The approach of my 40th birthday has brought about some surprises. I'm happy to say that I haven’t had the flood of anxiety that some women experience at the looming arrival of "The Big Four-Oh." Instead, I've been pleased to discover new self-confidence, growing wisdom (though I'm the first to admit that I have much to learn), and a healthy appreciation for life that simply wasn't there in my early 30s. Who says it's all downhill after 40?
Except...well...there are some things that aren’t so refreshing. Despite my brand new "ready-for-the-world" attitude, my body isn't always on the same page. As a matter of fact, when it comes to eating the foods that I love, my body is reading an entirely different book! Suddenly, all of the things I love (ice cream, pizza, onions, bread, and...gasp...even chocolate!) are causing heartburn, painful cramps, bloating, and gas.
WHAT is going on?
Studies have found that nearly 40% of older adults have one or more digestive disorder symptoms each year. This is largely due to the changes that occur in the digestive tract with age. Those of us who once lived on 2am fast food runs and scarfed-down "meals" on the go are slowly starting to realize ... those days are gone forever.
A slowing metabolism means that it takes longer for food to work its way through our system. Our bodies are making less of the enzymes we need to break down food. And reduced hormone production can wreak all sort of havoc. Oh yeah. We're officially adults.
These changes can be even more pronounced in women, who are twice as likely as men to develop digestive problems. This is usually attributed to hormones. Most women can attest to the digestive disruptions that occur around their monthly cycle. Factor in the fluctuations in levels of progesterone, estrogen, and cortisol that occur with approaching menopause or peri-menopause and you’ve got yourself a hotbed of digestive distress.
How come no one tells us about changes in digestion as we age? A little warning would have been nice!