An aging body means an aging digestive system, which may mean it may not work as powerfully or quickly as it used to. While aging affects everyone differently, growing older increases the risk of bowel irregularities, peptic ulcers, heartburn, hemorrhoids, dysphagia, and other digestive system disorders.
Fortunately, these tips can help support healthy digestive system for better digestion as you age.
Slow Digestion Remedies and Tips
1. Sustain A Healthy Body Weight
Sustaining a healthy body is important across the lifespan for overall health, including combatting against a potential digestive problem. Carrying excess weight increases the risk of indigestion and heartburn related to extra pressure on the abdomen.
2. Recognize Triggers
Some foods may be more tolerable than others, with common irritants and intolerances including spicy foods and dairy products. Being able to recognize triggers can help you avoid or limit their consumption and mitigate from associated digestion problem symptoms.
3. Review Medications
Growing older poses risk of various health conditions, which may require managing them with medications. Some medicines can cause adverse side effects related to digestion, including gas, bloating, constipation, heart burn, and alterations in the healthy bacteria in the gut.
4. Chew Foods Thoroughly
Digestion starts in the mouth, which stresses the importance of thoroughly chewing the foods you consume. Chewing helps break down large pieces of food into more manageable, digestible pieces. Also when chewing, the salivary glands release digestive enzymes that better support the digestive process once food enters the stomach.
Focusing on chewing foods during mealtimes encourages you to stay in tune with hunger and satiety cues, which reduces the chance of overeating and weight gain.
5. Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
Maintaining good oral hygiene is important to preserve the ability to chew foods thoroughly. Floss and brush regularly, along with visiting the dentist on an annual basis or as recommended.
6. Eat Small, More Frequent Meals
Consuming large meals can slow down the digestion process, whereas eating smaller meals more frequently can improve it. Also avoid larger meals leading up to bedtime. Staying elevated after meals lowers the risk of indigestion and discomfort.
7. Increase Fiber
A high-fiber diet not only supports a healthy weight and heart health, but helps aid in digestion by forming bulk in the stomach and stools. The increased mass keeps waste moving through the gastrointestinal tract.
Fiber is sourced from plants-based foods, including whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Men 50 years and older are recommended to consume 30 grams of fiber daily, while women are encouraged to consume 21 grams.
8. Ensure Adequate Hydration
To optimize the function of fiber, a healthy digestive system needs to be adequately hydrated. Along with preventing constipation, water forms saliva and digests foods to dissolve and utilize nutrients.
However, older adults are often at greater at risk for becoming dehydration due to medications, a decreased thirst mechanism, and avoidance of fluids to lower the frequency of bathroom trips.
Lower the risk of and prevent dehydration by aiming for at least 64 ounces of water daily unless instructed by your doctor. Make an effort to drink water before and with meals and when taking a medication or supplement. Foods in high water content can also contribute to fluid needs, including cucumber, watermelon, soups, gelatins, puddings, popsicles, and smoothies.
9. Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Heavy consumption of alcohol can cause damage to the stomach lining, which may lead to malabsorption issues. Alcohol can also exacerbate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and cause diarrhea and constipation.
Overall, men and women should consume no more than two drinks and one drink per day, respectively. Also verify with your doctor for safe drinking practices, as certain health conditions and medications can have contraindications on alcohol use.
10. Moderate Fat Intake
Moderating fat not only helps manage a healthy weight, but can be beneficial for improving digestion. Fat takes the longest to digest compared to the other two macronutrients, carbohydrate and protein.
Moderating fat at each meal can help safeguard indigestion that may come after a high-fat meal. Also when consuming fat, reduce intake of trans and saturated fats and opt for healthier choices proven to support heart health, including olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds.
11. Incorporate Pre- and Probiotics
A healthy digestive system forms with the help of healthy gut bacteria, particularly in the form of probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria cultures that supports gut health by controlling the growth of harmful bacteria. Common probiotics to look for on ingredient labels include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces and sourced yogurt, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, soft cheeses, and generally fermented foods. Probiotics also come in supplemental form.
Probiotics should be complemented with prebiotics, which are essentially the energy source for probiotics. Prebiotics are carbohydrates than cannot be digested and supplied from asparagus, bananas, oatmeal, legumes, and other fiber sources.
12. Get Active
Physical activity supports healthy aging, including of the gut. Being active decreases the risk of constipation, particularly as aerobic exercise promotes the contraction of intestinal muscles and facilitates bowel movements.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. As an added bonus, incorporating strength training to increase muscle mass supports a healthy body weight and greater independence.
13. Consider Herbal Remedies
Herbal and home remedies for digestion improvement involve looking into your spice cabinet and tea stash. For instance, the spices ginger, cardamom, and allspice have all been touted to treat symptoms related to indigestion.
Sipping on chamomile tea may also improve gas, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Anti-inflammatory characteristics have further demonstrated the effectiveness of chamomile and gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders, including diverticular disease and inflammatory disease.
14. Manage Stress
Stress may disrupt and slow down the digestive process or aggravate preexisting digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, and heartburn. To reduce causing or aggravating symptoms, practice stress-reduction techniques such as exercising, yoga and meditating, dancing, or calling a friend.