Aging reveals itself most obviously in a mirror, but some of your body's biggest changes happen in your digestive system. The gastrointestinal tract begins to slow, the amount of stomach acid decreases, and the enzymes along your digestive tract start to morph, changing the way your body digests food. Medications can have unwanted GI side effects, and a more sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet habits, which you were once able to shrug off, can start to catch up with you. The result: Stuff begins to happen along your digestive tract. Weird stuff. Embarrassing stuff. Maybe dangerous stuff.
Unfortunately, a lot of us are hesitant to ask our doctors about digestive issues, especially those that are blushworthy. So to find out what's normal and what's worth worrying about, we did the asking.
I don't poop every day. I'm constipated, right?
Not necessarily. “Our definition of ‘normal pooping habits’ is once every three days to three per day,” says Charles McMahon, a gastroenterologist at Loyola Medicine near Chicago. At your next doctor's appointment, don't just say you're constipated, because that's subjective. Instead, specify how many BMs you have per week, as well as the consistency (hard, loose).
I sometimes need laxatives, but I heard that your GI tract can get addicted to them. True?
No. “Most laxatives can be used safely as directed once or twice a day. There's no evidence this creates dependency,” McMahon says. Talk to your doc before starting them, because (as we just mentioned) you may think you're constipated when you're really not.
I get weird gurgling in my belly even when I'm not hungry. What's up with that?
All those tummy rumbles have a fun name: borborygmi. It's usually just gas moving along in your intestines. “These sounds you hear when the GI tract is moving are normal and don't suggest anything serious is going on,” McMahon says.