Six Ways to Improve Digestion in Older Adults
Problems with digestion are very common among older adults. Here are some tips to help prevent them.
Ageing brings with it an array of changes—physical, mental and emotional. On the physical side, many elderly patients report a change in their digestive health. While gastrointestinal issues are a common ailment across demographics, for the elderly it becomes a lot more pronounced. As we age, the digestive enzymes in our body are produced less. These enzymes help break down food, so if they are produced less, one can expect digestive issues. Along with this, their absence also makes the breakdown of medications harder, which can cause discomfort. Medications in particular can cause certain issues as well, such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, and more. As one grows older, one’s level of activity decreases and dehydration is also a common occurrence; all of these factors contribute to digestive problems like the aforementioned ones and others like diverticular disease, ulcers, oesophagus and mouth problems, and more. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is another common ailment that many senior citizens suffer from; it occurs when part of the digestive tract stops working properly, causing contents in the stomach, like stomach acid, to flow back into the oesophagus. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like heartburn, acid reflux, and/or a sore throat.
Prevention is the best cure for keeping your digestion intact, and these tips can help protect your digestive system and overall well-being.
Include more fibre in diet
Foods that are high in fibre can help prevent constipation and ease symptoms of diverticulosis. Try including more fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Increase fluid intake
While adequate hydration is key for most processes in the body, when adding more fibre to one’s diet, it takes on an even more important role. Food moves through the digestive tract via muscle contractions, and as one ages, these contractions become slower. Fluids can help this process, ease symptoms of constipation, and improve digestion.
Improve overall diet
One’s diet obviously plays a vital role in the digestive process. Try to add more whole foods to your diet, and avoid foods that can trigger heartburn or acid reflux. These foods will vary from person to person, so it’s best to try an elimination method to see what works and what doesn’t work for you. A part of eating well is also eating slowly and mindfully; chewing slowly can aid digestion as then the stomach will have to do less work, and the saliva can help break food down.
An important part of anyone’s health journey, regular screenings can help prevent various diseases by proactively taking action against them.
Check your medicines
There are various medicines that can cause digestive problems. In fact, NSAID medicines (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may cause damage to the digestive tract and increase the risk of stomach bleeds and ulcers. Inform your doctor if you are experiencing any side effects and they will help with another treatment plan.
A sedentary lifestyle will have an adverse impact on digestion, so remember to keep moving. Even small amounts of exercise—like a short 30-minute walk every day—can be extremely beneficial.
At Seva At Home, we produce a wealth of free health information to help elders live healthier, happier lives. This has been produced by independent research carried out by the Seva At Home team. This information is not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician for relevant medical diagnosis and advice.
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