Archive for the ‘Probiotics’ Category

Whether you overdid it or not, the New Year seems to spark the desire in everyone to clean up their act. But what of the cleanses we read about – are they healthy, do they work, what if I don’t have the $500 a week or more to go to one or have one delivered to my home? I hear you, so last year I developed the AKA New Year Cleanse and this year I’ve updated it. Keep in mind, I am still a fan of places like We Care or deliveries like IzoCleanse, Paleta cleanse, SoCal Cleanse, Blue Print and many others . The AKA Cleanse is a way to DIY and just because it says New Year doesn’t mean you can’t start this week or pick this up again in April – it’s a rebalancing tool. For those of you who are more visual and /or want to see specific product recommendations, watch my video on the components of the AKA Cleanse at http://fitperez.com/2010-12-26-the-411-on-cleanses/?from=PH . For product recommendations see the AKA lists at http://www.ashleykoff.com/approved/index.html

Before you begin your cleanse a few things to keep in mind:
1) This isn’t about weight loss (yes you will likely lose weight and inches) but rather setting your body up for a healthier year (and if your goal is weight loss that falls under the ‘healthier’ umbrella);
2) you HAVE to move your bowels daily – regularity is just that, meaning that you need to make sure you are not just stirring toxins up out of their resting spots but that you are actually eliminating them too – and that doesn’t mean rely on laxatives or even colonics …it means including fiber, the right kinds, and magnesium to aid motility;
3) Enter and Exit GRACEFULLY: I have blogged about this before but it deserves additional attention. The body needs to feel supported and nourished both as you enter into a cleanse and leave one – so the idea of cleansing from Christmas until New Year’s Eve then blowing it out with alcohol and food on New Year’s…very very bad idea…same goes with pre-wedding, pre-event cleanses. Give yourself at least a week between the conclusion of your cleanse and any planned event;
4) Sweating it Out: Yes you should! Whether it’s an infrared sauna, jogging with a hoodie, boxing, yoga etc you can incorporate it all into your cleanse but pay attention to your body. Make sure to hydrate and consume sufficient fuel prior to working out, during, and after. While cleansing can trigger headaches (especially if coming off caffeine), headaches are a usual sign of hydration and / or slowed motility (i.e. constipation) so follow the tips to address both and plan ahead. In terms of how much activity, that’s going to depend on your body and your normal routine as well as things like your menstrual cycle and how different the cleanse is from your norm;
5) The NO’s: It isn’t my goal to tell you what you can’t have but rather what you should have during the cleanse. The idea is that these foods and supplements will encourage detoxification and encourage renewal optimally. So you don’t see comments about caffeine, energy drinks, alcohol and sugar. My best advice is to use this as a time to “Come off” anything on which you depend or that makes you feel imbalanced.

