Parkinson’s has long been considered a genetic disease about which very little can be done.
A new study in the journal npj Biofilms and Microbiomes changes that.
It reveals a very preventable cause of Parkinson’s and a possible cure through simple lifestyle changes.
Gut bacteria activate many genes and produce thousands of molecules in our bodies, including in our nervous systems. Researchers call this the gut–microbiota–brain axis.
Many studies have found this axis to be partly responsible for causing Parkinson’s.
Most Parkinson’s patients have problems with gastrointestinal symptoms, such as chronic constipation and problems emptying their bowels.
The article’s authors searched the available medical literature to find studies that linked gut bacteria and Parkinson’s disease. All of the studies they surveyed compared the gut bacteria of those with and without Parkinson’s.
They discovered some definite trends:
1. The bacterial species Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Akkermansia were increased in Parkinson’s patients. All of these cause inflammation when they are present in large amounts.
2. Desulfovibrio bacteria were increased in Parkinson’s patients. They produce hydrogen sulfide, which causes inflammation.
3. Streptococcus bacteria were also increased. They don’t usually infect healthy people but quickly infect people with impaired immune systems. They are also pro-inflammatory.
4. Bacteria that are known to produce short-chain fatty acids were reduced in Parkinson’s patients. These included the species Roseburia, Faecalibacterium, Blautia, Lachnospira, and Prevotella. Short-chain fatty acids fight off inflammation.
Overall, pro-inflammatory bacteria were abundant and anti-inflammatory bacteria were reduced in Parkinson’s patients, suggesting that inflammation plays an important role in Parkinson’s disease.
It is important to note that none of these bacteria are unhealthy when present in our guts. For example, Bifidobacteria are some of the first bacteria to be present in breastfed infants. They help to prevent colon cancer, treat diarrhea, treat inflammatory bowel disease, and kill unhealthy bacteria.
Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Akkermansia are included in most probiotics precisely because they can outcompete harmful bacteria and thereby kill them, as the researchers acknowledge.
These bacteria become problematic, however, when they occur in very large amounts compared with other bacteria that appear in the gut.
This tends to happen when we eat a diet that includes a very small variety of foods, such as people who live mostly on meat, eggs, and cheese.
It also happens when people eat large amounts of refined carbohydrates instead of the fibrous carbs that feed a wider variety of bacteria.
Therefore, to maintain a healthy colony of various gut bacteria, eat a diet with lots of fiber, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.