Aging and GI Issues: Constipation

An ancient Greek philosopher once said, “The only constant is change.” He said this thousands of years ago, but it isn’t really surprising that it’s just as valid now as it was then. As we age, the one thing health-wise that we can rely on is a constant flux in our bodies and the way they operate. One of those changes is a distinct difference in digestive health functions, especially dealing with constipation.

Although potentially uncomfortable, constipation isn’t usually a serious issue. According to the National Institute on Aging, people suffering from constipation have fewer than three bowel movements per week, have a difficult time passing them, have hard stool, or have a feeling of being blocked or not fully emptying their bowels. There are a lot of factors that control your ability and frequency to have regular bowel movements, and thankfully some of them are well within your control.

Some of the easiest adjustments to make to aid in a regular and comfortable bowel movement are adjustments in diet and exercise. It is important to eat many high fiber foods like veggies, fruit, and whole grains. Try not to bulk up on high fat meats, dairy, eggs, or rich desserts. Make sure all meals are accompanied with water. Keep up a regular exercise routine as well, adjusting to your comfort and ability as you get older. If you’re not sure what the right routine is for your ability, it is important to discuss it with your doctor.

There are other causes of constipation that are a little more challenging to self regulate, including medical conditions. Strokes, diabetes, IBS, or intestinal blockage are all causes of constipation. There are also many prescription drugs and medications that are linked to difficulty in regular bowel movements. These include anti-depression meds, iron supplements, some allergy medications, blood pressure medications, and drugs to treat Parkinson’s. In addition, an over-reliance on over the counter laxatives can actually have the opposite effect as intended, so use them sparingly and only after discussing them with your doctor.

It’s a factor of health that nobody really likes discussing, but it is important to monitor and discuss with your doctor if you think you have a serious problem. If you have any concerns, find a TDDC location near you!