Desulfovibrio bacteria, Parkinson's and diet
I have received a few questions from readers about this paper, Desulfovibrio Bacteria Are Associated With Parkinson’s Disease. Research in the microbiome of Parkinson's continues to make great progress. This research comes from a group in Finland where the earliest pioneer, Dr. Filip Scheperjans, is also located. I'll write more on Dr. Scheperjans continuing work in a separate blog post.
So what is Delsufovibrio? From the paper linked above, "Desulfovibrio bacteria produce hydrogen sulfide and lipopolysaccharide, and several strains synthesize magnetite, all of which likely induce the oligomerization and aggregation of α-synuclein protein." Magnitite is an iron oxide. Oxidized iron in the brain has long been an area of research in Parkinson's. This bacterium is Gram-negative. Gram-negative bacteria, like Desulfovibrio contain something called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in their outer membrane. Interestingly, there is an animal model for studying Parkinson's disease which induces PD-like symptoms in the mouse using LPS. LPS is an endotoxin made of lipids and saccharides (sugars). The presence of serum LPS has been used in a number of diseases as a marker of inflammation. The effects of acute LPS during infection are well documented. Only recently have researchers begun to explore the connections between chronic, low grade LPS and autoimmune diseases. This article has a brief discussion of LPS and autoimmune including connections to the importance of Bifidobacteria in early life immune system development. In many Parkinson's microbiome studies, low Bifidobacteria has been noted in the data.
We have been exploring the role of LPS in our microbiome data. This study from 2019 showed altered sulfur metabolism in the PD microbiome at baseline and over time series in disease progression. Our focus on LPS goes beyond looking at a single strain of bacteria to the bigger picture of bacterial toxins, that include but are not limited to LPS.
The importance of good gut health and how the diet impacts the gut cannot be over emphasized for a more positive trajectory in Parkinson's disease. Unfortunately, neurologists are not microbiome scientists, chemists or food nutritionists. So this takes some initiative on our part to study and lead the way.
I recently attended a conference where I heard Dr. Michael Ruscio and Heidi Turner speak about the low sulfur diet and many different complex health issues they work on. Heidi is a functional nutritionist. I came back from the conference with a plan to get started on a low sulfur diet experiment with John but we were busy and didn't get it going. Yesterday, John had a rough day where he lost energy early in the day and just didn't feel well. We looked back over the previous 24 hours diet and noted that it was very high in sulfur! So today we are starting the low sulfur diet experiment. I will post about the results in a week or so and let you know what we think. But so far this morning, it is almost 11am, John has not taken Levodopa yet and he is walking just fine and feeling good.
Here is a link to Dr. Ruscio's low sulfur diet. Veggies that are allowed on the diet are French Artichoke (not Jerusalem), Bamboo shoots, Beets, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Celery, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Fennel, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Parsnips, Potatoes, Squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti, summer, winter, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes, Yams, and Zucchini. Quite a few vegetables are very high in sulfur and many of these are all the craze today - Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. So avoid these vegetables during your experiment.
Fatty fish (less sulfur), dark meat and organ meats (less sulfur) are good protein choices. There are many fruits on the list but don't overboard on the fruit because of the high fructose content. For cooking oils, he does not mention that seed oils are unhealthy in general. I would suggest using ghee or olive oil. It turns out the sulfur is added to coconut oil as a preservative ,so coconut oil may be high in sulfur. A few other things on the list of allowed foods that I would suggest your avoid - ketchup, avoid this unless you know that it does not contain high fructose corn syrup. It is very difficult to find ketchup without it.
Dr. Ruscio's recommendation include avoiding grains, except for white rice. This is not because grains are high in sulfur, rather many people also have issues with grain allergens and you want to avoid confusion. We recently learned that John has antibodies to wheat specifically but not other grains, so we are still including organic oats in his test this week. If you don't know whether or not you have a wheat allergy then I would suggest avoid all of the grains. I will write another blog on the connections we have made to a peptide found in wheat call alpha-crystallin that may be causing immune responses to an important human protein that is involved in handling mis-folded proteins.
I would also love to know if any of my readers have tried a low sulfur diet already? If so, we would love to have you post your experience on the Forum.
With deep gratitude!
Yours in the fight,