As you age, so does your gut. Over time, you might feel your gut is the most important part of your body because of the distress it causes you. Now, most gut problems arise due to trivial conditions that can be easily managed.
However, you should be aware that colorectal cancer (or gut cancer) is the third most common cancer worldwide, and if you experience alarm symptoms such as bleeding from your bottom or unexplained weight loss, you should consult your doctor at once.
If members of your family have a history of colon cancer, you’re at an increased risk of developing the disease. In this case, you should talk to your doctor about cancer screening when you hit 50 years of age, which is normally done via colonoscopy or testing your stool for blood. But for now, let’s discuss 5 simple ways of keeping your gut healthy!
1Review your medication.
Almost every drug used by doctors today has side-effects related to the gut. But some drugs have more pronounced gut side-effects. These include calcium channel blockers (often used for high blood pressure), pain-relievers, metformin (a common diabetes drug), and over-the-counter medications like aspirin.
All these drugs can cause gut problems like constipation, nausea, and diarrhea. And because you are more likely to be taking these drugs as you age, they can be a very likely cause behind your symptoms.
A very simple solution to this problem is to talk to your doctor and see if they can prescribe you an alternative medication for your condition!
2Make lifestyle changes to eliminate heartburn.
Heartburn (or GERD) is a common problem in the elderly and occurs when the acid in your stomach backs up into the esophagus, causing you to feel a burning pain in your chest.
As you age, your diaphragm can become less taut, which can produce what’s known as a hiatal hernia, a major risk factor for heartburn. Another common cause of heartburn is obesity. Regardless of the cause, simple lifestyle changes can greatly improve the condition.
There are certain foods (such as dairy products) that are known to trigger heartburn. Start by avoiding these in your diet. Different people are intolerant to different foods, and an elimination diet could help you identify foods that trigger your heartburn.
Another important tool for fighting heartburn is exercise. An active lifestyle will help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid obesity, which is a leading cause of acid reflux and heartburn!
3Eat more often but take smaller meals.
As you age, the walls of your stomach become less stretchy. This can cause you to experience stomach discomfort and fullness after a meal because your stomach will not expand to accommodate food as much as it used to.
The simplest way to avoid this is by taking smaller meals. You can increase the frequency of your meals but make sure you don’t eat too much in one go. Smaller meals won’t overstretch your stomach and help it digest the food better.
4Feeling fatigued, depressed, or funny in your arms and legs? Get your B12 tested.
Pernicious anemia is a condition that leads to vitamin B12 deficiency. That’s because in pernicious anemia, your stomach acid production is reduced, which is essential for the absorption of B12.
Feeling fatigued, depressed, tingling in your arms and legs, or experiencing memory issues are all signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency. If you notice these signs, get your vitamin B12 levels tested. This will uncover your pernicious anemia and it could save your gut. How? Because long-term, untreated pernicious anemia can turn into stomach cancer.
So, the sooner your doctors diagnose your pernicious anemia, the better it is for your gut health.
5Consider probiotics for constipation.
Constipation can be a very annoying problem that develops as you age. And while good dietary fiber intake is a well-known factor that keeps your gut mobile, changes in your gut microbiome is another factor that contributes to the regulation of your gut.
As you age, certain bacteria (such as the Bifidobacteria species) are known to dwindle down in number, and this is a potential cause of constipation as well as other gut problems.
To solve this, consider taking a probiotic supplement, which can help re-establish the balance of your gut microbiota. However, make sure you don’t take probiotics for diarrhea (unless it’s due to special bugs like C. difficile). A good way to ensure that you’re using probiotics the right way is to take advice from your doctor!