The Intimate Relationship Between Mental and Physical Health

Did you know that the gut and brain are connected? Maybe you’ve heard of the gut-brain axis, and that your diet impacts mental health, but did you know that significant amounts of serotonin and dopamine are made in the gut? To truly heal, it takes both a dietary and mental-health approach.

Dr. Will Cole is an expert in functional medicine with a focus on thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions, hormone imbalances, and digestive disorders. He is the author of several bestselling books, including The Inflammation Spectrum and Intuitive Fasting, and was one of the first doctors to embrace telehealth as a means of reaching more patients.

In this episode, we talk about Dr. Cole’s newest book, Gut Feelings, and the relationship between mental and physical health. We tend to separate the two, but they are actually intimately connected.

“Shameflammation,” as Dr. Cole calls it, is the intersection between mental/emotional issues like stress and shame and how that impacts your physical body. He also explores what stress can do to your gut and how practices like meditation and breathwork can help regulate the nervous system.

You’ll learn how diet, chronic infections, and nutrient deficiencies impact why you feel the way that you do, specifically when it comes to brain fog, fatigue, and other mental-health concerns. And conversely, how stress, shame, trauma and other mental health issues impact your physical body.

Freebies From Today’s Episode
Pre-order Dr. Cole’s new book: Gut Feelings, and you will get FREE VIP access to exclusive swag delivered straight to your inbox!


00:01:05 – Introducing Dr. Will Cole
00:03:50 – How Gut Feelings came to be: connecting the physiological and psychological
00:08:20 – The impact of food on mental health
00:10:45 – Why gut health affects your brain
00:12:28 – How to determine if you are impacted by inflammation
00:16:18 – How stress affects the gut and mental health
00:22:40 – How the nervous system and hormones are affected by stress
00:28:03 – Unpacking deep, unresolved trauma and how it impacts health

Mentioned in this episode:

Learn more about Dr. Will Cole 

Grab this FREE Almond Berry Crumble recipe from Dr. Cole's latest book, Gut Feelings

Listen to my previous podcast on the Ketotarian diet with Dr. Cole

And our conversation about Intuitive Fasting

Read Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings, and Calm Inflammation

Read Intuitive Fasting: The Flexible Four-Week Intermittent Fasting Plan to Recharge Your Metabolism and Renew Your Health

Use Your Lab Work to check inflammatory markers (no doctor’s prescription needed)

