Most Common Intolerances Among Older Adults

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Most Common Intolerances Among older people. Older adults are more likely to suffer from digestive problems. These can be due to multiple causes, including the development of food intolerance.

If we notice that older adults feel discomfort after eating certain foods, it is possible that we are facing a food intolerance. In this article, Nomenial finds out more.

If you would like to learn about the healthiest diets for older adults, click here:

Most Common Intolerances Among the Older Adults: What exactly do we mean by it?

Food intolerance is the inability to consume certain foods or nutrients without negative health effects.

That is, when the body rejects a specific food by not digesting it well.

In order to detect the presence of an intolerance, it is necessary to carry out a very personalized study of the diet since it affects each person in a very different way: foods that benefit one person can be harmful to another.

Among the types of food intolerance, we set out below the most common intolerances suffered by older adults:

Lactose intolerance

It is the most common food intolerance in older people. It is estimated that 30% of older people suffer from it.

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest a type of sugar called lactose.

Our organism possesses an enzyme called lactase, which is used to carry out the digestion of lactose. When this enzyme is missing, the body is unable to assimilate lactose correctly, so various gastrointestinal ailments and other symptoms appear with vehemence.


The symptoms, which occur between half and 2 hours after ingesting the food, are the following:

Nausea or vomiting.

Pain in the abdomen.

Stomach noises.

Sensation of swelling.

Cold sweat.

More fatigue than usual.


Thus, if after our family member drinks milk or some milk product he feels discomfort, it is possible that his body is being unable to digest the sugar in the milk.

Treatment for intolerances

There is no cure for lactose intolerance. But, this does not mean that its effects cannot be alleviated. Quite the contrary. There are two main treatments for it:

Drugs. By taking a pill that contains lactase our family member can ingest any food with lactose without having to worry about the subsequent discomfort.

Change in diet. There are three steps that we should help older people to take:

Exclude lactose from the diet.

Substitute it with other foods so as not to stop consuming the fundamental nutritive substances.

Consume calcium through other products (blue fish, legumes like soya, fruit…etc.)

Lactose intolerant diet for older people

Products like the following are interesting for a diet based on the above conditions:

Lactose-free (or low lactose) milk and soy milk

Fiber. Consuming milk with fiber or with other solid foods makes it better to ingest, because fiber slows down digestion, which facilitates the action of the scarce existing lactase.

Yogurt and fermented milk. They have less lactose than normal dairy products and the bacteria they contain help lactase to perform better in digestion.

Cured cheese and cottage cheese. They contain less lactose than other common cheeses.

Important: We must bear in mind that there are a large number of packaged products that, although they are not dairy products, contain lactose. Such is the case with some of them, such as toasts, cold cuts, purees, or ice creams.

Intolerance to gluten

Although there is a tendency to think that gluten intolerance occurs mainly during childhood, this is not the case. In recent years, there has been an increase in diagnosed cases of older people suffering from celiac disease. In fact, 20% of adults diagnosed with this problem are over 60 years old.

This, however, is a problem that is difficult to detect, since its symptoms are usually associated with other age-related conditions. On other occasions, they do not even manifest themselves.


The symptoms of gluten intolerance in older people are different from those suffered by children.

These are:

Vitamin and mineral deficiency triggers the development of conditions such as anemia or osteoporosis.

Continuous feeling of heartburn.

Abdominal pain and bloating.

Slow and heavy digestions.

Alteration of the intestinal habit (diarrhea and/or constipation).


The treatment of celiac disease consists of maintaining a strict gluten-free diet. Thanks to this, older people will manage to recover the good functioning of the intestine.

It will also be necessary to add to your diet supplements of vitamins, iron and calcium.

The elimination of gluten from the regular diet will surely be accompanied by the need to eliminate lactose as well, since it is common for both intolerances to be present at the same time.

Most Common Intolerances Among Older Adults: Histamine Intolerance

One percent of adults suffer from histamine intolerance, although the figure is believed to be much higher.

It is a condition that arises when the histamine present in the food older adults eat is not broken down properly.

The foods that contain the highest levels of histamine include sausages, blue cheeses, chocolate, coffee, tomatoes, spinach and dried fruit.

Its symptoms do not appear immediately and are, besides the same as in the previous intolerances, others that affect not only the gastrointestinal system, but also different parts of the body: skin alterations (psoriasis, dermatitis, hives, etc.), muscular pain and anxiety.

For more information on creating a healthy diet for older individuals, see this article and post: