As we get older and start to focus more on healthy aging, our bodies tend to change. Sometimes certain foods don’t sit well with us, our metabolism slows down, and we experience digestion issues and constipation. Gastrointestinal issues, or GI issues, are common in older adults, but they don’t have to cause you pain or suffering. There’s a lot that can be done in your diet and lifestyle to help maintain your GI health. We recently spoke with Registered Dietitian Gillean Barkyoumb about the GI tract, and she offered some great information and suggestions to help you maintain yours.

Prime Time: What are some causes of an unhealthy GI tract?

Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RD: A diet low in fiber, not exercising enough, stress, and taking certain medications can all contribute to an unhealthy GI tract.

PT: Why does this tend to be a problem associated with the healthy aging category?

GB: As we age, our bodies change and the chances of developing gastrointestinal issues increase, even in otherwise healthy adults. Older individuals are more likely to experience gastrointestinal issues for a few reasons: a slowed metabolism, being overweight, inactivity, certain medications, and side effects from unrelated conditions such as diabetes or thyroid conditions.

PT: If someone has GI tract issues, what foods should they avoid and why?

GB: Dietary recommendations depend on the specific person and GI condition. It’s best to talk to your doctor or a dietitian. In general, common foods that can cause bloating or stomach discomfort include beans and lentils, cauliflower and cabbage, or foods that you many have a sensitivity or intolerance to like gluten or dairy.

PT: If someone wants to maintain a healthy GI tract, what should they eat?

GB: Eating fiber-rich foods including fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water throughout the day, and practicing moderation when it comes to indulgent foods will support a healthy GI tract.

There are many other ways to help your GI tract. A few other suggestions include adding probiotics to your diet (but check with your doctor first for the right kind to take), making sure you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time each day, and including regular exercise into your weekly routine.

Incorporate Probiotics: Probiotics are healthy bacteria – the same type of bacteria that is in your digestive tract – which help your body by fighting the effects of a poor diet. They can also enhance nutrient absorption and strengthen the immune system.

Eat on Time: Maintaining a steady schedule by eating your meals and snacks around the same time every day can help keep your digestive system in shape.

Exercise Regularly: Consistent exercise and movement helps keep food moving through the digestive system, which can help reduce constipation. It can also help maintain a healthy weight, which benefits digestion.

Is there anything else you do to maintain your GI tract? Share your tips in the comments!