Aging is something to be celebrated: each day we have is a gift–and it’s best spent with those we love.
While aging is beautiful, the side-effects of it aren’t always so adored. In particular, one of those we may dislike is the effect it has on our colon.
How your colon works.
Simply, whatever we feed our body gets processed, and as we age, it becomes significantly more difficult to feed our bodies the right stuff, every time.
Thankfully, our digestive system is like an oiled machine, and always follows through on processing what we eat.
(Swipe left/right to navigate.)
Step 1: Mouth
Food starts to move through your GI tract when you eat.
Step 2: Stomach
Glands in the stomach create acid and enzymes that break down food.
Step 3: Small Intestine
Your small intestine mixes bile and pancreatic juice to break down food, water, and other nutrients.
Step 4: Large Intestine
In your large intestine, even more water moves into your bloodstream, and remaining nutrients are broken down.
Step 5: Colon
Waste products of digestion, including parts of food that are still too large, are now stool, ready to be ejected.
However, there’s one thing we have to remember: Our body changes as we age.
While those beautiful crow’s feet are there to stay, your bowel issues don’t have to.
Here are 5 ways your colon is affected as you age.
1. Our digestive system slows down.
Ira Hanan, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center, says that people in their 60-70s see a rise in constipation due to bowel changes.
This makes sense. Just as our muscles tend to weaken as we age, so do the muscles in our body that perform the contractions–the very ones that help us move processed food to the colon.
The real contraction our colon loves is called peristalsis, a wave-like movement that helps move food contents. (Thankfully, some herbal cleanse formulas help your peristaltic actions.)
2. Our medications may interfere.
Sometimes, we need medications; even if they’re not severe, they help our bodies function better as if we are not aging.
Ellen Stein, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD, notes that older adults take a lot of medications, and some of those medications’ symptoms affect the digestive system.
Have you ever listened to a prescription advertisement at night? The side effects are longer than a grocery list, and they always include constipation on them.
If you can avoid medication, you’re one of the lucky ones.
3. We get less exercise.
Whether it’s a casual walk in around the neighborhood or the arduous errands we run, our exercise tends to wane.
But maybe even a brisk walk isn’t enough! According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, adults over 50 are expected to keep their physical exercise on par with about everyone else.
A person who is older than 50 should take part in at least two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity each week.
But don’t worry: you can still alleviate your bowels without running a marathon a week.
4. We may have developed an age-related disease.
In an elderly individual, “disease” is unfortunately a familiar term.
It’s not uncommon to hear about the development of Diverticulosis, a disease that occurs in the large intestine (colon) in upwards of 50% of people over the age of 60.
Don’t sweat too much: if you have a handle on your diet, minor diseases like these are preventable.
For more information, here’s a video about Diverticulosis by the GI Society.
5. Our colon relies on other parts of our bodies.
As we age, we realize how one little health hiccup can affect our entire body. This is no different than with our digestive system.
In fact, our gut is so vital for our health that scientists have called this the brain-gut axis.
As Dr. Sanil Rege says,
Within the gut, there are approximately 1014 microorganisms, which is around 10 fold more cells than there are cells in the human body.
In other words: your gut plays a huge role in your overall health.
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