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Bloating in Seniors: Causes, Remedies, and Prevention

Bloating is common for people of all age groups but it can become recurrent for seniors. Learn the causes and remedies on how to relieve and prevent a bloated stomach.

by Katherine Khaw

Abdominal bloating happens when the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with air or gas. With this, bloating is often described as feeling full, tight, or painful in the abdomen. Aside from this feeling, the following symptoms may occur, such as excessive gas (flatulence), burping or gurgles in the abdomen. In some cases, you may also experience constipation or cramps.

While it is a common experience among people of all ages, this can interfere with one’s ability to work or engage in social activities. As such, in this article, we will look at the possible causes, remedies, and prevention methods available in view of bloating.

Bloating in Seniors

Reasons of bloating in seniors
As a person’s body ages, bloating will become a significantly more common experience. These are some of the reasons why this may be the case:

  • Lowered metabolism. As metabolism slows, this affects the speed of the food passing through the body (gastrointestinal motility). Eating produces gas within the intestinal tract. However, lowered metabolism will inadvertently allow more gas to be gathered in the body. Then, this can lead to a bloated feeling.
  • Loss of muscles. As a person loses muscle mass when ageing, this contributes to lowered metabolism. Then, as the muscle functions less effectively, this can cause older adults to be at a higher risk of constipation. This can incur bloating incidences.
  • Medication. Some medicines can cause digestive problems as a side effect, due to their diuretic property. Not only that, some antibiotics may kill the good bacteria in the gut alongside the bad bacteria. Then, this can cause more bloating when there is more unprocessed air due to lowered good bacteria in the gut.
  • Menopause and pelvic floor issues. These two conditions can lead to increased bloating. Menopause changes the estrogen levels in bowel function, while pelvic floor dysfunction may lead to a less coordinated and functional system. These can cause an increase in constipation as well.
  • Sedentary lifestyle due to reduced activities. As a person gets older, they tend to sit more. In addition, some may opt for walking or driving to their destinations, instead of previous vigorous activities. With this, lowered activity can affect motility. Then, this increases gas and bloating.
  • Diverticular disease. More common in people over 50, this condition is due to one’s colon developing small holes or pockets in its walls. Bloating is one of the milder symptoms of this disease.
  • Snoring and sleep apnea. As this is more common in older adults, these sleeping occurrences incur swallowing air. Without expelling the air, it will get trapped, causing discomfort. 
  • Acid reflux. The loss of muscle tone throughout the years in the stomach and oesophagus can increase instances of acid reflux. Then, this can lead to bloating.

What Causes Bloating?

Stomach pain
Bloating can be caused by many things. As such, it is important to note what are the possible causes of bloating in your abdomen.

  • Gas

This is one of the common causes of bloating. In addition, you may experience burping, passing excessive gas, an urge to pass stool, or feel nauseous. This may be caused by the following:

  • Consuming carbonated beverages, dairy, and beans
  • Swallowing air while eating or chewing gum
  • Infection in the stomach
  • Some chronic illnesses
  • Indigestion

Generally, the air in the stomach should subside after a few hours.

  • Indigestion

Otherwise known as dyspepsia, this discomfort and pain can include bloating. This may occur as a result of eating too much, excessive alcohol intake, taking medications that irritate the stomach, or stomach infection. If frequent indigestion and bloating happen and do not seem to be associated with food intake, it could be a sign of something more serious.

  • Infection

Stomach infections can cause bloating, alongside other symptoms such as nausea and pains. If the bloating persists with fever, bloody stool, or frequent vomiting, it is advisable to seek a doctor’s attention swiftly.

  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

If there is a disturbance to the balance of bacteria in the stomach or intestine, this can incur an increase of harmful bacteria in the small intestine. Then, SIBO can occur.

  • Fluid retention

The body may hold more fluid when there are changes in hormone levels or consumption of certain foods. Food intolerance can cause bloating as well.

  • Constipation

Bloating can occur when food contents build up in the gut area. Constipation can happen due to dehydration, lack of fibre in one’s diet, and more. Nonetheless, in most people, this issue is easily resolved with the help of laxatives, exercise, drinking water, or changing one’s diet.

  • Other causes

Bloating can occur as a result of various causes. As such, aside from the ones listed above, it can also happen due to chronic disorders (Crohn’s disease and IBS), gastroparesis or gynaecological disorders.

In general, if the bloating does not go away or keeps recurring, it is best to check with your healthcare provider in order to determine whether there is a more serious condition underway.

How to Reduce or Relieve Bloating?

Peppermint oil for stomach relieve
If you are experiencing bloating, you definitely wish to reduce or relieve it.

Here are some ways that can help you out.

  • Limit foods that may trigger bloating.
  • Check if you are lactose intolerant.
  • Ensure regular bowel habits by increasing fibre intake, sufficient intake of fluids and exercising regularly.
  • Try a diet that is low on FODMAPs, which are certain carbs that are found in certain grains, dairy, fruit, vegetables and nuts. This can be pretty challenging as it is quite restrictive. However, it will help you to determine which foods may cause the produced gas in your large intestine.
  • Try consuming probiotic supplements to aid digestive symptoms, as they can boost the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Aside from pills, they can be found in foods such as yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha, and miso. Try to choose one type of probiotic for a month in order to assess if this solution works for your situation, as there are mixed results.
  • Portion your meals. By having small portions, you can limit the stretching of your stomach, which can lead to gas and solid pooling along the gut. Aside from that, cutting down on salty and fatty foods can reduce symptoms of bloating.
  • Peppermint oil has a history of being a digestive aid and may aid in relieving bloating.
  • Avoid swallowing too much air by eating slowly. Also, avoid chewing gum and drinking carbonated beverages. Persons with anxiety may take quick deep breaths which may cause excess air within the body.
  • Carry out a light exercise to reduce feelings of bloating.
  • In some cases, you can retrain your abdominal muscles in case of abnormal muscle reflex. In odd cases, a person’s front wall of the stomach protrudes and the diaphragm descends. Then, there is less room.

How to Prevent Bloating

How to prevent bloating in seniors
Most conditions are best prevented, in order to avoid experiencing unwanted pains and discomfort. As a result, here are some ways to prevent bloating in future incidences:

  • Change your diet (check for intolerances and foods that produce excessive gas in your gut)
  • Eat enough fibre and drink enough water (this can help to promote good bacteria growth and encourage motility)
  • Exercise regularly (to reduce chances of fluid retention and keep the bowels moving)
  • Hydrogen breath test (to screen for digestive disorders)
  • Hormone therapy (to balance out bloating that occurs during a woman’s period due to hormonal changes)

Home Remedies for Bloating

old lady drinking herbal tea
Aside from pills that can be purchased at the pharmacy, some items below may be found in your kitchen.

These can be used to relieve bloating:

  • Add herbs like ginger, basil, parsley, and peppermint to your diet
  • Consume probiotics like yogurt, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut
  • Drink herbal tea
  • Intake of fennel seeds
  • Apply a heating pad to the stomach area
  • Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the water

Otherwise, take action and see a doctor if bloatedness occurs frequently, or is paired with other serious symptoms such as vomiting and high fever.

References

Category
Acute Conditions
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About the Writer
Katherine Khaw
Katherine is an avid reader, finding joy in halls of words. Aside from the imagination wandering in worlds not here, she enjoys stargazing and gardening. In her heart of hearts, she aspires to be a writer, and to be more than mere dust.
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