One of life’s many pleasures is enjoying a delicious meal, then savoring feelings of contentment. As a senior care home, senior nutrition is important to us, and we are fortunate to see our residents partaking in nutritious and flavorful meals. On a daily basis, 15 million Americans do not get to enjoy the contentment part of this equation. Their pleasure is negated by heartburn, also known as acid indigestion and acid reflux. Why do seniors get heartburn? Let’s take a look.
Most common in older adults, heartburn often begins with a burning sensation in the lower chest, just below the sternum. From there, the pain or discomfort can radiate upward to the neck. Other symptoms may include hoarseness, sore throat, a chronic cough, the feeling of a lump in the throat, and/or the sensation of food coming back into the mouth along with a bitter taste.
Occasional heartburn is often a part of life. However, if it becomes chronic, it can lead to serious complications, as well as hinder eating, daily activity and a good night’s sleep.
Chronic Heartburn Is Common
Heartburn occurs when the “door” to the stomach opens to let food in from the esophagus, but does not close quickly enough or completely. The door is actually the lower esophageal sphincter muscle and, when working properly, it prevents food and stomach acids from flowing back (reflux) into the esophagus.
Some of the main reasons for why heartburn occurs for seniors is after overeating, when bending over, or when lying down. When it occurs on a frequent basis, the esophagus lining can become inflamed (esophagitis).
In addition, if heartburn becomes chronic, it can be a symptom of another ailment.
- Acid reflux disease.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). When you have GERD (chronic acid reflux) your stomach acid persistently flows back up into your mouth through your esophagus. You may experience heartburn, acid indigestion, trouble swallowing, feeling of food caught in your throat and other problems.
- An inflamed stomach lining (gastritis).
- Hiatal hernia.
- Peptic ulcer.
Culprits Behind Why Seniors Experience Heartburn Occasionally
Here are some of the reasons why seniors get heartburn and the foods to avoid in order to lessen the symptoms.
- Coffee (even decaf) and caffeine drinks.
- Carbonated drinks.
- Citrus fruits and juices.
- Tomatoes and tomato products.
- Garlic and onions.
- Cigarette smoking.
- Aspirin, ibuprofen and certain medications.
- Mints and peppermints.
- Fatty and spicy foods.
- Carrying excess weight and overeating.
- Mustard and vinegar.
Understanding why seniors get heartburn is one of the many facets of nutrition that it becomes important to understand as we age. For all of us it takes some monitoring to understand how nutrition is affecting how we feel and what our body needs. If you know of a senior who experiences challenges with proper eating and nutrition, it may be worth considering a senior care home where eating is closely monitored and proper nutrition is encouraged.
(Sources: FamilyDoctor.org, HealthInAging.org, gi,org, gastro.org, Nat. Inst. Of Diabetes and Digestive & Kidney Diseases)