Indigestion isn’t a disease, but rather a collection of symptoms that occur after you eat. Indigestion can be an indication of a larger problem and may include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, gas or bloating. It can make your life miserable, and unfortunately for us older folks, digestive distress becomes more common as we age. According to an article published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, that’s because as we age, the body’s systems–including the digestive system–are less adept at their jobs. For example, some of the stomach changes related to aging include:
•Decreased secretion of gastric acid.
•Decreased pepsin, the chief digestive enzyme that breaks down proteins into polypeptides.
•Decreased mucus production.
•Reduced blood supply, which slows digestion.
•Slower transit time for digestion, resulting in reduced gastric emptying.
These changes can lead to a lot of different types of discomfort, but luckily, there are several ways you can prevent or treat digestive troubles. Finding what works for you is a matter of trial and error, and it may be a combination of strategies that do the trick for you. Here are five places to start.
1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, eating small, frequent meals reduces stomach pressure and can help prevent acid reflux, fullness, bloating, and other digestive complaints.
2. Eat more slowly
Make a point to be mindful about eating. Take small bites, and chew your food slowly and thoroughly, tasting and savoring each bite. Allow time to pass between bites. Eating slowly is less likely to overwhelm your stomach and cause bloating, gas, and discomfort. And according to Harvard Medical School, eating slowly may make you feel full faster, so you don’t eat as much, which can also alleviate potential digestive woes.
3. Take a digestive enzyme
According to a review published in the journal Current Drug Metabolism, supplementing with a digestive enzyme like Stonehenge Health’s Incredible Digestive Enzymes can help your body not only digest food more efficiently but also absorb more nutrients from the food you eat. Incredible Digestive Enzymes contains 18 multi-functioning enzymes, including those that break down proteins, fats, sugars, and other substances. Digestive enzymes are typically taken at the beginning of each meal or as directed by a healthcare professional.
4. Manage your stress and treat your depression
A study published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility found that stress and depression are linked to a range of digestive diseases, including IBS and acid reflux disease. Keeping your stress levels under control and seeking treatment for depression can help reduce bouts of digestive problems.
5. Skip the bedtime snack
Ideally, you should wait at least three hours after your last meal of the day before hitting the sack. That’s because when you’re asleep, many of your digestive functions slow down, and a full belly can cause discomfort all night. Additionally, gastroesophageal reflux can be worse when you’re in a supine position, so lying down too soon after eating often spell misery.
Digestive woes can reduce your quality of life, but they’re not easy to diagnose or treat. A healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and digestive enzymes before each meal can help boost the function of an aging digestive system. The more steps you take to learn about and address digestive problems through diet and other lifestyle factors, the sooner you can identify and eradicate the source of your discomfort.