Our bodies contain more than just our own human cells. We normally live in harmony with a vast array of microorganisms occupying specific spaces, or niches, on and within us. These bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa form the human microbiome. The ones in the gut, mainly within the colon (large intestine), normally maintain a health balance and keep “bad” microbes from overpopulating that area of the digestive system. The normal gut organisms, consisting of around 1,000 different species of bacteria as well as other microbes, outnumber all the human cells in our bodies.
The gut microbiome acts locally and systemically, meaning it interacts with other parts of the body. Locally in the gut, the microbiome digests foods, helps to regulate the immune system, and produces vitamins that our bodies need for metabolism, nerve function, and blood clotting but that they cannot produce on their own.
There is mounting evidence that the gut microbiome also interacts with the nervous system, including the brain, in health and disease. Its effects also reach beyond the gut. Evidence points to a role for it in the faulty regulation of the immune system, leading to such diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and allergies.
In this episode, Ai Huey Tan of the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia discusses what is known about the role of the gut microbiome as it affects Parkinson’s disease and its treatment and what researchers are continuing to investigate.
- Expert Briefings: Nutrition and Parkinson’s (webinar)
- Parkinson’s Today Blog: The PD Gut-Brain Connection
- Episode 68: The Role of the Microbiome in PD: Part One (podcast)
- Parkinson’s Today Blog: The Latest in Nutrition and Parkinson’s Disease
About This Episode
Released: December 17, 2019
Ai Huey Tan, MD
Dr. Tan Ai Huey is a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Neurologist at the University of Malaya Medical Centre, Malaysia. She completed her specialty training in Neurology at the University of Malaya, Malaysia. Her main areas of research are in Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders, with a particular interest in exploring the role of gut infections and neuro-inflammation in Parkinson's Disease, and the characterization of rare/"orphan" diseases. She has numerous peer-reviewed journal publications and book chapters and has been awarded the Best Neuroscience Publication Award (UM Faculty of Medicine), and the International Scholarship Award from the American Academy of Neurology.
Dr. Tan has served as a Council Member of the Malaysian Movement Disorder Council since 2013 and was Co-Author of the National Consensus Guidelines for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Currently, she is the Honorary Secretary of the Malaysian Society of Neurosciences (MSN), the professional body that represents Malaysian clinicians and scientists in the neurology/neuroscience field. At the international level, she serves on several committees in the International Parkinson’s and Movement Disorder Society (MDS) including the MDS Education Committee, which oversees the planning of movement disorder education programs around the world.