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How laxatives can tell us more about Parkinson’s

Researchers from King’s College London have just undertaken a retrospective study to review laxative use among 79 patients with Parkinson’s disease. Each of the patients had been part of a gut-brain clinic that ran between August 2002 and July 2014. The results of the analysis showed that a combination of gut factors are linked to the disease mechanisms of Parkinson’s.

Constipation is often a problem for people with Parkinson’s disease

Constipation can often be a problem for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. For some people with Parkinson’s, this may be due to the fact that the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating even muscle activity, is no longer functioning properly. When the autonomic nervous system ceases to function well, the intestinal tract may also operate more slowly, thus causing constipation. Furthermore, constipation is one of the known side effects of medications typically used to treat Parkinson’s, such as Artane and Cogentin.

Regular use of laxatives may reduce the rigidity associated with Parkinson’s disease

As a result of the retrospective analysis, researchers have discovered that regular use of laxatives to manage constipation may also cause the rigidity associated with Parkinson’s disease to flatten off rather than increase. This was the case even in patients who were regular users of laxatives, but who had never taken any drugs to treat Parkinson’s. This result suggested to the team that some kind of modification of the underlying disease process was happening.

The study adds support to previous research on changes in the gut

These particular findings add support to previous research carried out by the team which indicated that some aspects of Parkinson’s disease may be affected by changes in the gut, such as an imbalance of the gut microbes. In particular, the researchers found that by removing Helicobacter pylori – bacterium that lives in the sticky mucus lining the stomach – there was a noticeable beneficial effect on the diminished movement that is so characteristic of the disease. Currently the researchers are trying to discover exactly which mechanisms are involved in this.

The study was carried out by Dr John Dobbs, Dr Sylvia Dobbs, Aisha D. Augustin, André Charlett, Clive Weller, David Taylor and Ingvar Bjarnason, and was published online in a recent edition of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

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