to women, it should be to say that women shouldn’t do this because who is she? Is she’s struggling with PCOS or weight loss resistance, or is she not? Is she’s struggling with low thyroid issues? It’s about how you do it. Just like showing up to that yoga class and saying, “Well, yoga is not for me. So how did I do it?” People need to start the practice up with something beginning and lean into it learning about their body so it can become your own practice. Then as you get more advanced, you can intuitively adjust your practice accordingly. That’s what I’m teaching people [inaudible] the book.
Fertility issues into conception
Kimberly: Well, first of all, I love the yoga analogy, really speaking our language here. Secondly, two questions. Do you keep cycling that long term? Secondly, can you do this program? Is it a good idea? Would you recommend this for someone that is struggling with fertility issues to prepare a quality information to go into conception?
Will Cole: I absolutely would recommend it as a consideration for somebody that’s trying to improve their fertility, improve the health because we’re lowering insulin, lowering inflammation levels, we’re improving gut health, we’re gaining metabolic flexibility. There’s a lot of things, not just from the fast itself, but from the food as medicine too. All these healthy fats, clean protein, lots of vegetables. There’s a lot of clinical nutrition side of things from a food medicine standpoint. But yeah, the fasting itself was quite therapeutic as well. The synergy of both of those amplifies the benefits of both.
Will Cole: But yeah. I want people to learn about their bodies over this four week. There’s all these mindfulness practices that I am educating people about over the four weeks. They’re not just mindlessly eating and mindlessly fasting, I’m actually … What I call in the book as metaphysical meals is what are you doing during this fast? I want you to be cultivating this mindfulness practice when you’re fasting and when you’re eating to really become … grow the mental, emotional, spiritual side of their relationship with food, their relationship with their body and how they’re even using fasting and eating.
Will Cole: This is not something that’s just so clinical where they’re just doing the food and the fasting. I think it’s really important to have a mindfulness approach to that, because that when you build metabolic flexibility in a physiological level, and then also grow in your awareness on a mental, emotional, spiritual level, all of that is what you need for mindful eating and intuitive fasting, because you will have grown all of these areas that make you you and make your experience the way that it is. I want people to cycle through these four weeks as many times as they need to. But what I say in the book and it’s very …
Will Cole: I see this clinically all the time is after maybe one or two or three cycles, depending on their starting point of where they started out this journey, they will evolve the protocol intuitively. They’ll say, “Oh, I did …” Because they sampled all these different types of things and they’ve improved their health. Then they could say, “Oh, I want to do less of that next time. I’m going to do more of that.” They’ll be able to adjust it for themselves in real time. Even, they’ll be able to show up for themselves in that day and adjust it, and say, “Well, I planned on doing this, but actually I need to have a 12-12,” and there’s no shame in that. But it’s having that grace and lightness to pivot. You’re not a failure because you pivot. That’s what sustainable wellness looks like.
How young can you be to start a fasting program?
Kimberly: Well, some of these issues you talked about anxiety, depression, ADHD are obviously such an enormous issue with teenagers. How young would you recommend someone start a fasting program? Or some girls are very susceptible to eating disorders we talked about and their sense of self is not yet fully developed. What would you say?
Will Cole: Yeah. I think for the most part, the book is so measured and so practical that it may seem radical on the front end when you read the cover of Intuitive and Fasting. That may seem radical, but when you read the book, most of the book with barring week three on the almost all my days, I think every other week is very much any human being could at least consider it. Again, if they have an eating disorder, talk with your eating disorder specialist and doctor, but almost everybody else. We’re talking about really healthy foods and flexible eating windows that you can adjust based on how you’re feeling. It’s just something that is very accessible to people. But kids, it has to be a personal decision with the parents and their doctor and seeing what makes sense for them.
Will Cole: But I don’t see it being a major problem. It’s like for the majority of human history, they would look at the book and say, “Well, that’s how we live.” I’m just reminding people that this is how humans would have lived for a long time, is having more metabolic flexibility and having a more of an intuitive relationship with food and fasting and just from a food availability, wasn’t always available too. It’s actually not radical at all. I wouldn’t recommend long fasts like multiple day fast for any teenager or a child, absolutely not, unless it’s used for specific health reasons and they’re working with the doctor. But this lifestyle approach that I talk about in Intuitive Fasting, it’s pretty much accessible for most people.
