How does aging affect the stomach?

Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
As people age, the stomach continues to make acid, but in many older people, acid production declines because of years of carrying Helicobacter pylori infection in the stomach, leading to long-term gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and to atrophy of the stomach lining. While a reduction in gastric acid does not usually interfere with digestion, it can lead to two disorders that are common in the elderly -- vitamin B12 deficiency, which can result in anemia and nerve damage, and excessive bacterial growth in the small intestine, resulting in malabsorption and poor digestion. Both problems can be treated.

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