Gastrointestinal disturbances are seen in nearly all patients with Parkinson's disease and lead to impaired quality of life, affect drug pharmacodynamics, and potentially worsen patient's existing motor fluctuations, leading to further disability. Recent evidence links abnormal accumulations of α-synuclein aggregates in the periphery (gut) as seen in the cortex which causes dysfunctions impacting every level of the gastrointestinal tract from the esophagus, to the stomach, small bowel, colon, and rectum and can even predate the onset of the central neurologic disorder itself. Many treatments exist for the clinical phenotypes that result from the autonomic dysfunction and neuropathy involved in this neurodegenerative disorder. The treatments for the gut dysfunction seen in Parkinson's disease (PD) depend on the specific area of the gastrointestinal tract affected. For dysphagia, behavioral therapies with speech pathology, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, or botulinum toxin injection may be helpful. For gastroparesis, domperidone may serve as an antiemetic while also blunting the hypotensive potential of Levodopa while new treatments such as ghrelin agonists may prove beneficial to help appetite, satiety, gastric emptying in those with constipation, and even improve constipation. Antibiotics such as rifaximin with poor systemic absorption may be used to treat small bacterial overgrowth also found in those with PD while the benefits of probiotics is yet to be determined. Finally, constipation in PD can be a reflection of pelvic floor dyssynergia, slow transit constipation, or both, thus treatments targeting the specific anorectal dysfunction is necessary for better outcomes.
Keywords: Constipation; Dysphagia; Gastroparesis; Motility; Parkinsons’s disease; Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome.