There is growing evidence showing a connection between Parkinson’s disease and the composition of the microbiome of the gut. A new study shows that Parkinson’s disease, and medications to treat Parkinson’s, have distinct effects on the composition of the trillions of bacteria that make up the gut microbiome.

The findings were published in Movement Disorders.

The study, which looked at 197 patients with Parkinson’s and 130 controls, indicated that Parkinson’s is accompanied by imbalance in the gut microbiome, with some species of bacteria present in larger numbers than in healthy individuals and other species diminished. Different medications used to treat Parkinson’s also appeared to affect the composition of the microbiome in different ways.

At this point, researchers do not know which comes first: Does having Parkinson’s cause changes in an individual’s gut microbiome, or are changes in the microbiome a predictor or early warning sign of Parkinson’s? What is known is that the first signs of Parkinson’s often arise as gastrointestinal symptoms such as inflammation or constipation.

One function of the microbiome is to help the body rid itself of xenobiotics — chemicals not naturally found in the body often arising from environmental pollutants. The study found evidence that the composition of bacteria responsible for removing those chemicals was different in individuals with Parkinson’s. This may be relevant because exposure to pesticides and herbicides in agricultural settings is known to increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s.

The researchers stress that the study of the microbiome is a relatively new field, and a better understanding of macrobiotics may provide unexpected answers for Parkinson’s disease and potentially other disorders.

Paper: “Parkinson’s disease and Parkinson’s disease medications have distinct signatures of the gut microbiome”
Reprinted from materials provided by University of Alabama Birmingham.