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Effects of Aging on the Digestive System

By

Michael Bartel

, MD, PhD, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Temple University

Medically Reviewed Oct 2022
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION

Esophagus

With age, the strength of esophageal contractions Throat and Esophagus The throat (pharynx) lies behind and below the mouth. When food and fluids leave the mouth, they pass through the throat. Swallowing of food and fluids begins voluntarily and continues automatically... read more and the tension in the upper esophageal sphincter decrease (called presbyesophagus), but the movement of food is not impaired by these changes. However, some older adults can be affected by diseases that interfere with esophageal contractions.

Stomach

With age, the stomach lining's capacity to resist damage decreases, which in turn may increase the risk of peptic ulcer disease Peptic Ulcer Disease A peptic ulcer is a round or oval sore where the lining of the stomach or duodenum has been eaten away by stomach acid and digestive juices. Peptic ulcers can result from Helicobacter pylori... read more Peptic Ulcer Disease , especially in people who use aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Also with age, the stomach Stomach The stomach is a large, bean-shaped, hollow muscular organ consisting of four regions: Cardia Fundus Body Antrum read more cannot accommodate as much food (because of decreased elasticity), and the rate at which the stomach empties food into the small intestine decreases. However, these changes typically do not cause any noticeable symptoms. Aging has little effect on the secretion of stomach juices such as acid and pepsin, but conditions that decrease acid secretion, such as atrophic gastritis Causes Causes , become more common. These conditions can result in subsequent problems such as vitamin B12 deficiency Vitamin B12 Deficiency Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in vegans who do not take supplements or as a result of an absorption disorder. Anemia develops, causing paleness, weakness, fatigue, and, if severe, shortness... read more or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a disorder in which poor movement of intestinal contents allows certain normal intestinal bacteria to grow excessively, causing diarrhea and poor absorption... read more .

Small intestine

Pancreas, liver, and gallbladder

Large intestine and rectum

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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