1. ORGANIC: this tops the list because you can’t be effective or efficient at removing toxins from the body when you are putting them right back in. Simply put, certified organic food, teas, supplements are your best bet for the least amount of residues and no additional toxins.
2. Greens / Greens Powders: whether you have them juiced, raw, sautéed, steamed make sure that greens top your list during a cleanse. Daily and several times daily, greens will help to remove toxins, provide energy, and alkalinize your lower digestive system – all ideal for optimal cleansing and health.
3. Lemons: these deserve their own bullet point because they play such a key role in cleansing. Whether it’s the juice, the skin, or both lemons will help alkalinize, transition flavor away from sweet cravings, and purify the system.
4. Hydration: true hydration is more than water. That said, you need adequate water [equation: half your body weight in pounds gives you the minimum ounces of water (160 pound person would be 80 ounces or 10 8 ounce glasses of water)] remember that water used for your protein drink or a soup or a tea counts and water-based veggies are an added bonus. But back to true hydration, you need potassium too to get the water into the cells – so choose plain coconut water as an ideal source.
5. Fiber: The right fibers like chia and flaxseeds, psyllium, rice and oat bran among others will help to pick up the toxins from your digestive tract and remove them from the body.
6. Sweet sans sugar: ideally you don’t want to have any sweets during a cleanse. This is a great way to rebalance your palate which often sways so far in the direction of sweet. That said, we don’t want to miss out on valuable antioxidants and fiber so I recommend using organic fruits (see tip #1) especially those like organic blackberries and plain acai which have little to no sugar in them.
7. Vegetarian proteins: Cleanses DO require protein. While some popular cleanses promise better results without protein they miss the boat nutritionally. Proteins are used in our hormones, for our lean body mass, and to stabilize blood sugar – a cleanse that eliminates protein threatens an imbalance of these during the cleanse and potentially thereafter. But what type of protein and how much? I recommend organic vegan sources for all (unless allergies, intolerances or other personal nutritional issues warrant otherwise). Hemp and quinoa top my list as well as other protein sources like seeds, grains, and isolated rice or pea proteins.
8. Spices: are you aware of that spices are one of your best detoxifying and supporting components of a diet. Spices help fight off bad bacteria and their other benefits range from stimulating metabolism, helping you sweat out toxins, calming the digestive tract, and oh yeah, adding flavor naturally.
9. Regularity Aids: As mentioned above, it’s imperative that you “go” regularly. Many cleanses use tools that the body can become dependent on and thus don’t encourage the body to regulate itself. Hydration, fiber and motility are the keys to regularity and thus far I’ve addressed the first two. In terms of motility, we need the mineral magnesium. Magnesium relaxes the body and helps to encourage normal and optimal motility. We get magnesium from whole grains and many vegetables but you may also benefit from a supplement during the cleanse. The body may need a gentle boost (Here I recommend Smooth Move tea but not for more than 3-4 days in a row) if these other remedies don’t work.
10. Immunity: keep in mind that if you are sick or if you are immune-compromised a cleanse is not for you. Why? The body needs to harness all its energy to heal itself and that is not what a cleanse does. A cleanse stirs up toxins that are tucked in fat cells and other parts of the body to eliminate them. That’s a lot of work for the body and it can leave a healthy person feeling fatigued and even slightly flu-ish. To support your immune system during a cleanse I recommend all of the above as well as a good quality probiotic and to consume mushrooms like maitake, shitake and others or to take a good quality supplement.

Putting the AKA Cleanse into Action:

1. Sleep: Aim to get as much sleep as possible – that includes naps but ideally means going to be a little bit earlier than you normally do.
2. Eat regularly: Consume eating (or if doing liquids: drinking) occasions about every 3 hours. The goal of a cleanse is not to starve. It is okay to feel hungry but starving means the body will go into a shocked / storage / hibernation mode which defeats the cleanse.
3. Consume nutrient balanced eating occasions: – see the AKA menu worksheet for more on this http://www.ashleykoff.com/services/resources.html – but the idea is to have a carb + protein + healthy fat and unlimited vegetables at each eating occasion; here are some samples:
a. The ProHydrator: Coconut water + greens powder + hemp protein + healthy fat (flax, chia oils)
b. Quintessential BreakFAST bowl: quinoa + greens + seeds + few berries or lemon juice and avocado
c. Organic applesauce with cinnamon + hemp seeds and oat bran
4. Regularity aids: everyone is different but I often find it best to take the magnesium supplement at night, to consume fiber during the day, and to hydrate with teas like detox and ginger during the day as well as the coconut water.
5. Immune support: take a probiotic on waking or consume coconut water kefir or cultured vegetables during the day and add mushrooms to your meals as well as taking a supplement either morning or night.
6. Liquid versus solid: there are different schools of thoughts on this but my advice is to do what’s best for you. The benefits of a few days of liquids include digestive system getting some time off, as well as mentally separating from a reliance on food (what am I going to have, where am I going to go get it) as well as not going out to dinners which can mean you are home earlier and to bed earlier.
7. Medications and supplements: Before beginning any cleanse, if you are taking medications or supplements prescribed by a healthcare practitioner check-in with them so they can advise you how to adjust.

