How Does Getting Older Affect Digestion?

By 9  am on

From an increased risk of developing arthritis to reflexes that are a bit slower, there are many not-so-pleasant ways aging impacts the body. Digestion, which is the process of converting food into usable energy, can be similarly affected. The silver lining here is that there are some things seniors can do to counteract the ways aging affects the digestive system, including those discussed below.

Slower Digestion Processes

The digestive process is largely controlled by the involuntary movement of muscles within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Aging naturally slows down these muscle movements, which means it takes longer for food to be fully digested. Seniors may be able to keep things moving within the GI tract with efforts that include:

• Drinking more water
• Doing light to moderate exercise 3–4 days per week
• Eating “digestive-friendly” foods with more fiber (e.g., almonds, lentils, berries, bananas, and green leafy veggies)

Medication Side Effects

Many older adults take medication to manage chronic conditions, and some of these drugs could affect the digestive system. For instance, some blood pressure medications may cause heartburn. Also, over-the-counter or prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may contribute to stomach irritation, ulcers, and other digestive tract problems. Seniors may be able to minimize these issues by exploring physical therapy and other non-drug pain management methods.

Digestive issues can be even more problematic if your loved one is unable to prepare nutritious meals on his or her own. Seniors can face a variety of age-related challenges. Though some families choose to take on the caregiving duties, there may come a time when they need a trusted at-home care provider. Families sometimes need respite from their duties so they can focus on their other responsibilities, and some seniors need around-the-clock assistance that their families are not able to provide. Home Care Assistance is here to help.

Artery Blockages

Blood flow blockages that can affect the digestive system are common in older adults. As a result, some seniors may develop intestinal ischemia, a condition where blood flow through major arteries slows or stops within the intestines. Lowering cholesterol levels, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying hydrated are some of the ways issues of this nature may be prevented.

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of senior care Oshkosh, WI, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

Difficulty Swallowin

This problem can occur at any age, but, according to the Mayo Clinic, dysphagia is more common in older adults. Swallowing issues can make it difficult for seniors to get sufficient nutrients from what they eat. Possible solutions include:

• Switching to a softer diet that still includes nutrient-rich foods
• Seeing if there are issues with ill-fitting dentures
• Sitting up straight while eating
• Discussing medication with the doctor

Age-Related Weight Gain

Because of how metabolism slows with age, seniors often have difficulty losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight later in life. Excess weight can contribute to an assortment of digestive system issues. Some of these include the backup of acidic digestive juices (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD), related damage to the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus), and an increased risk of digestive system cancers. Age-related weight gain may be offset by adjustments to diet and exercise habits

Constipation

This type of digestive difficulty is common in older adults for many reasons. In some cases, constipation develops as the digestive system slows down. At other times, seniors have issues with bowel movements following surgery or because of medication issues, poor diet habits, stress, or a lack of sufficient exercise and hydration. Oftentimes, constipation in seniors can be managed with lifestyle modifications.

If your loved one is experiencing digestive issues, a home caregiver can help with planning and preparing meals that meet your parent’s specific dietary needs. Every senior has different needs when aging in place. Some simply need occasional assistance with household chores, while others may be managing a serious illness and require more extensive live-in care. Oshkosh seniors can count on Home Care Assistance to provide the in-home care they need and deserve. If you need professional home care for your loved one, Home Care Assistance is just a phone call away. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (920) 216-6276.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG

Request Free Information or
Schedule a Free in-Home Consultation