Are Probiotics Good For Managing Parkinson’s Disease?

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Probiotics

Summation

  • Because of the possible link between gut dysbiosis and Parkinson’s disease, experts have started exploring the possibilities of using probiotics to support the gut microbiome and manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Experts generally believe that the symptoms of Parkinson’s may be related to the imbalance of bacteria in the gut—gut dysbiosis—and dysfunction of the gut barrier, leading to inflammation.
  • However, recent studies suggest that the gut may have a crucial role in the progression of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that causes uncontrollable or involuntary movements. It’s a debilitating condition that affects millions of people globally.

Parkinson’s 101

One’s ability to move is made possible thanks to the human body’s production of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. This comes from the substantia nigra and other parts of the brain.

For an individual with Parkinson’s disease, their substantia nigra cells die or become damaged, reducing the dopamine levels of the body and causing movement difficulties. As of press time, experts don’t have a clear answer yet as to what may cause the disease.

However, recent studies suggest that the gut may have a crucial role in the progression of the disease. These studies raise interest in the ability of probiotics as a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

What are probiotics? Probiotics are microorganisms found in many foods, such as kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir. These microorganisms may help keep the gut healthy and functional.

This post discusses the possible connection between Parkinson’s disease and probiotics and whether they’re practical and worth taking. Read on.

Is There A Link Between The Gut And Parkinson’s Disease?

Experts generally believe that the symptoms of Parkinson’s may be related to the imbalance of bacteria in the gut—gut dysbiosis—and dysfunction of the gut barrier, leading to inflammation.

In fact, several studies suggest that people with Parkinson’s may experience inflammation similar to what patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, exhibit.

Intestinal inflammation may impair the gut-brain axis, the communication channel between the gut and the brain. So, what happens next? Many issues, like nutrient malabsorption, reduced gut motility, increased gut permeability, reduced dopamine production, and a compromised immune system, may develop.

Plus, the disruption in the gut-brain axis seems to increase Lewy body production. Lewy bodies are abnormal protein deposits that form inside the nerve cells.

Nevertheless, more studies are still needed to comprehensively cover and prove the link between gut health and Parkinson’s.

Can Probiotics Help Relieve Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms?

Should you take probiotics for Parkinson’s? Can live microorganisms help relieve the symptoms? To find that out, it’s essential to understand the four primary symptoms of the disease, which include:

  • Hand, arms, head, legs, or jaw tremors;
  • Stiff muscles;
  • Slow movements; and
  • Reduced body coordination.

Aside from these symptoms, a patient with Parkinson’s may experience urinary problems, constipation, skin irritation, excessive sweating, difficulty swallowing, and dry or oily skin too.

Because of the possible link between gut dysbiosis and Parkinson’s disease, experts have started exploring the possibilities of using probiotics to support the gut microbiome and manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

In a 2020 study, 72 Parkinson’s patients were divided into control and intervention groups. They received probiotic capsules or a placebo for four weeks. The study found that those who took the pills reported improved bowel movements and stool consistency.

Another 2020 study found that participants experienced significant improvements in gut transit time and bowel movement after taking probiotics for eight weeks. Likewise, the control group didn’t exhibit any positive changes.

Should You Consume Probiotics For Parkinson’s Disease?

Although studies regarding the relationship between probiotics and Parkinson’s disease are relatively new, taking probiotics is found to be beneficial in many cases.

For instance, if you’re constipated due to Parkinson’s, taking probiotic supplements may help relieve the discomfort brought upon by constipation. Nonetheless, proper dosage and formulation by a medical professional are recommended.

In addition, there aren’t enough studies and evidence to support the claims and provide specific recommendations. Experts are just starting to understand how probiotics and the gut microbiome can help manage Parkinson’s.

You may consult a healthcare professional if you think taking probiotics can help you manage some of the Parkinson’s symptoms you experience.

Are There Side Effects When Taking Probiotics For Parkinson’s Disease?

In general, probiotics are considered safe, but there might be some concerns with supplementation in patients with Parkinson’s.

Enterococcus species in many probiotic supplements may disable the dopamine-replacement medication in Parkinson’s treatment called levodopa. Yet more research is needed to clarify this adverse reaction in Parkinson’s patients.

In addition, taking probiotic supplements may aggravate small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition common in patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

On top of that, scientists aren’t sure what type of probiotic strain is most effective in managing Parkinson’s disease symptoms and whether it’s best to take them as a single strain or in combination with others. Therefore, an individualized microbiome assessment may be necessary to figure out the best treatment method possible.

So far, no human clinical trials that investigated the efficacy of probiotic supplementation in Parkinson’s patients have reported any ill side effects.

Worms And Bacillus subtilis PXN21

One of the signs of Parkinson’s disease is the misfolded alpha-synuclein protein in the brain. Many scientists believe these protein clumps can cause the loss of brain cells responsible for movement. Nonetheless, more research is needed, and the mechanisms that cause the disease remain elusive.

A group of scientists have used a genetically-engineered nematode worm model to learn more about the alpha-synuclein protein that occurs in humans. These worms will develop protein aggregates once they reach adulthood (72 hours—about three days—after hatching).

The scientists fed the nematodes a diet with a probiotic strain called Bacillus subtilis PXN21. They found that the worms almost had no protein clumps in their system. Nonetheless, they continued to produce aggregates but not in the same way.

Plus, the said scientists tried to feed the worms that had already produced alpha-synuclein protein aggregates. They found that switching the worms’ diet with the probiotic cleared protein clumps from the affected brain cells.

Then, the researchers compared the worms fed with Bacillus subtilis PXN21 with a laboratory diet. They found that the worms fed with the probiotic had fewer aggregates than those with a standard diet. And the experts noted that the probiotic didn’t simply reduce protein aggregates. Instead, it reverses and inhibits alpha-synuclein aggregation.

Final Thoughts

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are good for the gut. Experts have linked gut health and Parkinson’s disease. They believe that improving gut health with a probiotic-rich diet can help relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s. But more research is needed to support these claims and the current findings.

If you want to take probiotics to manage your symptoms, please consult your doctor before you do so to prevent adverse reactions.