Eating Problem #2: Dry Mouth
A dry mouth is another common problem that many of us face as we age. Medications are often the cause of dry mouth, although it can occur for other reasons as well. A dry mouth can contribute to chewing problems, and can also make swallowing difficult. Foods that are dry, such as bread, pasta, crackers, and rice may be the most difficult to eat.
“The solution for eating when you have dry mouth is to find ways to add moisture to food,” says Palmer.
- Try adding gravy or sauce to foods such as rice or pasta or spread a little cream cheese or peanut butter on bread or crackers, Palmer says. Foods that are more naturally moist, such as soups and casseroles are also good options for people with a dry mouth.
"I'd make a minestrone soup, and then blend it and freeze it with some lemon juice and ice cubes for my mom," Koste says. "She would let it defrost and drink it cool – like a gazpacho in the winter." It's loaded with vegetables and a good option for people with dry mouth or trouble chewing, Koste says.
- Drinking water, milk, or juice between bites is another way to help keep your mouth moist. But if your appetite isn’t what it once was, take small sips to be sure the liquid doesn’t fill you up instead of the food.
And, if you do have dry mouth, it’s important to pay extra attention to your teeth. “Saliva helps protect against cavities, so if you have less saliva, you’re at higher risk for dental problems,” says Palmer. She suggests brushing or rinsing after each meal or snack to help keep teeth healthy.
Eating Problem #3: Frequent Upset Stomach
As we age, we may have a harder time digesting certain foods -- and have more problems with indigestion.
“Often, the best way to deal with indigestion is to keep a food diary, so you can find out what foods are giving you problems,” says Zelman.
Some of the most common culprits include:
- Strong-flavored vegetables, such as onions and peppers
- Spices such as garlic, chilies, and ginger
- Fried and fatty foods
- Caffeine in coffee
Sometimes it’s not any particular type of food, but simply eating too much that causes indigestion.
But even if a favorite food or beverage is causing an upset stomach, you may not have to avoid it altogether. Sometimes preparing the food in a different way, such as cooking onions instead of eating them raw, or having the food at a different time of day can help ease indigestion. If you are sensitive to milk and dairy products, you may be able to eat small amounts of these foods without stomach upset.
“Seeing what works best may involve a bit of trial and error,” says Zelman. “Sometimes just putting an extra pillow under your head or raising the top part of your bed a few inches can help too.” Other tips to quell indigestion include having a few saltine crackers or a small piece of bread.
If these suggestions don’t provide relief, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medication. Or ask your doctor about medications for stomach upset.