• Ammie P.

Keto, Vegetarian, and Functional Medicine



Is it Possible to follow a Ketogenic diet and still be a vegetarian or vegan if you choose? What are some of the benefits of following a ketogenic diet? What is a Functional Medicine Doctor?


I recently had the opportunity to get these questions answered by an expert on this topic. I do not follow a vegan/vegetarian diet, personally, but many other people choose this diet for ethical reasons, and they may see more benefits from also doing a Keto diet or LCHF. Dr. Will Cole, a Functional Medicine Doctor and best-selling author of Ketotarian, from Pittsburgh, PA was kind enough to answer some of these questions.


1. I read that you received your education from Southern California University of Health Sciences in California and then went on to pursue your education with Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition at the Institute for Functional Medicine and Functional Medicine University. What made you pursue the Functional Medicine and Nutrition route?


I grew up in a family that always cared about health and the foods we put into our bodies. As a got older and saw the state of mainstream medicine, I wanted to be able to really uncover the root cause of someone's symptoms to alleviate them naturally instead of just managing symptoms with medication.


2. I'm curious to the difference in nutrition taught at the Functional Medicine Institute as to an education a Registered Dietitian may receive?

There are many RD's that go on to be trained in functional medicine. There are many different type of health practitioners, MDs, DCs, DOs, NDs, NPs, Rds that come together to be trained in functional medicine. It is a deeper look into health and how to get there.   


3. How did you end up having a practice near Pittsburgh, PA from California?

I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and originally moved to California to go to school. My wife is from California and still has family out there but we ultimately decided that we wanted to raise our family in Pittsburgh partly because of the cost of living and partly because we just loved Pennsylvania. My clinic is also operates mainly as a virtual clinic so I am able to see patients via webcam all over the world as well as locally in Pittsburgh, PA.


4. I think having a great mentor is so important, and I think we lack that in our education system. Who is a great mentor for you?

Terry Wahls has always been a great mentor and friend to me. She has given me some of the best advice as I was first starting out with my practice and in the world of functional medicine. I believe it is important to have people in the same field as you to look up to, who can support you, and who you can ultimately support as well.


5. Youngstown is only about an hour away, and I'm sure many people in this area are dealing with some health issues who may have been dismissed by their doctor or were just told to take a medication to cover up the symptoms, but not necessarily told why something is happening or finding the root cause. What are some common illnesses or health issues that you treat?

I see a lot of underlying gut dysfunctions that end up manifesting into various health conditions such as autoimmune diseases, gut problems such as leaky gut, SIBO, and candida overgrowth, as well as thyroid problems, hormone imbalances, autism, anxiety, depression, brain fog, and more. I have really seen it all when it comes to health and my goal is to uncover the root cause of why someone is going through what they are going trough and to support them along the way with natural functional medicine healing tools.


6. Most people here see general doctors, because we really don't have functional medicine doctors in this area. In fact, using food as medicine may even seem crazy to some, but it's actually life-changing. What are some ways that food can be used to treat an illness, the gut, or even weight-loss?

Food can either feed disease or fuel health. The foods you choose to eat on a daily basis dynamically instruct your health. They can either be inflammatory and push you further from your goals and perpetuate symptoms or work toward healing by correcting deficiencies and supporting various pathways to alleviate symptoms. Since every person's biochemistry is different, the foods that work for one person - even some of the ''healthiest'' foods - may not work for the next person. I work to help you find what foods help you thrive.


7. You have a new book out, Ketotarian, which I have heard you talk about on some podcasts. It is a book for everyone, but it is geared towards vegans or vegetarians who also want to try the Ketogenic Diet. What inspired you to write this book? What can vegans/vegetarians expect in this book?

It was really born out of my own personal experience seeing what worked with my own health and over 10 years of clinical experience seeing what worked for my patients. I saw the importance of eating healthy fats and relying less on carbs and sugar for fuel. By switching your body from a sugar-burner to a fat-burner, it can help to reduce inflammation, stabilize blood sugar, restore energy, and enhance brain health.

