Does Parkinson’s Begin in the Gut?

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

More proof that our gut health is intricately connected to our brain health is in the news, as a body of evidence links the neurodegenerative disease, Parkinson’s, to our intestinal tract. As reported by Scientific American, a growing consensus is that Parkinson’s doesn’t necessarily start in the brain. Rather, researchers are beginning to prove that the gut-brain highway that runs through the vagus nerve may play the key role in developing this dreaded disease.

Indeed, the connection between your gut and mental health appears to be so strong that some researchers suggested as many as five years ago that probiotics may one day take the place of antidepressant drugs. Two strains in particular, Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifdobacterium longum, seem to have a calming influence. Others may have similar effects, although more research is needed to identify them.

With Parkinson’s, a disease that affects a half-million people in the U.S., the latest studies on the vagus nerve and its ties to the brain suggest that lesions containing something called alpha-synuclean and found in people with Parkinson’s may contribute to the disease when the lesions migrate toward the brain.

As the research continues into this intriguing connection, all of this information should really drive home the point that optimizing your gut flora is of critical importance for good health and mental well-being. Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria is essential for maintaining proper balance, as beneficial bacteria help keep pathogenic microbes and fungi in check; preventing them from taking over.

Regularly eating traditionally fermented and cultured foods is the easiest, most effective and least expensive way to make a significant impact on your gut microbiome. Healthy choices include lassi (an Indian yogurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented grass fed organic milk such as kefir, natto (fermented soy) and various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots.

Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics are an exception if you don’t eat fermented foods on a regular basis.

Since it’s become increasingly clear that antibiotics, toxic chemicals, sugars and other toxic food products have a negative impact on your gut flora, it’s also important to strive to eat only whole, unprocessed foods with little or no fructose, and to avoid antibiotics unless you absolutely have to have them.

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