For many people, aging brings new digestive problems, such as constipation. These tips will help you to avoid these woes and have a healthy digestive tract as you get older.
As we get older, our bodies start to change — including our ability to digest what we eat. A variety of age-related factors, including the medications you take, a sedentary lifestyle, and even tooth decay and gum disease could be taking a toll on healthy eating and Health Digestion. The result: the possibility of indigestion, constipation, diverticulitis, and ulcers. Here are nine ways to improve digestion as you age and keep your digestive tract on track.
Drinking water and other fluids, such as orange juice with pulp, can help ease constipation, which becomes more common as we age. Liquids and fiber make a healthy digestion combo by bulking up and softening stools so they pass more easily through the digestive tract. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, says Charlene Prather, MD, advisor to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders and an associate professor of internal medicine at St. Louis University Medical School in Missouri. Keep in mind that liquids with caffeine, such as tea and coffee, have the opposite effect and can dehydrate you.
Watch what you eat
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do not only for healthy digestion, but also for your overall health as you age, Dr. Prather says. It’s easy to pack on pounds when you overeat, especially if you’re less active than when you were younger. You can overtax your digestive system and experience heartburn symptoms by overeating or eating foods that can lead to indigestion, so keep meals reasonable in size and curb fatty foods to a minimum. Also, watch portion sizes to maintain a healthy weight.
Load up with fiber
The best remedy to help constipation is eating high-fiber foods. Among the best high-fiber foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, nuts, and seeds. A high-fiber diet translates to healthy digestion because fiber “greases” your digestive system. Another benefit is that most foods high in fiber tend to be naturally low in fat, yet make you feel fuller so you eat less, which helps you maintain your weight, Prather says.
One of the best habits for healthy digestion is staying active. Get regular aerobic exercises such as walking, biking, swimming, and dancing. Aerobic exercise can help prevent heart disease and high blood pressure by improving your circulation. Similarly, aerobic exercise leads to improved digestion and can keep blood vessels in healthy shape as well. Exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight, which is important for healthy digestion.
As we age, our responsibilities and our stress levels can rise. Excess stress can increase gastric acid, which can cause heartburn symptoms and indigestion. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers or irritable bowel disease, but it can make these digestive disorders flare. The best ways to reduce indigestion and stress include regular exercise — it releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones — and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. Also, be sure to get enough sleep.
“You’ve heard the saying, ‘An apple a day, keeps the doctor away?’ Well, there is some truth to that,” Prather says. Adults should consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day for healthy digestion. The risk for cancers of the colon and rectum increases with age. Eating fruits and vegetables may help reduce that risk. The more colorful the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidants it has. So reach for blueberries, strawberries, sweet potatoes, bananas, and plenty of leafy greens, and you’ll help constipation stay away, too.
Maintain your Smile
Healthy digestion begins in the mouth, with your teeth. Taking care of your teeth is important as you age because you rely on your teeth to chew your food well, and you need to chew your food well to break it down into small enough pieces to be absorbed by your body. Older people with poor teeth may have more indigestion because they can’t chew well, Prather says. Brushing and flossing daily and getting regular dental check-ups can help promote a healthy mouth and healthy digestion.
Probiotics, found in everything from yogurt to granola bars, promote healthy digestion. Probiotics are naturally occurring organisms similar to the good bacteria that live in your gut. Scientists believe that probiotics aid healthy digestion by producing substances that fight viruses and infections. Probiotics also produce B vitamins that you need to metabolize what you eat. Some older people are more susceptible to B12 deficiencies and may benefit from consuming foods with probiotics.