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Aging & Digestion


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  Throughout time, it has been well known that aging has some rather annoying effects on the digestive system.  There seems to be a slowing down of things that once functioned normally.  You hear more and more about how bran and large amounts of fiber can help with all of the digestive woes of an aging individual.  Prune juice is recommended on a regular basis to keep a person, well, regular.  But how much of these things are indeed necessary?  How many have a basis in truth?  And are there other ways to go about aiding your digestive system to function normally without having to eat dozens of ill tasting bran muffins and drinking copious amounts of prune liquids?

  There are certainly numerous ways to deal with the digestive problems that accompany aging.  There is always medicine that a doctor will prescribe if your issues are fairly severe.  But generally, people do not want to take medicine unless it is truly warranted, or else the side effects from the medicine may end up being worse than the malady you're trying to be rid of.  Below I'll list some easy (and inexpensive) dietary and lifestyle changes that you can make that will aid your digestion.  After you've followed these tips, you can decide whether you need to see a doctor for further assistance.

  1. Stay hydrated!  Fluid is paramount for good digestion.  Your body cannot function adequately without it.  It is one of the most important parts of digestion.  Whether you get your fluid intake from water or good bone broth, juice or even from juicier fruits & veggies, make sure that you're increasing your fluids if you're having digestion issues.  You don't need to go overboard and drink water until you feel sick.  Start out with just a couple of extra cups per day and see if it helps.  If not, keep increasing it. Most people find that when they start drinking water regularly, their body begins to crave it.  This is good.  It's sometimes difficult to make these kinds of lifestyle changes, especially if you've gone for 50+ years without staying hydrated well.  Once you switch, however, you'll probably find that you have more energy, that your skin is not as dry and also that your digestion improves.
  2. Eat fiber.  Yes, you do need to have fiber in your diet.  If however, you focus on having many whole vegetables and fruits, and you also have adequate hydration levels, you may not need to eat dense bran muffins 3 times a day!  Focus on various vegetables in a myriad of colors.  Eat the skins when it is safe to do so (if you know where they're grown and that they're grown without the use of harmful pesticides).  Think about vegetables that will give you a bit of water as well as fiber (lettuce, for instance).  Juice is fine, but oftentimes it is far less beneficial than the whole vegetable or fruit with skins, pith, etc. with regards to fiber.  Our body needs fiber and water foremost to move things through the digestive tract.
  3. Walk.  Sedentary lifestyles make for frightening digestive problems.  Be sure to walk regularly and do light, natural movements to keep you system in tact.  If you're unable to walk, do exercises from a wheelchair similar to the chair exercised discussed in other articles on this blog.  Our bodies were made to move & that movement aids in many of our internal systems.
  4. Pay attention to chewing.  This may seem silly, but sometimes digestion is helped when people begin to chew their food more carefully and fully.  Enzymes in your saliva begin to break down the food in your mouth, and if you chew more fully, digestion will begin earlier and probably have a better chance of full digestion as it enters the gut. 
  5. Try good quality probiotics.  All probiotics are not created equal, so you may want to ask around to some of your friends or family that are really into health.  Probiotics have good bacteria that can help combat the bad bacteria in your gut.  You can also try probiotic rich foods, like yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, or even sauerkraut and kimchi. These should have positive benefits for your digestive system over the course of a couple of months.  If you begin taking a good probiotic supplement, you'll probably see results much faster.
  6. Finally, reduce your stress levels.  Digestion can be adversely affected by high stress levels.  Reducing stress will make a dramatic change in your well being, as well as your digestion.  Eating a more balanced diet should also help in reducing anxiety, so if you are not able to control the situations causing stress, you can at least control your diet & begin to reduce the stress response of your body and the havoc it is wreaking on your digestion. 

  Digestion is something that most people take for granted, until it is not working properly.  Once that happens, it becomes an urgent situation very quickly.  The steps listed above are not the only measures that can be taken, but they can be taken safely by everyone.  If you've given them a chance and are still having distressing digestion, seek help from a medical professional.  Life is too short to be worried about your intestines all the time! 

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