The cure to Parkinson's may be linked to your gut

Researchers believe that the gut-brain axis might have a role in the development of Parkinson’s.

Myupchar November 12, 2019 15:12:16 IST
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The cure to Parkinson's may be linked to your gut
  • Parkinson's is a chronic, neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain that control movement

  • Parkinson's can originate directly in your brain or from your gut and then affect the brain and its functions

  • Parkinson's disease can be sub-typed based on its origin - brain-first type and gut-first type

Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach in a stressful situation? Or felt nauseated before giving a presentation? What about a stomachache — technically intestinal pain — during exam time? All this, because your gut has a direct connection with your brain! Scientists call this path of communication between your gut and your brain the gut-brain axis.

Now, researchers say that this gut-brain axis might have a role in the development of Parkinson’s - a chronic, neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain that control movement.

The cure to Parkinsons may be linked to your gut

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

According to a study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, Parkinson’s can originate directly in your brain or from your gut and then affect the brain and its functions.

The researchers explained that Parkinson’s disease can be sub-typed based on its origin - brain-first type (central nervous system type) and gut-first type (peripheral nervous system type).

Gut-first type

Patients with Parkinson’s disease have a build-up of abnormal proteins called Lewy bodies in their nervous system. According to this research, in case of gut-first type Parkinson’s, the Lewy bodies that form inside nerve cells to cause the disease, were found in the gut and nose where they affected the peripheral nervous system (the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord) first and then the brain.

The researchers also said that with interventions targeting the gut — examples include probiotics, faecal transplants, and anti-inflammatory treatments — they might eventually be able to prevent the gut-first type of Parkinson’s.

More on the link

The link between gut microbes and brain function is well-established. Here’s how the body maintains the link:

Vagus nerve connection

The vagus nerve is the ninth cranial nerve. It oversees several body functions, including control over one’s mood, immune response, digestion, and heart rate. Scientists have found that the vagus nerve is one of the major connection between the gut and the brain.

Vagus nerve stimulation (with an electrical device) has proved effective for the treatment of refractory depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease.

Serotonin connection

Serotonin is a chemical messenger that transfers messages between two nerves. It plays a major role in gut-brain communication. It is responsible for the feelings of happiness and also helps control your body clock.

Enterochromaffin-like cells (ECCs) that are found in the gastric glands of the stomach contain more than 90% of the body’s serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT). 

Research shows that the central nervous system (brain and the spinal cord) activates ECCs to release serotonin into the gut, where it interacts with gut microbes. Simply put, the brain signals the chemical messenger to interact with the gut microflora. 

Disease connection

Studies in the past have also pointed out the connection between autism and the change in gut flora. Behavioural changes were seen in children with autism when gluten and casein were removed from their diet. 

They also found autistic traits in children with celiac disease, a disease where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.

If scientists continue to discover more links between microorganisms in the gut and brain function at this rate, there’s a good chance we may soon have the cure for health conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Parkinson’s Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment.

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