Human communication

Are probiotics good for people with Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects more than one million people in the United States (1).

A neurotransmitter called dopamine is important for your body’s ability to move. Dopamine comes from a part of the brain called the substantia nigra and other areas of the brain (2).

In Parkinson’s disease, cells of the substantia nigra become impaired or die, leading to reduced dopamine levels and movement difficulties associated with the disease. Currently, the cause of this is unknown (2).

However, recent research advances suggest that our gut and environment may play a role in the cause and progression of Parkinson’s disease. In particular, there is growing interest in the role of probiotics in the treatment of this disease.

Probiotics are live microorganisms found in foods and supplements that can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome (3).

This article dives deep into Parkinson’s disease and probiotics, their role, whether they work, and whether they’re worth taking.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) has four main symptoms (2):

  • tremors in the hands, arms, jaw, head, or legs
  • slow motion
  • muscle stiffness
  • decreased balance and coordination

Other common symptoms include constipation, urinary problems, difficulty swallowing or chewing, speech problems, and skin problems (eg, excessive sweating, dry or oily skin, irritation) (2).

Parkinson’s disease and the gut microbiota

Research has suggested that symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) may be linked to gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria) and gut barrier dysfunction that leads to inflammation (4, 5).

In fact, studies have shown that patients with Parkinson’s have bowel inflammation similar to those with other inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (6, 7, 8, 9).

This inflammation can disrupt a communication channel between the brain and gut called the microbiota-gut-brain axis (4, 5, ten, 11).

As a result, many problems can arise, such as reduced production of neurotransmitters (eg.4, 5, ten, 11).

Additionally, it appears to increase the production of Lewy bodies, a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD) (4, 5, ten, 11).

However, further research is still needed.

Parkinson’s and probiotics

Due to the association between symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and gut dysbiosis, researchers have recently begun to explore the effects of using probiotics to diversify the gut microbiome and potentially manage or treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. the PM.

Most research has focused on probiotics and their effects on constipation, an early indicator and common symptom of PD.

A 2016 study divided 120 participants with PD into a control or intervention group who received a fermented dairy product containing multiple probiotic strains and prebiotic fiber, which helps support the growth of beneficial bacteria (12).

After four weeks, the intervention group had significantly more completed bowel movements than the control group (12).

Another 2020 study divided 72 Parkinson’s patients into an intervention or control group that received either multi-strain probiotic capsules or an identical-looking placebo for four weeks (13).

At the end of the study, people in the intervention group reported significantly larger spontaneous stools and better stool consistency (13).

Another company-funded study also observed significant improvements in bowel frequency and bowel transit time after taking a multi-strain probiotic for eight weeks. Similarly, the control group showed no improvement (14).

Beyond constipation, no human clinical trials have studied probiotic supplementation on other symptoms of PD.

However, some mouse studies observed significant improvements in motor function and less damage to dopamine-producing neurons (suggesting a neuroprotective effect) after being treated with probiotic supplements for up to 24 weeks (15, 16, 17, 18).

Although promising, it is difficult to say whether these results would be transferable to humans, as humans and mice have different microbiomes, metabolisms and genetics.

Fortunately, research on probiotics and PD has generated considerable interest and innovation. Therefore, the science on this subject is likely to evolve in the coming years.

Summary

Research has linked gut dysbiosis to subsequent inflammation and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Some research has shown promising results from taking a probiotic to treat PD-related constipation. As for other symptoms, there is not enough research yet.

Although research into probiotics for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a relatively new topic, taking a probiotic may be beneficial in some cases.

If you have PD-related constipation, you may benefit from taking a probiotic supplement. However, which formulations are best remains to be determined.

Beyond that, there is insufficient evidence to provide specific recommendations. Scientists are just beginning to understand the role of the gut microbiome and probiotics and their role in PD. It is therefore too early to recommend probiotics as a treatment (5, 11).

If you are interested in probiotics to help relieve some of your symptoms of PD, you should speak to a qualified healthcare professional.

Summary

Since the research is still in its early stages, it’s too early to recommend probiotics to help manage or treat PD symptoms.

Although probiotics are generally considered safe, there are potential concerns regarding probiotic supplementation in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD).

First, some Enterococcus the species found in some probiotic supplements can inactivate levodopa, a dopamine replacement drug used in the treatment of PD. However, this needs more research and clarification in Parkinson’s patients (5).

Additionally, probiotic supplementation may exacerbate SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), common in people with Parkinson’s disease (5).

It’s also unclear which probiotic strains are most effective at treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and whether they’re more effective in combination or taken alone.

An individualized microbiome assessment may be warranted to determine the best course of action (5, 11).

That said, none of the human clinical trials investigating probiotic supplementation in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) have reported serious side effects (12, 13, 14).

Nevertheless, it is best to discuss with your healthcare professional before taking probiotics.

Summary

Although generally considered safe, you should speak with your healthcare professional before starting probiotics to make sure they are right for you.

Do Other Supplements Help Parkinson’s Symptoms?

Currently, no supplements are recommended to help treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Coenzyme Q10 and fish oil (containing omega-3s) may reduce the progression of Parkinson’s disease (PD), but research is mixed (19, 20, 21).

Certain nutrients with antioxidant properties can help combat oxidative stress caused by PD, such as vitamins B12, C, D, E and folate. Try to get these nutrients through food first, then supplement as needed (19, 20, 21).

Can diet help relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Following a Mediterranean-style diet has been associated with a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD) and better progression of PD. This includes a diet rich in minimally processed vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil, fresh herbs and spices (19, 20, 22).

Do probiotics help with tremors?

To date, there is no human data that supports taking probiotics to help with tremors related to Parkinson’s disease.

Should you self-treat Parkinson’s disease?

Self-treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is not recommended. It’s best to work closely with your healthcare professional to determine the best course of action based on your symptoms and their progression, including medication, physical therapy, or other interventions.

There are many lifestyle behaviors you can practice to help manage your symptoms, such as regular physical activity, eating a minimally processed diet, getting quality sleep, quitting smoking, and managing stress. (23).

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a complicated neurodegenerative disease that affects millions of people.

Although its cause is unknown, researchers have begun to link the gut microbiome to PD. In particular, it is thought that intestinal inflammation and an imbalance of gut bacteria can worsen PD symptoms.

Subsequently, researchers began to study the role of probiotics in the treatment of PD. There is some data supporting probiotics to support PD-related constipation, but it’s too early to draw conclusions.

As research and innovation will continue to evolve in the years to come, time will tell if probiotics can help prevent or treat PD. Until then, it’s best to work closely with your healthcare professional to make sure you’re getting the right treatment.