Parkinson's study: 'Infrequent bowel movements' could increase Parkinson's risk fourfold


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Parkinson’s is a neuro-degenerative disorder that causes progressive disability which cannot be slowed nor stopped by treatment. The condition is often characterised by issues relating to the bladder and bowels. In fact, constipation is a common complication that is often noticed before motor symptoms such as tremors and stiffness, but it’s been poorly understood whether these contribute to the onset of the disease.

Constipation is defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week and is frequently accompanied by straining or a sensation of incomplete emptying.

Although there is no generally accepted number of times a person should go to the toilet, most healthy people will go around the same number of times a day.

According to scientific findings published in the journal Neurology, going more than twice a day may substantially lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers explained: “Constipation is frequent in Parkinson’s disease, although its onset in relation to clinical Parkinson’s has not been well described.

READ MORE:Parkinson’s disease symptoms: What is your posture like?

“Demonstration that constipation can precede clinical Parkinson’s disease could provide important clues to understanding disease progression and aetiology.”

The researchers made it the purpose of their study to examine the association between the frequency of bowel movements and the future risk of Parkinson’s.

They did this by collecting information on the frequency of bowel movements in 6790 men aged 51 to 75 years without Parkinson’s and assessing the incidence of the disease during a follow-up period of 24 years.

A total of ninety-six men developed Parkinson’s’ an average of 12 years into the study’s follow-up.


After adjusting for several other lifestyle factors, researchers were able to get a clear idea of the link between the number of bowel movements and Parkinson’s risk.

These factors included:

  • Age
  • Years cigarette smoking
  • Coffee consumption
  • Laxative use
  • Jogging
  • Fruit/ vegetable and grain intake.

Results showed that men with less than one bowel movement per day had a 2.7-fold excess risk of Parkinson’s disease, versus men with one bowel movement per day.

The risk of Parkinson’s in men with less than one bowel movement per day increased to a 4.1-fold excess when compared with men with two movements a day, and to a 4.5-fold excess versus men with more than two movements per day.

READ MORE: Parkinson’s disease symptoms: What is your posture like?

“Findings indicate that infrequent bowel movements are associated with an elevated risk of future Parkinson’s disease,” concluded the authors.

“Further study is needed to determine whether constipation is part of early Parkinson’s disease processes or is a marker of susceptibility or environmental factors that may cause Parkinson’s.”

Parkinson’s risk factors

The biggest risk factor for Parkinson’s is advancing age, with most people developing the disease after 60.

The condition is caused by certain nerve cells in the brain gradually breaking down or dying, which can lead to a cascade of symptoms.

The Mayo Clinic explains: “When dopamine levels decrease, it causes atypical brain activity, leading to impaired movement and other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.”

This can be caused by genetic changes in some cases, but this is uncommon except in rare cases.

The Mayo Clinic adds: “However, certain gene variations appear to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease but with a relatively small risk of Parkinson’s sieges for each of these genetic markers.”

Occasionally, exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors have been identified as the cause of the disease, but the risk of this is small.



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