Probiotic Supplements Found to Ease Parkinson’s Constipation in Trial

Use of supplements also 'significantly' improved patients' quality of life

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Probiotic supplements were found to ease multiple measures of constipation in people with Parkinson’s disease in a small clinical trial.

According to researchers, the use of such supplements also “significantly” improved quality of life for patients with constipation problems.

“In this study, multi-strain probiotics were used to treat [Parkinson’s] constipation for 12 weeks and found that it was effective in improving the constipation symptoms and stool consistency of the patients,” the team wrote, adding that these findings are “consistent with the results of several other trials of probiotics for [Parkinson’s] constipation.”

Results were published in Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, in the study, “Probiotics for constipation and gut microbiota in Parkinson’s disease.”

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Constipation — unusually few bowel movements, with difficulty passing waste — is a common non-motor symptom in Parkinson’s disease. Here, scientists in China conducted a small clinical trial to test whether probiotic supplements can ease this symptom among patients.

Probiotics are bacteria that are thought to be beneficial for health. An increasing number of clinicians now recommend their use for easing constipation and other gut-related symptoms of Parkinson’s.

In addition to assessing how probiotic supplements affect patient-reported measures of constipation, the researchers also collected fecal samples to analyze how probiotics affected the composition of the gut microbiome — the billions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live inside of the digestive tract.

The study enrolled 46 Parkinson’s patients who reported clinically relevant constipation. Half of the participants were given probiotics for 12 weeks, or about three months. The other half, who served as controls, were not given supplements. Participants in each group otherwise continued their established regimes of Parkinson’s treatments.

By the end of the trial, the average number of weekly bowel movements was significantly higher in the probiotics group compared with the control group (1.09 vs. 0.04).

Moreover, average scores on several standardized measurements of constipation symptom severity and affect on quality of life — including the patient assessment of constipation symptom (PAC-SYM), Bristol stool scale (BSS), and patient assessment of constipation quality of life questionnaire (PAC-QOL) — all improved significantly in the probiotics group compared with the control group.

The analysis of fecal samples indicated that probiotic treatment altered the composition of the gut microbiome. For example, levels of a bacterial group called Negativicutes, which have been shown to be decreased in Parkinson’s patients, were higher after probiotic treatment. The abundance of Prevotellacea, a bacterial group associated with inflammation, decreased after probiotics.

The researchers noted that this study is limited by its small size and relatively short duration.

Also, different specific probiotic supplements may have different effects, the team noted. The supplement used in this study specifically contained Bacillus licheniformis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Enterococcus faecalis.

“More precise studies are needed in the future to clarify the mechanism of action of different probiotics, so as to provide the best strain combination and dosage regimen for the treatment of [Parkinson’s] constipation,” the team concluded.