The Link Between Parkinson's Disease and Gut Bacteria

What is the link between Parkinson’s and gut bacteria imbalance? | 3 min read

There is bidirectional communication between the gut microbiota and the brain. The gut microbiota can alter brain function by acting on neuronal pathways, modulating the immune system, or producing chemical messengers. People with Parkinson’s disease show an imbalance in gut microbiota; common gut bacteria play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease (PD) by causing aggregation of the alpha-synuclein protein, a key feature in the pathology of PD.

Gut microbiota, gut microbiome, or gut flora, are the microorganisms that live in the digestive tract to help digest food and may support immune, heart, and brain health, among other benefits. In contrast, PD is a progressive disorder that affects the nerve cell in the part of the brain and body parts controlled by the nerves. Symptoms start slowly.

What are the symptoms of PD?

  • Tremor. Rhythmic shaking, called tremor, usually begins in a limb, often the hand or fingers. The hand may tremble when it’s at rest. The shaking may decrease when the patient is performing tasks.
  • Slowed movement, known as bradykinesia. Over time, Parkinson’s disease may slow the patient’s movement, making simple tasks difficult and time-consuming. The steps may become shorter when they walk. It may be challenging to get out of a chair. They may drag or shuffle their feet trying to walk.
  • Rigid muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of the body. The stiff muscles can be painful and limit the range of motion.
  • Impaired posture and balance. The patient’s posture may become stooped, fall, or have balance problems due to Parkinson’s disease.
  • Loss of automatic movements. You may be unable to perform unconscious activities, including blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms when you walk.
  • Speech changes. Patients may speak softly or quickly, slur, or hesitate before talking. The speech may be more monotone than the usual speech patterns.
  • Writing changes. It may become hard to write, and the writing may appear small.

However, following a balanced diet improves general well-being and boosts your ability to deal with PD symptoms. Eating plenty of whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean protein, beans and legumes, and whole grains, and staying hydrated are good ways to stay energized and healthy overall.

What foods improve PD?

  • Antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against oxidative stress, an imbalance of antioxidants, and unstable compounds called free radicals that occur in Parkinson’s. The following foods contain large amounts of antioxidants, nuts, berries, nightshade vegetables, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Fava beans. Contain levodopa — the same compound used in some Parkinson’s drugs.
  • Omega-3 foods. Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve brain function in those with Parkinson’s. These omega-3 fats are found in salmon, halibut, oysters, soybeans, flaxseed, and kidney beans.
  • Certain nutrient-dense foods. Malnutrition is a risk factor for mental decline. Here are some food sources of nutrients that may help improve DP:

Iron: spinach, beef, tofu, and fortified breakfast cereals

Vitamin B1: pork, beans, lentils, and peas

Zinc: whole grains, red meat, oysters, and chicken

Vitamin D: salmon, tuna, fortified dairy products, and cod liver oil.

Calcium: dairy products, green leafy veggies, and fortified soy products

When to consult an Intercare doctor?

Consult an Intercare doctor if you have any of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease — not only to diagnose the condition but also to rule out other causes for your symptoms. Signs of Parkinson’s disease can look like those of other conditions affecting the nervous system.


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