We have blogged and posted on gut bacteria several times in the past. It is an areas that is receiving a lot of research attention and we are increasingly discovering just how influential the role of gut bacteria is to so many aspects of health including metabolism, the immune system and the brain.
As an understanding of the gut-brain axis (which involves microbiota, the enteric nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, the neuroendocrine system, the neuroimmune system and the central nervous system) develops quite strong evidence has emerged that there is a relationship between gut bacteria and neurodegenerative diseases in both the causation and symptoms including constipation and depression. Further, it might be that this is not just confined to the gut, researchers are also reviewing the roles of the microbiome across several key mucosal interfaces including the nose, mouth and lung.
Changes in gut bacteria have been identified in people with Parkinsons years before the clinical onset of symptoms and several studies have observed an increase of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Verrucomicrobiaceae and Akkermansia and a decrease of Faecalibacterium spp., Coprococcus spp., Blautia spp., Prevotella spp. and Prevotellaceae post diagnosis. Whilst there is no evidence that altering or correcting the balance of gut bacteria will slow the progression of Parkinsons there have been pilot studies showing benefits of probiotics for reducing symptoms in neurological diseases and suggestions that these could be used as a form of treatment. In other diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease gut bacteria transplants are practiced with very good outcomes and in studies the prescription of specific bacteria has been successful; we are a long way off even knowing whether this would be beneficial for people with Parkinsons but certainly something to look out for in the future. For now however, what we do know is that a diet that supports the gut is good for overall well being. To maintain a good balance of gut bacteria both pre and probiotics are important; prebiotics are indigestible fibre that helps create the right environment for good bacteria to multiply, probiotics are the actual bacteria. There are lots of pre and probiotic supplements on the market but the gut can be supported through diet. Prebiotics foods include onions, leeks, garlic, artichoke and asparagus and probiotics include live yogurt, kefir and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and miso.
Look out for our recipe blogs in the coming months which will include lots of gut friendly inspiration.