Parkinson’s disease; Growing evidence suggests it may begin in the gut which may offer a way to effectively treat it.
Many of us know someone who has Parkinson’s disease. A close cousin of mine who was a world-renowned pediatrician developed it in his 60’s and it forced him into early retirement.
The more we understand diet and how the gut works, the closer we come to understand that many of the diseases that are treated medically with often poor results are gut-related. There is growing evidence that suggests Parkinson’s is one of those diseases.
There is a recent blog that does a nice job of summarizing the new research and why it may be leading to a possible cure or more effective treatment.
Does Parkinson’s Begin in the Gut?
A growing body of evidence links the neurodegenerative disease to the gastrointestinal tract, opening new possibilities for treatment.
Scientific American By Diana Kwon
Credit: Kateryna Kon / Science Photo Library / Getty Images.
The earliest evidence that the gut might be involved in Parkinson’s emerged more than 200 years ago. In 1817, the English surgeon James Parkinson reported that some patients with a condition he termed “shaking palsy” experienced constipation. In one of the six cases he described, treating the gastrointestinal complaints appeared to alleviate the movement-related problems associated with the disease.
Since then, physicians have noted that constipation is one of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s, appearing in around half the individuals diagnosed with the condition and often preceding the onset of movement-related impairments. Still, for many decades, the research into the disease has focused on the brain. Scientists initially concentrated on the loss of neurons producing dopamine, a molecule involved in many functions including movement. More recently, they have also focused on the aggregation of alpha synuclein, a protein that twists into an aberrant shape in Parkinson’s patients. A shift came in 2003, when Heiko Braak, a neuroanatomist at the University of Ulm in Germany, and his colleagues proposed that Parkinson’s may actually originate in the gut rather than the brain.