Gut issues such as constipation, IBS and difficulty swallowing could be early warning signs for Parkinson’s disease, a new study has found.
Alzheimer’s disease, brain aneurysms and strokes have been linked to poor gut health – but until now there has been no clear relationship with Parkinson’s.
Researchers from the US and Belgium compared the medical records of around 24,000 people from the US who have Parkinson’s – with 19,000 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and a further 24,000 with cerebrovascular disease.
The peer-reviewed findings, published in the BMJ, are the “first to establish substantial observational evidence” that various digestion issues “might specifically predict the development of Parkinson’s disease”, they said.
They compared Parkinson’s patients with those of the same age, sex, race and ethnicity from the other two groups to see how many had gastrointestinal problems in the six years before they were diagnosed.
The authors also compared the records of everyone in the study who had 18 different gut issues to see how many developed the neurological disorders over a period of five years.
People who had difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and gastroparesis, which is when food takes longer to move from the stomach to the small intestine, were more than twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s.
Those who had constipation were 17% more likely to do so.
People with appendix removed less likely to get diagnosis
However those with inflammatory bowel disease did not have a higher chance of getting a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
People who had had their appendix removed were also less likely to get one, the authors found.
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They have warned the findings “warrant alertness” among those with gut issues to look for other early symptoms of neurological decline.
There are currently around 8.5 million people with Parkinson’s worldwide.
There is no cure. Symptoms start mildly but gradually progress. They include tremors, slow movement, and problems with speech, eating and balance.