Digestive Health as You Age: 6 Factors to Watch For

Your digestive system works hard every day turning the food you eat into the nutrition your body needs to thrive. After years of doing this, you may start to see some changes in your digestive health. That’s because aging, though it does not affect the digestive system the same way it does other organs in the body, does put your digestive system at risk for several issues. This is partially because as you grow older, your stomach produces less acid. Without acid’s protection, medication that is hard on the stomach, such as ibuprofen, may become harder to bear. Just as the muscles throughout your body might tire more easily than they did in your 20’s and 30’s, the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract, including the esophagus and bowel, can slow down. This often leads to increased symptoms, such as acid reflux or constipation, over

age 65.

 

 

Here’s more on what to watch for as you age.

 

Constipation

The digestive system moves food through your body through a series of muscle contractions. As you age, this process can slow down. When this happens, more water from the food you eat is absorbed into the body, which can lead to constipation. Staying hydrated is very important to help prevent constipation. Inactivity can also contribute to constipation, so remember to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity four days a week. There are also certain foods you can eat to help prevent or cure temporary

 

constipation, or other foods you should avoid.

Difficulty Digesting Medication
The medicines we take to help with one physical problem can contribute to other issues. Medications taken for high blood pressure or muscle and joint pain can lead to constipation, so remember to keep up your water intake and activity level. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can increase your risk of stomach bleeding and ulcers. If you take any medication, take note of the color of your stool and

tell your doctor right away if it’s darker than usual, black or shows any sign of blood.

polyps and Colon cancer

It is recommended that most people have their first colonoscopy at age 50. This is because the risk of developing polyps in your colon increases at that age. Non-cancerous polyps can become cancerous, so it’s important to have a colonoscopy to

identify and remove any polyps before cancer develops.

Diverticulosis
Diverticulosis is quite common in those over the age of 60. It occurs when the small pouches that line the colon bulge out in weak spots along the intestinal wall. Some people may have no symptoms when this happens, while others can experience gas, bloating, cramps or even extreme constipation. Diverticulosis typically does not require treatment, but when the pocket becomes inflamed, called diverticulitis, you can develop severe stomach pain, cramping, fever, chills and vomiting. This can be treated with pain

relievers, antibiotics and diet changes.


Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease
 

Although a person of any age can develop gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), it is quite common among older adults. Someone with GERD has stomach acid that backs up into their esophagus, causing frequent heartburn, belching, nausea and vomiting. GERD can lead to other more serious issues, so do not ignore these symptoms. There are many treatment options for GERD, including raising the head of your bed, changing your diet and medication, so discuss any symptoms you have with your doctor 

to determine the best course of action.

Your digestive system works hard all through your life to ensure your health, much like your heart, lungs and other vital organs. Healthy eating will help to keep it working properly throughout your life. Just like your other organs, the better care you take of it, the better quality of life it will give you in return.


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