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Importance of Digestive Health for Older Adults

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All of the body’s systems rely on the digestive system for the nutrients needed to function properly. Every cell throughout the body must receive the appropriate amounts of nutrients, water, and oxygen to survive and thrive. Issues that affect the gastrointestinal system affect other body systems as well as physical and mental health in different ways. The following article examines why elderly people need healthy digestive systems.

The gastrointestinal system contains trillions of bacteria that are necessary to break down foods, create vitamins, neutralize toxins, and regulate hormones. Disease processes that are distant from the system might occur secondary to digestive issues. Arthritis, eczema, and psoriasis are all thought to have origins from gut disturbances. Researchers from University of California, San Francisco published an article in a 2017 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which indicated a link exists between digestive issues and the development of autoimmune disorders. 

Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality elder care. Oshkosh families trust in Home Care Assistance to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably.

Antibiotics, illness, a lack of sleep, poor food choices, and stress affect the digestive tract, which may damage mucus-producing cells, causing further illness. In addition to following a proper diet and getting an adequate amount of sleep, getting a sufficient amount of physical exercise also affects the digestive system. Exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system and enhances blood circulation, which is also necessary for gut function. 

Approximately 80 percent of the body’s immune system is found in the gastrointestinal system. When an issue develops in the gastric tract, the body’s natural immunity comes to the aid of the dilemma. However, in doing so, inflammation occurs, which can affect various regions and body systems. If the immune system becomes impaired, seniors are more susceptible to infectious diseases. Damage to the protective lining enables bacteria to cause ulcerations and further inflammation. 

Living with a serious health condition can make it challenging for seniors to age in place. However, they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional 24-hour care. Oshkosh seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more.

The gut contains more nerve cells than the central nervous system. For this reason, scientists refer to the gastrointestinal tract as the second brain. As such, the neurons throughout the digestive region are responsible for producing and releasing serotonin and other neurotransmitters. If the neurons become damaged or the messages are not transmitted properly, emotional or cognitive disorders are likely to develop. Older adults may experience depression or behavioral changes because neurotransmitters are not able to travel to the brain. 

Once food and fluids enter the gastrointestinal system, various chemical processes and microbial activity break down the substances into usable nutrients. The vitamins and minerals are then absorbed through the lining and pass into the bloodstream, which disperses them throughout the body. Toxins are neutralized and leftover substances pass out of the digestive tract. Any action that interferes with the digestion processes has the potential for causing illness elsewhere in the body.

Seniors can boost their digestive health by making healthy lifestyle choices such as exercising and eating nutritious meals. If your elderly loved one needs help maintaining healthy habits, consider hiring a professional caregiver. Families can rely on Home Care Assistance Oshkosh to provide dedicated and compassionate in-home caregivers who are trained in our holistic Balanced Care Method, which was designed to encourage seniors to exercise often, eat nutritious foods, maintain strong social ties, and focus on other lifestyle factors that promote longevity. Call us at (920) 710-2273 to hire a professional caregiver for your aging loved one.