The Parkinson’s gut health connection

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For decades, researchers have thought that Parkinson’s is a disease that starts in the brain, and yet despite all their efforts there is still not a clear understanding of what exactly causes the condition.

In a nutshell, here’s what we do know: Brain changes linked to Parkinson’s affect the brain’s ability to be the “command center” of your movement and coordination, leaving you with tremors and rigidity that is difficult to control.

Shifting the focus

Recently, the results of a new study seem to be pushing everything we thought we knew about Parkinson’s in an unexpected new direction.

Swedish researchers now believe that Parkinson’s disease may actually start in the gut.

If you are a regular reader of The Daily Health you’ll know that I believe the gut is like our second “brain”… In fact, there are more than 100 million nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract from top to bottom that control digestion, immunity, and even your mood.

This latest study followed about 10,000 patients who had the main trunk of their vagus nerve, which extends from the brain stem to the abdomen, surgically removed (a procedure called vagotomy).

At the end of five years, the vagotomy patients were 40 per cent less likely to develop Parkinson’s than people in the general population who didn’t have the surgery.

Translation: Parkinson’s may start in the gut and spread to the brain by following nerve pathways.

The vagus nerve stimulates your stomach to produce the acid needed for digestion. In people who produce too much acid, vagotomy is a last resort when diet or medication don’t reduce it.

Of course, getting a vagotomy to prevent Parkinson’s is a bit extreme, but what you can do is to start taking better care of your gut health. Another recent study found that having a healthy balance of gut bacteria could actually help protect your brain cells from Parkinson’s damage.

In this study, researchers found that your gut’s “good” bacteria can trigger an immune response that discards damaged neurons and preserves healthy ones when brain cells are attacked by Parkinson’s.

Keeping your gut healthy is as easy as getting a daily dose of probiotics (“good” bacteria) from fermented foods like yoghurt and sauerkraut and by eating a clean, high-fibre diet like the Paleo diet.



Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.

Sources:

Parkinson’s Disease May Originate in the Gut, newsmax.com/Health/Health-News/Parkinsons-disease-originate-vagus/2017/04/27/id/786735/

Vagotomy and Parkinson Disease, neurology.org/content/early/2017/04/26/WNL.0000000000003961

The Brain-Gut Connection, hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection

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