We can see the external signs of ageing with the naked eye – the first wrinkles, dull complexion or greying hair are the most obvious ones and we do everything we can to prevent them. Maybe we do not remember about it every day, but this process takes place inside of us as well.
The digestive tract – what is its structure and what is it actually responsible for?
Before you check out what exactly the gastrointestinal tract aging is all about, it is worth reminding yourself what it is made of and what functions its various parts have. The following are the ones about which the text will inform you.
- Oral cavity – this is where the food taken in is broken down and crushed, and then initially digested with the help of saliva secreted from glands called salivary glands.
- Esophagus – this part of the tract transports food from the mouth to the stomach; no digestive processes take place there. It is a common part of the digestive and respiratory tracts.
- Stomach – this is where food is stored, which is then processed and sterilized.
- Liver – is a digestive gland that secretes bile. It plays an important role in the process of fat digestion. The liver also stores iron and some vitamins and removes excess nutrients from the blood. Excess glucose is converted into glycogen, which is later stored. In turn, too much amino acids are converted into urea and fatty acids.
- Pancreas – is also a digestive gland. Its function is to produce pancreatic juice, which contains enzymes that digest collagen and proteins, produce insulin and glucagon or break down nucleic acids.
- Small intestine – is responsible for digestion of food, followed by absorption of nutrients into the lymph and blood.
- Large intestine – where undigested food remains are converted into feces, and vitamins, water and amino acids are reabsorbed. The microorganisms responsible for the production of certain vitamins also multiply here.
What changes take place in the various parts of the digestive tract?
Above all, at a certain age, the metabolism starts to work at a much slower rate than in a young person. The result is an easily noticeable decrease in energy demand, and thus also appetite. As you can see, the lack of appetite does not have to (although it can!) indicate a disease. As a result of retrograde changes there are also transformations in the process of food absorption. Periodontitis and caries begin to appear naturally, and teeth begin to fall out. Breaking down and chewing food becomes slower and less accurate due to reduced saliva production, which has a negative effect on food digestion (especially the initial one, which begins in the mouth).
As a result of aging of the gastrointestinal tract, it is very possible that lactase secretion may decrease or disappear altogether, called hypolactasemia. It is associated with a tendency to bloating and increased intestinal gas production, so affected individuals should consume less lactose-containing foods than they did before it occurred.
Older people will also develop problems with smell and taste, and sensory disturbances. This is another cause of decreased appetite, often associated with eating foods that are too poorly seasoned or that are past their expiration date. At the same time, the elderly may develop an aversion to foods rich in valuable nutrients.
As a result of gastric acidosis, bacteria can multiply too quickly in the small intestine. This in turn threatens the body with malnutrition and leads to malabsorption. Particularly often these processes occur in people after various types of surgery.
With age, the secretory glands begin to atrophy, resulting in disorders of the entire digestive tract. Both its work and peristaltic movements will be significantly slowed down, which in turn will cause problems with constipation and gastric emptying.
The pancreas in turn becomes visibly weakened and stops secreting the same amount of digestive enzymes. This contributes to digestive problems, which, due to insulin production, can result in type two diabetes.
Aging of the digestive system will sooner or later affect each of us, just like graying, hair loss or appearance of wrinkles on the skin of the face and neckline. It is worth knowing that it is a natural process, not necessarily connected with a disease. However, you can prepare for it properly so that at the first symptoms of it you do not feel anxious and be aware that you can continue to live comfortably despite them.
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