Like it or not, but when you age some of your bodily functions automatically start to slow down. Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from it. And one of those functions is digestion – you’ll likely find your digestive system just doesn’t work as quickly as it used to. Physically speaking, this is because – like elsewhere in the body – muscles in the digestive tract stiffen and become less supple, while new cells don’t grow as quickly or in the same numbers as they used to when your body was younger.
Owing to these physical realities of the digestive system then, middle-aged people (and those who are older) can often experience unwanted and unpleasant digestive issues. For one thing, owing to reduced elasticity in the stomach, technically it may not be able to hold as much food as it used to when you were younger. Thus, the likes of gastritis (when the stomach’s lining becomes inflamed) are a regular complaint of ageing people. Other such common problems include:
- Constipation – difficult, slow and maybe painful bowel movement
- Diverticular disease – causes small pouches in the colon’s lining to pop out in weak spots of the gut wall, possibly leading to painful cramps
- Gaining weight and obesity – piling on pounds may cause acid reflux and heartburn because newly gained fat drives the stomach up into the chest
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – affects the muscle between the oesophagus and stomach and usually leads to heartburn and acid indigestion
- Polyps – abnormal growths from mucous membranes; the chance of them occurring in the colon tends to increase at and after 50 years of age.
What can you do?
Unlike wishing the years would drop off our bodies, though, combating digestive complaints as we age doesn’t have to be like fighting a losing battle. Prevention is often the best policy and there are things that every one of us can do (and some of them are relatively easy) whatever your age. Indeed, the sooner you start in life with the following steps the better off you’ll be in the later years to come:
- Diet – aim to maintain a low-fat, high-fibre diet rich in fruit and veg; regularly consuming high-fat foods and processed foods can lead to acid reflux, heartburn and pain, but sensible dietary adjustments can make a real difference to how you feel
- Exercise regularly – walking is great for your gut health, as is swimming and riding a bike, and companies like Integrated Movement Arts can create a bespoke fitness plan for you
- Look after your weight – as noted above, managing your weight gets a big up-tick
- Question your medication – ask your medication prescriber what effect potential drugs and the like might have on your digestive system
- Stay hydrated – a good rule of thumb is to make sure you drink (much) more water than alcohol and coffee.
If you are suffering from a digestive disorder that you suspect is linked to age (say, bloating, constipation, cramps, diarrhoea or extreme gas), be sure to consult a medical practitioner. However, you may also be interested in the following supplements, both of which are available through The Finchley Clinic:
- Active Digestive Enzymes (90 capsules) – great for sufferers of IBS, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, gas, heart burn and lactose intolerance; nicely complements Threelac
- Threelac (60 sachets or 120 capsules) – contains Bacillus coagulans (a probiotic organism that may help solve occasional digestion and stomach issues), Bacillus subtilis (may aid removal of bad flora from the intestines) and Enterococcus faecalis (a major lactic acid bacteria group genus that’s extremely good for the gut).