Will shares how he fasts and tools to help people with cravings
Kimberly: Was this how you personally eat? Or do you take longer fast, like four days, five days? Are you doing a cycling?
Will Cole: I’m doing the cycling most days. But I do it intuitively. I’m giving people a template to then learn about their bodies to find out for themselves. I will just … Today, I’m doing an OMAD day and I feel great doing it. Then I’ll break my fast in the afternoon. On the weekends, I find myself doing a 12-12 and I feel great there. Then most of the weeks, I’ll do a 16-8 or an 18-6, and I just I’ve been flow from that space. But again, I feel great doing it. I’ve increased energy, increased focus. I just overall feel better. But then I know when I need to break the fast, and I feel good doing that too.
Kimberly: I imagine a lot of the people that would really benefit from your program and really benefit from your book. Let’s say high inflammation levels, there’s a reason they got there, right? They’re eating a lot of sugar, they’re eating a certain way. What would you say to people that are like, “Oh, my God, this is so exciting. This sounds great. But I have massive sugar cravings?” Are there tools you provide [inaudible] to help people [inaudible] They can’t imagine eating the OMAD days right now?
Will Cole: Right. Well, they have two weeks to prep for that, because they’re leaning into it progressively. Even then, I’d say I give such a broad window for people to really incrementally lean into it. Look, when you consult people 10 hours a day for the past decade, you realize you’ve heard everything under the sun-
Kimberly: I’m sure.
Will Cole: … as far as questions. I’ve put in all that the modifications and I knew you were going to ask this like, “All right, adjust this, if you feel this way. Do this if you feel this way.” There’s so much resources and support throughout that book that there’s not going to be an issue. If somebody’s coming in it with a positive attitude, they’re going to do great. Yeah, I realized that. Also, part of that modification is, in that week one, if they feel like, “Even going into week two, I’m not ready for that yet,” I say repeat week one. Repeat week one.
Kimberly: Yeah, [crosstalk]
Will Cole: Stay in that 12-12. Don’t make it four weeks just because I made it four weeks. I want you to say, “No, I need the longer time here because I’m just getting the hang of this food thing and I just need 12-12 to just nourish my body all day long with this food.” Do that. Make your week one, and then make it two weeks. Make it three weeks if you need to. This should be self paced and this is a template that’s partially self paced, based on how you’re leaning into one phase to another.
We discuss Lyme disease and how it exacerbates and perpetuates many health issues
Kimberly: Wow. I also hear a lot about Lyme disease these days. I’m sure you do as well. What are the other [inaudible] You’ve seen patients really-
Will Cole: Oh yeah.
Kimberly: … improve with this-
Will Cole: Major part of my patient base. It’s [crosstalk]
Kimberly: Isn’t it crazy how big it is? First of all, what’s going on with the ticks in the deer and the Lyme disease? I’m from Connecticut where [crosstalk] Lyme disease started. Yeah I’m from-
Will Cole: Yeah [crosstalk]
Kimberly: Yeah. But now we hear about Lyme disease every day.
Will Cole: It’s in all 50 states. I mean, people think … I mean beyond traveling, but it’s in all 50 states inherently. It’s not just to deer ticks, it’s in other types of ticks as well. I’ve seen other people in Europe, their medical doctors saying it came from different spiders as well.
Will Cole: [crosstalk] it’s not just a tick thing. But Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria is what we call tick borne or insect borne. It’s a bacteria, and there’s many co-infections. But look there’s … It’s just a nuanced conversation, but I’ll keep to completely what I think is the reality for most people with chronic tick borne issues or chronic infections as a whole, is back to that genetic-epigenetic trigger that I was talking about. This genetic-epigenetic mismatch, this chasm between our DNA and the world around us. If you look at it from an ancestral health perspective, bacteria and ticks, pathogens, viruses, parasites, these things would have lived with human race for a long time.
Will Cole: There was a symbiotic nature with it where … It’s not to say people didn’t get these chronic infections, because of course people got chronic infections. But there was still not the … When we see this growth of it, better diagnostics is part of it. Because I think a lot of times, over the past decades, people just didn’t know why they were going through these issues. There is better labs and better understanding with this stuff. But even that doesn’t explain everything. Why are all these people getting all these issues in increasing levels? I really think it has to do with this epigenetic-genetic mismatch, where before people could live … their immune systems could handle these pathogens.
Will Cole: It lived in symbiosis with us, it lived in harmony with our biochemistry because we actually evolved with these things. But now it’s these pathogens are just triggering these genetic predispositions because they’re already overflowing. It’s not necessarily the Borrelia burgdorferi, or the Babesia, the Bartonella of this co-infections that are tick borne there that are the necessarily causation of all of these things. But it is a trigger for many people, an exacerbate and a perpetuator of these many issues.
Will Cole: I don’t think it’s the causation of all of these problems for people, but I think it’s a piece of the puzzle because immune system’s already flared up and it’s stressing out an already stressed out system. The analogy that I use with my patients, if you have a mug … Some people have massive mugs, some people have smaller mugs, that’s your genetic tolerance to stressors. Many people have MTHFR gene variants, they have COMT gene variants, have other endocannabinoid gene variants.
Will Cole: They tend to have smaller mugs. Then they have the food and the environmental toxins and the chronic stress and trauma. Then you get the tick bacteria, Epstein-Barr virus, [crosstalk] mold, bio toxins, and that’s causing the overflow already. It’s not like that happened in a vacuum or it just happened overnight. It was already about to break, and then you get this pathogen that just flared everything up. You have to look at stress, trauma, biotoxins, all this stuff. Chronic gut issues and food, all of that stuff is what can overflow that cup. Can overflow that-
Kimberly: Would you say that in a similar way to allergies?
Will Cole: Yeah, same thing. It’s like the immune systems already primed and you have these immune mediated issues to food, to environmental. Yeah, absolutely. We have to keep an open mind because there are some people, and I’ve seen this diagnostically, it’s like you run labs for people and they’ll have positive line markers or positive immune stressors and they feel great. They feel fine. That’s the biggest point here is that some people’s immune systems can handle these chronic issues and some people, it creates havoc in their quality of life.
Will Cole: We know that that tick bacteria or mold issues or chronic gut issues, whatever you’re talking about, those things can trigger autoimmunity for people, it can trigger chronic fatigue syndrome in people, because that’s when the immune system loses recognition of self that I talked about, that molecular mimicry. Then the immune system is triggered to attack the thyroid or attack the brain or attack the joints, attack the digestive system because of that triggering event, [inaudible] Their triggering event could be tick bacteria.
Kimberly: Wow. It is this cascade that just builds and builds and builds which, you think about the people today with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and that must be building for even decades correct?
Will Cole: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Four to 10 years prior. I mean, research estimates. Yeah, it’s this perfect storm of things. Then you run labs and you can see, “Well, okay, maybe it was for this person.” I mean, well, let’s just look at this. You could have 100 people with an autoimmune disease, and what’s overflowing one person’s mug is not overflowing the next person mug. All their mugs are overflowing. They all have symptoms, they all on flare ups. But what’s actually in the mug that’s causing the overflow is different from people to people. That’s where I commend diagnostically with my [inaudible] what are the factors there?
Will Cole: Maybe it is insulin resistance and estrogen dominance and hormonal things, is the gut issues or is heavy metal issues or is mold issues. For the next person, it’s not bad. It’s like different configuration of variables. We are all looking at the check engine light of the car whenever we see that infertility or the autoimmune condition or the chronic fatigue syndrome. These are all check engine lights. We know the check engine light’s on, but why? You don’t just say, “Well, everybody with that check engine light has the same thing and it’s like the same process to fix it.”
