Constipation and Gastrointestinal Issues in PD

Gastrointestinal problems can be part of Parkinson's Disease (PD). A common problem is constipation, which can pre-date motor symptoms by decades.  Another problem is gastroparesis.  Here are some resources to understand gastrointestinal problems (including constipation) and how to treat them.

Downloadable Documents | Online Articles | Podcasts & Webinars | Expert-level Resources

Downloadable Documents (PDF)

Bowel Management in MSA

Published by MSA Trust, July 2015

This eight-page fact sheet (PDF) addresses constipation specifically in Multiple System Atrophy, but the impairment of the autonomic nervous system is similar enough to Parkinson’s disease as to be useful here. There is a nine-point list of contributors to constipation, other problems that can occur due to bowel problems, management tips, and medication options.

Bowel Management Program

Published by Parkinson Society BC

While the best way to deal with constipation is to prevent it, this two-page fact sheet (PDF) shares tips and tricks to get things moving when you experience constipation, including recipes, when and how to administer an enema, and more.

Constipation & Parkinson's Disease

Published by the American Parkinson Disease Association, May 2022

This two-page fact sheet shares diet and lifestyle changes to improve constipation, as well as supplements and medications than can help.  
En Español, 4 pages: Constipación y enfermedad de Parkinson, 2017

Constipation & PD

By Mary L. Wagner, Robert S. Jenco, and Aksh K. Sharma.  Published by the American Parkinson Disease Association, September 2010

This six-page educational supplement (PDF) addresses causes of constipation, exercise and physical activity, dietary habits, medication that can cause or worsen constipation, change in lifestyle, and medication to treat constipation.  
En Español: Constipación y enfermedad de Parkinson, 2010

Constipation and Other Gastrointestinal Problems in PD

By Jean S. MacFadyen, PhD, RN, and Gwyn M. Vernon, MSN, CRNP.  Published by the Parkinson's Foundation

This eight-page document (PDF) discusses gastroparesis plus the prevention and management of constipation (including a list of oral laxatives, safety and health precautions).  And offers a constipation tracker chart.

Looking After Your Bladder and Bowels When You Have Parkinson’s

Published by Parkinson's Disease Society of the United Kingdom, 2013

This 36-page booklet (PDF) covers bladder and bowel problems, how they can be treated and who to contact for professional advice. Also gives practical tips on what you can do to make living with bladder and bowel problems easier.

Online Articles

Constipation and Dietary Needs

Published by the University of California School of Medicine, Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center

This page discusses what constipation is and why is occurs so frequently with Parkinson’s, why it is a cause for concern, and how it can be controlled.

Constipation and Nausea

Published by the Parkinson's Foundation

This online article notes that the same brain changes in PD that cause stiffness and slow movement also affect the muscles involved in swallowing and in pushing food through the digestive system. The article describes the factors that contribute to constipation, how to avoid constipation, and nausea.

Everything You Should Know About Parkinson’s Disease and Constipation

By Carly Vandergriendt.  Published by Healthline

This page provides the symptoms and frequency of constipation in Parkinson’s disease, several ways in which Parkinson’s affects the digestive system, other causes of constipation, treatment of Parkinson’s-related constipation, when to seek help, and how to prevent constipation.

Gastroparesis in PD - Symptoms & Treatment Options

By Maria De León, MD.  Published by, July 19, 2016

This blog post describes gastroparesis as the slow emptying of food from the stomach to intestines.  This poor motility can cause several unpleasant symptoms, and serious complications.  Medications commonly used in PD can cause and worsen the problem.  The author outlines the steps to diagnosis and several treatment options.

Parkinson’s Disease and Constipation

Published by the Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia, Better Health Channel

This information about constipation in Parkinson’s disease outlines symptoms, causes, complications when chronic, diagnosis, and treatment, including good toilet habits and when to urgently see your doctor.

Parkinson’s Treatment Tips for Constipation

Published by the University of Florida Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, September 12, 2011

This page outlines the causes of constipation in Parkinson’s disease and recommendations to prevent it.  Resources includes a natural recipe to increase fiber intake, a regimen for bowel clean out, and a list of medication options if exercise, hydration and fiber are insufficient.

Podcasts & Webinars

Constipation and the Gut in Parkinson's

By the Davis Phinney Foundation, September 21, 2021

One of the effects Parkinson’s has on the autonomic nervous system seems to be the slowing of food through the gastrointestinal tract, which can result in constipation (fewer than three bowel movements per week). As many as 80% of people with PD have constipaiton. In this 1-hour webinar Cherian Karunapuzha, MD, shares how you can best manage your bowel and urinary symptoms to live well with Parkinson’s.

Gut, Brain & PD

By the University of Colorado Movement Disorder Center, September 30, 2021

In this 28-minute talk, part of the University of Colorado Movement Disorder Center's 8th Annual Parkinson's Disease Symposium, movement disorders specialist Trevor Hawkins, MD, reviewed the pathways involved in the gut-brain axis, discussed the potential interactions of the gut-brain axis in PD, and reviewed the state of treatment for gut issues in PD.

What's Going On In My Gut - GI Issues and Parkinson's

By the Davis Phinney Foundation, June 18, 2013

In this 30-minute talk Leslie Cloud, MD, MSc explains the underlying causes, lifestyle tips, and treatment options for drooling, swallowing issues, nausea, slow stomach emptying, constipation, difficulty defecating.  She alto explained the complex interplay between Parkinson's motor medications and GI symptoms before answering questions.

When Parkinson’s Interferes with Gastrointestinal Function

By the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (Now the Parkinson's Foundation), June 24, 2014

This 63-minute audio with slides by Dr. Peter A. LeWitt discusses the effect of Parkinson’s disease on the gastrointestinal system, with particular focus on constipation.  Improving GI function can have a positive impact on the consistency of benefit from Parkinson’s disease medications.  Highlights of recent research into Parkinson’s disease originating in the GI tract, developing biomarkers for early diagnosis, and others.
Presenter's slides

Why Might Constipation be a Parkinson's Symptom?

By the Michael J. Fox Foundation Third Thursdays Webinar Series, July 16, 2015

This 62-minute audio with slides is presented as an interview of two neurologists and explains how the gastrointestinal musculature (stomach, intestines and anal sphincter) is well enervated and, therefore, affected by the loss of dopamine and deposits of alpha synuclein, just as the brain is.  Management options are discussed, and recent research into the microbiome and the gut/brain connection in Parkinson’s disease.  [Registration is required, but is free.]

Expert-Level Resources

Parkinson’s Disease and the Gut: Treatment Potential Abounds

By Nicola Davies.  Published by Neurology Advisor, September 10, 2018

Constipation is one of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and may precede onset of motor symptoms by as long as two decades.  This article explores the Parkinson’s-gut link and therapies targeting the gut that may relieve more than just gastrointestinal dysfunction and constipation.

Last updated August 2020 by Stanford Parkinson's Community Outreach.