Digestive Health and Ageing

We all know that getting older has its benefits as well as its drawbacks. For many of us, growing older means we have more time to relax and enjoy our life. However, one of the main drawbacks of ageing is the health challenges that it brings. This includes a greater risk of developing issues with digestive health.

Our digestive system is responsible for moving food through our bodies. It does this through a series of muscle contractions that push food along the digestive tract. Ageing can affect this process, often slowing the process down as we get older. In addition, other factors associated with ageing will also affect our digestive system, which can cause digestive issues.

Nearly 40% of older adults experience one or more age-related digestive symptoms annually.

The following article explains why digestive problems may occur as we age, as well as some tips on how we can keep our digestive system healthy and running well as we age.

How Ageing Affects the Digestive System

There are many things that can affect our digestive system as we age:

  • Use of Medication: As we age, we often start to develop more health problems, and as such, older adults typically have to take a lot of medications. Many medications are known to cause constipation, such as calcium channel blockers and narcotics, which are commonly prescribed after operations.
  • Lack of Activity: We typically become less active as we get older. This can affect our digestive system by causing constipation.
  • Not Drinking Enough: If older adults are taking diuretics for high blood pressure, they need to be careful that they do not end up dehydrated. Diuretics lower blood pressure by causing us to lose excess fluid by urinating more often, as such, it is easy to become dehydrated, which can lead to constipation.
  • Ulcers: While ageing on its own does not make our stomachs more prone to ulcers, many older adults use non-steroidal medications to control chronic pain. Regular use of these medications can increase the risk of developing bleeding in the stomach and stomach ulcers.
  • Problems with the Mouth and Oesophagus: The Oesophagus is the tube that connects our mouth to our stomach, moving food through our digestive system. This process can slow down as we age, causing problems with swallowing as food moves through the oesophagus more slowly. Other conditions, such as Dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease can also cause difficulty swallowing.

Protecting Digestive Health as We Age

As we know, preventing a health problem before it occurs is the best way to keep ourselves healthy as we age. Many of the things that are good for keeping us healthy through ageing are also good for our digestive system.

  • Stay Active: Staying active as we age is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of health issues arising. Try to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise 5 days week to help prevent age-related health problems.
  • Manage Weight: Ensuring we maintain a healthy weight as we age can help to prevent age-related health concerns, such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. By avoiding these health problems, we can reduce the number of medications we need to take, which can reduce any side effects that impact our digestive system. There are a number of ways to help maintain our weight as we age, such as limiting fat intake, managing portion size, and eating whole foods rather than processed foods and of course, keeping active.
  • Check Medications: Ensure medications are used with care and only take medications that are necessary. If you are experiencing digestive symptoms that you think are a side effect of medication, it may be necessary to consult your doctor. At this time it may be useful to talk to your doctor if you are concerned about the number of medications that have been prescribed for you. Your doctor may be able to find medications with lower doses so that they have less of an impact on your body. In addition, advice from your doctor on when to take medication, such as with food or not, can help reduce the risk of digestive issues occurring.
  • Eat Foods that are High in Fibre: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are high in fibre. They are also high in nutrients and low in fat. This can help to prevent constipation and ease symptoms of diverticulosis.
  • Drink Enough Fluid: It’s important that we drink enough fluids throughout the day so that we don’t feel thirsty. If taking diuretics, this problem can be heightened and it may be necessary to talk with a doctor about how to manage medication so that you don’t become dehydrated.
  • Go to Health Screenings: As we age, it becomes more important to regularly check our health. Make sure you are informed about which regular screenings you should be attending, and in the meantime, tell your doctor about any troublesome symptoms you may have.

Our Ageless Grace® program can help you keep your body young as you age. The program uses all areas of the brain combined with movement to improve brain and body health. For more information on this article, our Ageless Grace® program, or the other services that we provide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Brain Sparks.

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