Aging and Digestive Health
As you age, so does your digestive system. An astonishing 2 out of 5 older adults struggle with at least one age related digestive symptom a year. Being aware of some of the digestive health problems that occur as we get older can make the transition a little easier. Here are a couple of the most common.
Most of the time constipation is not caused by getting older, but as a side effect to the problems that come with age. Medical conditions, decreased mobility, changes in diet, and an increased use of medication are all contributing factors that can cause constipation. There are numerous ways to treat constipation depending on what’s causing it, so visit your local gastroenteritis if constipation is an issue for you.
If you are 60 or older, there is a 50% chance that you are a victim of a digestive health disorder called diverticular disease. This occurs when small pouches in the colon lining bulge out along the weaker spots in the intestinal wall, sometimes becoming inflamed. Some people have no symptoms at all; others experience gas, bloating, cramps and constipation. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop this condition. Doctors are not sure what causes diverticular disease, but it can be treated if the pockets become inflamed.
Mouth And Esophagus Problems
Like the colon, the esophagus can also weaken with age. This causes food to move more slowly through it, so swallowing becomes more difficult. A dry mouth or a tooth decay can also make swallowing more difficult, so a doctor should be contacted if this becomes an issue for you.
When heartburn or acid reflux continue frequently over a short amount of time, the diagnosis is often gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, a common problem among older adults. Acid or content from the stomach flows back into the esophagus, irritating the lining. Most of the time GERD can be treated with over-the-counter medications which help reduce the symptoms and discomfort.
Understanding these digestive problems can be helpful as you age. Checking your medications, staying active, eating enough fiber, staying hydrated and getting regular health screenings are all ways to preserve your digestive health as you age. Stay informed and be proactive when it comes to your health.
Dr. Stuart H. Coleman, MD
Dr. Coleman began his medical practice in New Albany in 1984 after many years of training. He attended the University of Kentucky for his pre-medical studies and the University of Louisville Medical School. This education was followed by a year of internship and an additional two years of specialty training in Internal Medicine, all in Portsmouth, Virginia with the U.S. Navy. He then received two additional years of training in Gastroenterology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Dr. Coleman is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. He is married and the proud father of two sons. In addition to spending time with his family, he enjoys gardening, woodworking, and all outdoor activities.
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