I have enjoyed helping people from age 5 to 95. Seniors have many unique challenges. My prospective for their diet has proven very helpful in improving their quality of life. Talk to any senior about their discomforts and the subject of their unfortunate bowel habits will come up. The colon is a muscle and as with other muscles in the body, when we get older they are not as strong. Added to this is the lessening of mobility. So it is vital for their diet to have plenty of natural fiber. This will also help lesson diverticulosis which is so common with seniors and can become fatal. Diverticulosis occurs when the muscle wall thins out from lack of fiber and the resultant sluggish colon allows for old stool to accumulate. This in turn produces gas. This gas puts pressure on the thinned out muscle wall and causes pockets to form. When food gets into these pockets and gets infected the result is diverticulitis which can be deadly.
Fiber can be enjoyable. Fresh fruit, real (not canned) vegetables and whole grains are a must. Besides being tasteless, canned vegetables have lost most of their vital nutrients including fiber. No more white bread, white pasta or processed foods! These are cheap foods but in the long run cost more dollars because of the expense of medications to counter-act the side affects caused by them. These foods turn into a gooey sticky mess in the colon making them difficult to eliminate. They also raise blood sugar whereas whole grains as a complex carbohydrate breakdown slower not usually causing a rise in blood sugar levels.
We all love cheese. Yet cheese is a slow processor in the colon and can cause constipation. This is also true of red meat, i.e. beef, pork and lamb. These should be eaten in moderation.
It is wise to incorporate Greek yogurt into the diet. Besides being a good source of calcium and protein, yogurt has beneficial bacteria which is necessary for the colon to function properly. In a healthy person the colon's wall has about 80% friendly bacteria versus 20% unfriendly. This friendly bacteria is decreased with antibiotics and steroidal drugs, both commonly used by seniors. Yet, if their diet is supplemented with beneficial bacteria their immune system will be better able to protect them from future infections. This is how our bodies naturally defend itself from unwanted invaders such as viruses and infections.
And let's not forget water, water, water! Coffee is the mainstream in today's society yet it dehydrates the body including the colon causing harder, thus difficult to move stools. Additionally, the caffeine in coffee is a stimulant just as ExLax is, thus causing the colon to become lazier and lazier as it becomes dependent on a stimulant to function. So coffee should be consumed in moderation. Juices, if the senior is not a diabetic, are also a good way to increase fluids.