Doctors who take care of people with Parkinson’s have long known that the brain changes associated with the disease also come with a number of physical changes, especially in the digestive system. Patients often complain of constipation or bloating, difficulty swallowing and indigestion. Often these symptoms start years before the loss of motor control, the hallmark of the disease.

The state of the gut can affect the brain may at first sound unlikely, but Sarkis Mazmanian of the California Institute of Technology points out that up to 70% of the neurons outside of the brain exist in the intestines. This network of nerves is connected to the brain via the vagus nerve, which connects everything from the chest, lungs, and abdomen to the neck and larynx.

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