For many people, constipation is just a minor health issue, often due to a less-than-ideal diet or insufficient hydration.
But sometimes, it can signal something more serious, like Parkinson’s disease. In a groundbreaking new study, Dr. Deborah Hall, a neurologist from RUSH, is investigating the link between our gut and our brain.
Dr. Hall explains that constipation could be one of the first signs of Parkinson’s, appearing up to a decade before the disease is typically diagnosed.
In Parkinson’s, the composition of the bacteria in the gut, known as the microbiome, is not normal.
Dr. Hall is trying to find out if these changes occur even earlier, before the disease is officially diagnosed. Recognizing these signs sooner could open up possibilities for treating the disease earlier.
Sweet Treat for a Healthy Gut
The research, shared in the journal Nature Communications, explores whether a special kind of snack bar could improve Parkinson’s symptoms.
This wasn’t just any snack bar, but a prebiotic bar – a food item designed to promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut.
The study involved people at different stages of Parkinson’s: those recently diagnosed and not on medication yet, as well as those further along in the disease and already receiving treatment.
The study found that the prebiotic bar helped lessen severe gut problems in people with advanced Parkinson’s. This suggests that such a bar could be a useful treatment strategy.
The Power of Prebiotics
Why might a prebiotic bar help? Well, constipation in Parkinson’s can be due to what is known as a ‘leaky bowel’. This happens when harmful bacteria associated with the disease damage the lining of the intestines.
To counter this, we need more of the good bacteria that can reduce inflammation and repair the gut. That’s where prebiotics come in.
Prebiotics are substances that our good gut bacteria love to eat. They contain something called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which serve as food for these bacteria.
When a person eats a prebiotic, the good bacteria feast on it and multiply. This helps lower inflammation and fix the leaky gut.
The prebiotic bar used in the study was chosen because it has a unique blend of SCFAs that isn’t currently available elsewhere. Dr. Hall was pleased with the bar’s effects on easing bowel issues in Parkinson’s patients.
Next Steps: From Bars to Supplements?
While the study’s results are promising, more research is needed. Dr. Hall’s team wants to investigate if the bar can also improve movement-related symptoms in Parkinson’s. To do this, they’re planning a larger, longer study.
Another area they want to explore is how to incorporate prebiotics into patients’ diets in other ways.
Some people in the study found that the bar made them feel full and eat less. So, the team is considering creating a prebiotic supplement as an alternative.
Dr. Hall is optimistic about the study’s results, hoping it will pave the way for more research to help improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease.
If you care about Parkinson’s disease, please read studies about a big cause of common Parkinson’s disease, and Vitamin D could benefit people with Parkinson’s disease.
The study was published in Nature Communications.
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