2021 Parkinson's Microbiome Research Review

It’s time for another update on Gut-Brain research and Parkinson’s! Ever since my husband John was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002 and I began my journey as a citizen scientist searching for answers, I’ve been digging into the research and reporting my findings. I hope you find these insights useful and/or interesting. I continue to be very excited and inspired by the ongoing research in this area.

In 2021 there were 265 newly published peer reviewed papers on Parkinson's and the microbiome. Increasingly researchers are beginning to understand the profound connection between the gut and the brain and the connection to disease. The diagram below is from a review paper from University of Florida researchers. You can read their summary of the current state of the research and promising avenues of treatment here. One key area of research that is especially near and dear to my heart is the use of probiotics to address GI issues and potentially as an early intervention.

"Recent clinical trials suggest that probiotics can be useful in ameliorating GI issues such as constipation in patients with PD (Cassani et al., 2011; Barichella et al., 2016; Tan et al., 2021), and this is a growing area of research. One recent randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 120 participants with PD and Rome-III-confirmed constipation was conducted to assess the potential use of probiotics to improve constipation (Barichella et al., 2016)."


I believe that one day in the not too distant future we will be able to test the microbiome and identify a potential risk of Parkinson's in such a way that we could turn people back from getting the disease.  Research we’ve worked on at The BioCollective for the past six years has culminated in biomarker discovery with Ardigen, Inc, a Polish genomics and machine learning company.  We are currently working on a publication of our results and have presented the data on several online conference forums.


Environmental toxins continue to come up regularly in the research as well.  We have known for some time that there are increased risks of Parkinson's related to heavy metals like iron, zinc and manganese as well as many commonly used herbicides and pesticides. This paper from researchers in Germany and Columbia discusses a systems toxicology approach connecting the dots through the microbiome and potential lactic acid bacteria that can help protect from the toxicity of the metals by altering and/or removing them. 


I've talked about my systems thinking background before.  I've long said that Parkinson's is a complex systemic issue and must be addressed from a systems perspective.  I am so pleased to see more research coming from the systems biology and toxicology perspective.  There is no single cause for Parkinson's.  It is the complex assault of many factors on the human system: environmental pollutants, poor diet and loss of micronutrients, stress and infection.  In order to improve the outcomes in Parkinson's we must begin to think of ourselves as an ecosystem.  The care of an ecosystem requires great thought and attention. 


In 2022, John and I are thinking about how to continue making strides toward a better quality of life, and we have committed to move to a farm where we will care for the land and grow much of our own food.  We will know exactly what we are getting because we are going to be the caretakers.  As we learn more about food and farming we will be sharing our journey with you.  


How can you start to think about your own body and well being as an ecosystem?


With gratitude,

Martha Carlin

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