Constipation: an unrecognized symptom of Parkinson’s disease

Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are numerous, including tremors, memory and thinking problems, stiffness and pain. Constipation is another possible symptom of Parkinson’s disease. If a person has Parkinson’s disease, they may suffer from constipation. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the nervous system.
In this article, we discuss the connection between Parkinson’s disease and constipation, how Parkinson’s disease affects the digestive system, how constipation can manifest, and more.

How does Parkinson’s disease cause constipation?

Constipation is one of the most common non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, affecting up to two-thirds of people with the disease.
Constipation often occurs before motor symptoms appear. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a complex network of cells that controls a number of bodily functions. It plays an important role in regulating the activity of smooth muscles in the intestine. Parkinson’s disease can affect the ANS, which can cause it to malfunction. As a result, the intestinal tract can slow down, leading to constipation.

Certain medications for Parkinson’s disease can also cause constipation, including:

– levodopa
– dopamine agonists
– anticholinergics

How does Parkinson’s disease affect the digestive system?

Parkinson’s disease can affect the digestive system in several ways. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in controlling muscle movement in the body. It can stimulate the muscles of the digestive tract to help the digestive system work. Parkinson’s disease can lead to a deficiency of dopamine, which can cause a person’s digestive system to slow down or become inefficient. This can lead to constipation. Parkinson’s disease can also impair the normal functioning of the stomach, causing stomach contents to empty too slowly into the small intestine. Health experts call this condition gastroparesis.

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Gastroparesis is common in people with Parkinson’s disease and can lead to symptoms such as:

– nausea
– vomiting
– a feeling of fullness after eating a small amount of food.

This can lead to weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration. Also, Parkinson’s disease can impact the muscles involved in chewing, swallowing, and speaking.

Symptoms of Constipation

Common signs and symptoms of constipation include:

– the emission of stools less than three times a week
– passing dry, lumpy or hard stools
– difficulty passing stools
– pain when passing stools
– the impression that the stools have not all passed

Treatment of constipation related to Parkinson’s disease

There are a number of possible treatments for constipation due to Parkinson’s disease. Here are a few that a person may wish to consider.

Diet and lifestyle changes

One can try changing their diet and lifestyle to treat their constipation, including:

– add more fiber to their diet
– stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids
– engage in regular physical activity
– establish a routine and, if possible, try to have a bowel movement at the same time each day.

Medicines to treat constipation

People can also take medication for constipation. However, a person with Parkinson’s disease should first consult a doctor.

Common drug treatments for constipation include:

– bulky laxatives, such as psyllium
– milk of magnesia
– stool softeners,
– lubricants,
– stimulants

One of the most common laxatives used by doctors to treat chronic constipation, such as that of people with Parkinson’s disease, is polyethylene glycol, an osmotic laxative.


Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that can benefit a person’s health. They are present in the digestive system, but people can also add them to their diet by consuming certain foods and taking supplements. Probiotics can be an effective treatment for constipation related to Parkinson’s disease.

The authors of a 2021 study of 72 participants with Parkinson’s disease and constipation divided the participants into two groups. For 4 weeks, one group received multi-strain probiotic capsules, while the other group received a placebo. The study found that the multi-strain probiotic treatment was effective in treating constipation in people with Parkinson’s disease. Not only did it relieve the symptoms of constipation, but it also improved stool consistency and quality of life.

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Prevention of constipation linked to Parkinson’s disease

There is no specific method to prevent constipation related to Parkinson’s disease.

However, a person can try some of the following methods to reduce their risk of developing constipation:

– have a balanced diet rich in fiber
– drink water
– exercise regularly, preferably every day
– drink hot liquids, especially in the morning
– drink warm prune juice
– add prunes to your diet
– increase the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed
– incorporate bran cereals into your diet

Dietary fiber and Parkinson’s disease

Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods. There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. They add bulk to the stool and help prevent constipation. Soluble fiber absorbs water. They form a gel-like substance in the digestive system and can help lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar. Insoluble fiber plays a role in preventing constipation, and therefore a person with Parkinson’s disease may wish to add more insoluble fiber to their diet.

Foods that contain insoluble fiber are:

– whole wheat flour
– wheat bran
– nuts
– beans
– cauliflower
– green beans
– potatoes
A person should aim to consume 20 to 25 grams of fiber daily.

Fluid intake and Parkinson’s disease

Data suggests that low fluid intake may increase the likelihood of developing constipation. Certain medications for Parkinson’s disease can also increase the risk of dehydration. As people with Parkinson’s disease are at a higher risk of constipation, it is important that they drink enough fluids.
People with Parkinson’s disease should drink 6 to 8 cups of water a day to avoid constipation.

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When to contact a doctor

If a person has Parkinson’s disease and suffers from constipation, they should seek advice from a healthcare professional. The doctor will suggest diet and lifestyle changes that can help with constipation. He can also prescribe appropriate medications. A person should contact a doctor immediately if they experience constipation and the following additional symptoms:

– bleeding from the rectum
– blood in stool
– constant pain in the abdomen
– inability to pass gas
– vomiting
– fever
– lower back pain
– unexplained weight loss


Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that causes symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, pain and cognitive impairment. Constipation is another possible symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease can affect the autonomic nervous system, which plays a role in regulating the digestive system. By affecting the autonomic nervous system, the disease can slow digestion, leading to constipation. Certain medications for Parkinson’s disease can also cause constipation.
To treat constipation, a person with Parkinson’s disease should add fiber to their diet, drink plenty of water and other fluids, exercise regularly, and try to establish a regular bowel routine.


Mukherjee, A., et al. (2016). Gut dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease.

Pedrosa Carrasco, AJ, et al. (2018). Management of constipation in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Sanger, GJ (2016). Chronic constipation: Improved understanding offers a new therapeutic approach.

Tan, AH, et al. (2021). Probiotics for constipation in Parkinson disease: A randomized placebo-controlled study [Abstract].

Yu, Q.-J., et al. (2018). Parkinson disease with constipation: Clinical features and relevant factors.


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