Four Surprising Ways Your Digestion is Different When You’re Over 50
Do you have a nagging feeling that your digestive system has changed as you’ve gotten older? If so, you’re not alone. WebMD reports that age does make a difference. If fact, “nearly 40% of older adults have one or more age-related digestive symptom each year.”1
If you’re experiencing stomach pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, or more serious digestive issues, you don’t have to turn to pharmaceuticals which can have bad side effects. There are natural ways to to gain relief and get your life back.
At the age of 50, that's how many days your digestive system has been working.
Our digestive system is an impressive part of our bodies that works hard, even during the times when we don't feed ourselves the best food.
Over the course of a long life, that hard-working system is going to experience some changes.
This is normal.
Unfortunately though, some of these changes can lead to dreadful digestive issues. In fact, sometimes these problems get so bad that people start to feel there is no hope of ever being healthy again.
But there is hope! There are real solutions for overcoming these problems so you no longer need to suffer. I’m on a mission to help 1 million people overcome their digestive issues — and take back control of their lives.
By arming yourself with knowledge about what happens as you get older, you can prevent, avoid, and overcome these problems.
In the next few minutes, you'll discover 4 surprising ways our digestive systems change as we age – and what to do about it.
Let's dive in.
Change #1. Your mouth produces less saliva
Food first begins its journey through your digestive system in the mouth.
Here, as you chew your food, it becomes mixed with an enzyme in your saliva called amylase. Amylase is an important part of proper digestion, so here's a little background…
The pancreas and salivary glands produce Amylase. Amylase helps convert the carbohydrates we eat into a sugar, called glucose, which is central to the functioning of our body.
Glucose is the most important source of energy in the cellular respiration process, which is how our cells “breathe."
Fun Fact — Foods that contain lots of starch but small amounts of sugar, like potatoes and rice, can actually become slightly sweeter as we chew them. That's because amylase is turning some of the food's starch into sugar.
Glucose also supplies almost all the energy for our brain. That means when we don’t have enough glucose in our body, psychological processes like self-control and decision-making can become impaired!
Since glucose is a key part of your body, it's important to know that you will naturally produce less saliva as you get older.2 With less saliva, amylase will have a harder time coating all your food during chewing.
Here’s another benefit of thoroughly chewing your food. Swallowing unchewed food can put pressure on the rest of your digestive system, leading to bloating and gas. The body has a harder time absorbing all the nutrients from unchewed food.
Action: It’s pretty simple to fix this. Chew more! You can also take smaller bites and chew them for longer.
Change #2. Your thirst sensation decreases
As we get older, it becomes a lot harder to stay hydrated! This causes all sorts of negative effects in our digestive system. For example, it can lead to constipation and a general feeling of unpleasantness.
Why is this?
Well, when we get older our thirst sensation decreases.3
Thirst sensation is the signal your body sends to your mind when you are beginning to get dehydrated. It tells you it's time to drink some more water.
As we get older, that thirst sensation becomes less pronounced. When we get dehydrated, our body will tell us to drink fluids to re-hydrate ourselves. But due to the weakened signal, we don't end up drinking enough water to completely re-hydrate!
This makes it even more important to drink fluids throughout the day. After all, you don't want to risk the possibility of becoming dehydrated. I like to carry a BPA-Free reusable water bottle around with me throughout the day. Water is always on hand and it's a lot easier to stay hydrated.
Action: Here's what to do if you reach the point where your body says, "Hey, I'm getting dehydrated! Start drinking more fluids." Drink enough to fulfill that thirst sensation, so you no longer feel thirsty. Then drink another glass or two of water over the next 20 minutes. That's how you can stay hydrated despite a decreased thirst sensation.
Fact: There is yet another way that our bodies can become dehydrated more quickly. Due to aging, our kidney function begins to slow down. The kidneys begin to have a harder time filtering the toxins out of our bloodstream. They still do an admirable job, but it takes our kidneys longer to do the same work. This means that the kidney needs more fluids to filter out the toxins. So we end up excreting more urine than usual to expel these toxins.
Change #3. It takes longer to "empty the toothpaste"
What do I mean by "empty the toothpaste"? Well, our intestines move food through our digestive tract using a muscle movement called Peristalsis. Peristalsis is an involuntary muscle contraction that moves food through the intestine. It's a lot like squeezing toothpaste out of its tube.
For most people, peristalsis slows down as they get older. This causes food to move slower through their digestive system.
This can cause constipation due to the food spending more time in the colon.
Well, one of the colon's jobs is to pull the water out of our stool (food waste). The longer our stool sits in our colon, the drier it becomes. And dry stool can lead to constipation.
What can you do about this?
Action: Stay hydrated. Proper hydration helps our stool stay fluid enough to pass through our colon quickly.
Change #4. There are changes in our gut bacteria
Did you know that there are trillions of bacteria in your digestive tract?
All in all, this amounts to around 3 pounds of bacteria! These bacteria line our digestive tract. They perform all sorts of wonderful and helpful tasks.
But as you age, the amount and kinds of bacteria in your gut can change.4
The Bifidobacteria species decline significantly in number with age. The lack of this bacteria has a big impact on our digestion and bowel movements. That's because these bacteria live in the colon where they help the processing of stool. Low amounts of Bifidobacteria can lead to bloating and constipation.
Action: Make sure you are building and maintaining the right environment of gut bacteria. To do this, take a high-quality probiotic that includes the Bifidobacteria family.
When you choose a probiotic supplement, ensure that the dosages are high enough to have an effect! An effective daily dose should contain over 20 billion live organisms.
And be wary of yogurt as a source of probiotics. Despite the claims on the packaging that the yogurt contains "live cultures," often there are not nearly enough probiotics in the yogurt to have any effect. Also, avoid yogurt loaded with sugar. In fact, the large amount of sugar in these yogurts is what some of the bad bacteria feed off of. Not good!
You’ve seen four ways that your digestion changes with age, and simple things you can do to help avoid these problems.
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