Try a guided meditation with Dr. Joe Dispenza

Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 537_Will Cole
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin. Welcome and thanks so much for joining me. This is Ask the Health Expert here. I put the Power of Health in your hands and give you access to the top people in health and wellness. In each episode, I share safe ways to get healthy, lose weight, heal your gut detox and lots more. So if you wanna get healthy and get off the dieting for life merry-go-round, I'll give you strategies that will help you look and feel better fast.
I have my buddy. Dr. Will Cole and he's, first of all, he's the most creative with his book titles of anyone ever. So we've had him on the show to talk about Ketotarian and then he also did his New York Times bestseller, intuitive Fasting. [00:01:00] Andy also wrote the inflammation spectrum. He's back. This time we're gonna be talking gut feelings, healing the shame fueled relationship between what you eat and how you feel.
Yet again, another amazing title. And Dr. Will Cole is a functional medicine expert. He is a huge telehealth practice like way before everybody else was doing it. And he is focused on functionalists and approach to thyroid, autoimmune, hormonal imbalances digestive disorders and more. He also has the art of being well podcasts and is featured.
all over Goop. And what's very interesting about him is a, he again, does the best book titles and just the way he explains things, but all has come up with how he works in his practice and how he's explaining things to patients. And you're gonna hear about how his books come out of that, which I think is just genius.
We're gonna have some cool stuff that you will get by going to You're going. Some awesome recipes. We always love those sneak peek of the [00:02:00] book and some and invited to a three week event that he's doing with our buddy, Dr. Daniel Layman, and also another podcast guest, Dr.
Carolyn Leaf. So you'll wanna go and get that. And again, that's at And now I am going to introduce my buddy, Dr. Will Cole, you, if you haven't heard him before, you may want go back and listen to some of the other podcasts. He is a fantastic guest and we're doing a little different today.
Again, we're gonna really talk about the gut-brain connection and how you have to work from both the dietary side. And the nervous system side to get truly healthy. So I'll be right
Will Cole: back.
JJ Virgin: Okay, so Will, I just, I gotta know, because you've done keto, you did that intuitive fasting book, which I think people didn't really understand when I saw the title. Oh, funny. Which we have to, [00:03:00] I, I know we talked about that a little bit before, but I love the play on, on intuitive eating that you did there, you did your inflammation.
This feels like you just did this, like, I don't know, detour to the left here with this gut feelings book. So I would love to go with, start here with you're, you're now digging into connecting how you feel when you eat shame, trauma. Like where did this come?
Will Cole: Yeah. And thank you JJ as always, just your years of support and, and friendship and I, I, it does not go unnoticed, so thank you.
The. All of the books that I've written, like all the things you, you mentioned like with ketotarian, sort of a Mediterranean ketogenic way of eating or intuitive fasting and having that conversation around sort of a mindful way of fasting and sort of the, the, the minds, the mindset behind fasting as well and, and food and the inflammation spectrum.
Talking about inflammation and how it exists on a [00:04:00] continuum, all of. . These conversations that I have in book form are conversations that I have on an hourly basis running the telehealth center. So they're all just when? When do I wanna have that conversation with people that aren't my patients is really the question is.
So this book concept of gut feelings is something that I wanted to have for a long time. It's just a matter Was the timing of what? When did it come out? I guess so, because it's so integral to. Work with patients. It's the the reality that in the West we like to separate mental health from physical health, but really empowering people to realize that mental health is physical health, and really showing them both the physiological and the psychological component to why we feel the way that we do, specifically around brain fog, fatigue.
Anxiety, depression, neuro neurological issues. So gut feelings. The physiological and the psychological, like the physical issues of, of underlying gut problems and chronic infections [00:05:00] and mold toxins and Lyme disease and nutrient deficiencies. The things that I measure on patient's labs will impact how our mood is, will impact things like anxiety and depression and irritability and things like that.
But then conversely, the feeling side of it, the, the stress, the research around stress, chronic stress and shame and trauma and intergenerational trauma. These mental, emotional, spiritual things. How do they impact our physical body and how they impact and can be dysregulating, our nervous system driving inflammation, impacting our gut brain access and, and literally be stored in ourselves impacting methylation expression.
So these are. Two sides of the conversation that need to be had. Certainly I have to have them with my patients, but I want the conversation. Around mental health, and I think you and I probably both agree that it's great that people are talking about mental health and, and, and destigmatizing it and allowing people space to go get help.
