Passing gas is a perfectly normal bodily function. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not potentially problematic for caregivers—especially when it becomes excessive. Here’s a closer look at the issue of seniors and flatulence, along with caregiver tips aimed at helping seniors manage this common condition.
The 411 on Flatulence
The human digestive system is teeming with bacteria. While this bacteria serves the important function of producing critical nutrients, it also produces large quantities of digestive gas. Gas also accumulates in the digestive system when air is swallowed during eating and drinking. In fact, as much as four pints of gas are produced daily. When this gas passes out of the body via the anus, flatulence occurs.
Certain foods can lead to flatulence, including legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. While these high-fiber foods may lead to an increase in gas production, they’re also essential for maintaining the digestive tract while regulating both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Other dietary factors that can enhance gas production include drinking carbonated beverages; eating and drinking too quickly; drinking through a straw; sucking on candies; talking while chewing; fiber supplements; and sugar substitutes.
Additionally, some medical conditions can further contribute to gas production, including chronic intestinal disease; small bowel bacterial overgrowth; food intolerances; and constipation.
Flatulence in Seniors
While flatulence happens to everyone, older adults may experience increased flatulence for a number of reasons. For starters, the digestive process often slows with age, which can lead to increased constipation and flatulence. Also, seniors may have more difficulty swallowing food than younger people, which can lead to swallowing more air. Lastly, some medications, including some blood pressure medications and antibiotics, come with flatulence as a side effect.
Caregivers should also know that lactose intolerance can strike at any age. If you notice an increase in flatulence after your aging loved ones consumes dairy products, removing foods containing lactose from the diet may make a difference.
Managing Senior Flatulence
Caregivers can help reduce flatulence in aging loved ones with several natural remedies, including encouraging seniors to slowly chew and swallow food; avoiding carbonated drinks; and getting regular exercise. If your aging loved one wears dentures, meanwhile, ensuring that they fit properly can help reduce flatulence. Many people report that charcoal tablets and charcoal-filtered underclothes can help reduce gas as well as the odors associated with it.
If flatulence persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, check in with a medical professional.
While flatulence is normal, it can sometimes reveal an underlying condition, such as an obstruction in the bowel or masses. If your aging loved one’s flatulence continues despite changes in diet and behavior, a discussion with his/her healthcare provider might also be in order. Furthermore, if excessive gas is accompanied by other symptoms, such as cramping, diarrhea, constipation, bloody stools, or nausea and vomiting, a more serious issue may be to blame.
One last thing to keep in mind? Even despite preventative and management strategies, flatulence is part of life. As with many aspects of caregiving life, maintaining a sense of humor can be an essential caregiving technique.
mmLearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmLearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs. For more useful caregiver support references, be sure to access our database of free online caregiver videos today.