It’s a fact of life: As we get older, so do our digestive tracts. Certain digestive disorders are to be expected as we age.
“Many older adults fixate on their gastrointestinal problems,” says gastroenterologist Maged Rizk of the Cleveland Clinic, in an article published by the clinic. “The gastrointestinal tract ages with the rest of us. I tell patients not to get too upset by it.”
Among some of the key factors causing stomach issues in older people are:
- The use of multiple medications, which can cause nausea, constipation, diarrhea, bleeding ulcers and abdominal pain.
- As we get older, we become less active and more likely to become dehydrated, two factors that can exacerbate constipation.
- Our diaphragms sink as we get older, which leads to less support at the hiatal hernia, the place where the esophagus joins the stomach. This lack of support can cause heartburn and acid reflux, and sometimes requires surgery.
- Older adults are more likely to develop hemorrhoids – swollen veins in the lower GI tract – which can be caused by a weakened sphincter muscle, a sedentary lifestyle or chronic constipation.
Diets are also a factor when it comes to stomach issues and aging. As you get older, you might lose interest in making well-balanced meals, or in procuring fresh vegetables and fruit. You might be eating alone, and food may not be as enjoyable as it was when you were younger.
It's not your fault. We start off life with the most taste buds we're ever going to have. They gradually reduce as we get older.
Still, a lack of a balanced diet can lead to vitamin deficiencies, which can result in digestive troubles. Rizk lists these suggestions for improving digestion as we age.
- Stick to a healthy diet
- Get the right amount of fiber in your meals by including whole grains, fruits and raw veggies
- Reduce the amount of salt in your diet
- Stay away from "white" foods like bread, potatoes and rice.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water and other non-alcohol, non-caffeinated beverages during the day so your urine is nearly clear.
- Avoid foods that cause heartburn or acid reflux. You may need an elimination diet to uncover which foods cause you trouble.
- Try taking a probiotic, which contain "good" bacteria that can help people with chronic constipation. Rizk says not to take them for diarrhea, unless after specific types of infection.
- Review your medications, which are often a link between stomach issues and aging. Talk to your doctor about side effects, and ask for an alternative if the medication you take causes problems like nausea, diarrhea and constipation.
- Stay active. Exercise has several benefits, one of which is preventing constipation.
Sticking to these tips will help you deal with the issues that come from stomach issues and aging. And if you're looking for ways to handle more persistent GI ailments, turn to Proper Nutrition.
Our dietary supplements are made with bioactive peptides that have been shown to ease the symptoms of people with issues like IBS and Crohn's disease. Visit our website to find a product that will work for you. Best of luck!