Constipation is an early sign of Parkinson’s disease, research reveals.
It can start up to a decade before eventual diagnosis.
The first signs of the disease — including constipation — are often seen between the ages of 50 and 60.
Parkinson’s is a long-term neurodegenerative disease that causes problems with movement, including a characteristic shaking.
Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut and spread through the vagus nerve, which connects the gut to the brain.
Dr Elisabeth Svensson, the study’s first author, said:
“Patients with Parkinson’s disease are often constipated many years before they receive the diagnosis, which may be an early marker of the link between neurologic and gastroenterologic pathology related to the vagus nerve.”
The study included 14,833 people who had had their vagus nerve cut to treat ulcers.
The results showed that their risk of developing Parkinson’s was halved over 20 years.
The study suggests that Parkinson’s disease starts in the gut and spreads through the vagus nerve.
Dr Svensson said:
“We have conducted a registry study of almost 15,000 patients who have had the vagus nerve in their stomach severed.
Between approximately 1970-1995 this procedure was a very common method of ulcer treatment.
If it really is correct that Parkinson’s starts in the gut and spreads through the vagus nerve, then these vagotomy patients should naturally be protected against developing Parkinson’s disease.”
The cause of Parkinson’s is still unknown, although it is believed to be combination of genetic and environmental factors.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology (Svensson et al., 2015).