Constipation in the Elderly
Constipation can happen to anyone, though it is more common in adults over the age of 65 than in any other demographic. There are many possible reasons behind this phenomenon, though there is no single reason explaining the increase in constipation in the elderly. A combination of factors may contribute to the problem. Thankfully, almost all of these factors can be controlled to minimize or help prevent constipation from occurring.
Causes of Constipation in the Elderly
Poor Diet and Constipation
Diet is linked to constipation regardless of age. Individuals eating diets low in fiber have a greater chance of suffering from constipation. In the elderly, low fiber diets are generally more common than in those who are younger. This is often because the high fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables, tend to be difficult for the elderly to chew.
Water is also important for preventing constipation; but many elderly individuals do not get enough water in their diets, choosing to drink other liquids instead. Unfortunately, a common liquid of choice is milk, especially for individuals seeking to retain calcium for durable bones. Although milk is good for helping to keep their bones strong, drinking too much of it can lead to constipation as well.
Hormonal Issues and Constipation
As you grow older, your body goes through a number of hormonal changes. Changes in hormones, particularly those associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle, can also cause constipation symptoms to develop. Furthermore, the elderly are more likely to experience hormonal disorders and this can affect colon function along with other bodily systems’ performance. For example, hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism can lead to constipation in the elderly as well.
Diseases and Constipation
The elderly are also more prone to a number of diseases affecting the colon, such as Chagas disease, intestinal pseudo-obstruction, Hirschsprung’s disease, scleroderma, diabetes, and cancer. Each of these diseases can cause blockage in the colon or can affect its overall ability to function properly, which can lead to constipation as well.
Diseases affecting the central nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease, can also cause constipation to develop. The person may also suffer from colonic inertia, which affects the muscles and nerves of the colon. Although these conditions can afflict younger individuals as well, they occur more often in the elderly. No one is certain of the cause of colonic inertia, though it is believed to be caused by an overuse of laxatives.
Medications and Constipation
Many of the medications commonly taken by the elderly have a tendency to cause constipation as a side effect. The most common culprits include:
- Antidepressant medications such as imipramine and amitriptylene
- Narcotic pain medications such as oxycodone, codeine, and hydromorphone
- Calcium channel blocking medications such as nifedipine and diltiazem
- Anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine and phenytoin
- Aluminum-containing antacids such as Basaljel and Amphoiel
- Antiparkinson drugs
- Antacids containing calcium and aluminum
- Iron supplements
A number of other medications can also lead to constipation in the elderly. To help maintain regularity while using these medications, it’s important to practice a high fiber diet. If the constipation is severe, it may be possible to substitute one medication for another form that will still treat the problem for which it was intended.
Poor Bowel Habits and Constipation
Often times, the elderly unintentionally train their bowels to become constipated. This is because bowel movements are voluntary since you may not always be able to “go” at that precise moment the urge strikes. However, if the urge to have a bowel movement is suppressed too often, it can cause a person to no longer feel the urge to defecate as he or she should. The loss of this urge can even lead to chronic constipation symptoms and diminished bowel efficiency. Many elderly individuals tend to suppress the need to defecate because it is simply too difficult for them to move quickly to use the restroom, but this is definitely not a good idea.
Lack of Exercise and Constipation
A lack of physical activity can also lead to constipation in the elderly. The connection between physical activity and constipation is still not fully understood, but it is well known that individuals unable to exercise for extended periods experience constipation. Since the elderly tend to be less physically active and do not get enough regular exercise, they are more inclined to become constipated than individuals working out on a regular basis.
Slow Metabolism and Constipation
As we age, our metabolism naturally begins to slow down. Unfortunately, science is still learning how to reverse this process. Nonetheless, a slower metabolism results in a loss of muscle tone as well as a decrease in intestinal”strength” as well. Thus, constipation is more likely to occur when the body’s systems slow down.
Although the tendency toward constipation in the elderly increases over time, you really don’t have to endure the pain and general discomfort accompanying this condition. Through proper diet, drinking plenty of fluids, getting exercise, and undergoing a routine colon cleansing with a product such as Oxy-Powder®, you can help keep your colon healthy and active. And you may notice your lifestyle following the example also. Use common sense, do what you enjoy, and take care of your body so it can take care of the real you!