New research indicates that constipation may play a significant role in cognitive decline. This groundbreaking study highlights the interconnectedness of the body’s systems and the potential consequences when one system malfunctions. Although the study has not yet been published, the results were recently presented at a prestigious conference on Alzheimer’s disease. These findings shed light on the complex relationship between gut health and brain function.
Constipation, a common gastrointestinal problem, leads to 2.5 million doctor visits annually. Chronic constipation is characterized by bowel movements occurring every three days or less. This condition has been linked to several long-term health concerns, which can include inflammation, hormonal problems, and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. A survey conducted in 2012 revealed that constipation affects one-third of individuals over 60 years old and approximately 16 percent of the overall population.
A comprehensive analysis of three large studies involving more than 110,000 indiviuduals was conducted to explore the potential impact of constipation on cognitive health. Data on bowel movement frequency were collected between 2012 and 2013, and cognitive function assessments were carried out from 2014 to 2018 on nearly 13,000 participants. The results unveiled a significant association between infrequent bowel movements and poorer cognitive function, encompassing vital mental processes like information reception, processing, storage, and action.
The impact of constipation on cognitive function is significant, with constipated individuals experiencing cognitive decline comparable to aging 3 or more years beyond their actual age. Additionally, constipation is linked to a 73% increased risk of subjective cognitive issues. However, it is not only infrequent bowel movements that contribute to cognitive decline; even those who have more than two bowel movements a day face a slightly higher risk. These findings emphasize the importance of addressing bowel health in maintaining optimal cognitive function.
A possible explanation suggests that the bacteria present in our gut might be involved in the link between constipation and brain health. Individuals with lower levels of microbes, which support the gut barrier and assist in fiber digestion, were found to have more constipation and poorer cognitive abilities. Although these findings indicate a connection between chronic constipation and cognitive decline, it is important to note that correlation does not imply causation.