Getting older brings about a multitude of changes in our lives. Many of us transition from full-time parents to empty nesters. Our busy careers lead us toward our retirement years. These are changes that many of us look forward to because they create more space to enjoy our lives. However, there are physical changes that are also to be expected as we enter our golden years.
Our digestion changes over time as our lifestyles change and our bodies mature. Here are a few changes that you may want to be aware of:
• Constipation – Constipation becomes an issue as we age and is most common in individuals as they approach their 60s and 70s. Infrequent bowel movements – as well as painful bowel movements – become more common.
• Esophagus problems – As we age, our esophagus may move food through our system more slowly. Because the esophagus connects the mouth to the stomach, it can make swallowing food more difficult as it becomes less effective in performing its function.
• Diverticulosis – Approximately 10 percent of individuals over the age of 40 – and 50 percent of individuals over the age of 50 – are diagnosed with diverticulosis. This condition occurs when tiny pockets form on the lining of the bowel. Chills/fever, painful cramps, and alternating episodes of diarrhea/constipation can occur with this condition.
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – GERD occurs when the stomach acids back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn and pain.
• Stomach bleeding and ulcers – Actually, aging is not a contributing factor to ulcers. Instead, the widespread use of NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) contributes to ulcer formation. Since many individuals use NSAIDS to control chronic pain associated with arthritis and other chronic conditions, a higher incidence of ulcers and stomach bleeding is reported in older individuals.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to slow down or alleviate digestion-related disorders. Here are just a few: