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Age and the Digestive System

6 6mins

Getting older gives more time to relax and enjoy life but also increases digestive health challenges. Studies suggest nearly 40% of older adults have one or more age-related digestive symptoms.

Constipation becomes a common problem with ageing due to the number of age-related factors highlighted below:

Ageing changes bowel habits leading to constipation with symptoms of infrequent, difficult or painful bowel movements and hard, dry stool.
Ageing slows down muscle contraction that pushes the food through the digestive tract. It reduces the food movement and increases water absorption through colon causing constipation. Increased medication due to various health issues also cause constipation. Medications like Calcium channel blockers, Diuretics for high blood pressure or heart failure dehydrate a person more via frequent urination. Narcotic pain-killers for adults with major surgeries also adversely impact gut health.
Ageing also bring inactivity and sometimes bed rest due to some illness can also make a person feel constipated.

 Diverticulosis, bulging out of small pouches along the weak spots in the intestinal wall is very common among old people. This may cause gas, bloating, cramps and constipation.

When these pockets become inflamed, it results in a condition called Diverticulitis. This causes abdominal pain, cramping, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) incidents also go up as a person’s age catches up. GERD is when the stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing heartburn. Few medications including blood pressure medication can also cause reflux. Obesity also increases GERD and heartburn risk.

Protecting Digestive Health with Ageing:

According to Stein and Hanan, "The things that are good for all older people are really good for the gut." They suggest lowering medications to only those which are absolutely needed vetoed by a doctor, daily exercise and good hydration habits (drinking water regularly) to maintain a healthy digestive tract.

They also suggest weight management for maintaining a healthy digestive tract. According to them obesity increases risk for age-related health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure besides digestive disorders. Medications for these disorders aggravate digestive side effects.

Fiber intake for Healthy digestive system with Ageing:

High-fiber foods prevents constipation, ease diverticulosis, keep a person hydrated to ensure that the digestive system keeps moving. High-fiber indirectly also reduces unnecessary medications which are a major cause of constipation among old people.

According to Michael Greger, 21 gm for women and 31 gms of fiber for men from natural foods is enough in a day. Fiber can be found in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts. However, people have different toleration levels for fiber and excess fiber, can cause constipation, gas and bloating.

Seeing the food habits and ill effects of excess fibers in diet, fiber supplements can be a good option to go for. They can add fiber readily in overall food in a calculated amount. Myfy fiber is one of the best fiber supplements in the market today. Myfy soluble fiber is made from wheat dextrin and Guar gum fibers which are found to be more effective in gut health improvement.