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Digestion: A Key To A Healthy Life

Category: Digestion

Digestive System Diagram | Digestion

Digestion: A Key To A Healthy Life

Digestion, as the name implies, occurs in our digestive system, it starts from the moment food enters our mouths, and continues until it is eliminated. What the aim of our digestive system is, is to process our food intake as efficiently as possible, grabbing every nutrient that is available in the food or drink we are consuming. unfortunately, some of what we eat and drink is not very good for our health, but being that our digestive system is so efficient, we are going to process it anyway.

We eat, we drink, but it is not the food or beverage, but the nutrients in those foods and beverages that are important to us. In the foods that have proteins we get our amino acids, from the fats we get fatty acids and cholesterol, and from the simple sugars we get our carbohydrates. To varying degrees, all necessary for our well-being.

What our digestive system does is to break these foods down to the nutrients we need via what are called digestive enzymes. These enzymes live in our mouths, in the saliva glands, down through our stomach, pancreas and into our small intestine.

Now, the question is, we age, some parts of our body do not work as they did when we were younger, does this include the all important digestive system?

Fortunately our digestive system is very resilient, so with a little care we can avoid many of the following problems.  As we age we should know that the extra care we can give to our digestive system will only do us good.

But, yes, the digestive system ages, losing some of its sensitivity, the muscles lose tone and there is increased susceptibility to bacterial infection due to the weakening of our immune system. Then there are, also, pathologies (diseases) specific to our organs that may affect our digestive system.

Upper Intestinal Tract changes that could affect us are:

  • Periodontal Disease – Due to the bacteria that is in our mouths causing gum disease, improved dental hygiene helps
  • Difficulty in Swallowing – Aging will cause a loss in muscle tone
  • Gastritis – An inflammation, irritation, or erosion of the lining of the stomach. It can occur suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic).
  • Peptic Ulcer Disease – This refers to painful sores or ulcers in the lining of the stomach or first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
  • Other ailments we are susceptible to are helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), pernicious anemia, bile reflux and infections.

Changes in the Small Intestine include:

  • Appendicitis – Inflammation of the appendix
  • Duodenal Ulcers – An infection with a bacterium (germ) called H. pylori.
  • malabsorption – Usually the inability to absorb certain sugars, fats, proteins, or vitamins from food.
  • Maldigestion –  The inability to digest food in the gut
  • Acute Pancreatitis – Sudden swelling and inflammation of the pancreas
  • Jaundice – A yellow color of the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes. The yellow coloring comes from bilirubin, a byproduct of old red blood cells
  • Gallbladder problems such as Gallstones

Large intestinal changes include:

  • Hemorrhoids – Swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and/or lower rectum
  • Constipation – Defined as having a bowel movement less than 3 times per week
  • Diverticular Disease – Bulging of weak spots in colon that become inflamed.

For A Healthier Digestion

There are basically three things to do to improve our digestion, at any age, but particularly as we age:

  • Drink More Water
  • Eat Healthier – More fruits, vegetables, particularly leafy vegetables, legumes, salads, tree nuts, fish, chicken…
  • Eat more Fiber – BUT, if you may be intolerant, as some of us get as we age, more fat may be the answer, this one you will have to experiment with, your body knows.
  • Exercise, exercise and exercise
  • Improve posture – Mom was right when she told us to stand and sit up straight, continually bending cramps our insides
  • Magnesium – Nuts, whole grains and leafy green vegetables, if you are eating a well-balanced diet, you are probably good on this one, if not, check out the option of taking Magnesium supplements – Available at Amazon.com or your local grocery/health store.
  • Probiotics – A type of ‘good’ bacteria that may help with digestion, and may offer protection from ‘bad’ bacteria. Available at Amazon.com or you local grocery/health store.

If you decide to take any supplements to see if it will improve your digestion make sure you check with your physician, especially if you are taking any medications.

References

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Digestive Enzymes | Whole9Life.com

Aging and the Digestive System | Boundless.com

What is Gastritis? | WebMD.com

What is Peptic Ulcer Disease | WebMD.com

Effects of Aging on the Digestive System | MerckManuals.com

 

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