Our mood has always been directly linked to our stomach, with anxiety or anticipation often resulting in butterflies floating about in our mid regions.
Scientists have discovered that the nerve pathways between the gut and the brain, which create this sensation may also be linked to degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), plus mental health problems.
“The gut and brain share the same nerve chemistry and have a dialogue,” said Dr Anton Emmanuel, consultant neuro-gastroenterologist at University College London and the National Hospital for Neurology.
“That’s why when you feel stress and other strong emotions, such as fear, it leads to gastrointestinal symptoms, like rushing to the loo.”
The study, which was published in the journal Movement Disorders, suggests that brain disease can be caused by an unhealthy gut, as these pathways travel in both directions. It found that sufferers of Parkinson’s disease were at a higher risk of suffering from another condition called SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
The symptoms of SIBO include excess gas, bloating, abdominal pain and bloating, which are similar to those of IBS and often lead to it going undiagnosed for delayed periods.
But scientists are airing caution, suggesting that the bacteria could produce chemicals that affect the nerves in the gut, which could result in damage passed onto the brain and ultimately, in Parkinson’s and MS.
“We now think that neurological diseases such as MS and Parkinson’s are linked to the gut being more leaky, permitting pathogens into the bloodstream and causing an antibody response. Either the pathogens, directly, or the immune response, indirectly, may damage nerve tissue,” said Dr Emmanual.
Researchers hope the new results will help shed light on new treatments for the degenerative diseases.