Changes with Aging

The Clinical Significance of Gastrointestinal Changes With Aging

Purpose of review with the graying of the world’s population, there is an increased interest in the physiological effects of aging. This review examines the physiological changes of the gut with aging and their clinical significance. Recent findings Changes with aging in the gastrointestinal tract are variable, but in some cases they are responsible for a variety of symptoms. Thus, alterations in taste and smell, gastric motility, intestinal overgrowth and changes in gastrointestinal hormone release are the basis of the physiological anorexia of aging. Alterations in swallowing lead to silent aspiration. Changes in gastric emptying play a role in postprandial hypotension. Changes in gastrointestinal function can lead to constipation and fecal incontinence. Weakening of the colonic muscular wall produces diverticula. Achlorhydria is associated with malabsorption of some forms of iron and calcium. Vitamin D malabsorption aggravates the hypovitaminosis D that is so common in older persons. Changes in probiotics can lead to diarrhea and altered immune system. In the liver, aging is associated with delayed drug metabolism. Summary Changes in the physiology of the gut play a role in the anorexia of aging, aspiration pneumonia, postprandial hypotension, constipation and fecal incontinence.

The ability of the gastrointestinal tract to function at its best is critical to one’s health. As we age changes occur that affect our relationship with food. The smell and taste of our food can become less appealing. The lack of stomach acid can affect the breakdown of food into its basic components. Which can lead to malabsorption and changes in bowel habits, poor immune function, as well as silent aspiration.

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 11:651–660 ß 2008 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 1363-1950
Asif Bhuttoa and John E. Morleya