How Does Ageing Affect Your Digestive System?
Ageing is an inevitable process that everyone will undergo. As our age advances, our body will experience many changes such as greying hair, emerging wrinkles, slower reflexes, stiffer joints and muscles. Likewise, the passage of time will result in many changes in our digestive system that may necessitate adopting healthy habits to upkeep our digestive health.
The Impact of Ageing on Your Digestive System
Our digestive system plays an important role in breaking down food into simple nutrients, so that they can be absorbed by our body. Not all consumed foods can be broken down and absorbed, so it also helps to remove these indigestible foods and unwanted wastes from our body by bowel movements. These roles are performed smoothly by the collaborative efforts of the organs that make up our digestive tract (the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines) and the accessory digestive organs (the pancreas, liver and gallbladder).
As we advance in age, our digestive system may slow down and not work as efficient as it used to be. Muscles in the digestive tract may become weaker or stiffer. Our digestive organs become more vulnerable to injuries and may take longer to heal. All these changes can affect how our digestive system break down food, absorb nutrients, and excrete wastes from our body.
The ageing process affects each digestive organ and its function differently. Here are some of the age-related changes in your digestive tract that you may experience:
- Mouth. Digestion begins in the mouth, where chewing and swallowing of food takes place. With increasing age, it is not uncommon to experience dry mouth as saliva production decreases.1 This makes chewing and swallowing food more challenging. Throat muscles may become less efficient in their contraction, leading to swallowing difficulties as well.2
- Oesophagus. After swallowing, the food travels from the throat to the stomach through the food pipe called the oesophagus. In older adults, the muscular contractions of the food pipe (which propel swallowed food towards the stomach) weaken over time.3 Moreover, the muscles guarding the entrance and exit at both ends of the food pipe loses strength, making acid reflux and heartburn more likely to occur.3
- Stomach. When the food exits the food pipe, it is temporary held in the stomach, and gets further broken down by gastric acid and stomach churning action. Ageing results in a loss of elasticity of the stomach walls and the stomach cannot hold as much food for digestion.2 Besides, the rate at which the stomach empties food into the small intestine slows down, which may lead to decreased appetite.2 The stomach lining may also become more vulnerable to damage, making seniors more prone to injuries such as stomach ulcers.4
- Small intestine. After the stomach has played its role, the partially digested food enters the small intestine for the final stage of digestion into simple nutrients. These nutrients are then absorbed by the small intestine to be used by the body. Older adults are more likely to experience lactose intolerance, as the small intestine produces less of the enzyme (lactase) which is responsible for breaking down lactose sugar.5 Furthermore, certain bacteria that are found within the small intestine may increase in number with age, which can result in pain, bloating and reduced absorption of nutrients such as calcium, folic acid and iron.2
- Large intestine. Foods that cannot be digested and absorbed by the small intestine enter the large intestine as stools to be expelled out of the body. Constipation becomes more common in older adults as the movement of stools through the large intestine slows down with age.2 The large intestine is also home to a rich ecosystem of micro-organisms (such as bacteria and fungi) called the gut flora. The gut flora plays many beneficial roles, including production of vitamin K which is vital in blood clotting.6 In older adults, beneficial bacteria of the gut flora, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, are found to decrease.7
These changes can bring about more than minor inconveniences as we transit into our silver years. This is especially so when coupled with unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and/or medications that may cause gastrointestinal side effects.
Three Habits to Maintain Your Digestive Health
To accommodate the changes that ageing brings about to our digestive health, it is important to start adopting healthy habits. Here are three tips that you can consider to ensure smooth running of your digestive system:
- Maintaining a Healthy Diet
As we age, our digestive system may not handle heavy workload as well as before. Eating more healthily can ease the burden on your digestive tract:
- Consume more high-fibre foods. Fruits, vegetable, legumes and whole grains are rich in fibre, which is important in increasing the size of your stools and softening them.8 Larger and softer stools are easier to be passed out,8 which can reduce constipation.9
- Keep yourself hydrated. Dehydration can lead to constipation.10 Drinking plenty of water keeps our stools soft, so that they can be passed out easily.
- Minimise foods and drinks that may trigger acid reflux. Common triggers include alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, chocolate, onion, spicy and fried foods, and vinegar.11
- Eat greasy foods in moderation. Greasy foods contain a lot of fats, which slows down the rate at which the stomach empties food into the small intestine. As a result, food stays longer in the stomach, which can lead to bloating, stomach pain and nausea.12 Highly fatty diet is also found to increase likelihood of constipation.13
- Keeping an Active Lifestyle
Regular exercise and physical activity offer many health benefits, including the prevention of constipation.14 Some activities that are suitable for older adults include brisk walking, swimming, stationary cycling and yoga.15 Exercise at least 3 – 5 times a week and 20 – 60 minutes each time to keep yourself active.14
- Incorporating Probiotics & Prebiotics in Diet
Consuming adequate amounts of probiotics and prebiotics can promote and support a healthy gut flora. So what are they exactly?
Probiotics are living bacteria that are beneficial to human health when consumed. These friendly bacteria may restore the healthy composition of our gut flora by keeping harmful members of the ecosystem in check.16 Probiotics can be found in fermented foods (such as kimchi, miso, pickles, tempeh and yogurt)17 or in supplements. For those who are interested in probiotic supplements, you may check out DUOLAC® (available at aurigamart.com) – a Korean probiotics brand that is developed by Cell Biotech.
