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updated 2/16/2009 10:14:38 AM ET 2009-02-16T15:14:38

You do right by your body, and in return you expect it to behave — but as the years go by, it can start to rebel and embarrass you on a regular basis. From excess gas to skin tags, these minor physical betrayals don't threaten your health, but they can present major challenges to your self-esteem and body image and make you feel older than you are. Fortunately, there are quick, easy solutions to these grating annoyances.

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Dry mouth
Got a sandpaper tongue? Experts say more than half of people over 65 have seriously dry mouths. That's bad news, because saliva does more than moisten your food — it also slows the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath. In fact, due to declining production of saliva, people in their 60s are twice as likely to develop cavities as people in their 30s.

Suck on sugarless candy to stimulate your salivary glands and lubricate your mouth. If you drink plenty of water throughout the day (8 glasses or more) and still feel cotton-mouthed, talk to your doctor: Your meds may be to blame, says Matthew Messina, DDS, a Cleveland-area dentist and the consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. There are 400 different drugs — including commonly prescribed blood pressure medications and anti-depressants — that can leave you parched, he says. Switching to a different med could turn the spigots back on.

Spider veins
These small tangles of red or blue blood vessels — usually seen on the legs and face — are skin-deep and, like their namesakes, spindly and not so welcome. About 50 percent of all women get spider veins, which are mini versions of varicose veins and can be caused by genetics, prolonged standing, or even sun exposure.

Spider veins can be easily erased by a dermatologist, but the procedures can be expensive, so try to prevent these veins from occurring in the first place: Elevate your legs when resting, walk or run regularly to improve circulation in your legs, and avoid too-tight pants, shorts, and undergarments. Medical support stockings can also help ward off spider veins. (FootSmart sells a variety of different styles, ranging from $5 to $15; go to footsmart.com and click on "Circulation Therapy.") To eliminate a spider vein, a doctor will inject it with a solution — either concentrated saltwater, a special detergent, or another tonic — to make it shrink. The procedure, called sclerotherapy, may cause some bruising or discoloration, and you may need several sessions ($400 or more per visit). For small spider veins on the face, lasers work well and are the best remedy (cost: $2,000-plus per laser treatment).

Skin tags
A little pouch of flesh dangling by a thin stalk...what in the name of dermatology is going on? Skin tags, which affect 1 in 4 adults, pop up in early to late middle age and seem to thrive in places where skin rubs against skin — around the eyelids, neck, or armpits or under breasts. Using special scissors, a dermatologist can snip off a tag with no scarring and very little pain, says Jenny Kim, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and dermatology at UCLA. If the stalk is too short for that procedure, an electric probe can burn off the whole tag — a technique called electrocauterization — with minimal discomfort or bleeding. Cryotherapy (freezing) is another option. Just don't attempt DIY skin surgery at home, says Kim. You could cause very real pain, as well as scarring and infection. Besides, a doctor should check any growth to rule out skin cancer.

Flatulence
Digestion typically slows with age, giving bacteria extra time to transform your meals into hydrogen and methane. The gas itself may not behave as discreetly as it once did, either; in an older person, it tends to build up in the lower colon before making a sometimes rapid and noisy escape, says Karen Hall, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan who specializes in geriatrics and gastroenterology. "There isn't necessarily more gas," she says, "but there's a higher potential for embarrassment."

Gas-producing foods such as beans, cabbage, and broccoli are healthful, so don't cut back too much. Try probiotics, gut-friendly bacteria available in supplements and foods like yogurt, kefir, and tempeh. A 2005 Mayo Clinic study of 48 patients found that taking probiotics containing acidophilus and bifidobacterium bacteria for 4 weeks decreased flatulence and bloating.
You can also keep excess air out of your system by going easy on carbonated beverages and slowly swallowing — not gulping — your meals and drinks. And get regular exercise, which keeps things moving in your digestive system, giving bacteria in your intestines less time to make gas.

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