Navigating Digestive Challenges: Why Digestive Symptoms and Food Intolerances Emerge with Age?


As we transition through different stages of life, our bodies undergo numerous changes, including shifts in digestive health. Many individuals find that after a certain point, typically in their mid-30s, they start experiencing digestive symptoms and food intolerances that were never an issue before. This phenomenon, while perplexing and sometimes distressing, can be attributed to a combination of factors related to gut health, immune function, nutrition, and lifestyle habits.

The Gut Microbiome and Immune Function

One of the key players in digestive health is the gut microbiome, the vast community of microorganisms living in our digestive tract. Over time, factors such as diet, stress, antibiotic use, and exposure to environmental toxins can alter the composition of the gut microbiome. A diverse and balanced microbiome is crucial for optimal digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function. Changes in the microbiome can disrupt these processes, leading to increased sensitivity to certain foods and the development of digestive symptoms. The immune system, closely linked to gut health, plays a significant role in immune responses to dietary antigens. Alterations in the microbiome can lead to an imbalanced immune response, increasing the likelihood of food intolerances and sensitivities.

Nutritional and Lifestyle Factors

Diet and lifestyle choices have a profound impact on digestive health. High consumption of processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can contribute to inflammation and negatively affect the gut lining, making the digestive system more susceptible to problems. Conversely, a diet lacking in fibre can promote further issues by lowering the diversity of beneficial gut bacteria.

Stress and lack of physical activity are also critical factors. Chronic stress can alter gut motility and secretion, while physical inactivity can slow down the digestive process, both of which can contribute to the onset of symptoms.

The Role of Medication and Stomach Bugs

Medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, and certain acid-reducing drugs, can affect the stomach lining and microbiome balance, leading to increased vulnerability to digestive issues. Similarly, experiencing stomach bugs or food poisoning can temporarily disrupt gut function and microbiome balance, potentially having long-lasting effects on digestive health and food tolerance.

Emerging Food Intolerances

As individuals age changes in lifestyle and dietary habits can lead to the development of food intolerances. The gradual decrease in enzyme production, necessary for breaking down certain foods, can also play a role. For example, lactose intolerance can emerge due to a reduction in lactase enzyme levels, making it difficult to digest dairy products effectively.

Managing Digestive Changes

Understanding the multifaceted nature of digestive health is the first step toward managing and mitigating symptoms. Key strategies include:

  • Maintaining a Balanced Diet: Incorporating a variety of fibre-rich foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds support digestive health and microbiome diversity.
  • Staying Hydrated: Adequate water intake is essential for maintaining gut motility and preventing constipation.
  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity can help enhance digestion and reduce stress levels.
  • Stress Management: Techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can mitigate the impact of stress on digestive health.
  • Mindful Medication Use: Consulting healthcare providers about the potential digestive side effects of medications and exploring alternatives when appropriate.
  • Probiotics and Prebiotics: These can help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.


The emergence of digestive symptoms and food intolerances in mid-life can be attributed to a complex interplay of factors related to gut health, immune function, diet, lifestyle, and medication use. By adopting a holistic approach to health, focusing on diet, exercise, stress management, and mindful medication use, individuals can support their digestive health and mitigate the impact of these changes.

Written by Marilia Chamon

Registered Nutritional Therapist and Gut Health Expert
Founder of Gutfulness Nutrition
Instagram @gutfulnessnutrition

Marilia Chamon is a registered nutritional therapist, gut health and IBS expert, and the founder of Gutfulness Nutrition. Marilia has trained on the use of the low FODMAP diet with Monash University and is certified in Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice from the world renowned Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM). Marilia is also a SIBO trained practitioner. Her practice is rooted in science-based nutrition and her advice is based on the latest scientific research.