When Food Hurts

Did you know your tolerance for certain foods can change throughout your life?

Digestive concerns, including acid reflux, are more common during older adulthood. As you age, you may find that foods you once enjoyed leave you with a painful burning sensation. Potential reasons for this include:

  1. Lower esophageal sphincter (LES) changes—The LES is a ring of muscle located at the point where your esophagus and stomach meet. Normally, the LES relaxes to let food into your stomach and then closes. However, aging can affect LES pressure, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Decreases in LES pressure can cause the muscle to remain relaxed instead of closing completely. As a result, acid can travel backward, or “reflux,” into the esophagus and cause heartburn.
  2. Taking certain medications—Some medications, including those used to manage overactive bladder, asthma, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and migraines, can affect LES function, according to Harvard Medical School.
  3. Your diet—No matter your age, you may experience heartburn if your diet includes certain “trigger” foods, such as spicy or fatty foods, coffee, and chocolate.
  4. Mid-life weight gain—A sluggish metabolism and decreasing activity levels can cause people to gain weight during middle and older adulthood. Those who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of acid reflux.


obesityaction.org, familydoctor.org, healthblog.uofmhealth.org, patients.gi.org, patients.gi.org/topics, health.harvard.edu, niddk.nih.gov, health.harvard.edu

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