Many conventional ketogenic diets are filled with meat and dairy that can be inflammatory for a lot of people and traditional plant-based diets can rely more on grains, legumes, and soy than vegetables. With Ketotarian i was able to take the best of both conventional keto and plant-based diets while removing those pitfalls to create an easy-to-follow real food plan that provides the fat-burning benefits of being in ketosis all with a detoxifying, nutrient-dense plant-based twist.


8. Do you see the Ketogenic diet helping people with their health issues in your clinic? So many people are scared of this high fat diet, and most doctors deter patients from it because they have very little knowledge in nutrition.

Since Ketotarian was based off of my clinical experience, many of my patients were following more of a Ketotarian diet before it was even put onto paper or became a fully-formed diet plan in my mind. We've been taught for years that fat was bad and we are finally starting to realize and research is starting to catch up and show just how important healthy fats are to our health. In fact, just looking at it from a biological and evolutionary standpoint,, our brains are comprised of 60 percent fat and we started our lives relying on fat in the form of breast milk for energy and development. If healthy fats are good enough for a developing baby, I think they are good enough for everyone.


9. Do a lot of your patients follow a ''Ketotarian'' diet?

I have actually seen many patients who have started Ketotarian before coming into care with great results and just want a little fine-tuning. I also see a lot of patients who may start off on a different eating plan at first, and then transition into a Ketotarian way of eating as their healing progresses.


10. Cholesterol numbers seem to go up on a Ketogenic diet, and I know that's an area of controversy now, but do you find in your practice those doing a vegan keto diet compared to including animal products have any difference in their cholesterol or other health markers Do you think high cholesterol is something to be worried about with more research coming out on how higher levels may even be beneficial?

Ultimately, looking at overall cholesterol numbers is a poor predictor of your health. Because there are two different types of LDL cholesterol - small dense LDL and large buoyant LDL - it's important to understand which is higher as the non-oxidized and non-inflamed large buoyant LDL particles are protective. Better predictors of poor health are high inflammation markers like homocysteine and CRP, high triglycerides, and low good HDL cholesterol.


11. ''Keto crotch''? The newest scare tactic....I know the answer, but women everywhere are now scared. Do women get ''keto crotch'' from this diet?

Any diet change can shift your microbiome and going off sugar specifically can cause some ''die-off'' or detox symptoms for those with yeast overgrowth or other bacterial imbalances. There isn't much research surrounding keto crotch, but just like keto breath, there could potentially be an increased vaginal odor due to the shift from a high-carb diet to one higher in healthy fats. If that does happen though, it's not something that should cause alarm and similarly to keto breath should go away after your body adjust to this new way of eating.


Just some quick questions.


1. Do you keto? - Yes, now that I am fat adapted I can cycle in and out of ketosis.


2. Intermittent faster? - Yes, I typically intermittent fast every day until lunch.


3. Favorite meal? - I love a good lettuce wrapped taco with extra guac.


4. Favorite ''cheat meal''? - I don't really have a ''cheat meal'' but anything with peanut butter is my weakness.


5. Steelers fan? - I am not not a Steelers fan, just not a big fan of football in general.


6. Track macros? Tracking app? - I personally don't track macros on a regular basis but when I do I use Cronometer which is what I recommend to my patients.


7. Have you been to Youngstown? - Not yet, but I'd love to in the future!


8. A book that you read that you would recommend to someone? - Besides Ketotarian, I'd have to say The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.


9. Where can we get your book? Best way to reach you if someone wants more information? - You can find my book in almost any major bookstore as well as online on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can find more information about my clinic, educational articles, and becoming a patient at www.drwillcole.com.


Carbless Craze Cafe also has plenty of options on their menu for vegetarians/vegans. Some items include their house salads, zoodle bowls, and wraps that you can order without chicken or beef. If there is something special you are looking for, just contact them on their contact page or by phone, and I'm sure the owners would be willing to help.


You can follow or get in touch with Dr. Will Cole on social media such as instagam @drwillcole, Facebook Dr. Will Cole, and his website www.drwillcole.com. He takes on clients at his clinic in Pittsburgh, but also does virtual consultations if you can't make the trip.

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