Send me your questions or tweet them @ashleykoff

More AKA posts on cleanses:



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Winter is here. We see it in our skin, hair and nails – the dryness, and the resulting little cracks that will prove to be excellent entrance ways for bad bugs that can lead to winter colds.

How do we spell protection against winter dryness and colds? HYDRATION

Sometimes hydration is only thought of as a summer issue – we are hot, we sweat, and so we remember to drink lots of water and eat water-based foods. We wear hats to shield our hair and skin from the sun and we lather on the moisturizer.

Habits change in the winter. We change from water-based vegetables to winter’s more starchy and less water-based vegetables; we trade raw salads for warm soups; and our iced teas often become hot tea with milk, hot cocoa, and hot cider which translates to: less water, more sodium = DEHYDRATION. Furthermore, we often forget our skin under all those clothes and while sun exposure may not be our issue (though winter sun should not be ignored), heaters/heating have a powerful, drying effect on our skin.

What to do? Follow these tips to improve winter health by way of HYDRATION:

1) Potassium intake: make sure to include potassium-rich foods and beverages which help bring water into our cells for hydration: coconut water (see this video to learn more about coconut water’s hydration benefits: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWOV_WRvVdc), bananas, potatoes, avocado, and even try supplement Ultima Replenisher for travel or in your workout bottle.

2)Sodium intake: be careful with excess sodium which keeps water outside our cells (dehydrating). Make your own soups or look for low-sodium options; use spices versus salt; and when using salt aim for a sea salt that contains an array of minerals; avoid canned and packaged foods where salt is used as a preservative, and choose fresh and frozen options (sodium can still be an issue in these packaged foods so read labels). In general, sodium should be less than 250mg PER serving but in some foods like soups it’s likely to be higher versus others like frozen vegetables where there should be zero. Check the Ashley Koff Approved lists on my site for good choices and always compare products in a category (i.e. cereal, soups etc.). http://www.ashleykoffapproved.com/approved/index.html.

3) Water – yes, you need it…8 glasses or take your weight in pounds and divide it in half and that will give you your daily ounces requirement (if you wight 150 pounds then that’s 75 ounces and there’s 8 ounces in a cup so you need between 9 and 10 cups daily).

4) Oil Up – when you get out of the shower or after you wash your face add some oils like coconut oil or argan oil to your skin to lock in moisture. Also, you can spray a hydrosol on your face in the day and reapply a dot of oil to the nose and lip areas which tend to get dry the quickest. Choose alcohol-free skincare products to avoid extra dryness.

5) Shroom ‘n Good Bugs: Yup, adding mushrooms like maitake and shitake to the diet or taking a daily supplement like LifeShield from New Chapter are great ways to boost your immune system. Also, consume probiotic-rich foods like coconut water kefir and cultured veggies as well as taking a supplement (I recommend and work with Align).

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Q: I love ice cream, frozen yogurt, and basically every frozen treat (especially in summer). Are some choices better than others, nutritionally speaking?

A: What do you love about ice cream or frozen yogurt or summer treats — the smoothness, the coldness, the sweetness? Whenever you pick a summer dessert or sweet eating occasion, think about what will satisfy you the most. I recently tasted a greens and avocado popsicle — yes, it had greens, green apple, and avocado puréed and made into a homemade popsicle — and it was so yummy that it blew me away. I’ve had coconut water granitas which I loved because they hydrated me and provided a mellow, not-too-sweet flavor. But I’ve also enjoyed peanut butter chocolate coconut ice cream and said, “there’s nothing better than this!”

So the first rule for making a good decision about a dessert or summer sweet is to figure out what you really want/need.

The second rule should be obvious: portion control. If you practice portion control, you really can have your favorite summer dessert and eat it, too.

