As I’ve mentioned before, already having 2 friends with Parkinson’s has made me particularly interested in anything that might help. Recently, research[i] came out showing that people who have had an operation called a truncal vagotomy – in which sections of the vagus nerve are removed – have a 40% less chance of developing Parkinson ’s disease. The research provides yet more proof that Parkinson’s likely begins in the gut. (As I’ve written about, we also know that people with Parkinson’s have abnormal gut flora, and often, have GI symptoms (like constipation) years before the disease manifests.
The vagus nerve, the longest nerve extends from the brain stem through the gut and many other organs of the body. Vagus means “wandering” with the same Latin origin as words like vagrant, vague and vagabond.[ii] We already know that, through excreted chemicals, bacteria in the gut talk directly to the brain via this nerve. A vagotomy is apparently a treatment for ulcer if the stomach is producing dangerous amounts of acid. Somehow, cutting the connection (at least in part) between the gut and the brain – which I suppose must mean that signals from inflammatory bacteria aren’t causing adverse effects in the central nervous system – reduces the risk of Parkinson’s.
I also just found information about a paper[iii] from this past February that shows that the antibiotic, doxycycline, may be an effective treatment for Parkinson’s. Low levels of the antibiotics “reduce the toxicity of alpha-synuclein, a protein that, under certain conditions, forms abnormal accumulations of aggregates in central nervous system cells [those that produce dopamine], which are damaged as a result.” Apparently, doxycycline also has an anti-inflammatory effect, and would of course alter the gut bacterial microbiome, as well as “alters the expression of key genes for the development of Parkinson’s.” In animals, the antibiotic has a dramatically positive effect. Clinical trials in humans should hopefully start soon.
Now that research has focused on the gut-brain connection in Parkinson’s, it seems like some real progress is finally being made, thank goodness. In the meantime, those affected would do well to really work on improving the quality of their biomes as it certainly could only do good.