As we age, our bodies change and some of those changes
impact our ability and desire to eat. Much of the time, the change
happens so gradually, the person isn’t even aware of it. This can
be the case with loose or decayed teeth or ill-fitting dentures.
It starts with chewing food in a different area of the mouth to
compensate for the pain in the problem area and then can progress
to not eating at all because it is more trouble than it is worth.
This process can happen so slowly that the person does not even
realize why they stopped eating. To help a person with mouth sensitivities,
help them get softer fruits and vegetables or chop them finely.
Meats can be difficult to chew. Choose soft protein foods such as
fish, beans, eggs, peanut butter and cottage cheese.
Another problem that people are generally unaware
of is that we lose sensitivity of taste and smell as we age. One
side of this double-edged sword is the inability to smell to stimulate
the appetite and the other side is the inability to enjoy the taste
of the food they decide to consume. Salt is a flavor enhancer but
many of the elderly population need to avoid salt. Use herbs and
spices to enhance the flavors of foods.
Many people lose the ability to make lactase, the
enzyme that helps us digest lactose or the sugar in milk. When you
can’t digest the milk, it ferments in the stomach causing gas, bloating,
diarrhea and pain. There are low lactose products on the market.
Often, people with lactose intolerance can tolerate one glass of
milk per day without upset. Cheese and yogurt can be a good choice
because they have less lactose than milk.
The intestinal tract slows down resulting in constipation.
Things that can help with this are exercise and getting enough fiber.
Fiber should be increased slowly to let the body adjust. Remember
that when you increase fiber, fluid intake needs to be increased
Increasing fluids may be a difficulty because elderly
people often lose their sensitivity to thirst. Filling a pitcher
with 6-8 cups of water (or favorite beverage) and making sure it
is empty at the end of the day can help with this.
Eating is a social activity in our society. Planning
meals with your elderly parent or assuring they are eating with
other people can help. Sometimes a pet is enough company to positively
impact eating habits. The physical activity of walking that pet
can also be an appetite stimulant!
Monday, February 22, 2010