GI Issues And Aging – Colon Cancer

Last week we talked about how aging can affect general gut health. Today we will talk about one of the biggest GI concerns with aging, constipation. Bowel habits are not something we typically are very eager to talk about, but it is something that affects our daily life and constipation can feel debilitating.

As we age things slow down and one of those things is the gut. The colon is a smooth muscle that moves in a wave like motion (peristalsis) to move stool throughout the colon. Muscle tone changes occur throughout the body as we age, including the colon which slows peristalsis. The older you get the more likely it is that you are taking some sort of prescription medication including pain medication. Many medications can have an effect on your colon, especially pain medications which can all but bring peristalsis to a halt. Being less mobile or having a more sedentary lifestyle with age can also worsen constipation. If you are having less than three bowel movements a week, have hard stools, need to strain to have a bowel movement or feel like you’ve been unable to completely empty your bowels you may be constipated.

There are lifestyle changes you can make to help with constipation. Getting up and moving around will increase peristalsis and help your bowel movements be more regular. Staying hydrated is very important and helps to keep your stools from being hard and more difficult to pass. Try adding more fiber into your diet by increasing raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains. When making lifestyle changes isn’t keeping you regular, there are over the counter medications to try but you should talk with your doctor about your symptoms and possible treatment. Overuse of laxatives can actually be harmful to your body. If medications are not improving your constipation, your doctor may order testing to evaluate what may be causing your problem. It is important to keep an open conversation with your healthcare provider about your symptoms and treatments.

The doctors at Vanguard Gastro are here to help as you begin to experience normal GI issues that come with aging. See us at any of our convenient locations.