Digestion as we age

Digestion as we age

Tips for keeping your digestion working properly as you age.

About one-third of people over 65 suffer deterioration of their stomach lining, which means it doesn't make so much hydrochloric acid, pepsin (a digestive enzyme) and intrinsic factor. This reduces how much vitamin B12, folate, iron and calcium they can absorb. A deficiency of vitamin B12 seriously affects the nervous system. B12 comes mainly from animal foods. To get the recommended 2-3mcg a day include some lean meat, salmon, tuna, oysters or liver.

Constipation is common in older people, especially those who are inactive. Some try to solve the problem with laxatives (not a good idea long-term) and others by taking copious amounts of unprocessed bran. The odd bran muffin makes a yummy morning tea but too many will bind up vitally important minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc. One study found that eating two tablespoons of wheat bran three times a day halved the amount of calcium absorbed. Try to get your fibre from a range of sources including plenty of fruit and vegetables instead (most are a good source of fibre).

Our gut contains many 'friendly' bacteria that enhance the immune system and make us more resistant to food poisoning and tummy bugs. But as we head into our 70's there are less of these 'friendly' bacteria around. Eating yoghurt or fermented dairy drinks will add a few 'friendly' bacteria back into your gut. Check the use-by date to buy the freshest yoghurt as the bugs die off over time. To help these bacteria survive the perilous journey through your stomach, eat foods with resistant starch such as rolled oats, nuts, seeds, lentils, baked beans or cold rice or pasta. You may find yourself sitting on the toilet a bit more often but straining will be a thing of the past!

To keep your gut in top working order, try these ideas:

  • Banana or berry yoghurt smoothie

  • Porridge or muesli topped with yoghurt

  • Baked beans on grainy toast

  • Pasta or rice salad

  • Stir-fry beef with lots of vegetables on rice

  • Fruit salad with yoghurt

  • Sushi

  • Lean mince cooked with red lentils, vegetables and a jar of pasta sauce

  • Add in a little exercise and lots of water

Author: Cindy Williams

Healthy Food Guide

First published: Jun 2007

2017-04-03 16:56:38

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