On the other hand, prebiotics are food for the beneficial bacteria of our gut flora. To elaborate, they are dietary fibres that our body cannot digest and absorb, but can feed the micro-organisms that inhabits our intestines. Common prebiotics include fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). Similarly, prebiotics can promote a healthy gut flora by acting as food sources for beneficial bacteria to stimulate their growth.19 Prebiotics can be found naturally in foods, such as asparagus, bananas, barley, garlic and onions.18
Certain food products are also supplemented with prebiotics. For older adults and seniors who are looking for nutritional formulas that support digestive health, ViPlus Gold 40+ & 60+ are the answers to your needs.
ViPlus Gold 40+ & 60+ – The Formula for Healthy Digestion and Healthy Ageing
ViPlus Gold 40+ and ViPlus Gold 60+ are nutritional adult milk formula scientifically formulated for older adults aged 40+ and seniors aged 60+ respectively. Both formulas are high in prebiotics, such as GOS (ViPlus Gold 40+) and FOS (ViPlus Gold 60+), which encourage a healthy gut.
Aside from prebiotics, other key benefits to promote healthy ageing include:
- Excellent source of Calcium and Vitamin D. Increases bone density, and strengthens bone and teeth.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Promote cardiovascular health by lowering blood triglycerides (ViPlus Gold 60+).
- Vitamin A. Support eye health (ViPlus Gold 40+).
- Low in fat. Reduce the burden of organs in middle-aged and elderly people.
ViPlus Gold is the formula for healthy digestion and healthy ageing. You can find ViPlus Gold 40+ and 60+ in Aurigamart.com and major e-Commerce platforms (Lazada, Shopee, Qoo10).
Ageing can result in many changes to our digestive system, which can affect how we digest food, absorb nutrients and expel wastes from our body. To accommodate such changes, we can adopt a healthy diet, active lifestyle, and consider taking probiotics and prebiotics to maintain a healthy gut flora.
To support healthy ageing and healthy digestion, look no further than ViPlus Gold 40+ and 60+ Nutritional Adult Formula.
Article contributed by:
Vincent Low, Pre-registration Pharmacist
DCH Auriga (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.
10 Raeburn Park, Block C, #01-33, Singapore 088702
Tel: (65) 6566 1188
PMA code (DCHA-0121-017)
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- Saber A. Age – Related Gastric Changes. Journal of Surgery. 2016;4(2):20. doi:10.11648/j.js.s.2016040201.15.
- M. Di Stefano, G. Veneto, S. Malservis. Lactose Malabsorption and Intolerance in the Elderly. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2001;36(12):1274-1278. doi:10.1080/003655201317097119.
- Gorbach SL. Microbiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract. In: Medical Microbiology. 4th Edition. Galveston, United States: University of Texas Medical Branch; 1996.
- Patel PJ, Singh SK, Panaich S, Cardozo L. The aging gut and the role of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics: A review. Journal of Clinical Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2014;5(1):3-6. doi:10.1016/j.jcgg.2013.08.003.
- High Fibre for a Fit and Fabulous You. HealthHub. https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/1049/more-fibre-for-a-fit-and-fabulous-you. Accessed January 16, 2021.
- Anderson JW, Baird P, Jr RHD, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutrition Reviews. 2009;67(4):188-205. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x.
- Arnaud MJ. Mild dehydration: a risk factor of constipation? European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;57(S2). doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601907.
- What to eat when you have chronic heartburn. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/what-to-eat-when-you-have-chronic-heartburn. Accessed January 16, 2021.
- Mandl E. 7 Reasons to Avoid Greasy Food. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/greasy-food. Published January 8, 2020. Accessed January 16, 2021.
- Vakili STT, Nezami BG, Shetty A, Chetty VK, Srinivasan S. Association of high dietary saturated fat intake and uncontrolled diabetes with constipation: evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Neurogastroenterology & Motility. 2015;27(10):1389-1397. doi:10.1111/nmo.12630.
- Constipation. In: Common Health Concerns in Older Adults. Ministry Of Health; 2000:9-12. https://www.healthhub.sg/sites/assets/Assets/PDFs/HPB/Older%20Adult/d447.pdf. Accessed January 16, 2021.
- 9 Best Exercises for The Elderly. Active Health Singapore. https://www.activehealth.sg/read/physical-activity/9-best-exercises-for-the-elderly. Accessed January 16, 2021.
- Hemarajata P, Versalovic J. Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. 2012;6(1):39-51. doi:10.1177/1756283×12459294.
- Palsdottir H. 11 Probiotic Foods That Are Super Healthy. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-super-healthy-probiotic-foods. Published August 28, 2016. Accessed January 24, 2021.
- Semeco A. The 19 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/19-best-prebiotic-foods. Published June 8, 2016. Accessed January 24, 2021.
- Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods. 2019;8(3):92. doi:10.3390/foods8030092.
Ageing can lead to in many changes in our digestive system, especially in older adults. What are some of these changes in our digestive system? How do we maintain our digestive health? Looking for an adult formula that promotes a healthy gut?