Back to top anchor
Gut Health and Parkinson's

Of all the diseases that affect the neurons in our brain, Parkinson’s affects most people after Alzheimer’s.

The tragedy with Parkinson’s is two-faced; there is no cure, and how it occurs has been a mystery for decades.

Worryingly, there has been a near 150% increase in people with Parkinson's between 1990 and 2016.

Could new research prove that a disease that affects the brain starts deep from our gut?

Parkinson’s and the Gut

Parkinson's Brain

Parkinson’s affects the part of our brain that produces the chemical dopamine.

Dopamine contributes to feelings of satisfaction and our ability to be attentive.

The chemical gives us control over the movements our body makes - hence the involuntary shaking of limbs from people who have Parkinson’s.

In particular, a protein found in our brain called alpha-synuclein regulates the release of dopamine. 

For reasons that we do not quite understand, however, this protein clumps together to create a toxic mess.

The resulting brain cell damage is devastating for people living with Parkinson’s.

Could the toxic clumping of alpha-synuclein be starting from the gut?

"Parkinson's NZ is a non-profit helping New Zealanders with Parkinson's. We heavily depend on the generosity and empathy of Kiwis, so kindly make a donation!"

The Gut Feeling


Ongoing research from the California Institute of Technology (which was done on mice) suggests that the dopamine regulating alpha-synuclein protein gets triggered first by gut bacteria.

The vagus nerve, which runs from the stem of our brain to most of our major organs, then transports these toxic clumps of alpha-synuclein to the brain.

To test this, the researchers at Caltech took two groups of mice that were injected with the alpha-synuclein protein.

The only difference between them? One set of mice had no gut bacteria because of being raised in a completely sterile space.

In all movement and Parkinson’s symptoms-related tests, the mice without gut bacteria performed effortlessly.

The other set of mice, with alpha-synuclein protein and gut bacteria, demonstrated classic Parkinson’s symptoms.

When the researchers injected the germ-free mice with gut bacteria from Parkinson’s patients, the mice then began to display Parkinson’s symptoms. 

How Do I Improve My Gut Health?

If gut bacteria are causing Parkinson’s disease, then you could revamp your diet to improve your gut health.

However, that means avoiding canned veggies, soda, beef, cheese, fried foods, and anything rich in iron!

A diet revolving around fresh fruits and organic veggies, seeds, nuts, coconut oil, wine, herbs, spices, olive oil, and fish could be the way forward!

How can Parkinson’s New Zealand help?

Picture of Hand Holding

We offer professional support to people living with Parkinson’s

Our team of Parkinson’s Nurses develop high-quality medical plans, while also providing in-depth information.

They connect people with Parkinson’s to speech therapists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists.

Parkinson’s NZ also runs networking support groups and exercise classes, while also offering physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, as well as art/music therapy sessions to members.

"Parkinson's NZ is a non-profit helping New Zealanders with Parkinson's. We heavily depend on the generosity and empathy of Kiwis, so kindly make a donation!"

The Gut and Parkinson’s - Final Verdict

If alpha-synuclein does become dangerous because of gut bacteria, then by stopping those microbes, Parkinson’s could be dealt with efficiently.

We can even hope to start seeing Parkinson’s being treated with a probiotic pill in a few years!

For the 10 million people who have Parkinson’s globally, we can only hope that this gut feeling comes good.

Get in Touch

A group photo from above

If you’d like to contact our charity and avail of our free services, then give us a call on 04 801 8850 today!

If you’d like to show your support to the service we provide to people with Parkinson’s, then please make a donation!

To find out whom to contact and what services are available in your area, simply head over to Regional Support.