There are many symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including tremors, problems with memory and thinking, stiffness, and pain. Another possible symptom of Parkinson’s disease is constipation.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a person has constipation if they have fewer than three bowel movements per week.

If an individual has Parkinson’s disease, it may cause them to experience constipation. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that affects the nervous system.

In this article, we discuss the link between Parkinson’s disease and constipation, how Parkinson’s disease affects the digestive system, how constipation can manifest, and more.

A person with Parkinson's disease who may also have constipation.Share on Pinterest
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Constipation is one of the most common non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, affecting up to two thirds of people with the condition.

Constipation often occurs before the onset of motor symptoms.

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 smooth muscle activity of the gut.

Parkinson’s disease can affect the ANS, which can cause it to function improperly. As a result, the intestinal tract can slow down, leading to constipation.

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

Parkinson’s disease can affect the digestive system in a number of ways.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in controlling muscle movement in the body. It can stimulate muscles in the digestive tract to help the digestive system function.

Parkinson’s disease can lead to dopamine deficiency, which can cause a person’s digestive system to slow down or function inefficiently. This in turn can result in constipation.

Parkinson’s disease can also impair the normal function of the stomach, causing the stomach contents to empty into the small intestine too slowly. Health experts call this condition gastroparesis.

Gastroparesis is common in individuals with Parkinson’s disease and can cause a person to develop symptoms such as:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • a feeling of fullness after eating a small amount of food

This can result in weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration.

Also, Parkinson’s disease can impact the muscles involved in chewing, swallowing, and speaking.

Common signs and symptoms of constipation include:

  • passing stool fewer than three times per week
  • passing stools that are dry, lumpy, or hard
  • having difficulty passing stool
  • experiencing pain when passing stool
  • feeling that not all stool has passed

There are a number of possible treatment options for constipation due to Parkinson’s disease. Below are some that a person may wish to consider.

Dietary and lifestyle changes

The NIDDK notes that there are some dietary and lifestyle changes people may try to address their constipation, including:

  • adding more fiber to their diet
  • staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other liquids
  • engaging in regular physical activity
  • establishing a routine and, if possible, attempting to have a bowel movement at the same time each day

Medications to treat constipation

Individuals may also take medications for constipation. However, a person with Parkinson’s disease should consult a doctor first.

Common medication treatments for constipation include:

  • bulk-forming laxatives, such as psyllium (Metamucil), methylcellulose (Citrucel), and polycarbophil (FiberCon, Konsyl)
  • milk of magnesia
  • stool softeners, such as Colace and Docusate
  • lubricants, such as mineral oil
  • stimulants, such as Correctol and Dulcolax

One of the most common laxatives doctors use to treat chronic constipation, such as that in 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 diets by eating certain foods and taking supplements.

Probiotics can be an effective treatment for Parkinson’s disease-related constipation.

The authors of a 2021 study involving 72 participants with Parkinson’s disease and constipation split the participants into two groups. Over the course of 4 weeks, one group received multi-strain probiotic capsules, while the other group received a placebo.

The study found that multi-strain probiotic treatment was effective at treating constipation in people with Parkinson’s disease. Not only did it alleviate constipation symptoms, but it also led to improvements in stool consistency and quality of life.

There is no specific method for preventing constipation resulting from Parkinson’s disease.

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

  • eating a balanced diet rich in fiber
  • drinking 48–64 ounces, or 6–8 cups, of water per day
  • exercising regularly, preferably every day
  • drinking warm liquids, particularly in the morning
  • drinking warm prune juice
  • adding prunes to their diet
  • increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables they consume
  • incorporating bran cereal into their diet

Dietary fiber, or roughage, is the indigestible part of plant foods. There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to stools and helps prevent constipation.

Soluble fiber absorbs water. It forms a gel-like substance in the digestive system and can help lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels.

Insoluble fiber plays a role in helping prevent constipation, and therefore, a person with Parkinson’s disease may want to add more insoluble fiber to their diet.

Foods that contain insoluble fiber include:

A person should aim to consume 20–25 grams of fiber per day.

Evidence suggests that low fluid intake can increase a person’s likelihood of developing constipation.

Some Parkinson’s disease medications can also raise an individual’s risk of becoming dehydrated.

As people with Parkinson’s disease have a higher risk of constipation, it is important that they drink enough fluids.

The Parkinson’s Foundation suggests that those with Parkinson’s disease drink 6–8 cups of water daily to help keep constipation at bay.

Bowel training and optimal toilet habits are an effective method of reducing the risk of constipation. By training the body to have a bowel movement at the same time each day, it is possible for a person to establish a more regular bowel movement routine.

One way of doing this is by trying to have a bowel movement 15–45 minutes after breakfast. This is because eating can help the colon move stool along.

It is also important that people with Parkinson’s disease give themselves enough time to have a bowel movement. They should use the bathroom as soon as they feel the need to go and should give themselves time to relax and not feel rushed.

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease may also find it beneficial to relax their muscles and put their feet on a footstool to feel more comfortable when on the toilet.

A person should also try pushing from their waist and avoid holding their breath and straining when on the toilet.

Complications of chronic constipation include:

If a person has Parkinson’s disease and is experiencing constipation, they should seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

A doctor will suggest dietary and lifestyle changes that may help with constipation. They may also prescribe suitable medications.

A person should contact a doctor right away if they have constipation and the following additional symptoms:

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 ANS, which plays a role in regulating the digestive system. By impacting the ANS, the condition can cause digestion to slow down, resulting in constipation.

Some Parkinson’s disease medications may also cause constipation.

In order to treat their constipation, a person with Parkinson’s disease should add more fiber to their diet, drink plenty of water and other liquids, exercise regularly, and try to establish a regular bowel movement routine.