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Your Gut May Give Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s Disease – Here’s What You Need to Know

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Certain gut issues may signal if you are at higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study.

A New Study Finds Our Gut Might Predict Parkinson’s Years in Advance

Research indicates that certain gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, difficulty in swallowing, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) might serve as early indicators of Parkinson’s disease. This study was recently featured in the journal Gut.

It has been postulated in the past that symptoms in the digestive tract might appear before the emergence of conditions such as stroke, brain aneurysm, or Alzheimer’s. The new study further suggests that these gut issues might also appear before Parkinson’s disease develops.

To explore this theory, a study tapped into a US-wide medical database, TriNetX, and analyzed data from 24,624 individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s without a known cause. They were compared with those diagnosed with other neurological issues like Alzheimer’s (19,046) or cerebrovascular diseases (23,942), and another control group (24,624) without any of these conditions.

The aim was to see how often gut-related problems appeared in their health records, on average, six years prior to their diagnosis of Parkinson’s. The comparison took into account factors like age, sex, race, ethnicity, and duration since diagnosis.

The study methodology was further refined to group individuals based on any of the 18 identified gut issues. These groups were then monitored for 5 years to determine the onset of Parkinson’s or other neurological disorders.

The study revealed that four specific gastrointestinal conditions heightened the risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Notably, gastroparesis (a condition where the stomach empties slowly), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), and constipation increased the risk more than two-fold within the 5 years leading to a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Meanwhile, having IBS without accompanying diarrhea raised the risk by 17%.

Interestingly, individuals who had their appendix removed appeared to have a reduced risk, sparking inquiries about how this surgery might influence the progression towards Parkinson’s. On the other hand, neither inflammatory bowel disease nor vagotomy (surgery to remove part of the vagus nerve) showed a heightened risk factor.

While conditions such as functional dyspepsia, IBS with diarrhea, and combined diarrhea and fecal incontinence were more common in those with Parkinson’s, these symptoms also appeared before Alzheimer’s or cerebrovascular diseases were diagnosed.

It’s crucial to note that this research is observational and cannot confirm causality. The researchers pointed out potential limitations, like the short observation period and potential gaps in electronic health records.

However, the team concluded that this research offers significant observational evidence that certain gastrointestinal symptoms could potentially predict Parkinson’s disease onset.

They further stressed, “These findings warrant alertness for [gastrointestinal] syndromes in patients at higher risk for Parkinson’s disease and highlight the need for further investigation of [gastrointestinal] precedents in Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease.”

Source: 10.1136/gutjnl-2023-329685

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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