From reducing inflammation and improving immunity to preventing certain diseases, good gut health is essential for overall well-being. Researchers have found more evidence of the link, as a recent study reveals that certain gut conditions could be early warning signs of Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder that affects the brain and the central nervous system and causes uncontrollable movements such as shaking, stiffness and loss of balance. It is estimated that around 90,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the debilitating condition every year and more than 10 million people worldwide suffer from it. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for it.

Earlier studies have linked brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and cerebrovascular diseases to gut disorders. Then in the new study published in the BMJ journal, researchers tested Braak's hypothesis, which states that the origin of Parkinson's disease is in the gastrointestinal tract.

The findings of the study indicate that digestive issues such as constipation, gastroparesis (improper stomach emptying), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) without diarrhea can increase the risk of Parkinson's disease.

To test the hypothesis, the researchers used data from the U.S. nationwide medical record network (TriNetX). The team compared the records of 24,624 people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease without a known cause to those of people diagnosed with other neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, cerebrovascular disease and people without any of these conditions. The researchers evaluated the frequency of gut conditions in all these groups.

The hypothesis was further tested differently by dividing all the adults in the network with gut conditions into separate groups. Participants within these groups were paired with those who did not have any specific gut condition. Using medical records, they were closely observed for five years and tracked for the occurrence of Parkinson's disease or any other neurological disorders in them.

The findings suggest that among the 18 gut conditions analyzed, four of them increase the risk of Parkinson's disease. While gastroparesis, dysphagia and constipation double the risk of Parkinson's disease, IBS without diarrhea is linked to a 17% greater risk.

Researchers also found that appendix removal has a protective role against Parkinson's, although they did not study the cause behind the link.

"This study is the first to establish substantial observational evidence that the clinical diagnosis of not only constipation but also dysphagia, gastroparesis and IBS without diarrhea might specifically predict the development of PD, whereas other exposures were less specific. An appendectomy appeared protective, leading to further speculation about its role in PD pathophysiology," the researchers wrote.

"These findings warrant alertness for gastrointestinal syndromes in patients at higher risk for Parkinson's disease and highlight the need for further investigation of gastrointestinal precedents in Alzheimer's disease and cerebrovascular disease," they added.