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Q & A Interview with Ashley Koff, R.D.

How are we, as “logical” and thinking people, ever going to get it that we need to eat properly and take care of our bodies so that we’re not plagued by all these things that trouble us so these days?
By allowing ourselves to learn, employ our logic and thoughtfulness, to that which is right for ourself, the individual.  Begin with a focus on health (versus weight loss) and in doing so, pass on the latest fad, the diet your friend did, the quick fix, in favor of a personalized nutrition plan born out of self-awareness.

Is it likely that the school system will ever start instructing students what to eat and how to prepare food in order to maintain a healthy body?
When I was in school we had home-economics class – we learned to boil an egg, iron, bake, etc.  Boys and girls learned together.  I think we have to get back to these basic steps.  Perhaps instead of just a snack time called ‘nutrition break’, which many schools have, the schools could allow a brief nutrition class.  Some schools here in California are making great strides by having kids learn to garden and grow fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Why do you think doctors so freely write a prescription for a drug rather than encourage a patient to eat properly when they know that’s part and parcel of the problem?
Comfort with their knowledge – they learned about prescription drugs, not nutrition.  But in all fairness, a lot also don’t know what resources to provide their patients with and are just as confused by the excess of information out there.  Many doctors are learning nutrition for themselves, their families, and are often thrilled to find a dietitian to refer their patients.

Is IBS hereditary?
I don’t think we know.

If IBS is also stress-related, what do you suggest patients do to minimize their stress levels?
I actually don’t focus on the stress part itself.  Stress is good for us, our bodies are designed to handle it and to execute well under stress.  What we need to realize is that stress cannot be a chronic stage.  We need to learn to establish a baseline so that moments of stress are just that, stressful moments.  Our constant state should be one that is not stressful, that isn’t super-relaxed, but that allows our body to function at its most basic level.  Finding this is different for everyone, and is different day to day, but a few suggestions include looking to what you enjoy, getting sufficient sleep, learning to identify boundaries, etc.

Which food is the biggest no-no for people with IBS?
It’s different for each person because IBS presents differently, dramatically.  Yet, I would point to a big difference as being how the body digests foods (what it knows how to do) versus processed foods (what it finds confusing, and ultimately irritating).

Which foods are most beneficial to all IBS patients?
Again, I wouldn’t point to one food for all IBS sufferers, but I would say that probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and Foods That Heal (list from my book) are great options with which to start as the basis of a healing plan.

What is the one food that one should eat if you have IBS?
See above.

Why is it, do you think, that Americans devour so much food, and bad food at that?
Ahhh, we don’t have enough room to discuss this fairly…but in short, I would say we’ve given over responsibility for our own food and allowed the marketing of food to be our main source of information.

Ashley Koff, R.D.
January 2007

Ashley Koff founded the Healthxchange, a nutrition counseling and consulting company, and you can visit their website for more information.
Photograph used with permission.

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