6 Reasons You Bloat More After Age 45
For women, bloating can accompany our monthly cycles, or it may be the result of a medical condition like celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease or hernia. But often bloating is a direct result of the food we are putting in our body and our lack of ability to properly digest those foods. These not-so-digested foods probably feel like they're just sitting like a stone in your gut, causing discomfort and a general feeling of being stuffed and “gassy”.
Bloating can happen at any age but if it seems to be more frequent as you get older, it can very well be because of your stomach's reduced ability to produce enough acid for proper digestion.
Normally when we eat, cells in our stomach release more acid which is important for so many digestive processes such as breaking down foods and activating digestive enzymes. As you age this process can become less efficient and the result can feel like it's wreaking havoc on the rest of the digestive system.
Unfortunately, this can have wide-ranging effects on all of your digestion abilities “downstream” and that can result in bloating.
Sometimes our bodies are sensitive (or become more as we age) to the fiber in certain fruits or veggies. This can also occur when we introduce new ones into our diet because it can take a while for our body to get used to them.
Pro Tip: Try chewing your vegetables more thoroughly, or lightly cooking or steaming them. If a fruit or veggie seems to be consistently related to bloating try eliminating it for a few weeks and monitor your symptoms.
Stomach acid decreases as we age and can therefore reduce the activation of a key protein-digesting enzyme “pepsin”. This means that the proteins you eat aren't broken down as much and they can pass through your system somewhat “undigested”.
Pro Tip: You may consider reducing the amount of animal-based foods you eat and see if that helps reduce your symptoms. Or, try having a bit of apple cider vinegar before meals to aid in digestion.
One thing that can seriously cause bloating is when your digestive system slows down. This is not only caused by aging, but certain medical conditions such as low thyroid function or diabetes. Food then seems to be a bit stagnant, just hanging around much longer than you'd like.
Ginger has been found to help with digestion and reduce nausea for certain people. Peppermint can also help your digestive muscles keep pushing food through, so it doesn't stay in one spot for too long.
Pro Tip: Consider drinking a digestive tea like peppermint or ginger. Check out the recipe below.
All this lack of digesting in your stomach and small intestine puts extra stress on the large intestine. The large intestine is the home of all of your wonderful gut microbes that have SO many functions in the body. The problem is when undigested food enters the large intestine it can feed the not-so-great microbes. These “unfriendly” bacteria produce waste material and gas as a part of their natural metabolism. The more of these microbes you have in your system (they will multiply if they are constantly being fed by undigested food in the large intestine) the more gas that will be produced in the large intestine.
Pro Tip: Try eating more fermented foods. Fermented foods contain probiotics which will feed the good bacteria and microbes in your system to keep the bad guys at bay This includes things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi (as long as these don't cause bloating for you!). Make sure they're unpasteurized and contain live cultures. If you cannot tolerate dairy based yogurt and kefir, dairy free options are available or you could make your own dairy free versions.
You can also consider taking a probiotic supplement. I can help you decide which one is right for you.
With reduced stomach acid you also have a reduction of the “activation” of several of your digestive enzymes (protein-digesting pepsin being one of them). In order for certain enzymes to go to work digesting your food they need to be activated. This usually happens with the assistance of stomach acid.
Pro Tip: You may consider trying an enzyme supplement to assist your body in digesting food while you work on re-establishing your own production of stomach acid (a healthy diet and lifestyle—one with a good stress management approach, can do this!). To minimize any risks, I can help you choose the best enzyme for you that is safe and doesn’t interact with other supplements, medications or conditions.
I can’t talk about bloating and not mention one of the most common offenders I see in practice- food sensitivities. These can strike at any age and when identified properly can provide a great deal of relief. When you are sensitive to certain foods, symptoms can show up days later making it hard to determine which particular food(s) are causing your discomfort.
Pro tip: To help determine if certain foods are the cause of your bloating, you can start by eliminating the most common triggering foods for 4-6 weeks—dairy, gluten/wheat, corn, soy, and eggs, and then reintroduce one at a time, each eaten for 3 days before the next to determine your sensitivity.
Go ahead and try the “pro tips” I've given you in this post. I’m also available to help you navigate an effective elimination diet or order a simple blood test to get rid of the guess work.
Remember to always seek professional advice before beginning any new health program and rule out any serious condition that may be the underlying cause.
Tummy Soothing Ginger Tea
Fresh ginger root (about 2”)
Lemon slices (optional)
Pour the water into a saucepan and heat it on the stove.
Grate the ginger root into the saucepan. Let it come to a boil, and then simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Strain the tea into a cup with a fine mesh strainer and add lemon and/or honey as desired.
Serve & Enjoy!
Tip: If you don't want to use a grater and strainer then you can peel the ginger and thinly slice it into your cup before adding boiling water. The pieces should be big enough that they will sink to the bottom.