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How gut bacteria are linked to Parkinson’s Disease

“Parkinson’s Disease is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world” 1https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/

In the papers recently, there was an incredible story of Jo Milne, a woman who can detect Parkinson’s Disease in people using her unusually sensitive sense of smell. Milne noted a musty odour which signalled the disease with high accuracy.2https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/sep/07/woman-who-can-smell-parkinsons-helps-scientists-develop-test Scientists now believe that what Milne was smelling was a chemical change in skin oil, known as sebum, that is triggered by the disease.

As a result, scientists began focussing on disease-linked molecules found in skin swabs. A test using this information has now been successfully developed, which may contribute to the early detection of the disease in people who aren’t yet showing symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder affecting the brain, characterised by a loss of nerve cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. An accumulation of abnormal alpha-synuclein proteins damages the nerve cells that release dopamine which has a knock-on effect on the function of the central nervous system and overall motor function.3https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2021.636545/full,4https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15743669/

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease:

Researchers have noticed that gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation occur many years before the onset of motor symptoms and indeed the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. 7https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohamed-Elfil/publication/339478692 As well as environmental and genetic factors 8 https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohamed-Elfil/publication/339478692 , it is thought that the gut microbiome is involved in the development of Parkinson’s (PD). Inflammation and toxins, caused by gut dysbiosis, are thought to be possible causes of these neural changes and the effect on motor signals.9https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33417973/

Alterations in the gut microbiome are thought to cause disturbances in the enteric nervous system (the nervous system of the gut) as well as the central nervous system.10https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohamed-Elfil/publication/339478692 Neurotoxins and inflammatory chemicals produced as a result of gut dysbiosis may cause the build-up of these abnormal proteins within the enteric nervous system. 11https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34219519/ The vagus nerve provides a pathway for these toxins to be transmitted from the gut to the central nervous system 12https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33856024/, 13https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33881598/ where they affect the production of dopamine, and cause changes to the immune system and inflammatory response. 14https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mohamed-Elfil/publication/339478692.

Changes observed in the gut microbiome of patients with Parkinson’s:

Optimising gut health may improve symptoms and may slow the progression of the disease.21https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34219519/ Here are some ways to increase the levels of commensal bacteria in your gut:

Wondering about the state of your own microbiome? Take a microbiome test, and get a free 30 minute personal consultation from one of our Nutritional Therapists. Read more about our test here.

If you’d like to learn more about the connection between the gut and the brain, read this article by Shann Jones in our Gut Health Express blog!


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