Senior Health and Wellbeing | April 5, 2017
Studies indicate that Irritable Bowel Syndrome may affect up to 20% of the population, and that 10% of elderly people are affected.
Sometimes it is hard to determine what is a natural part of aging and what is more cause for concern. Many caregivers and seniors believe that bowel problems such as diarrhea, constipation, and bloating can be a normal sign of aging. This is where they are wrong. Chronic diarrhea, constipation, and bloating, alone or combined, is not a normal part of aging and can be a sign of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, otherwise know as IBS.
Considering IBS symptoms are similar to other intestinal ailments, it is important that caregivers and their senior loved ones have a basic understanding of what IBS entails and how to best manage the disease.
Irritable bowel syndrome, often abbreviated as IBS, is a common disorder that can cause everything from chronic abdominal pain and bloating to diarrhea and constipation. IBS is considered a functional digestion disorder, which means that symptoms are often brought on by changes in the digestive system rather than by a certain disease.
IBS is a commonly diagnosed disorder, and although it does not generally start until after the age of 50, there is no indication that incidence of IBS is necessarily higher in older adults (those 65 years of age or older). However, the issue is that some IBS symptoms can be similar to those of more serious conditions or diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease or colorectal cancer. Thus, seniors should always question an IBS diagnosis and consider other steps to ensure there isn’t something more serious at play.
As mentioned, IBS can manifest itself in a number of ways. If there is a notable frequency of bowel movements with loose or watery stool, the specific type of IBS is categorized as diarrhea-predominant IBS. If there is difficulty in bowel movements and decreased frequency, it is categorized as constipation-predominant IBS.
Most medical professionals suggest there is no identifiable root cause for IBS, however, it is clear that it is more likely to be brought on by changes and/or disturbances with motility and digestion. For instance, if one recently had an infection within the intestines (prior to IBS symptoms), IBS has been known to follow promptly. Genetics also appear to be a considerable factor, as most with a family history of IBS are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition.
Other factors that can influence the onset of IBS include food allergies or intolerance (specifically to foods such as broccoli, milk, and carbonated beverages) and bacterial overgrowth in the intestines. Additionally, psychological stress appears to be one of the most significant factors, especially in seniors.
Although seniors may feel that IBS is an inevitable part of aging, the opposite is actually true. While sensitivity of the nerves within the digestive system may increase with age, there are ways to help reduce the overall risk or alleviate the symptoms. If your aging loved ones are currently faced with IBS or are looking for ways to prevent it, have them follow the tips below. Before incorporating any of the following tips into his or her lifestyle, be sure your loved one has a detailed discussion with a physician and/or dietician.
It’s important to remember that irritable bowel syndrome is common, and although its symptoms are unique to the individual diagnosed, there are ways to live with it. Let your senior loved one know that, by identifying the triggers, he or she can manage IBS and get back to living comfortably.
Our compassionate, professional, in-home caregivers can help promote a healthy, positive lifestyle, conducive to managing IBS. From healthy meal preparation to transportation to a gym or local senior center, we are ready to help provide what he or she needs to live a happy, healthy, and independent life. Ask your local Comfort Keepers office today about how their services can make a difference in your loved one’s life today.
Comfort Keepers®’ trained caregivers help provide senior clients with the highest quality of life possible to keep them happy and healthy at home. Our Interactive Caregiving™ provides a system of care that addresses safety, nutrition, mind, body, and activities of daily living (ADLs).
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