Will Cole: That’s like just covering up the check engine light and hoping that it works, and really it’s not going to most of the time. You have to look underneath the hood, proverbially speaking, and see what’s going on there? What’s misfiring? What’s dysfunctional? What’s deficient? What’s out of balance that’s causing the check engine light to be on in the first place. That’s different from people to people.
The benefits of intuitive fasting to feel and look your best
Kimberly: Will, lastly, we talked about so many different conditions. Let’s say someone is listening to this and they don’t have any conditions per se. They haven’t been diagnosed. Everybody wants to feel their best. Tell us how intuitive fasting … What would be the benefits if you don’t have a disease, you don’t have a condition, but just want to feel your best and look your best?
Will Cole: Yeah. Well, man, if you’re one of those awesome people, that’s the place of grace, right? That’s a place [crosstalk] of grace, and there’s still people out there that feel like that. I mean, sadly, it’s growing less than less. But I mean, let’s keep that. Let’s focus on that. What can you do today to be proactive to have agency over in your health and to just feel your best? What I find as many times is that people that are at that space, they know they’re way better off than most people, but they’re still not where they want to be and they know I want to take my energy to the next level, I want to have increased brain function, I want to have better digestion.
Will Cole: These are things that I noticed for many people that would consider themselves fairly healthy, but they’re looking to take it to the next level. That’s where I would really say intuitive fasting is for them too. They don’t need the chronic health problem for this to be supportive of their health. This is a good thing. I think this is all best summarized by Paracelsus, who I quote in the book. He was one of the fathers of modern medicine. He’s known as the Father of Toxicology in medicine, but he was known as the Martin Luther of medicine in the end of the 1400s, early 1500s in Switzerland. He called fasting the physician within, which I think is an eloquent way to put it.
Will Cole: It’s like, “Okay.” It’s like inner doctor where I can take my health to the next level wherever you’re at. Whether you do have a chronic inflammatory problem and you’re really looking to calm things down, or you’re just saying, “I need to improve energy, I want more metabolic flexibility,” it’s there for you there too. It’s something that you can adjust intuitively to serve you and use it as a tool in your toolbox.
Kimberly: Well, I’m going to break it down even more, Will, on a very, very daily … Yeah, I love to see, who is writing these books and are they working there? Are they doing their own work? Are they embodying it? I will say, skin and hair, all these things, and eyes, it really does reflect. Outer beauty reflects inner health and outer … Your health is this vibrancy is really [inaudible] what’s going on inside of you. I will say on a superficial level, Will, you have great skin, you have great hair.
Will Cole: Thank you.
Kimberly: You’re very [inaudible], and these are things that women are very concerned about. When you start losing your hair, there’s something wrong inside of you. Your skin is starting to age in a premature way, there’s something, there’s some kind of call out. Of course, we talk about all the metabolic functions, but there’s a radius. There’s a physicality to it as well.
Will Cole: I agree with that. Absolutely. I mean, these are … My hair and my skin and people’s hair and their skin are this check engine lights too for many people. I mean-
Will Cole: It’s a sign of what’s going on inside many times.
Kimberly: Yeah, whether it’s your eczema or rashes or the under eye circles, there is something going on for sure. Last question,
Will. What are some of your top anti-inflammatory foods? I mean, people think of sugar a lot, but-
Will Cole: Oh, yeah.
Kimberly: Well, there’s so much information in all your books. I think I have all of them actually. I love this Inflammation Spectrum one-
Will Cole: Thank you.
Kimberly: … and Intuitive Fasting one. I’m going to take a deep dive into that. But take us through some of them, please.
Will Cole: I talk about them in actually all the books, in Ketotarian, the Inflammation Spectrum, and Intuitive Fasting, but it’s what I call it core four. These are the four foods that are most likely to drive inflammation in most people, and that’s why … I mean, I’m saying that succinctly or specifically because it’s bio individuality.
