There is more and more scientific evidence that suggests a connection between gut health and the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
New research shows that some protein key in the development of the disease can spread to the gastrointestinal tract all the way up to the brain, according to The Guardian. Our bodies naturally form this protein that can be found in the nerve endings in the brain. But there are versions of this protein that are misfolded and can clump together, hurting nerve cells in the process. Also, they can lead to deteriorating of the dopamine system and developing speech and moving problems. All of these are hallmarks of Parkinson’s.
How does gut health affect Parkinson’s?
Lately, everything is about the healthy gut. There are many studies in that direction that point to plenty of health issues. To all of that research, we add these recent studies that look at the connection between gut health and brain health. Some studies done on lab mice confirm an older theory about this protein, which says that the misfolding occurs for the first time in the gut. Then they spread to the brain through the vagus nerve. This nerve is a cluster of fibers that begins in the brainstem and which transport signals to and from many of our organs, including the gut and the stomach.
“It supports and really provides the first experimental evidence that Parkinson’s disease can start in the gut and go up the vagus nerve,” said Ted Dawson, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University school of medicine. He is a co-author of the research.
“We have what we think is a really accurate [animal] model that can be used to work out mechanisms – but also to test therapies,” said Dawson. He believes that scientists can interfere with the misfolding of the protein and effectively stop Parkinson’s from developing.