That's great. But I think in many ways it's an incomplete conversation that the world is [00:06:00] having around mental health because they're not connecting the fact that mental health is physical health. They're just saying, well, go get mental health care. Well, that's great. Really getting sustainable care for many, many people involves dealing with the physiological side of, of mental health issues.
So that's, that's what I'm trying to do with
JJ Virgin: the book. I love it. I also think, you know, just this idea that you've been having these conversations with your patients and you go, okay, when is it time to put this into a book to reach more people? That's so smart, and, the way you name your books too, like are you coming up with those names?
Cuz if you are like I'm, I am just, wow. Bowing to you like this one. Thank you. Gut feelings heal. I love marketing. So healing the shame fueled relationship between what you eat and how you feel like this is, it's so good. Thank you. And you know, I love the fact that you're connecting to dots between, between food and mental health as well.
And at, I remember my kids were in kindergarten and I get a call from, And they called me and they said, [00:07:00] Hey, come pick up your son, grant. And I go, why? And they go, he's climbing the walls. And I go, he is climbing the walls. What are you talking about? And they go, well, he won the, the Christmas wrapping paper contest for both sales.
So he got a pound bag of. M&Ms and we gave him the pound bag of M&Ms and now he's climbing the wall and I'm thinking, I'm not coming to get you. I'm like, you, you're stuck with him for a while. . But you know, that's a, that's a. Really obvious situation of how food impacts our mood. But what I'd love to look like as we start to unpack this, I'd love to talk, really start to connect those dots.
Cuz I know with just sugar alone, you know, people think of sugar and go, oh sugar, you're gonna gain weight. But like that's. One little piece of sugar , like probably the, the least of the problems, right? Oh
Will Cole: yeah, 100% and yeah, that's a massive problem. Like you mentioned your son in school, like how many kids today?
Right there, [00:08:00] left. To really be at the whim of a system that isn't really set up for their health and their, their talent and the skills that they have lying dormant in their body when they're fed with nutrient less foods. And I, there's probably pockets of changes that. In the right direction maybe.
But maybe, maybe, I don't know. I'm sure there's some good people trying to do good things somewhere.
JJ Virgin: I think a couple of the little private schools, but the challenge is like, you know, we actually tried to affect some change, but there's government contracts with schools.
Will Cole: Right. I remember my high school had a sponsorship, sponsorship deal with Pepsi.
So it was . They had like Pepsi machines throughout. It was like everywhere. It was advertised to high school students. Pepsi, we don't need to be advertised. Pepsi High
JJ Virgin: School students. That's like, that's like yeah, it's like putting meth, meth things around. You know? It's like
Will Cole: it's meth dealers around
I know. It's really. Wild. It's very wild. You can still have a conversation around, but I [00:09:00] get in a way it's like so much money around it. Schools need money and they're gonna take the money from these junk food industries. It's really backward. Well, we not cigarettes.
JJ Virgin: Yeah, exactly. I mean, you know, if you accept, I love what Dr.
Mark Hyman says that sugars are our number one recreational drug of choice. Yeah. Like it is. Mm-hmm. , you know, it's like, do you really wanna be giving your kids the Skittles and juice packs and all that stuff, you know? I
Will Cole: know, but, and, and. And the foods we eat impact our mood. I mean, whether you're talking about school-aged kids or whoever you are, you have to realize every meal that you eat is either feeding health or feeding health problems.
And it's the foods we eat can be if we give it the chance to do so. When you're looking at. Nutrient density and the bioavailability of those nutrients, we can provide our body, the raw materials it needs to make neurotransmitters literally. So when the old saying, you are what you eat now, science substantiates that, that the foods we eat actually helps to make the tissues that make up things like serotonin and dopamine and [00:10:00] acetylcholine for focus or hormone health.
So yeah, it's a fast, very, really important facet and. what we eat. We, we aren't just what we eat. That is true. That's part of it. But we are ultimately what we absorb back to gut health. And our gut is also home to 95% of where serotonin is made in stored. 95% of serotonin is made in, stored in the gut.
50% of dopamine is made in the gut, stored in the gut. So these sort of pleasure. Joy, focus, happiness, and our transmitters largely are made in the second brain in the gut and the gut. I know you know this, but people that are newer to this conversation, our gut and brain are actually formed from the same fetal tissue.
So when babies are growing in their mother's womb, the gut and brain are formed from that same fetal fetal tissue, and are inextricably linked for the rest of our lives through what's known as the gut brain access or the connection between the two. So our food is that we eat. It's not only influencing from.
Raw material nutrient standpoint to make [00:11:00] neurotransmitters, but. , it can, the foods we eat can also really do a number on our gut health, which is where most of neurotransmitters are made in stored. Or it can really feed a healthy gut garden, a healthy microbiome to be supportive of all these pathways. And then on top of that, this barring mood directly, indirectly, 75% of the immune system is made in the gut.