Will Cole: What I’m about to say, some people can handle some levels of this and they’re fine. Maybe their mugs aren’t overflowing. They can handle some of it and they’re like, “I’m fine with that. What is he talking about?” Maybe your mugs aren’t overflowing, but these are mug filler uppers and whether it’s causing a tipping point or not, it’s dependent on your capacity to handle these things. Number one would be added sugar, which is a no brainer. I mean, people know that. But even the euphemisms for sugar that makes sugar sounds so much more tropical and amazing, whole foodish, it’s still sugar. Look at things like agave nectar and even coconut sugar. These things are better maybe, they’re better but they’re still sugar and eating a lot of it-
Kimberly: What about monk fruit? [crosstalk]
Will Cole: What’s that?
Kimberly: What’s your opinion on monk fruit?
Will Cole: Monk fruit is a bit different because it’s not going to create an insulin response in the same way. But too much of these low carb like xylitol, sugar, alcohols or monk fruit or stevia, in excess amounts, they can be disruptive to the gut too. In small amounts, I prefer monk fruit way over the other ones for sure. But anything that’s going to impact insulin, that’s going to raise blood sugar, should be used in … Look at your body’s tolerance to these things, because these can be disruptive to the microbiome, these can be drivers of metabolic issues and chronic inflammation. Added sugar, read labels.
Will Cole: Number two would be grains, primarily gluten containing grains, because I allow rice and things like that in intuitive fasting. But mainly gluten containing grains like wheat and rye and barley and spelt mainly. I mean, we hybridized and change the grain supply over years and then we’re spraying it with tons of stuff. I don’t blame just the grain on it, I think it’s what we’ve done to it in many ways. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s just say gluten containing grains. Then three would be industrial seed oils. These are things that many boxed stuff. Even [inaudible] alternatives could have things like canola oil and grape seed oil and soybean oil.
Kimberly: [crosstalk] oil. Yeah.
Will Cole: Yeah. Look, some people can handle some of that, that’s fine. But some people, it’s a major disrupter to their inflammation and microbiome. It’s causing digestive problems. Then stage number four would be dairy. Mainly, the conventional dairy. You can talk about the nuanced conversations about [inaudible] and goat milk and that stuff. But for the sake of the core four, let’s say dairy.
Kimberly: You make my heart so happy.
Will Cole: Core four.
Kimberly: Thank you so much, Will, for being with us. You have so much information. So much knowledge-
Will Cole: Thanks.
Kimberly: … and I could literally pick your brain all day.
Will Cole: Thanks. Thanks so much.
Kimberly: I’m just so grateful that you’ve written these books and just these guides for people to really walk them through. I personally really resonate with the fasting aspect, which I admit is something that I haven’t taken as deep dive lately. I’m still nursing, and we’re [crosstalk]
Will Cole: Yeah, yeah.
Kimberly: But I want to get more into that, and I think it’s such a … It really ties in with my whole lifestyle with yoga and being less attached to the things of the world meditation, just so attached to food. I think it’s good to rethink that and rework that, and I think most everyone could benefit. So thank you so much.
Will Cole: You’re welcome. Thank you for the kind words, for the same about you. Thanks for having me.
Kimberly: Your book Intuitive Fasting, [inaudible] healing book. I think [inaudible] It’s obviously available everywhere.
Will Cole: Yeah, they can Amazon, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores. All the links are at drwillcole.com, if people want to check that or any of the other books out too.
Kimberly: Perfect. Drwillcole.com, we’ll put it in the show notes, Beauties, as well as all the other information, where to find more about Dr. Will Cole. Thank you again, so much, and hope-
Will Cole: Thank you.
Kimberly: … to have you back.
Will Cole: Yeah. Thank you.
Kimberly: All right my loves, I hope you enjoyed our interview today with Dr. Will Cole, fascinating, fascinating doctor. Be sure to check out the show notes over at mysolluna.com. Two L’s, my S-O-L-L-U-N-A.com, where we have other links to shows and resources that I think that you would enjoy.
Kimberly: And also, we have our new Solluna app, if you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s our free app. You could check it out in the app store, makes it really easy to find our recipes and meditations. And we have a wonderful chat group there with the community and there’s also information about joining our Solluna Circle, which is also hosted on the app. So all that being said, I will be back here Thursday for our next Q&A podcast. Sending you so much love and see you back here soon.