The ageing gastrointestinal tract

Stijn Soenen*, Christopher K. Rayner, Karen L. Jones, Michael Horowitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

139 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose of review This article reviews the impact of ageing on the gastrointestinal tract, including effects on the absorption of nutrients and drugs and the gastrointestinal tract defence system against ingested pathogens. Recent findings Recent publications support earlier observations of an age-related selective decline in gut function including changes in taste, oesophageal sphincter motility, gastric emptying, and neurons of the myenteric plexus related to gut transit which may impact the nutritional status. Ageing is also associated with structural and functional mucosal defence defects, diminished abilities to generate protective immunity, and increased incidence of inflammation and oxidative stress. A number of gastrointestinal disorders occur more frequently in the elderly population. Summary Alterations in gut function with ageing have particular implications for oesophageal, gastric, and colonic motility. Older individuals are particularly susceptible to malnutrition, postprandial hypotension, dysphagia, constipation, and faecal incontinence. Decrease in the number of nerve cells of the myenteric plexus that impact digestive absorption and the surface area of the small intestine because of degeneration of villi may lead to blunted absorption of nutrients. Impairment of the intestinal immune system as a result of ageing, including the mucosal layer of the gastrointestinal tract, appears to be a significant contributor to the age-related increase in the incidence and severity of infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-18
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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