Really no one likes to talk about their bowel habits. It’s ingrained in each of us from childhood. You and your friends probably don’t sit around over coffee and discuss your GI issues; so it may come as a surprise to you, as you age, that constipation becomes a real problem.
There are several factors contributing to constipation as we age. The most obvious is muscular function. The smooth muscle of the GI tract ages just like any other muscle in your body. As the muscle loses tone and responsiveness over time, the contents of your stomach move more slowly through the intestine. This slow down allows more of the water in your food to be absorbed by your body - resulting in drier stool. This alone won’t cause true constipation. Unfortunately, many other factors which occur while we age can add to the problem.
Medications - many commonly used medications can cause constipation; particularly, painkillers. Unfortunately, as we age we often become a consumer of pain medications. Other medications that can lead to constipation are: antacids, allergy medications, and some depression and high blood pressure medicines.
Diet - a diet rich in fiber helps prevent constipation. Statistically, older adults lose interest in cooking and tend to resort to quick and easy food choices.
Exercise - Inactivity or prolonged bed rest can lead to constipation. Regular activity, when possible, will help.
Hydration - drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps to prevent overly dry stool. Unfortunately, this is the same time in life when most people, especially women, fail to drink the recommended amount of water per day.
Illnesses - some patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) experience constipation. Other illnesses that can slow or interfere with your brain - gut connection are stroke and diabetes.
So what is the take-away from this information? Constipation can be a natural function of aging; but it can be treated effectively. Talk to your doctor at GI Associates if you are experiencing a slow down.