Gut issues may indicate early Parkinson’s Disease

Gut issues may indicate early Parkinson's Disease

Gut Conditions May Indicate Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

It might come as a surprise, but constipation and difficulty swallowing, commonly associated with gut conditions, could potentially serve as early indicators of Parkinson’s disease. Recent research suggests that these gastrointestinal symptoms may precede the development of not only Parkinson’s disease but also other cerebrovascular conditions such as stroke, brain aneurysm, and Alzheimer’s disease. The study’s results have shed light on the significance of these gut conditions as possible early predictors of neurological disorders.

The study, led by Dr. Pankaj Pasricha from Mayo Clinic Arizona in Scottsdale, utilized data from a nationwide medical record network called TriNetX, to compare over 24,000 individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease with a group diagnosed with other neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease. The researchers matched the groups based on age, gender, race, ethnicity, and length of diagnosis.

To evaluate the hypothesis further, the researchers divided all adult participants who had been diagnosed with any of the 18 gut conditions into separate groups according to their specific condition. These individuals were then matched with people without the same gut condition and monitored for five years through their medical records to observe the development of Parkinson’s disease or other neurological disorders.

The findings, published online in the journal Gut, showed a significantly higher risk of Parkinson’s disease diagnosis associated with four particular gut conditions. Gastroparesis, which refers to delayed stomach emptying, dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, and constipation were all linked to more than double the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease within the five-year period before the diagnosis. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) without diarrhea was associated with a 17% increased risk.

“This study is the first to establish substantial observational evidence that the clinical diagnosis of not only constipation but also dysphagia, gastroparesis, and irritable bowel syndrome without diarrhea might specifically predict the development of Parkinson’s disease,” the authors stated in a news release.

Interestingly, the research also indicated a potential protective effect of appendix removal, raising questions about the role it may play in the disease processes leading to Parkinson’s disease. On the other hand, neither inflammatory bowel disease nor the removal of part or all of the vagus nerve to treat peptic ulcers were associated with a heightened risk.

Furthermore, individuals with Parkinson’s disease exhibited a greater prevalence of other gut issues, including a burning sensation or fullness in the stomach with no obvious cause, IBS with diarrhea, and diarrhea with fecal incontinence. These conditions were also found to be more prevalent before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or cerebrovascular disease, suggesting a possible common link between gastrointestinal issues and various neurological disorders.

Despite the significant findings, it’s important to note that the study has limitations. The monitoring period was relatively short, and since it was an observational study, it cannot establish cause and effect relationships definitively. Nevertheless, the researchers concluded that healthcare professionals should remain vigilant for gastrointestinal syndromes in patients at higher risk for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cerebrovascular disease. They also called for further investigation into the role of gut conditions as potential precursors to these neurological disorders.

This study emphasizes the potential value of gut conditions as early warning signs for Parkinson’s disease and other related disorders. As further research continues, medical professionals can potentially use these symptoms to identify individuals who may be at a higher risk for developing these neurological conditions, allowing for earlier intervention and management.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more on Parkinson’s disease.

SOURCE: Gut, news release, Aug. 24, 2023


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