By now, you all know that I am particularly interested in Parkinson’s disease (PD) research as I have two friends who are both suffering from it – both diagnosed early (one in his 40s, one in his 50s). I’ve been following the research on the gut-brain connection, and have written several times about his already.
I was particularly excited then to come across an article yesterday entitled, The gut-brain axis in Parkinson’s disease: Possibilities for food-based therapies.[i] You also all know I get pretty pumped when research actually suggests treatment that can be instituted NOW. This one made my day.
The writers emphasize that Parkinson’s “…symptoms go beyond motor dysfunction, since PD patients very often develop non-motor symptoms, including cognitive impairment…pain, depression, tiredness…and most commonly, gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction.” What was new to me is that these symptoms may appear years before the classic motor issues that lead to diagnosis and more than that –“…their occurrence in otherwise healthy people has been associated with an increased risk of developing PD.”
Research is showing pretty conclusively that PD likely starts in the nose or the gut, our gateways to the outside world. The pathological process that appears to cause PD may start with a toxin, a pathogen or a negative change to the microbiome. The exact cause is still not known. (Still, it seems like an awfully good idea to me to work on maintaining the health of your biome. I may have mentioned that before…)
There is so much information in this article that I almost don’t know where to start. A few of the highlights then, to not have this post be excessively long:
So, what can be done now to potentially ameliorate some of the symptoms of PD and/or slow down the progression of the disease?
Of course, I’d personally add helminths to this list, for both their direct anti-inflammatory effect (since inflammation and oxidative stress are both crucial in the development of PD) and their effect on the bacterial microbiome.
By the way, one last really important point: the GI dysfunction found in PD causes poor absorption of l-dopa, the primary medication to treat the symptoms of the disease. Over time, l-dopa causes monstrous side effects and also, eventually stops working altogether. Improved GI function would allow doctors to have to prescribe less l-dopa…reducing side effects and making it effective for longer.
[i] Perez-Pardo, P, Kliest, T, Dodiya, HB, Broersen, LM, Garssen, J, Keshavarzian, A, Kraneveld, AD. The gut-brain axis in Parkinson’s disease: Possibilities for food-based therapies. European Journal of Pharmacology. 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejphar.2017.05.042.