The slow and decreased muscle coordination typical in Parkinson’s disease also affects the gastrointestinal tract. Stool becomes more difficult to pass and the frequency of bowel movements is reduced to less than three per week. Lifestyle changes and treatments exist to address constipation.
Constipation is common in the general population. But in people living with Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms of the disease can increase constipation problems.
You can relieve constipation with changes in your lifestyle and eating habits.
During digestion, the muscles of the intestine contract simultaneously to move the food bolus through the intestine and excrete the undigested material in the stool.
Parkinson’s disease causes degeneration of the neurons that control the intestine muscles, which slows down the digestive process and stool elimination. As a result, stool stays longer in the last part of the intestine, the colon, where liquid is reabsorbed by the intestinal wall, making it dry and harder to evacuate.
Symptoms of the disease can increase constipation problems. For example, less physical activity leads to less bowel stimulation. Difficulty chewing and swallowing may reduce the tendency to adopt a fibre-based diet and to drink enough water and beverages (1.5 litres per day).
Some medications can also cause a decrease in the frequency of bowel movements. Talk about this with your doctor.
Constipation is common in the general population. Lifestyle and diet changes can often solve this problem.
You should feel the benefits of these changes within 4 to 12 weeks. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise program to get your bowel into its new routine.
You also have access to over-the-counter medications in pharmacies or by prescription. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice and they will be able to help you choose.
Chronic constipation can lead to fecal impaction due to the accumulation of stool which dries out in the intestine. This “dry” mass then becomes increasingly difficult to evacuate. In this case, the use of stimulant laxatives will not be effective in evacuating the stool and will cause painful contractions of the colon muscles that will be felt as abdominal pain. Enema is then preferable.
Chronic constipation can also lead to watery diarrhea. In this case, the contractions of the colon’s muscles allow liquids from the intestine to pass around the “dry” mass.
Finally, passing dry stool requires intense and repeated pushes. The pressure exerted on the veins of the anus can lead to their inflammation and dilation. This can lead to bleeding and pain when the stool passes through the anal canal (hemorrhoids).
You can help your loved one by encouraging them to change their lifestyle and diet habits. You may also benefit from these changes.
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