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Gliding Through the Golden Years Gracefully
By Dr. Jen Morganti, NEEDS Education Director

Aging is a process in life we all have to go through. Regardless of how much we try to deny or escape it, the undeniable fact is that over time, our bodies naturally deteriorate. Take heart though, we have the power to take steps that can minimize our decay and enable us to embrace the wonders of aging.

For many people, the digestive system takes the biggest hit through the course of the aging process, bringing on problems such as gastric atrophy (damage to stomach cells) and subsequent hypo- and achlorhydria (low or no gastric secretion), decreased pancreatic enzyme production or secretion, and decreased bile production.1

Gastric atrophy becomes more likely as our age increases, and can be linked to chronic gastritis and/or H. pylori infection. It leads to hypo- or achlorhydria, and studies show that it occurs at rates ranging from 30 to 60 percent of adults over 60 years of age. This damage is reversible; research shows that the ingredient zinc carnosine, found in a product called PepZin GI, can help restore gastric damage and help those cells secrete appropriate amounts of gastric acid after treatment.

If enzymes or gastric acid are insufficient, eating large meals will cause abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, and bacterial overgrowth. Eventually this discomfort will cause a person to lose their desire to eat. Supplementing with proper enzymes, HCl, or bile acid, depending on the individual's deficiency, is critical for improving digestion and alleviating discomfort. Supplementation will also prevent the consequences of low caloric intake, such as muscle loss, nutrient deficiencies, or malabsorption. Additionally, research shows that many people develop an intolerance to dairy later in life, due to reduced lactase production (the enzyme that breaks down milk), making lactase supplementation especially important.

In the case of hypochlorhydria, malabsorption of B12 is probable, leading to B12 deficiency with symptoms of fatigue and cognitive decline.2 Gastric acid is also required for optimal mineral absorption, so watch for signs of iron deficiency and anemia. And for someone who is at risk for osteoporosis or osteopenia, calcium absorption may be impaired— supplementation may not slow bone loss without the aid of betaine HCl to maximize absorption of this mineral.

Low daily caloric intake (and weight loss) can also be triggered by appetite, which declines with age due to several factors, but especially when sense of taste is lost. Losing appreciation for flavor can seriously impair one's desire to eat. Zinc deficiency, medication side effects, and chronic disease can contribute to taste loss.3 Zinc deficiency can easily be tested at home with the Zinc Tally test from Metagenics. If the liquid is tasteless, it indicates possible zinc deficiency; however, if it has a metallic taste, zinc deficiency is unlikely.

There is also a higher risk of vitamin-D deficiency with age, due to malabsorption of this fat-soluble vitamin, and because of diminished capacity of the skin to effectively convert UVB rays from sunshine to this crucial vitamin. The consequences of vitamin-D deficiency are broad, including poor immunity, inflammation, and osteopenia. Vitamin-D levels are also linked to two highly concerning age-related diseases, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease. Vitamin D receptors exist in the cognitive areas of the brain and it has been labeled a "neurohormone," implying that it has some role in protecting the brain and nervous system. One particular study looked at the vitamin-D levels in 100 Parkinson's patients, 100 Alzheimber's patients, and 100 healthy people over age 65, and found that the healthy group had a 16% higher vitamin-D level than the two other groups.4 Vitamin-D deficiency is also implicated in the neurological disease multiple sclerosis.

Supplementation may be more important for seniors than any other age group because of absorption and appetite issues. The good news is that by understanding the concerns, preemptive action can slow or stop serious health problems in their tracks.

1. Pancreas. 1989;4(3):346-52
2. Haematologica 2006; 91:1506-1512
3. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2012 Jul 24
4. Arch Neurol. 2008 Oct; 65(10):1348-52.

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Lactase Enzymes
Lipase Concentrate-HP
Betaine HCI Pepsin
Liquid B12
PepZinGI Zinc-L-Carnosine Complex
Bile Acid Factors
Zinc Tally