8 Tips for Maintaining A Healthy Digestive System for Seniors

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There are several great reasons all of us should look forward to the aging process. For example, you don’t have to wake up in the morning to go to work, or you are no longer worried about what your coworkers say about you. Third, no more children to diaper change, or cook for!

While there are a multitude of reasons to love getting older, if you are caring for an older person, it’s very common for digestive issues to hamper life enjoyment which is why supplements for stomach health are so popular. Many seniors suffer from indigestion, constipation, or diverticulitis–all of which can lower their quality of life.

Here are five tips you can use to help your senior maintain a healthy, robust digestive system.

Tip 1: Stay Hydrated

One of the main reasons seniors can suffer from constipation and other digestive issues is that they don’t drink enough water. Seniors need to drink between six and eight glasses of water each day.

If you have a family member who is not a fan of drinking water, you may want to try adding fresh citrus fruit, cucumber, or mint. Or you can add flavor enhancers to water to encourage seniors to drink more water.

Tip 2: Maintain a Healthy Diet

woman smiling while holding bowl of salad

Many seniors don’t eat a healthy diet, and it can be difficult to encourage your family member, patient, or client to eat a balanced diet.

Seniors often become difficult to feed because their tastes change, or they may want to eat the same foods each day. However, encouraging your senior to eat a fiber-rich diet, and to take vitamin supplements can be challenging. There are ways you can make sure seniors are eating a healthy diet.

First, look for powdered supplements, such as natural fruit powders that have no added sugar, which you can add into a beverage or into a smoothie to help add fiber and healthy vitamins and minerals into their diets. You can choose a flavor of fruit powder that your senior would like the best.

Second, if your senior has difficulty swallowing a multivitamin, look for chewable gummy vitamins that are easier for many seniors to take daily. Also, if a senior loves soup or smoothies, or even bread and cookies, consider adding fruits and veggies into recipes.

Tip 3: Avoid Heartburn or Reflux Triggers

As we age, the digestive system starts to slow down and become less efficient at breaking down food. Seniors, in particular, need to be conscious of their digestive health since they are more vulnerable to certain triggers that result in unpleasant conditions such as heartburn and acid reflux.

Heartburn and reflux occur when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing a burning pain sensation in the chest, sometimes combined with a sour taste in the mouth.

It is important to identify the contributing factors to limit any potential triggers. For example, serve smaller meals to seniors to avoid overloading their stomachs with food, and limit foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and fried foods that can increase their chance of developing heartburn or reflux symptoms.

Certain medications such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen and aspirin), diuretics, and calcium channel blockers for hypertension can also trigger heartburn. If you have a senior suffering from heartburn or acid reflux, try adding lemon juice to their drinking water or fresh mint leaves in their tea to help relieve stomach acid and alleviate heartburn symptoms.

Tip 4: Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods

Increasingly, researchers are finding that the gut microbiome is critical for our overall health and well-being. Doctors from all over the world are encouraging seniors to add foods rich in probiotics to their diets.

Probiotics are organisms that are present in your gut, and they aid in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients and minerals. Probiotics also help to regulate immune systems and help keep your heart healthy, so the more probiotic-rich your diet is, the healthier you will be.

There are many probiotics-rich foods that you can include in your senior’s diet. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh are all examples of probiotic-rich foods you can feed your senior. What if you have a senior who is a picky eater? No worries. Probiotics, like most vitamins and minerals, are available through fruit-flavored gummies.

Tip 5: Reduce Stress

stress tea

Stress is a normal reaction to challenging situations or conditions, but chronic stress can lead to serious physical and mental health problems. There are many ways to reduce stress for seniors, and the key one is ensuring that their home is safe, inviting, and comforting.

Seniors experience less stress when provided with the right environment for relaxation and social interaction. It is also important to allow seniors to care for themselves at home or perform any tasks, if possible, without feeling overwhelmed or guilty.

Many seniors are also turning towards meditation as a coping mechanism for stress management since it provides an outlet for anxiety while restoring mental equilibrium with its calming effects. In addition, dedicating time to hobbies and recreational activities, for example, gardening, reading, or knitting, can soothe the mind and alleviate stress for seniors.

Tip 6: Stay Active

You probably know how important exercise is for flexibility, muscle tone, and your cardiovascular system–but seniors who stay active also have better digestive health. For example, if a senior has constipation, walking daily helps food process quickly and effectively through your small and large intestines.

If you have a senior patient or client who has mobility issues, there are all kinds of activities you can do with them to help them stay active. Chair yoga for seniors who are mobility challenged is great for flexibility, and the relaxation techniques employed with chair yoga also help to reduce anxiety and stress.

Many seniors love water activities, so a trip to the neighborhood gym or recreation center might be the perfect solution for them to stay active. There are also walking groups and senior-focused activity groups your relative, friend, or patient might enjoy. No matter what your senior loves to do, make sure they continue to be active for a healthier digestive system.

Tip 7: Limit Your Alcohol

Alcohol consumption can pose a serious problem for seniors. Seniors are not as metabolically efficient as younger people, so alcohol stays in their systems longer –meaning that they will have higher alcohol concentration levels in their blood than younger drinkers and are, therefore, more susceptible to the risks associated with drinking.

The first way seniors can help themselves is by limiting their alcohol consumption. If a senior does not drink regularly, then it is best for them not to start drinking at all. If they decide to drink, they should not binge on alcohol in one sitting.

Seniors in good health should not drink more than seven drinks a week while considering current medications since some types of medication can interact with alcohol in dangerous ways. We want our senior loved ones to live well into their 80s and beyond. Hence, it is important that they discuss their alcohol consumption with their medical providers if they are concerned about the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

Tip 8: Check Medication Side Effects

An important tip that many seniors and caregivers forget to think about is to check the medications for side effects. almost all prescription medications, in addition to treating a condition, can have at least a few side effects.

Checking medication side effects is especially important for seniors because their digestive systems process food and nutrients more slowly than younger adults.

If even one of their medications has constipation or diarrhea as a side effect, seniors could suffer from digestive issues. Check your senior’s medication, and if digestive side effects are an issue, you can always ask their doctor if a different medication might treat the same condition.

Conclusion

We strive every day to keep our senior relatives, and friends safe and happy. By using the tips for digestive health suggested above, your loved one will be able to stay healthy for years to come.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.

@jared_levenson

Watch "How To" free masterclass training To become Peaceful and free!

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