Nurture a healthy gut to avoid Parkinson’s

Nurture a healthy gut to avoid Parkinson’s
Gut health depends on the healthy balance of micro-organisms living in the digestive tract. © Shutterstock

A new study reveals that gut infection can lead to Parkinson's disease. Here, we have compiled a few tips to help you maintain a healthy gut.

Written by Juhi Kumari |Published : July 24, 2019 4:03 PM IST

Gut infection can lead to a pathology resembling Parkinson's disease, says a recent study published in the journal Nature. Parkinson's disease is a chronic nervous system disorder. Tremor, slowed movement, rigid muscles, impaired posture and balance, loss of automatic movements, changes in speech and writing changes are some of the symptoms that are typical of this condition.

According to the research, an estimated 10 per cent of the cases of Parkinson's disease occur due to mutations in genes coding for proteins like PINK1 and Parkin. People with these mutations develop Parkinson's disease at a much earlier age. The other 90 per cent cases of this disease is associated with the progressive death of a subset of neurons in the brain, called dopaminergic neurons.

A person starts experiencing symptoms of Parkinson's disease after the loss of neurons. Symptoms here are usually tremors and rigidity. Though the exact cause behind the death of these neurons are still unknown, scientists believed that they probably die due to accumulation of toxic elements inside them.

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However, this research showed that where mutation is not the cause behind Parkinson's disease, a simple intestinal infection is sufficient to trigger PD-like symptoms later in life. Gut infection triggers auto-immunity where the immune system attacks healthy cells in the organism. This means that rather than dying from toxin accumulation, the killing of dopaminergic neurons involves immune cells. While we talk about the potential cause behind the onset of Parkinson's disease, let's also know how to keep the condition at bay.


Gut health depends on the healthy balance of micro-organisms living in the digestive tract. Maintaining their balance is significant for your physical and mental health. Here we tell you about some effective ways to improve your gut health and prevent the onset of Parkinson's disease. Read on to know about them.

Opt for probiotic rich foods

Found in foods including yogurt, kefir, pickles, kimchi, etc., probiotics are live bacteria. These colonise your gut and prevent unfriendly or bad bacteria from overpopulating, says a study published in the journal Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Eating probiotic rich foods or opting for probiotic supplements can support a healthy gut microbiome. It can prevent gut inflammation and other intestinal problems, thus reducing your chances of developing Parkinson's disease.

Eat prebiotic fibre

This is different from probiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates, which is important as probiotics feed on them. This clearly means that prebiotics help good bacteria to multiply in the gut. According to a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients, prebiotics may help probiotics become more tolerant to certain environmental conditions, like pH and changes in temperature. If you want to have a healthy gut, include prebiotic-rich foods in your daily diet. These foods include asparagus, bananas, garlic, onions, whole grains, etc.

Reduce your stress level

Stress is a common culprit behind various health conditions like depression, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, etc. According to a study published in the journal BMC Microbiology, psychological stressors like sleep deprivation, extreme hot or cold weather, noise, etc. can disrupt the population of good micro-organisms in your intestines. So, it is advised to manage your stress. You can do that by meditating, indulging in deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. Also, exercise on a daily basis, sleep well and follow a healthy diet. All this, in turn, will ensure a healthy gut.

Reduce intake of sugar and sweeteners

Having foods rich in sugar or artificial sweeteners can cause an imbalance of gut microbes. "A diet, which is high in sugar and fat, negatively affects the gut microbiome", says a 2015 research published in Neuroscience. Another study published in the journal PLOS One showed that artificial sweetener increases the number of bacterial strains that are associated with metabolic disease. This refers to a group of conditions that increase your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Not only this, use of artificial sweeteners can negatively impact your blood sugar levels due to their effects on gut flora. Some of the foods rich in sugar include sports drinks, flavoured yogurts, ketchups, chocolate milk, etc.

Exercise regularly

You must be aware about the various health benefits associated with daily exercise. But do you know that one of those benefits include an improved gut health? Yes, you read it right. Apart from enhancing your heart health and assisting in effective weight loss, daily exercise helps in balancing the micro-organisms present in your gut. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Gut, athletes have a larger variety of gut flora compared to non-athletes.

Get enough sleep

As mentioned earlier, not getting enough good-quality sleep can increase the level of stress hormone called cortisol in the body. And, stress is already associated with disrupted gut health. Additionally, irregular sleep can negatively affect your health and increase your risk of developing inflammatory conditions. Notably, everyone must sleep for at least 6 to 8 hours every night to stay healthy.

Avoid smoking

Smoking is associated with a plethora of health conditions like lung disease, kidney failure, heart disease, etc. Cigarette smoke can also affect your gut health. A study published in the journal Archives of Microbiology revealed that smoking alters the intestinal flora by increasing harmful micro-organisms and decreasing the levels of beneficial ones. These effects can increase your risk of developing intestinal and systemic conditions like inflammatory bowel disease.

Eat a vegetarian diet

If studies are to be believed, there is a significant difference between the gut microbiomes of vegetarians and non-vegetarians. A vegetarian diet improves your gut health because of the high levels of prebiotic fibre present in it. Following this diet can lower levels of gut inflammation due to the altered types of gut microbes.