Health & Fitness

By Erin Brady

Busy New Yorkers know all to well that sometimes stress, travel, antibiotic use and infections can wreck havoc on your body. This also leaves you vulnerable to uncomfortable digestive problems that no one likes to admit to (like gas, bloating and constipation). All too familiar with these issues? Join the club!

Probiotics, found in supplements and in foods such as yogurt, milk and miso, are beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion, help strengthen the body’s natural defenses and support a more appropriate balance of healthy bacteria in the GI tract.

This month I was fortunate enough to chat with a highly skilled, celebrity nutritionist, Ashley Koff, who is a huge believer that probiotics (like Bifantis in Align), can play a huge role in basic digestion, proper metabolism and overall well-being. Ashley dishes on foods that help promote healthy digestion, why probiotics are so important and which are her favorites:

BN: What foods can help promote a healthy digestive system? What foods can aggravate the digestive system?

AK: Simply put, a digestive system knows what to do with food. What bothers it are food products containing preservatives and chemicals, items that it doesn’t recognize how to readily break down and use. These “gastric irritants” include caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and high fat dairy. There are, however, some foods and herbs known to aid the digestive system, such as cooked spinach, flaxseed oil, ground flaxseeds, oats, quinoa, ginger and cardamom.

BN: Can you tell us more about how important digestive health is for the body overall?

AK: The digestive tract directs all traffic in the body, it supports our energy, our healing, our emotions (most serotonin is in our digestive tract), so it can manifest any range of symptoms including preventing weight loss / maintenance.

The probiotic Ashley recommends, called Align, works to maintain a healthy, balanced digestive system. Align contains Bifantis, the only probiotic clinically proven to strengthen our bodies against a full range of episodic digestive upsets. Align builds and maintains a natural defense against the abdominal discomforts discussed above (even IBS). It is also the only probiotic cited in a recent New England Journal of Medicine article to help with bloating.

BN: Are there other probiotics out there that do similar things? Why is Align different?

AK: Differentiation among probiotics comes down to 2 key things:
1) The quality of the strain: Bifantis (found in Align) is the only one clinically proven to address the entire spectrum of digestive symptoms. The research indicates that it is also the class, the Bifidoabcterium (as opposed to the lactobacillus) that provides these results.
2) The delivery vehicle: Align’s encapsulation is developed to survive the digestive tract to arrive into the small intestine where it can inhabit the tract. It is also packaged so that the bacteria survive the shelf life.

The majority of the products on the market today don’t ensure the same quantity and quality. When it comes to yogurt and cultured foods, they do provide probiotics naturally but not in a therapeutic dose (sufficient to resolve digestive complaints) and often are foods that we don’t consume routinely (i.e. natto, tempeh, kimchi, raw sauerkraut). When it comes to yogurts, the other key factors beyond the quality of the strain, are the fact that many people with digestive complaints don’t do well with dairy, and many yogurts contain extra sugar (or fake sugars) which can actually further irritate the digestive system vs. aid it

BN: Are there any other positive side effects that come with taking Align or probiotics?

AK: Great looking skin, improved immunity, and flatter belly (I’m sold!)

(For more info on Align, go to http://www.aligngi.com)

Finally, Ashley advises that probiotics are safe to take with other medications, as long as they are a reliable strain, because probiotics are native to our digestive tract. She suggests if you are interested, to discuss with your healthcare practitioner.

Align is available now in national retailers, ask your pharmacist to place an order if you don’t see it around. Ashley Koff is based in LA and her practice, Ashley Koff Approved (AKA), is where she gives personalized nutrition advice to adults and children. Ashley is all about finding the correct and effective nutritional program for each person, a style that has resulted in her being named by Citysearch as LA’s “Best Nutritionist.” She’s consulted on many books, such as Food Cures, which examines food-based remedies, and the new book by Elizabeth Hasselbeck called The G-Free Diet (A Gluten-Free Survival Guide).

Originally published June 2009
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