So when you're talking about inflammation, which will hurt anybody's mood, I mean, if you're struggling with inflammation of the brain or. Systemic inflammation, you're not gonna feel good. You're gonna feel irritable, anxious, wired, and tired as how people explain it. And most of that is originating in the gut.
So we have to realize that we, this is the power that we wield with every meal.
JJ Virgin: How are you looking for when patients come in? Because we talk so much about inflammation. You wrote a whole book on it and you know, someone comes in and we know inflammation's underlying a lot of these problems, but you know, how would you go about showing 'em, what tests are you looking at?
What are you, how do you, how can you tell them and show them [00:12:00] that inflammation's a key driver? So,
Will Cole: Both subjectively and objectively. Subjectively we go off of first how you feel, right? And I think that's one of the areas that I have in gut feelings is kind of showing people the connection between how they feel and, and inflammation and showing them.
So a concept that I talk in the book is called Shameflammation. It's sort of that intersection between mental emotional issues like stress and shame and how that impacts our physical body. So looking at the physiological and the psychological impact of inflammation, that's really the conversation I'm having in gut feelings.
So things like fatigue. Brain fog, trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, my irritable, my anxious, and my tired. These are things that are assigned. They're pointers that there's some dysregulation going on in the nervous system, and part of that nervous system dysregulation is an inflammatory component for many people, and their immune system is in that hyperactive state, and we can quantify that.
So off of how [00:13:00] you feel and going off of how you feel is a good pointer. Labs are the gold standard still to like, to really see data and see that data improve. And that's what we run for our telehealth patients. So high sensitivity, C-reactive protein is number one. We want H S C R P to be under one.
And the American Heart Association, the C D C will have, when you look at the conventional lab. Reports, they'll have similar reference ranges. They want it to be under one. And so we do the same in functional medicine. Homocystine is another one. Homocystine is an inflammatory protein. It's a part of something called methylation, which I talk a lot about in the book because methylation deeded for making neurotransmitters and even slightly elevated homocystine levels is, is associated with an increased in blood-brain barrier permeability, or.
What they call leaky brain syndrome. As someone,
JJ Virgin: what do you consider a slightly elevated homocystine since above seven. Yeah, I was gonna say, I'm assuming that the, the levels we're seeing in [00:14:00] the tests are not what we wanna go by , so Yeah,
Will Cole: yeah. True. Well said. Yeah. We wanna look at optimal, not average, that lab's reference range to your point, is based off of a statistical bell curve average of people who go to labs.
People that go to labs aren't the healthiest bunch of people, sadly. So we're looking at the functional range. And not the op. The we're looking optimal, not average. We're looking at where does the body function the best. So the functional range for homocystine is under seven, and there's a lot of things like the mental, emotional, spiritual component of it, like stress and shame and trauma, but also underlying gut problems, mold, toxins, chronic lines can deplete what are called methyl donors, these carbon hydrogen groups that.
Really impact the way that methylation is functioning and that can cause an accumulation of this inflammatory marker called homocystine. Ferritin is another one that I measure on labs. You always wanna put ferritin in context with the other markers around it, like the full iron panel of iron and iron saturation and total iron binding [00:15:00] capacity.
All of those markers. Ferritin can, for many of our patients, act as an acute phase reactant. So basically in states of inflammation, you'll see ferritin spike. The iron will be normal. Sometimes you'll even see low iron oftentimes with a lot of our fatigue and brain fog patients. But you'll see high ferritin.
But low iron, and that's sort of this brain fog fatigue pattern that you can see for the many people because there's nutrient deficiencies i e iron and things like vitamin C and B vitamins, but they're in a state of inflammation and that's artificially spiking ferritin. So those are some easy, more mainstream labs that we look at for patients with inflammation.
JJ Virgin: So I think there's something really interesting to explore here, and I haven't really heard people talk about this and it is what happens and it's so, it's like your book is so perfect right now, coming off of a couple years of like insane stress. Because no matter what was going on, just that whole state of like, what the heck is going [00:16:00] on and what are they gonna do to us next?
You know, , like, what's happening next? The, the state of uncertainty and lack of control is gonna make anyone stressed. And I'll give you a, a little interesting thing that happened to me. And then what I'd love to do is explore, you know, how this happens so people can understand the role of stress is While the pandemic was going on, I also got like, had a really weird thing happen in business where I got kicked out of one of the companies.
