The Gut and Parkinson’s Disease

We’d been reading a lot about our gut health being linked to neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, so we went to visit Dr Ray Chaudhuri, Professor of Movement Disorders and Director Parkinson’s – this was one of our mot surprising episodes yet.

We found out that 1 in 50 of us over 80 will get Parkinson’s, so the importance of this new research hit us from the off set. From what we understood before, the Vagus nerve (the neural connection between the stomach and the brain) could only send signals down the way, butterflies in our stomachs from nerves etc, but now scientists have discovered the signalling also occurs in reverse, so toxins in our guts can travel up to the brain.

More reading on this here

Scientists are only just being able to uncover which microbes/toxins/fibres could be triggering the symptoms and attacking the brain, we found out more about this here.

We talked with Dr Chaudhuri about how these discoveries will help us work out whether we can, in fact, prevent Parkinson’s, but also how it is treated and how we monitor its development and what this means for the future.

We also him whether the new discoveries with links to Gut Health are trickling down in practice and how many years of research are we away from getting definite answers?

Fiona Paterson Guest blog:

200 years after James Parkinson’s famous essay, ‘An Essay on the Shaking Palsy,’ (which first established Parkinson’s as a recognised medical condition), scientists, Parkinson’s sufferers and those interested in the field, came together at King’s College London to discuss the new developments in Parkinson’s.

On the panel of esteemed experts was jazz musician, Barbara; made an expert only by the harsh reality that she has been living with Parkinson’s for almost 20 years. She talked candidly about her initial struggle with trying to keep off any drugs (it’s advised that Parkinson’s patients should stay off medication for as long as possible) whilst still trying to perform each night on stage. She spoke about how, with the help of Professor Ray Chaudhuri, she was able to control her Parkinson’s using a “personalised medicine” approach. He argued that if every Parkinson’s patient is different, why should we treat them as if they are all the same?

One of the key topics of discussion, which was also brought up at the Q&A session, was the effect your lifestyle and health (notably your gut health) can have on controlling or preventing Parkinson’s. This comes after new research showed that Parkinson’s might actually start in the gut. It could also explain some of the strange coincidences seen in the disease, such as why most Parkinson’s patients complain of constipation. Keeping this in mind, (and after speaking with Professor Chaudhuri See video here!, some ways in which Parkinson’s sufferers – or those worried about Parkinson’s through genetics or otherwise – could help themselves were discussed. Improving your gut flora through the consumption of red vegetables and introducing probiotics was shown (in some cases) to help with Parkinson’s patients tremor. Equally exercise, in any form, to ensure a healthy lifestyle was strongly advised.

After discussing the developments within the disease and ways to aid sufferers, a conclusion was drawn on the future of Parkinson’s. The experts spoke about their goals for researching Parkinson’s, which included improved diagnosis and management, plus raised awareness, as well as researching new drugs that could help with memory loss in Parkinson’s sufferers. Whilst there is still a long way to go in the development of Parkinson’s research, the future does look somewhat brighter and it’s encouraging to see so many people who are passionate about the issues surrounding Parkinson’s disease.

Fiona Patterson