As we get older, our bodies start to change — including our ability to digest what we eat.
A variety of age-related factors, including the medications you take, a sedentary lifestyle, and even tooth decay and gum disease could be taking a toll on healthy eating and healthy digestion.
The result: the possibility of indigestion, constipation, diverticulitis, and ulcers.
Here are 13 ways to improve digestion naturally as you age and keep your digestive tract on track.
1. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water and other fluids, such as orange juice with pulp, can help ease constipation, which becomes more common as we age.
Liquids and fiber make a healthy digestion combo by bulking up and softening stools so they pass more easily through the digestive tract.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, says Charlene Prather, MD, advisor to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders and an associate professor of internal medicine at St. Louis University Medical School in Missouri.
Keep in mind that liquids with caffeine, such as tea and coffee, have the opposite effect and can dehydrate you.
2. Watch What You Eat
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do not only for healthy digestion, but also for your overall health as you age, Dr. Prather says.
It’s easy to pack on pounds when you overeat, especially if you’re less active than when you were younger.
You can overtax your digestive system and experience heartburn symptoms by overeating or eating foods that can lead to indigestion.
So keep meals reasonable in size and curb fatty foods to a minimum.
Also, watch portion sizes to maintain a healthy weight.
3. Chew Your Food
Let’s start at the beginning.
Good digestion starts in the mouth.
When you chew your food well, it eases the work required from your digestive system, so your body can focus on other tasks instead.
4. Load Up on Fiber
The best remedy to help constipation is eating high-fiber foods.
A high-fiber diet translates to healthy digestion because fiber “greases” your digestive system.
Another benefit is that most foods high in fiber tend to be naturally low in fat, yet make you feel fuller so you eat less, which helps you maintain your weight, Prather says.
5. Be Active
Aerobic exercise can help prevent heart disease and high blood pressure by improving your circulation.
Similarly, aerobic exercise leads to improved digestion and can keep blood vessels in healthy shape as well.
Exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight, which is important for healthy digestion.
6. Reduce Stress
As we age, our responsibilities and our stress levels can rise.
Excess stress can increase gastric acid, which can cause heartburn symptoms and indigestion.
Stress doesn’t cause ulcers or irritable bowel disease, but it can make these digestive disorders flare.
The best ways to reduce indigestion and stress include regular exercise — it releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones — and relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.
Also, be sure to get enough sleep.
7. Listen To Your Body
Moving on from diet,and food trends, build knowledge of your own body, listen to it, so that you can eat and live in a way that serves you.
Understanding your body will put you in charge of your own health, so you can make choices based on what works best for your body.
If you’re experiencing health disorders, understand that your body is trying to communicate with you.
8. Eat a Rainbow
“You’ve heard the saying, ‘An apple a day, keeps the doctor away?’ Well, there is some truth to that,” Prather says.
Adults should consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day for healthy digestion.
The risk for cancers of the colon and rectum increases with age.
Eating fruits and vegetables may help reduce that risk.
The more colorful the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidants it has.
9. Maintain Your Smile
Healthy digestion begins in the mouth, with your teeth.
Taking care of your teeth is important as you age because you rely on your teeth to chew your food well.
And you need to chew your food well to break it down into small enough pieces to be absorbed by your body.
Older people with poor teeth may have more indigestion because they can’t chew well, Prather says.
Brushing and flossing daily and getting regular dental check-ups can help promote a healthy mouth and healthy digestion.
10. Be Kind To Your Liver
You can heal your digestive system by supporting your liver to work efficiently and effectively.
Aside of abstaining from alcohol, which is poison to your digestive system.
Try to boost your intake of liver-loving foods such as carrots, beetroot and green leafy veggies and freshly squeezed juices.
11. Enjoy Probiotics
Probiotics, found in everything from yogurt to granola bars, promote healthy digestion.
Probiotics are naturally occurring organisms similar to the good bacteria that live in your gut.
Scientists believe that probiotics aid healthy digestion by producing substances that fight viruses and infections.
Probiotics also produce B vitamins that you need to metabolize what you eat.
Some older people are more susceptible to B12 deficiencies and may benefit from consuming foods with probiotics, Prather says.
12. Opt For Glutamine
Glutamine is one of the most important nutrients that you can give your body as it supports the repair and regeneration of the intestinal lining in your body and also soothes inflammation.
You can find glutamine in supplement form and it’s also found in foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, beets, beans, spinach, parsley and fresh vegetable juices.
But do not opt for supplements as most contains chemicals, which upset the stomach. Doesn’t help the cause.
13. Talk to Your Doctor
You may find that, as you age, your stomach reacts differently, and you can no longer eat spicy and other foods without getting heartburn symptoms and indigestion.
If you make healthy lifestyle choices, such as watching your weight, exercising, and not smoking, your digestive system will serve you better through the years.
But if you experience intestinal problems that persist, be sure to talk to your doctor and seek treatment to return you to healthy digestion.