So it was like not a bueno thing and super high stress. And I step on the scale, my weight's up five pounds and I think to myself, all right, well, you know, stress. I know what stress does, blah, blah, blah. Okay, fine. Except now it starts going up a pound a. That's not fine. So I ran over, like, called all my doc friends.
Everyone's like, it's this, it's that, it's this. One of my friends was like, oh, you know, you just kicked up this autoimmune disease again. It was Dr. Alan Christensen and ran over, get all the tests. Yep, sure enough, , autoimmune gastritis. I'm like, darn it. But it [00:17:00] was interesting cuz I resolved that and then I started doing Dr.
Joe Dispenza's meditation work, which I wish you'd been at Mindshare this year. We had Dr. Joe there. It was like, it was insane. Anyway aside I was telling him, I go, you know, it's interesting because I've started meditating every single day. I never used to do it. It was kind of a. Gift of the pandemic and just from meditating.
It's the only thing I changed. Didn't change anything else. Didn't change the way I eat. Didn't exercise more or less. Didn't change. Sleep. Purely added in, sitting down and meditating. Five pounds gone. And he, he of course says that's the no thing, diet. Cause he tells everyone you're gonna become nowhere.
No thing. Nothing. Right? But I think it's important for people to understand what stress can do to your gut, how it disrupts, and how important this is to your overall health. I don't really know how someone can get healthy with, with. Unless they're addressing their chronic stress and especially, you know, how [00:18:00] does chronic stress set you up for more gut problems?
I know I throw a lot out there, so I'm No, it's important.
Will Cole: There you go. . I love it. I mean, that's brilliant and amazing, right, that you could have that and you talk about something that's completely free. Meditation and breath work. And these are what I'll call in the book and to my patients. I call them metaphysical meals, like they are like breakfast, lunch, and dinner, right?
JJ Virgin: Yeah. I love your, I love all your meta, like shameflammation, metaphysical meals, like holy smokes will .
Will Cole: I'm telling you jj, it's just cuz I talk to patients all day long and like so much of my job is educating in words and being as pithy and succinct and connecting with people where they're at. So I do appreciate that.
But yeah, I mean, These metaphysical meals, it's easy for us to be in nutrition and wellness, functional medicine for us to be prescriptive, right? And say like, well, these foods, like you wrote the book on it. Like these are the foods that are most likely to drive inflammation level up. And they're very helpful.
We're changing lives. When people know this stuff, that every meal they have is an opportunity to. To modulate their health in a [00:19:00] positive direction. It is a lot more to unpack in a bigger, less prescriptive conversation to say shame and stress and trauma. Mm-hmm. Like you can't tell someone to just don't stress and don't have trauma and don't have shame.
Yeah. Let that go. let it
JJ Virgin: go. Or just don't have it. It's like even quantifying it and even, yeah. As I started to go through meditation, which I went through, like I went to four. Workshops in a year, and I'm like, am I doing it? You know, overachiever, am I doing it right? Nothing's happening here. Everyone else is having an experience.
I'm not like all that stuff. Like it's, it's not as quantifiable as like eat six ounces of wild salmon. Easy to achieve, right?
Will Cole: Yeah, right. You know when you did it and when you don't and it's a lot more obvious. But cumulatively, these metaphysical meals are important and it is something showing up like you do for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, like every day.
even like micro moments of consistency can be a needle mover for people. And I feel like if [00:20:00] you can be consistent with the micro moments, then as you're, you get comfortable with it, as it becomes a habit, as you start feeling better and noticing differences, then you have typically more resilience and bandwidth to do more of it.
So looking at the research, just getting to explore it, as I wrote the book of. What meditation can do to regulate the nervous system, what breath work can do in the different types of breath work like holotropic breath work and different breath work, meditation combinations of how these things are shown in science.
It's not just some woowoo fringe thing. How can actually modulate. Our nervous system, inflammation levels, and endocrine system are hormones in a positive degree cuz we're shifting our body in a more of a parasympathetic state that resting, digesting i e hormone balanced, better gut brain access health.
So it's powerful. So every, in the book I did a 21 day protocol. So for people to just learn about themselves and every day there's a gut and a feeling action item. There's a gut, like [00:21:00] physical health, how to nourish their gut health or supporting on a physical. With nutrition and protocols that I use for patients.
And then on the feeling side, it's the mental, emotional, spiritual stuff that we implement into patient's protocols like. Breathwork and meditation and the research around forest bathing and using nature as a meditation and a medicine. There's so many cool things that are being explored in the journals, but I wanted to just share with people in the book how to really implement these things because consistency is key both for food and the, and the non-food stuff.
But certainly with the non-prescriptive things, consistency is important.