And third, keep in mind that quality matters a lot in terms of how your body absorbs nutrients and how “bad” or “good” something is for you nutritionally. Your body knows what to do with food, but chemicals can confuse it — so stick with organic ingredients without GMOs, pesticides, artificial colorings, and no hormones or antibiotics used.

Q: I see grapefruit and celery featured in a lot of diet guides. Can they really help me burn fat and lose weight?

A: We can lose weight in a lot of ways — (more…)

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I can’t believe it! I have been working for years with patients who were on Accutane at some point and now have digestive issues, some as severe as inflammatory disease. Imagine my surprise, pleasure, and sadness then as I am sitting on the plane watching basketball and just saw an ad for a recall and a class action lawsuit asking for patients who have taken Accutane asking for those who now have these issues to come forward. Its sad but I am so glad this issue is coming to attention.

Key takeaways:

  1. Indeed, the liver IS part of the digestive system, you make life tough on it with meds (with Accutane you have to have your liver function tested each month to make sure your levels don’t go up), you will likely hear its frustration.
  2. Indeed, skin problems ranging from minor acne to severe are a sign that something is very wrong inside – in the digestive system, so we need to address those issues – not supress it with antibiotics or Accutane…the world of classical dermatology needs to meet the Integrative medicine approach. For at the end, in these cases, we often trade a topical problem for a severe internal one.
  3. Heal thy gut: begins with proper nutrition and may include supplementation (as needed) to heal what has become imbalanced. Typically this looks at giving the body nutrients in its organic whole food form (Companies like Earthbound Farm organic produce, Nature’s Path organic cereals and gluten-free waffles), limiting known gastric irritants, improving gut bacteria balance (probiotics – I recommend Align, and probiotic-rich foods like coconut water kefir and cultured vegetables – I recommend healingmovement.net), (more…)

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What if we get to the place where we as a society recognize the historic, proven, and lasting value of plants for their medicinal purposes? Wonderful, right?

So let’s say we get to that amazing place…

And then these plants, and those that understand their uses, aren’t available because we haven’t protected these natural resources. What an awful scenario for US.

However, and even more dramatic, what does it mean to the rest of the world if these resources aren’t available.

The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the population in developing countries relies on medicinal herbs to meet their PRIMARY health-care needs. (more…)

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Soooo, the holidays and end of 2009 hit you hard, eh? I’ve had more than a few requests for a cleanse. The easiest one would be – step away from the sweets and alcohol and resume an organic, whole foods diet. But, sometimes we need a little more, something that feels detoxifying; something that reduces bloat, clears the skin, and yes, sheds the Fab Five or Fifteen that we put on since the leaves turned.

Here in LA and NYC there are amazing options – visit We Care Spa, get detox beverages delivered to your door, visit an ashram and fast. However, if these don’t fit into your budget or schedule, I wanted to share my cleanse with you. (more…)

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My friend just sent me an email: “summer lovin’ had me a blast…and now I have a UTI – help?!”

After I stopped laughing, I decided that she might not be alone as summer flings, hanging out in bathing suits beach / poolside and working out in hotter temps can each / all set the stage for bacterial and yeast infections. So, what does one do?

In this month’s Natural Health magazine, my advice is matched with that of two other health practitioners for how to heal a UTI.

Here I will recap, with a nod towards prevention, and with advice for yeast infections too:

  1. I discuss hydration often (see blogs), and in the summer, when we swim, when we workout, when we play – hydration (soo much more than ‘just drink water’) is key
  2. Good vs bad – one way to keep the bad at bay is to make sure we have enough good guys …probiotics (good bacteria) and beneficial yeast (sacromyces boulardii) help limit the space available for the bad ones.
  3. Hospitality – to thrive, the good guys need a good home. Follow the tips for more alkaline choices (see blog) and limit immune suppressors like sugar and alcohol (I said limit, it doesn’t me totally avoid unless that is you already have an infection in which case avoid)
  4. Spice it up! Most spices have anti-microbial properties meaning they are natures anti-biotics / anti-yeast / anti-fungals…suddenly the song lyrics “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” take on new meaning as they help prevent infections.
  5. Seek medical attention: an infection does need to be treated and it is up to you and your choice of healthcare practitioner to decide what course of action to take
  6. Dress for success: try wick-away materials for workout clothes and stash a change of underwear in your gym bag; bring a sarong and a change of underwear to the beach and pop into a cabana for a change post-swimming; try to urinate as soon as possible after and wipe front-back following sex.

