Dyspepsia is a common symptom in the elderly. It refers to various abdominal discomforts like nausea, bloating, feeling of fullness, stomach ache, loss of appetite, heartburn, and acidic plash.
Factors causing to dyspepsia
- Aged-related factors: Reduced production of digestive juice like saliva, gastric juice, bile and enzymes can reduce the effectiveness of digestion.
- Chewing problems: Poorly fitted denture, dental decay or loss tooth can lead to inadequate chewing.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can reduce gut motility.
- Unhealthy lifestyle: Over-eating, irregular mealtime, smoking and alcohol.
- Anxiety: Ingestion of excessive air into the stomach due to hyper- ventilation, causing bloating.
- Medication: Certain drugs like non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin.
Dyspepsia may be a transient minor problem. It can also be due to underlying disease like peptic ulcer, which, if not properly treated, can lead to perforation or bleeding. Moreover, stomach cancer can give dyspepsia symptoms. Hence, if there is suspicion, seek medical advice. Below are some warning signs that should not be ignored:
- Persistent dyspepsia or poor appetite for an unusual long period;
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Loose tarry stool;
- Sudden or persistent excessive stomach ache;
- Dyspepsia appearing in a person on long term aspirin or non-steroid anti-inflammatory treatment;
- Sudden deterioration of symptoms in a person with peptic ulcer under treatment.
How to prevent and relieve dyspepsia
1. Maintain healthy lifestyle:
- Regular exercise and daily routines;
- No smoking or quit smoking;
- Avoid alcohol.
2. Healthy eating
- Eat frequent but smaller meals to avoid overloading the digestive system.
- Eat slowly and chew thoroughly.
- Select softer foods such as congee, noodles in soup, crackers in fluid or soup, fish, tofu, steamed eggs, ground meat, peeled fruit, etc.
- Use appropriate cooking methods such as braising or stewing.
- Cut food in small pieces before cooking or eating.
- Avoid drinking large amounts of fluids during mealtime to help reduce the feeling of fullness.
- Avoid fried food with high fat content.
- Avoid food and drinks with caffeine, e.g. chocolate, coffee, tea.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting garments.
- Do not eat to the full.
- Do not lie down right after eating to prevent reflux.
3. Emotional & stress management:
- Learn about normal aging to allay unnecessary anxiety;
- Practise relaxation exercise to release tension;
- Proper time management to reduce stress from time constraint;
- Increase life satisfaction by appreciating yourself, others and things around you.
4. Proper use of medication
- Different causes of dyspepsia require different forms of treatment. Follow the advice of the doctor and complete the full course of treatment to reduce the chance of relapse.
- Certain drugs like aspirin and non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs can cause peptic ulcer and hence should not be used without appropriate medical advice to relieve joint or muscle pain.