What does your gut tell you?

Laura with trusty  Nancy's Yogurt containing "billions of live cultures".

Laura with trusty Nancy’s Yogurt containing “billions of live cultures”.

This sounds like the kind of press release you have on April Fools Day:  Parkinson’s is in your gut.  Here’s the story that appeared in my Parkinson’s newsfeed:

Parkinson’s disease sufferers have a different microbiota in their intestines than their healthy counterparts, according to a study conducted at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Central Hospital…. “Our most important observation was that patients with Parkinson’s have much less bacteria from the Prevotellaceae family; unlike the control group, practically no one in the patient group had a large quantity of bacteria from this family,” states DMSc Filip Scheperjans, neurologist at the Neurology Clinic of the Helsinki University Hospital (HUCH). 

The researchers have not yet determined what the lack of Prevotellaceae bacteria in Parkinson’s sufferers means — do these bacteria perhaps have a property which protects their host from the disease? Or does this discovery merely indicate that intestinal dysfunction is part of the pathology? ….

Another interesting discovery was that the amount of bacteria from the Enterobacteriaceae family in the intestine was connected to the degree of severity of balance and walking problems in the patients. The more Enterobacteriaceae they had, the more severe the symptoms.

The researchers also hope that their discoveries could ultimately be used to develop a testing method which would improve the diagnostics in Parkinson’s disease and perhaps finally find a way to treat or even prevent Parkinson’s by focusing on gut microbiota.

This news story makes me immediately think Parkies must have something wrong with their diet.  But not only do I have a diet healthier than 90%* of Americans,  I have a bowl of highly probiotic yogurt most every morning.  (See the photo for  proof.)
*Percentage based on my observation each morning that the other 90% of Americans are in line at the McDonalds across from my health club.

I Googled “diet for Parkinson’s”.  Most reputable sites say something safe and bland like the Michael J. Fox Foundation: “Well-balanced, healthy diet is always a good idea.”  But at the more woo-woo sites, there are more colorful suggestions.  One site says “Reduce  your toxic load.”  This sounds like I’m poisoning myself, until I find that  “toxic load” includes  two of my favorite things: booze and coffee.  You can’t go too far researching Parkinson’s diet before stumbling across  the enzyme  CoQ10.  This was the darling of folks that like their medicine “natural” and initially seemed promising.  But in 2014, CoQ10 flunked out – no correlation to slowing or reversing PD.

And the  “ketogenic diet” (high fat, low carbs), which has been used for over 80 years for drug-resistant epilepsy, is now being touted for Parkinson’s.  .“The diet is high in fat, supplies adequate protein and is low in carbohydrates. This combination changes the way energy is used in the body. Fat is converted in the liver into fatty acids and ketone bodies. Another effect of the diet is that it lowers glucose levels and improves insulin resistance”

My scientific opinion?  Yuck.  If I  have to carefully follow a diet and buy weird stuff (coconut flour, anyone?),it’s  not worth it.  One doctor would have me take (at least) 16 pills a day to supplement the diet.  Here’s a better idea:  just have a normal balanced diet.   Life is too short to keep track of froufrou diets.

About Laura Kennedy Gould

Author of magictrickparkinsons.wordpress.com "The Magic Trick -- Life with Parkinson's
This entry was posted in Parkinson's Basics, Parkinson's Research and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What does your gut tell you?

  1. Jean says:

    did the research paper indicate whether the drugs a PD sufferer typically takes — such as Dopamine and related — are killing off the good bacteria in the gut? Maybe that is why the bacteria have different ratios than in persons who don’t take those PD drugs.

    • No, Jean, the research paper did not talk about impact of drugs on happy biota. However, you have given me another story idea. If patients were able to take actual dopamine, it would solve a lot of problems (including food-related ones). But patients can’t and have to take a substitute….And Parkies can’t take dopamine directly because….well, stay tuned!

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