Elder care

Digestive Problems in Older People

Your body experiences many changes through the years, but unfortunately one of the most common ailments experienced by older people is digestive problems. Shockingly, nearly 40% of older adults have one or more age-related digestive symptoms every year. These can be extremely painful or can lower day-to-day quality of life. This detailed guide is here to outline some of the most common digestive problems that are suffered by older people, so you can know how they can be combatted.

Common Digestive Problems for older people

While not exhaustive by any means (the gastrointestinal tract is highly complex), this list outlines some commonly suffered digestive problems.


Constipation is the most common bowel habit changes that older people start experiencing as they get into their 60s and 70s. The symptoms of constipation include difficult movements, as well as stool that can be painful to pass.

Digestive Tract Problems

As you get older, many of the functions that your digestive tract carries out start to slow down. This is due to many issues, like stiffer muscles, weaker muscles that make functions like peristalsis more difficult and less efficient organs. Cells that don’t form as quickly as they used to can cause tissue damage along the tract. These cause a variety of problems, including:

  • Heart burn
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Constipation
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Gas
  • Stomach pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diverticulitis
  • Faecal incontinence
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Medication Use

As humans age, health problems naturally develop and those are often treated with medications. There are many common medications that could cause issues like constipation, for example calcium channel blockers, which are a good treatment for high blood pressure. Pain relievers also notoriously cause constipation.

Food Intolerance

Gastrointestinal functions that were previously efficient as a young adult may lose their efficiency with age. This can just be an age-related change, but it can also be linked to genetics and more serious illnesses like bowel disease. One significant contributor can be food intolerances. These intolerances can change the way that the body absorbs crucial vitamins and nutrients and can be quite damaging and uncomfortable, yielding symptoms as diverse as asthma and insomnia.

Ulcers and NSAIDs

If you use a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug to control arthritic pain, you can get stomach ulcers and even stomach bleeding. This can be dangerous so if you notice any blood where it shouldn’t be (in stools or vomit, for example), tell your doctor immediately.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a common upper GI disorder in older adults, occurring when stomach acid backs up from the stomach and goes up the oesophagus. This can be very uncomfortable, causing heartburn and similar symptoms. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is worsened by blood pressure meds, obesity and weight gain.

How to Protect Your Digestive Health

Just because it’s more likely that you will suffer from digestive problems if you’re an older adult, that doesn’t mean that it is inevitable. There are things you can do to prevent issues and mitigate risk.

Get an Intolerance Test

Intolerancelab.co.uk have engineered a fast and effective way of testing for food intolerances for people who don’t have the time to cut foods and ingredients out of their diet. Results of these tests demonstrate which foods should be avoided, so you can easily cut out your problem foods.

Stay Active

If you get at least 30 mins of exercise 5 times a week, many problems and general diseases can be prevented – exercise even lowers the risk of colon cancer. Just as important as staying active is to make sure you avoid smoking and keep drinking to a minimum, as these can both cause free radicals to course through your body, damaging your organs and your digestive tract alike. Smoking also makes heartburn and peptic ulcers more common and harder to treat.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

If you have a healthy weight and manage to keep it over long periods of time, many age-related digestive and non-digestive problems can be prevented – including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. By making sure you stay fit and healthy, you also reduce your risk of needing to take many medications, so you’ll get fewer side effects impacting your digestive system.

Talk to Your Doctor

Your doctor is in a position to help you, so you need to make sure that you tell them about the symptoms that are bothering you. You should also try to get regularly screened if you can, as this will help to identify any issues before they become a huge problem.

If you have any questions, please ask below!