Time takes its toll on every part of the body. Nearly 40% of adults have one or more age-related digestive symptoms each year. In order from top to bottom, here’s what happens…
- Decreased saliva production can make it harder to chew and swallow.
- Its strength may decrease, making it feel like food is stuck.
- The mucosal lining weakens, leaving it less protected. This could increase risk of ulcers, especially for those using medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- For some, less stomach acid is produced, which hinders digestion and can cause discomfort when eating.
- It also slows down releasing food into the small intestine, which reduces appetite (and can lead to not eating enough).
- Lactase (which breaks down milk sugar) decreases, causing discomfort for those trying to enjoy dairy.
- Certain bacteria can overpopulate and cause decreased absorption of nutrients such as B12, folic acid, iron, and calcium. This bacterial overgrowth can also lead to discomfort, bloating, and weight loss.
- Contractions slow down in the small/large intestines, causing food to move more slowly. That means more water absorbs, which can lead to constipation.
- The microbiome changes, and depending on how the diversity of flora changes, scientists can predict your health and longevity.
Here are 4 tips for maintaining healthy digestion:
#1: Go for your first colonoscopy by age 45. Make sure your gastrointestinal doctor is aware of all over-the-counter and prescription medication you take. These can affect digestive issues. Your physician can also evaluate common age-related ailments such as gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
#2: Stay active. Movement in the body promotes movement in the digestive tract. Get at least 150 minutes per week (or 30 minutes over 5 days) of moderate activity.
#3: Hydrate. It is recommended to consume at least 9–13 cups of non-caffeinated fluid daily, but this can depend on your individual condition. If water isn’t your favorite, try mixing in some fruit or trying herbal tea for flavor.
#4: Eat more fiber. You need at least 25 grams of fiber per day, but most people only average around 15. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources of fiber. Fiber improves movement of food through the intestines and also feeds the good bacteria in the gut.
Set up a consultation with a registered dietician at 901 Nutrition to help you improve your digestive health.
Erin Dragutsky is the co-founder of 901 Nutrition, LLC and a licensed, registered dietitian in Memphis. Erin specializes in helping clients with eating disorders and disordered eating habits. She is passionate about helping clients ditch their diets for good, find food freedom, and develop a positive relationship with food. 901nutrition.com, 901.800.9526