Parkinson’s: has science been looking in the wrong place?

In this month’s New Scientist there was an article about Parkinson’s disease.  How researchers are now thinking they may be looking for the cause in the wrong place and that this debilitating chronic disease may actually arise from damage to the gut and not the brain.

Hang on a minute…is this news?!
At college we had the privilege of having Lucille Leader as one of our tutors.  A world-speaker and author of numerous books on Parkinson’s, she always stated, “first heal the gut.”  And this is because dysfunction of the gastro intestinal system does indeed have a huge impact on health.


Yes, I know it may seem to a lot of peeps that as a nutritional therapist I want to link the state of our gut to just about every disease going.
But is this so unreasonable, given the fact that approx. 80% of our immune system is located in the gut, and that we know that the brain and GI system are connected by a super highway of chemical information passing constantly between them ( good reason indeed for the gut’s name, ‘the second brain’)… and that virtually every week we seem to find out more about the importance of our microbiome;  about the foods which can improve that microbiome and the ones that may be causing pathogenic bacteria to run riot.
So many diseases & health conditions are being linked to the dysbiotic, out-of-kilter, bacteria living in the microbiome of our gastro intestinal tract.

What’s fascinating about Clare Wilson’s article in early December’s ‘New Scientist’ is not that she makes mention of Parkinson’s patients always having digestive problems (although this may give sceptics something to think about).   More interesting is that researchers have now carried out experiments showing  that the clumps which are found in the nerve cells of Parkinson’s patients’ brains – clumps formed from synuclein fibres – can actually travel from the gut to deep into the brain.

Already a decade ago, the article explains, pathologists reported finding these distinctive synuclein fibres in nerves within the gut (during autopsies).

Recently, a group of scientists in California at the Institute of Technology have been injecting these synuclein fibres into the stomach of mice, and found, 3 weeks later, that the fibres had travelled up to the base of the brain.   2 months after that these fibres had moved to those areas of the brain that control movement, a hallmark symptom area of Parkinson’s.
Not spooky, just another worthy study showing how the gut is implicated in diseases that medicine, until now, thought were confined to a distinct, specific organ.

What is also interesting is that the researchers believe “no single bacterium or virus has been pinpointed as the cause…..but early evidence suggests that people with Parkinson’s have different gut bacteria to healthy people…..It could be that having the wrong bacteria in your gut triggers inflammation……(and) Inflammation makes synuclein more likely to aggregate.”

The microbiome, once again, is the focal point of research.

So can it as simple as that?  Sort out your diet and your microbiome, and you may avoid these fibre clumpings in the brain, and the onset of Parkinson’s?

I think so (but then I would, wouldn’t I!)….
What do you think?

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