A few years ago, we told you about a study funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) that linked alterations in gut bacteria to Parkinson's disease (PD). MJFF has continued to support research in this field, and, just a few months ago, we provided an update on research linking alpha-synuclein in the gut to Parkinson's symptoms.
A recently published study has revealed differences in gut bacteria in those with Parkinson's disease based on their medications and geographic locations, adding to our growing knowledge on this connection.
The Gut-Brain Pathway
Thousands of bacteria live in the gut, and they help digest food, make vitamins and support immune function. Gut cells are connected to the brain through certain nerves and via this link, researchers believe changes in the gut could potentially effect changes in the brain. In fact, alpha-synuclein, the sticky protein that clumps in the brains of those with PD, also is present in the gut of people with PD. And, one of the earliest symptoms to emerge in many people with Parkinson's is constipation. A greater understanding of gut bacterial changes may shed light on new ways to diagnose Parkinson's and manage symptoms throughout the course of disease.