Normal aging is associated with structural and functional alterations in most organs, with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract being no exception. Confounding factors render age-related GI functional changes difficult to interpret, since there is the concurrent existence and influence of neurological, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and other disorders in the older adults. Normal aging by itself is insufficient to account for major alterations, whether they are secretory, absorptive, hormonal, motor, or sensory in older adults. Hormone effects on the gut and complex and age consequences are not always clear. While aging is accompanied by subtle alterations in structure and function of several components of the GI system, the implications for daily living and function are minimal and only become an issue in most instances when accompanied by disease. The chapter discusses morphological and physiological changes with age in the GI system and provides clinical applications where relevant.
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