Could your gut be controlling your nervous system?
Ever since I was diagnosed with Parkinson's, I've found myself "knee deep" in all the latest research on this neurodegenerative disease.
It's helped me manage my own illness for over a dozen years, and it's allowed me to share all the latest findings with my patients and readers who are also struggling with it.
Even though scientists haven't yet found a single smoking gun that causes the disease, there's one thing we do know: It manifests in the space between your ears.
Brain changes linked to Parkinson's affect its ability to be the "command center" of your movement and coordination, leaving you with tremors and rigidity.
But a new study is turning what we know about the brain and Parkinson's on its "head"!
According to the study out of Sweden, the origin point of Parkinson's disease may actually be in the gut.
I like to tell my patients that the gut is like our second "brain." Your "gut brain" can't pay your bills or learn to tango, but the more than 100 million nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract from top to bottom control digestion, immunity, and even your mood.
The new study followed about 10,000 patients who had the main trunk of their vagus nerve -- which extends from the brain stem to the abdomen
-- surgically removed.
At the end of five years, the vagotomy patients were 40 PERCENT less likely to develop Parkinson's than people in the general population who didn't have the surgery.
Translation: Parkinson's may START in the gut and spread to the brain by hitching a ride on your nerves!
The vagus nerve stimulates your stomach to produce the acid needed for digestion. In people who produce too much acid, vagotomy is a last resort when diet or medication don't reduce it.
Now, I'm not suggesting you should go get a vagotomy to prevent Parkinson's -- but this is certainly promising evidence that the key to thwarting Parkinson's may lie south of your navel.
And it's not the first time I've mentioned that the gut may be linked to the development of Parkinson's.
Another recent study found that having a healthy balance of bacteriain your gut can actually protect your brain cells from Parkinson's damage. Your gut's "good" bacteria can trigger an immune response that discards damaged neurons and preserves healthy ones when brain cells are attacked by Parkinson's.
The gut is also your first line of defense against toxins that sneak into your body through food and water. An unhealthy, "leaky" gut can allow those toxins into your bloodstream, where they can travel to your brain and play a role in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's.
Keep your gut in tip-top shape by getting a daily dose of probiotics ("good" bacteria) from fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut and by eating a clean, high-fiber diet like the Paleo diet.