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Gut Health May Be Related To Parkinson’s Risk, New Study Reveals

The gut, brain, and Parkinson’s.

This new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham called on metagenomics, which analyzes the genetic material found in feces. The researchers looked at the genetic material of participants with Parkinson’s and compared it to people who didn’t have the disease. The results showed that the gut microbiome is involved in the development of PD; in fact, the results showed that it’s involved in more ways than one.

In total, the team analyzed 257 species of gut organisms in 490 people with PD and 234 people without the illness. The results found that out of the 257 species studied, about 84 were associated in some way with Parkinson’s disease–55 were abnormally high in those with PD, and 29 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 this specific disease. “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.”

Gut and brain-friendly living.

This is just a preliminary study in a new emerging field, so there’s a lot more to learn before these treatments become a reality. In the meantime, there are ample ways to support general microbiome balance and gut health, such as:


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Prioritize probiotics

Inoculate the gut with good bacteria to promote overall balance. Here are the 9 best probiotics to consider, according to a nutrition Ph.D.


Eat prebiotics.

Prebiotic fiber is a type of fiber that acts as food for good bugs in your GI tract. This can help your healthy bugs stay healthy, and prevent “bad” bugs from overgrowing and taking over. (Find our favorite kinds here.)


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Get outside.

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.

The takeaway.

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.


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