New Study Links Gut Microbiome Imbalance To Parkinson's Disease
From our immune system to our mental health, our gut—and the trillions of bacteria that live within it (aka your microbiome)—often have a big say when it comes to health or disease. And now, a new study1 published in Nature Communications linked microbiome imbalances to Parkinson's disease (PD), further solidifying the critical importance of the gut-brain connection.
The gut, brain, and Parkinson's.
This new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham utilized metagenomics, which involves analyzing the genetic material found in feces. Scientists compared the genetic material of participants with Parkinson's with that of people who didn't have the disease. The results showed that the gut microbiome is involved in the development of PD—and in more ways than one.
In total, the team analyzed 257 species of gut organisms in 490 people with PD and 234 people without it. The results showed that out of the 257 species studied, about 84 were associated in some way with Parkinson's disease. Specifically, counts of 55 species were abnormally high in those with PD, and counts of 29 species were noticeably low.
As one of the senior authors on the study, Haydeh Payami, Ph.D., professor in the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine Department of Neurology, said in a statement, the major goal behind this study was to get a big-picture understanding of the gut imbalances that occur in Parkinson's. This study helped accomplish that and also provided a more detailed understanding by revealing a few specific types of bacteria that seem to play a role in the disease. For example, the results showed that a type of bacteria called Roseburia intestinalis was 7.5-fold less abundant in those with PD and one called Actinomyces oris was 6.5-fold more abundant.
As Payami explained, "This is exciting research, as metagenomics is a new, albeit fast-evolving field, and the resources, methods, and tools, while state-of-the-art, are still in development." This study provides a concrete path forward for investigating the link between these specific bacterial imbalances and PD. "We anticipate that in the near future, we will have the tools and the analytic power to…investigate the potential in manipulating the microbiome to prevent, treat, and halt the progression of PD," Payami continued.
Gut- and brain-friendly living.
Note that this is a preliminary study in an emerging field, so there's a lot more to learn before any potential related treatments become a reality. In the meantime, there are ample ways to support general microbiome balance and gut health, such as:
Inoculate the gut with good bacteria to promote overall balance. Here are the 9 best probiotics to consider, according to a nutrition Ph.D.
Nature provides us with an abundance of healthy bacteria—but we have to actually get a little dirty to take advantage of them. You can do this by gardening, hiking, or even forest bathing.
A new study links gut microbiome imbalances to the development of Parkinson's disease. In the not-too-distant future, we might be able to help treat PD by targeting gut bacteria, but for now, it's wise to invest in gut-friendly practices daily.
Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.