Aging of the GI System

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Our intestines do a lot more for us than we actually give it credit for.

The entire system from your mouth to the end of the alimentary canal. Food that we eat is a fuel. We ingest it in the mouth and the GI system breaks it down into consumable energy units called BTU’s that are what our food becomes at the cellular level. This level provides our cells with the energy they need to do their job.

We discuss the process from the beginning to the end. The end is where the waste product is eliminated when we go to the bathroom.

One important ingredient in the process is relative to the bacteria in your gut biome. If you have enough bacteria, with enough variety of bacteria, you are better able to digest your food intake and convert it into the energy your cells need. There is even a process available to doctors if you are determined not to have the proper kind and amount, of bacteria in your gut biome. This process is called a fecal transplant. The feces from some other person who has the bacteria you need to make is transplanted into your system so that those bacteria will grow and work within your system. That way, you are able to process and digest your food intake. A less serious option would be to take probiotics which can help you produce the proper bacteria in your gut.

The Gastrointestinal System:

The GI system has a wide variety of changes throughout life. With aging, there is a decline in the actual form of the intestines. This causes a decline in the absorption of some nutrients, such as fatty acids and cholesterol.

We want to consider the following changes in the GI system as aging happens:

  1. Decreased ability of the intestinal walls to hold and absorb nutrients makes older people highly sensitive to minor body insults;
  2. Drugs appreciably affect taste sensation and thereby appetite
  3. Malabsorption can be caused by low levels of gastric acids, possibly compounded by gastric hypochlorhydria with small bowel bacterial over-growth;
  4. Lowered gastrointestinal movement including incontinence may occur.
  5. GI changers in mucosal immune response also occur.


Our intestines do a lot more for us than we actually give it credit for.  The intestines process our food and convert it into blood sugar to feed our cells.  The intestines keep toxins out of the blood and filter the food we eat.  The GI tract holds all the good bacteria that is necessary for our immune system to function and to process our food.  Without bacteria in the gut we would not be “fed” at all!

When the GI system ages, we stop absorbing B12 from the stomach and our acid level and enzymes from the pancreas and liver decreases so we can’t break down meat and fat, which means we are malnourished. Even drugs and vitamins care impossible to absorb when the gut ages. For instance, without the stomach acid and enzymes you can’t break meat and proteins into amino acids to make new muscle.  Our GI system is sustained down- stream from our sex hormones but are still made healthy by a combination of fresh balanced diet, probiotics, and sex hormones.

Taking care of our GI system becomes more of a challenge as we age. Because of the resistance that aging effects cause in the GI system, we have to find different ways that our gut and bodies can absorb the proper values of nutrients for good health. As we age, we often stop absorbing various nutrients like B12, a vitamin. Also, out taste sensations change, we get to a point that we can only taste sweets. Fortunately, we now have systems of consumables that allow us to ingest proper balances of the nutrients we need without eating the foods that we used to eat in order to obtain them. There are drinks (usually chocolate flavored or vanilla) that contain all the recommended nutrients for a day’s consumption. We can further give sublingual tablets hat will put those nutrients into our system without having to eat those foods, because our bodies lose the ability to absorb them through the GI system.

As we age, it becomes more important to understand these changes in our GI system and make proper adaptations so our bodies will have enough energy and have the ability to keep us healthy as we age.

This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author, with Brett Newcomb, MA., LPC., Family Counselor, Presenter and Author.

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