Parkinson’s disease causes multiple, life-changing symptoms; chronic depression, difficulty walking, dementia, uncontrollable tremors and losing your fine motor control. But what causes Parkinson’s?
Scientists have been studying this disease for years, but usually only focus on the brain. This is because the loss of cells in the brain in the area known as the substantia nigra (which controls movement and reward) is involved in the progression of the disease.
Recent studies seeking a connection between Parkinson’s and the nervous system have been a change of pace. Some of these studies have led to the discovery that there are different types of bacteria in the gut of those with Parkinson’s and those without.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham found evidence that ties the disease to the microbiota. Evenly balanced microbiota is known to be a critical factor for your general health and any alterations to this balance have been linked to multiple disorders.
This most recent study found differences not only in the number and type of bacteria between their two study groups (those with Parkinson’s and those without), but also a variety of metabolism for various medications.
Two possible causes of this last development have been theorized: either those with Parkinson’s who take various drugs were effecting the gut bacteria or the differences in gut bacteria effects how the body responds to these medications.
The link to gut bacteria as a cause or effect of Parkinson’s disease still needs to be determined. However, it is already known that your gut health does have an impact on your overall health.
Stanford University scientists Justin and Erica Sonnenburg wrote a book about healthy gut habits. In case you don’t have time to read the book, here are some suggestions from Everyday Health about how to keep your gut bacteria healthy:
- Eliminate sugar and processed foods: We digest these types of foods very easily and since gut bacteria focuses on mucus in the intestines, quickly digested foods enter our bloodstreams and cause inflammation.
- Add green plants and dietary fiber to your diet: Dietary fiber will give your gut bacteria plenty of food ensuring that it stays fit and healthy (just like you).
- Take probiotics: In a study done with mice, those that took probiotics were able to reverse symptoms of stress, anti-social behavior and gastrointestinal symptoms after taking probiotics. It is recommended to take probiotics that contain Lactobacillus plantarum,Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus brevis, Bifidobacterium lactis ( animalis), and Bifidobacterium longum. Always check with your doctor when you are considering a new medication or pill, even when it is available without a prescription.
Several studies have been done to further explore this possible link between gut health and Parkinson’s. In 2016, a study was done on mice to determine a link between mixes of gut bacteria and Parkinson’s. Click to read the full study on the possible link between gut health and Parkinson’s.
The U.S. study is mentioned above, but Sweden also did its own study. Sweden studied individuals who had undergone truncal vagotomies. This procedure includes removing sections of a nerve that is linked between the digestive tract and the brain. The study took five years. People who had this procedure done were less likely to develop Parkinson’s by 40 percent.
Scientists are still in the early stages of studying this link. Other factors still need to be taken into account and Parkinson’s is a very complex condition. Research such as this is a very important step in the direction of understanding this disease and helping those suffering from it in the future.