Here’s to lovin’ summer – infection-free!!

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Experts say with summer upon us, the risks of the (swine / h1n1) flu may subside…until winter months. Phew! One less thing to worry about, right?!

No. Preventive efforts for the flu should begin today. Consider this list as important for you, your family, your friends as any summer reading list!

  1. Vitamin D for immunity! Its a natural antibiotic. Less sunscreen? Test your levels? Take a supplement? Yes! Yes! Yes! According to Dr Soram Khalsa (www.vitamindrevolution.com) – because, as he shares,  you’d have to drink nearly 20 glasses of milk a day to get the D you need, this is one case where a food first approach won’t do it
  2. Good bugs keep bad bugs at bay. Read up on my prior blogs about probiotics – start now as it takes a good 1-2 months to amp up the system adequately
  3. Shroom…yep, mushrooms. I’ve blogged on them before but when it comes to immunity your ‘shrooms are such great supporters – eat shitakes, take a quality mushroom supplement daily like Host Defense by New Chapter or Mycotaki by Metagenics
  4. Color you pretty…aim to get in a rainbow of fruit and vegetables from now forward (from Nature, not Skittles or Froot Loops please). Nature wrapped up immunity in different colors so we’d have an easy way to make sure we got what we needed. Choose oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, blueberries and so on and you’ve gotten all your body needs — yes, organic matters (frozen organic works if you don’t have access to fresh)
  5. Alkaline your lower digestive tract: use lemons and limes, eat more vegetable (vs animal) protein, skip the sugar, and don’t overdo it on alcohol…these steps will help support the good bacteria run interference vs the bad.

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AKA Flight Kit

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to do “flight kits” – AKA nutrition makeovers for private planes as well as packs for those flying commercially. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you the products as well as the intention behind their selection.

The Kit (*denotes private plane use only as liquids won’t pass through security for commercial flights):

Blue Diamond unsweetened chocolate almond milk *
EO hand wipes
Granola Gourmet
Jay Robb brown rice, whey, egg white protein packets
Karma Kookies
Living Intentions nuts and seeds
Lydia’s organics crackers
Manitoba Harvest hemp seeds
Mason Natural tea powder packets
Metagenics Mycotaki
Natural Calm AKA Approved
Navitas nuts, seeds, trail power
New Chapter Host Defense
Orthomolecular D-Hist
Pangea lip balm
Stash tea bags and powder packets
Ultima Replenisher
Vita Coco (plain)*
Zico (plain)*

AKA Flight Tips:

1) Hydrate, It’s so much more than water
2) Don’t let the (air) pressure get to you
3) The “unfriendly” skies: Bad bacteria
4) Stay underwhelmed


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Last week I got a call from ABC’s Food Coach Lori Corbin, that she wanted me to do a story on probiotics – is it true what the yogurt’s are claiming? I have an expert – but she has a paid interest with a probiotic supplement company – telling me that not all the supplements are the same, that some don’t contain what they say they do – can you help?

Certainly, I said, probiotics are my game, my thing, but the topic is huge so let’s tackle it in parts. Today, I will discuss the foundation information on probiotics and their food sources. Also, full disclosure, I, too, receive compensation for my probiotic work. I consult for Align – maker of a probiotic and for Healing Movements – maker of coconut water kefir and cultured vegetables. I work with these reputable companies because they don’t ask me for exclusivity. They allow and want me to tell the whole story about probiotics; they want me to explain what consumers need to know, what doctors need to know, as they’ve staked their products success on the consumers knowing the whole story. (more…)

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