Scientists have been studying the connection between our gut microbiome and neurological diseases for some time. However, a new study published in Nature Communications just made an incredible discovery – Parkinson’s Disease (PD) may start in our gut and spread to our brain.
What Did the Study Find?
The study took stool samples from 490 people with Parkinson’s Disease and 234 “control” healthy individuals to compare microbial DNA.
After sequencing the samples, they found that those with Parkinson’s were lower in short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate and propionate. SCFAs are known for their anti-inflammatory effects within the body. Additionally, these samples were higher in “good” probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium.
The study also found that an overabundance of bacteria in the gut can lead to inflammation, which can then travel to other parts of the body – including the brain. This could explain why some people with PD experience digestive issues, such as constipation, early on in their diagnosis.
The researchers also found that certain bacteria, specifically those associated with PD, form clusters in the gut that work together to cause inflammation and damage cells.
Furthermore, these bacteria produce toxins and molecules that increase alpha-synuclein pathology – abnormal clumps of proteins in nerve cells associated with Parkinson’s. These toxins can spread from one part of the body to another via neural pathways.
What Does This Mean for Those at Risk for Parkinson’s?
This new research is exciting because it suggests that by analyzing our gut microbiome, we may be able to identify markers for PD before neurological symptoms appear. This could give us an earlier opportunity to intervene and potentially slow down or even prevent its progression.
And while there’s still more research to be done on how our diet or lifestyle may affect our risk of developing PD, this study provides further evidence that what we eat and how we live can help protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.