The cause of Parkinson’s disease continues to baffle researchers. From nerve cells in the brain dying, to genes, and even environmental factors, researchers continue to explore the causes of Parkinson’s disease. Now, researchers are suggesting that Parkinson’s disease might originate in the gut.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system. As it gets worse, what starts off as slight tremors may progress to stiffness and slowing of movement. Speech, too, may become affected in those with Parkinson’s disease.
Although there is no current cure for Parkinson’s disease, treatment can help reduce symptoms.
Study: Parkinson’s disease may begin in the gut
Researchers at Denmark’s Aarthus University found a link between Parkinson’s and the gut. They examined the role of the vagus nerve – a cranial nerve that runs from the brainstem to the abdomen. They found that in patients who had their vagus nerve severed, the risk of Parkinson’s disease was reduced by half over 20 years. Patients with non-severed vagus nerves were less protected against the disease.
Researchers believe that Parkinson’s begins in the gastrointestinal tract and moves its way through the vagus nerve. They saw that prior to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, patients experienced gastrointestinal problems such as constipation.
This is the first study to link the vagus nerve to Parkinson’s disease on humans. Prior studies were conducted on animals.
Researchers said the next steps are to explore this connection further and understand how neurological damage can occur. This may aid in preventing Parkinson’s disease.
Managing Parkinson’s disease
In the meantime, those living with Parkinson’s disease can undergo treatment to reduce symptoms. Common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, slow movement, stiffness, speech impairments and loss of automatic movements.
Medical treatments include the administration of medications and even surgery to stimulate the brain. Of course, it’s important to note that medications come with many side effects. It’s important to optimize lifestyle changes as well, to improve function.
Common Lifestyle changes
Some common lifestyle changes people with Parkinson’s disease can employ are healthy eating, exercise and physiotherapy, reducing their risk of fall and injury and using the assistance of an occupational therapist. Implementing these changes depend on the severity of each person’s case.
Until further research is conducted on the gut and brain connection, how to prevent Parkinson’s disease is still unclear. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits, though, may help.
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