Researchers have discovered a link between being regularly constipated over a long time and a decline in brain capacity. This implies that people who don’t poo as often might not be as intellectually sharp. The research reveals that those who are constantly constipated are 73% more likely to experience a drop in cognitive skills in their later years.
Associate Professor Chaoran Ma, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences, along with Dr. Dong Wang from Harvard Medical School, led the groundbreaking research. The study, currently under review for publication, was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in the Netherlands. The team’s extensive research involved the analysis of data from 112,753 women and men from three previous studies. The data considered was related to the participants’ bowel movement frequency, collected between 2012 and 2013, and assessments of their cognitive function from 2014 to 2017. Further cognitive assessments were taken between 2014 and 2018.
Participants who only had bowel movements every 3 or more days demonstrated significantly worse cognition, equivalent to 3.0 years more of cognitive aging. There was a slightly increased risk of cognitive decline among people who had more than two bowel movements in one day. Researchers were surprised at the strength of the associations, particularly in those with very infrequent bowel movements.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The researchers also delved into the connection between gut health and brain function. The microbiome, which is made up of microbes that can both help and harm the body, plays a significant role in this relationship. Ma’s study looked at subjective cognition among 515 women and men, finding a significant association between bowel movement frequency and subjective cognition with the overall variation of the gut microbiome and specific microbial species. She stated, “Individuals with specific microbial profiles in the gut, i.e., more bacteria that can cause inflammation and fewer bacteria responsible for digesting dietary fibers, had less frequent bowel movements and worse cognitive function.”
Consequences for Public Health
The findings underline the necessity for doctors to discuss tummy health, particularly toilet issues, with the elderly. Persistent issues with using the bathroom may arise if you don’t consume adequate fiber, stay hydrated, take certain types of medications such as powerful pain relievers, or suffer from physical conditions like hemorrhoids. Belly troubles like a disturbed gut can also make toilet use difficult. Apart from addressing these tummy troubles seriously, it’s beneficial to maintain a nutritious diet rich in fiber and polyphenols-filled foods such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Daily consumption of plenty of water and keeping physically active can also be advantageous.
The Impact on Cognitive Health
According to the National Institute of Aging, “cognitive health” means being able to think clearly, learn new things, and remember details. Considering that around 55 million people worldwide are dealing with dementia, mainly from Alzheimer’s disease, it’s crucial to understand how closely our gut and brain interact. Maria C. Carrillo, a leading scientific expert at the Alzheimer’s Association, highlights the importance of a thorough plan to avoid or deal with problems related to our mind and thinking. She states that what happens in our bloodstream has a direct effect on our brains.
Even though we need to study more, the link between long-term constipation and a decrease in brain function offers a fresh perspective on how we think about brain health. As researchers keep looking into this interesting connection, it’s obvious that taking care of our digestive system has become very important.