How to Deal with Constipation in Parkinson’s Disease?

It is estimated that over 50% of Parkinson’s patients experience constipation, which is one of the key symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that causes discomfort to patient’s daily life. Unlike other symptoms, this problem can possibly be treated without medication – by making some changes in diet and other lifestyle behaviors. 

Here, you will get to know 4 key ways that help you dealing with constipation in Parkinson’s disease.

constipation in Parkinson's disease

People with Parkinson’s disease are usually complaining of frequent constipation and it is thought to be a side effect of medication. But this could also be one of the earliest symptoms of the disease.

In recent years, researchers have increasingly realized that there is a strong connection between constipation and Parkinson’s disease. They think that frequent constipation is the indication of certain cells in the brain that are linked to Parkinson’s. Since this problem appears many years before the onset of motor symptoms, it could be used as a useful criterion for the early diagnosis.

Why Constipation Occurs in Parkinson’s?

Although there are many causes of constipation in Parkinson’s disease, researchers have highlighted four main factors that are more likely contributing to this problem. These are:

1. Dopamine Deficiency

Dopamine is a well-known neurotransmitter that controls body movements and coordination.

In Parkinson’s disease, the brain becomes unable to produce a sufficient amount of dopamine. In addition to other movement abnormalities, the lack of dopamine disrupts the bowel movement, and leads to constipation.

2. Medication

Medication in Parkinson’s disease is often considered the main reason for constipation in patients. The drugs used to treat Parkinson’s symptoms may affect normal motion of bowel and prompt constipation. This is particularly true for drugs come from anticholinergics and amantadine classes. Parkinson’s patients on these drugs may experience constipation more frequently compared to those who are not.

3. Certain Foods and Drinking not Enough Water

Eating certain foods can cause Parkinson’s patients to be constipated. It could be a specific food or a combination of different things. Drinking not enough water can also be the reason for the body to be constipation. If the body is not properly hydrated, the stool becomes hard and makes it difficult for the colon to pass it through.

4. Lack of Exercise

Exercise is often been linked to constipation in Parkinson’s disease. It is important for the food to be efficiently digested and removed from the body. So those patients who don’t do regular exercise may frequently experience constipation compared to those who do.

How to Deal with it?

Like other symptoms of Parkinson’s, constipation should also be treated properly. Because if not treated properly, it can lead to a number of other problems in patients. For example, it can cause abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, vomiting, and weight loss. In some patients it also lead to intestinal obstruction and bleeding.

So here are 4 ways that you can use to deal with constipation!

1. Do Changes in Your Diet

Diet can make a huge difference when it comes to dealing with constipation. Making small and simple changes in your diet can certainly improve not only constipation but also other problems of Parkinson’s.

You need to add certain foods in your diet that when consumed stimulate the normal motion of your bowel and relieve constipation. And avoid other types of food that can further worsen the constipation.

So here is what you need to eat and drink in order to relieve constipation.

Food with High Fiber

Fibers are plant-based carbohydrates that are present in fruits (oranges, apples, strawberries), vegetables, cereals, and pulses. Research shows that eating fiber-rich foods may help to control constipation.

The intake of fiber caused the stool to absorb more water. This makes it bigger and softer and allows passing easily through the intestine, which removes it quickly from the body.

Eat Prunes

Prunes have become an increasingly popular natural remedy for treating constipation. These are rich in natural laxative sorbitol, which is an artificial sweetener that promote bowel movement.

A study involving 30 men with chronic constipation recommended sorbitol as a cost-effective alternative to lactulose for the treatment of constipation.

In addition to sorbitol, prunes are also contained insoluble fiber, which is highly recommended for Parkinson’s patients.

Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking plenty of water is important for all Parkinson’s patients, but it is even more important for those who frequently experience constipation.

Research suggests that drinking not enough water is the main reason of constipation in Parkinson’s disease. A study in patients with Parkinson’s disease conducted in Japan showed that decreased water intake from early life was strongly linked to constipation in patients.

Drink Coffee

There is a little confusion about the use of coffee in constipation. Coffee has a dehydrating property and some researchers think it may interfere with bowel movement and contributes to constipation.

Others think that coffee has the ability to stimulate the muscles in your gut and so can help to relieve constipation. One study showed that coffee (caffeinated) has 60% more effect on stimulating the gut activity than water. It because of this effect, many researchers recommend drinking a moderate amount of coffee to avoid constipation in Parkinson’s.

So now you know what to eat and drink, let’s discuss what not to eat and drink to avoid constipation or make it worse!

Avoid Eating White Rice and White Bread

While brown rice may help relieve constipation, white rice may have the opposite effect. Unlike brown rice, white rice lacks fibers and nutrients. It’s rather rich in starch content, which is slowly digested and cause significant bloating.

Similar is the case with white bread. It is made of wheat that lacks most of its fiber content. This caused the stool hard and makes it difficult for the colon to remove it from the body. Therefore, try to avoid using white bread or anything made from white floor like cakes, cookies, donuts, and bagels.

Stay Away from Red Meat

Parkinson’s patients are recommended to stay away from red meat while constipated. This is because red meat contains proteins and unhealthy fats that are difficult for the body to digest quickly. Red meat is also rich in iron, which is hard on the digestive tract and so can easily contribute to the constipation problem.

Stop Taking Dairy Products

Parkinson’spatients should try to avoid excessive use of dairy products like cow milk, hard cheeses, sour cream, and high protein yogurts (Greek yogurt). These products contain casein, which is a sticky protein and is very hard to digest, irritate the bowel motion and worsen the constipation.

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Excessive intake of alcohol can contribute to constipation. It does so through dehydration. The presence of alcohol in the body reduces the release of a hormone called antidiuretic hormone. This hormone helps the body to preserve water and use it for the stool to absorb so that it becomes soft and eliminate smoothly from the body.

Parkinson’s patients are recommended to replace alcohol with water or another hydrating beverage during constipation.


2. Do Abdominal Massage Therapy

Abdominal massage is becoming a very popular treatment option for people with constipation. It helps to activate normal motion of your bowels and relieve the symptoms of constipation.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found abdominal massage an effective treatment approach for constipation. In this study, nine adults with constipation were participated in abdominal massage sessions. The participants found the massage pleasant and began to feel embraced and in safe hands. They described that not only their bowel habits were improved but also their agony was gone and they felt relieved.

Parkinson’s patients are recommended to do abdominal massage therapy at least once a day, either yourself or with the help of your healthcare provider.

3. Follow a Squatty Potty Posture in the Toilet

A proper posture while sitting on the commode in the toilet is very important for controlling constipation. But this is ignored by most people.

We usually follow a slump posture while sitting in the toilet. This position is not good for proper elimination as it makes a kink in the rectum and restrains the outward movement of bowel which makes the constipation more worsen.

To avoid this, researchers recommend following a squatty potty posture. In this posture, your sitting position makes an angle in a way where your knees are above your hips, the same like you do squats. This position makes the rectum like a shoot that allows the bowel to eliminate out the stool more easily.

Using a western toilet commode can make it very hard to get into squatty potty position. However, a toilet stool can make it easier for you. So use a small stool available in your house that allows to raise your knees above your hips and make it to a squatty position when sitting in the toilet. You can also buy a squatty potty stool, which is especially designed for squatty potty position.

4. Take Medications

This option should be considered if the above-mentioned therapies have failed. You will need to discuss it with your healthcare provider why changes in the lifestyle didn’t had effects on treating constipation and maybe you should consider taking drugs. Your healthcare provider may prescribe one of the FDA approved drugs like lubiprostone and linaclotide.

Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.


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