JJ Virgin: So forest bathing. Whenever I hear that, like, you know, it's, I, my brain goes to something entirely different. Like you think of people naked in the forest.
Will Cole: Yeah. Which I know they could do that too. It's not really what it is. . I mean, I guess they could, I mean yeah.
JJ Virgin: You know, with all of these things, what, what is the impact? Because again, this has been a stressful [00:22:00] time, but I think, you know, when you really look at life, It's really a matter of learning how to handle stress. And you know, I had a mentor telling me early on in business, she goes, it doesn't get easier.
There's just more zeros. Meaning you're just handling higher levels of stuff you think, you know, when you're a kid, things are challenging. Then all of a sudden you're in college, it's challenging, then all of a sudden you're outta college. It's more like, it just continues to go up. Right? And so it really comes down to how do we learn how to manage the stress if we don't know how to do that, or we have unresolved trauma.
what is this doing to us?
Will Cole: Well, most of our patients, when they meet us, and most people I would say in the world today, are in varying degrees of that sympathetic hyperactivation. Right? They're autonomic
JJ Virgin: nervous. Can you explain what that means to, to a human? Who goes, what's sympathetic, what's autonomic?
What is all that? Let's, let's, we should. The
Will Cole: sympathetic for people that are stuck in the sympathetic you know, the autonomic nervous system, our nervous system have has two main. Branches of [00:23:00] activity or function in the body. Both are important. Not one's not better than the other, but it's about balance, right?
It's about homeostasis, it's about regulation of the nervous system. And the sympathetic is the adage that goes along with it. Sort of the rhyming name for it is the the fight or flight response. The fight, flight, stressed, inflamed response, and then the parasympathetic is the rest. Hormone balance state.
Both are important, but most people are in that I'm under threat to varying degrees. And I And what does that look like on a physiological level? Their hormones are all dysregulated cuz their body's in that fight or flight stress state. They're, they're, they're not safe. They, their body physiologically doesn't feel safe.
So the physiology's responding to that, that that nervous system state, so hormones, what we typically will see, and for patients on labs, we typically will see the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, the brain adrenal axis. You'll see cortisol high when it should be low or low, and it should be high, or it's always high or it's always low, depending.[00:24:00]
Where they're at, at their journey and how long they've been struggling with it. But you'll, you
JJ Virgin: probably don't see a lot of them with high cortisol cause they feel great at that point. Right? Yeah. You know, that's a great point, right? I know
Will Cole: many people, many people will tell me, well, I, I feel like my cortisol.
Should be high because they're struggling with that fatigue, the anxious anxiety that wired and tired. But in, you're right, it's like, well, you're not typically coming when it's that early on. Normally yeah. You,
JJ Virgin: you don't, yeah, you, you feel great at that time. I mean, that was always when I was used to do a lot of adrenal evals.
I was like, When they're under that first part of stress, they're like, weee . Yeah. Right. That's great. I can conquer the world. Right. And society rewards us for that, doesn't it? Yeah.
Will Cole: It's truly, it's seeing as a badge of honor. Burnout is like a a, yeah. Something to be applauded. But you'll see a lot of H P A access dysregulation.
And then invariably part of that, I mean, blood sugar's thrown off when, when cortisols off, blood sugar's gonna be thrown off, thyroid's gonna be impacted negatively. We see a lot of under [00:25:00] conversion of T4 to t3, like lower total t3, lower lower free t3, and obviously estrogen and progesterone are impacted, testosterone is impacted, but these hormones are kind of just like biochemical emails.
We all, we have to go upstream and ask, well, why? To your point when you're going through that stressful time and your hormones may have been impacted, but because of the stress that was going on in the autoimmune flare that was happening. So that's sort of the upstream, downstream context that we always wanna put into play whenever we're looking at labs and doing a patient workup.
But that's what's happening. This is why people should care cuz it's not a matter of just. You know, we are just talking about dieting. This is not about just dieting and losing weight. Like you said, this is the impact of people's, how they feel from a mental health standpoint, an overall health standpoint, but also the impact that it has on their relationships.
I just was talking to a patient the other day and she said like, I was having so much. Marriage problems when I met you, and I thought it was just him, like he was [00:26:00] like this, like buffoon. That was like always irritating me. But then when I realized, oh, when I was dealt with the gut and the feelings of physiological and the psychological, and I didn't have this anymore and my nervous system was regulated, then I realized, well, it was just my irritability and resilience.
And not that he didn't have things to work on, but it was when you have more resilience, you're not as irritable and you can work on things a lot more effortlessly.
JJ Virgin: Yeah, I noticed when I've pushed myself out of balance a bit that people's noises when they chew, irritate, like I just go, oh, I'm over the, I'm cross the line , you know, ,
