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Did you know you had a second brain in your gut?

The central nervous system (CNS) includes the brain and spinal cord. It controls your thoughts, movements, and emotions, as well your breathing, heart rate, hormones, and body temperature. It combines information from your entire body and coordinates activity across your whole body.

The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is a network of nerves that runs throughout your head, neck, and body. It carries messages to and from the CNS (the brain and spinal cord).

Together, the PNS and the CNS form your nervous system.

There is a special part of the PNS that controls your gut called the enteric nervous system (ENS). With more than 500 million neurons, it’s the most complex nervous network outside of your brain. It’s also unique in that it can operate somewhat independently from your CNS. This has led some scientists to refer to it as a “second brain”.

Many people will be familiar with the term 'gut feeling', when your body is telling you that something is wrong or when you have 'butterflies' in your tummy when you feel nervous. Those gut feelings are your second brain communicating with you.

Parkinson's Disease (PD) is thought to be due to clumping of a protein in the brain called alpha -synuclein (α-syn) which affects how your CNS and PNS works.

They have also found this α-syn protein in the second brain which affects how the ENS in your gut works. It is thought that perhaps this α-syn protein travels from the gut to the brain hence the focus on the 'gut -brain axis' in PD. There is now a theory that PD may start not only in the brain but also in the second brain and that organisms living in the gut may impact PD symptoms by impacting your second brain.

The organisms in the gut include bacteria, fungi, viruses and

as a group is known as the gut microbiome and it is influenced by age, sex, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise and medications. The microbiome impacts your thinking brain and your gut brain and vice versa.

These organisms can send signals through the ENS to the brain and they make substances that can enter the blood. They can also stimulate immune cells in the wall of the gut, and the immune cells then can send signals though the ENS to the brain. It is also thought that certain bacteria may cause the α-syn to clump in PD.

There is a lot of exciting research looking into the impact of the gut -brain axis on PD and how diet therapy, prebiotics, probiotics or drugs may help to improve PD symptoms and even slow progression.

The Cure Parkinson's Trust hosted a very interesting webinar on the gut brain axis and how diet may affect it. The panel covers the theory that some people may have 'brain first' PD or 'gut' first PD, pre and probiotics, leaky gut and what diet or foods benefit the microbiome which may impact PD symptoms and progression.

Click here to listen/watch back the webinar.

You can also download our new e-books which cover some of the diet aspects discussed in the webinar.

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