Will Cole: please stop that right now.
JJ Virgin: Can you stop it like my little puppies crunching her kibble and I'm like, I can't deal with it. You know, , . So it is interesting and it's good to have these little things that you're aware of, because I think that's the bigger challenge on the trauma stress side is it's easy to quantify. Oh. Like, you know, that's why I was saying how are you looking at inflammation?
How would you look at gut health [00:27:00] where you can see a lab test and go see there's an issue. You know, and unstressed, yes, you can look at a cortisol rhythm, but some of this stuff like, you know, how. Someone's got deep unresolved trauma that's, you know, impacting their health. How would you unpack that?
Will Cole: Yeah. Well, for patients that's where health history and sitting proverbially sitting with them via telehealth, like I'm doing right now. I, we ask a lot of detailed questions and we get real, real fast as far as having, and they fill out something called an adverse childhood experience. Mm-hmm. score, which.
I explained in the book what it is, but basically it's looking at things like sexual trauma, physical, mental, emotional abuse. Growing up is, was there substance abuse in the home? Was there mental illness in the home? Like what were these really formidable, so formative years that can be very formidable for many people that are really can the early years of our lives.
Does a major role in how our gut brain access is expressed. And on top of that, that's on a [00:28:00] mental, emotional level and how it impacts our physical health. But then you think of the foods that people are eating. So I ask, what was your diet like growing up? What were, were you on antibiotics A lot were, I mean, how were you born?
Vaginally versus C-section. These things determine the microbiome, which is where most neurotransmitters are made in stored anyways. So both a gut and a feelings from a early health. Every console I have to have. And then maybe people will think that, well, man, I'm screwed. Like I had a horrible childhood.
But the body's amazingly resilient. I just, we have to know what we're dealing with to do something about it and to look at the areas that are maybe the dark corners that we don't look very often, but are really oftentimes they hold the key to overcoming that plateau that people are stuck at. And then on top of that, it's beyond childhood like.
Relationships and your career, like all of these things over time from adolescents on can be cumulatively impacting your health today. And then on top of that, we even get into more [00:29:00] obscure science. But I hope with time it's less obscure of intergenerational trauma, of really going back even generations and how the lives of our great grandparents can be impacting our health today.
JJ Virgin: And the good news is because I'm listening to this going, who didn't have some stuff happen in childhood? Like, who didn't have some adverse childhood events? Like, I'm trying to think of who I know in my life who haven't, like I, I think of all the patients like, you know, we're gonna have those and then, and then you just get layered and layered.
But the reality is with an. Because you're taking a very clear approach of, you know, what you're putting into your body and, and helping with nervous. I, it's like to me, nervous system goes to the gym. So Nervous system. Yeah. Help gut health, putting it all together, which I haven't seen anyone do. You're the
Will Cole: first.
That's why imagine that , that's why has not been done. And people that are in talking to me about the book, they're just like, wow. Like that is a weird topic. Why are you doing that right now? I [00:30:00] just, to me, I feel like it's an important topic to have. Cuz I see it on an hourly basis, not just with my patients, but I see it on social media, like the amount of people wanna know about this stuff.
I just think that mental health conversation in sort of the mainstream world, it's just an incomplete conversation, which is fine. I'm glad they're having at least a conversation about mental health. But I think us in functional medicine and nutrition and our world can have a great conversation about it cuz it's things that we see all the time and we love the people that we get to help.
So let's have that conversation for everybody.
JJ Virgin: Yes, and shine a light on it and take it out of the darkness. I was raised in a family with a son, we're both adopted. My brother was, is schizophrenic and we had to keep it as a secret. You know, and I'm like, oh yeah, I don't know. I think people might have a suspicion.
Something's up, you know? Yeah. So I'm glad that this is out in the light of day. I really appreciate our buddy, Dr. Daniel Layman's whole work on the fact that mental illness is a brain illness and mm-hmm. , anything that's, You know, and [00:31:00] your brain is in your gut and you've tied those two together. And when you take that mental illness is a brain illness and there's a, you know, a gut-brain axis.
It just makes perfect sense to put this all together like you have. So thank you. I appreciate that. It's so fantastic. And the book is Gut Feelings. Gut feelings.
Will Cole: Name, gut feelings. Gut feelings. All right, thank you. Thank you, my friend.
JJ Virgin: For more info on this and other health topics I cover or to rate and review, find me on Instagram, Facebook, and my website,, and don't forget to subscribe to my show so you won't miss a single episode. Go to Thanks again for being with me this week.


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