One of the greatest discoveries of this century is the critical role that the gut plays in one’s overall health. Evidence has shown that there’s definitely a link between an unhealthy gut and many chronic conditions and brain disorders, including Parkinson’s, Fibromyalgia (a centralised pain disorder), mental health disorders, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, and other chronic muscle and joint problems. This is all because of the strong communication channel that exists between the brain and the gut.
To start with, let’s unpack the gut-brain axis.
We used to think that the brain told the gut what to do and we previously understood this to be a one-way road of signals. The new scientific understanding is that this one-way road of communication is in fact a highway of signals moving in both directions, and that while the brain communicates to the gut, we now understand that this only accounts for 20% of the communication between the two.
The rest of the 80% of communication is from the gut to the brain, in which the gut is telling the brain what to think and how to respond. If we compare the gut and the brain, the gut is structured very similarly to our brain, consisting of the same nerve fibres and neurotransmitters that our brain uses. In fact, the gut actually contains more neurotransmitters than the brain, which is the scientific explanation for why we have such a strong physical gut feeling when we are stressed, or anxious.
Indeed, the gut has even been described as a second brain, because it communicates directly with the body in a number of ways. For instance, as well as the gut-brain axis, scientists have also identified a gut-muscle axis, gut-skin axis, gut-heart axis and other gut connections, in which the gut communicates directly with other organs to tell them what to do. This is why gut disorders increases your likelihood of things like chronic pain, muscle and joint problems, and heart disease.
The gut is home to thousands of species of bacteria and other microorganisms. We call this the gut microbiome. This is the ecosystem of organisms that live mostly within the gut but also on our skin, and in our nose and throat. They are mostly bacterial cells, but also consist of other organisms such as archaea, fungi, protozoa, and viruses. These organisms are crucial for our health. In fact, we have anywhere from 1.3 x – 10x more bacterial cells than human cells within our bodies, meaning that we are actually more bacterial than human.
The health of your gut and ensuring a healthy ecosystem of the microbiome impacts your body on a whole. We all need more ‘good’ bacteria than ‘bad’ bacteria in our gut, and a rich biodiversity of many different species of bacteria to be healthy and happy. When there is an imbalance of these microbes, our gut gets inflamed. This leads to a breakdown of the healthy walls of our gut, which allow the “bad” bacteria and the substances that they produce to leak out of the gut, and travel to the brain via the lymphatics, nervous system and blood circulation, where they can cause inflammation of the brain. You might hear this referred to as a leaky gut.
An inflamed gut also impedes our gut’s ability to breakdown foods that we eat and synthesise important amino acids for our health, which we use for healthy cellular functioning and repair. All this means that if you have an unhealthy gut microbiome, you could develop stomach problems, brain fog, tiredness and sluggishness, weakness, stiffness, memory problems, anxiety and depression. If the gut is left untreated for long enough, these issues can develop into chronic conditions and you may be more likely to develop Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain conditions including Fibromyalgia, muscle and joint stiffness and pain, type 2 diabetes and more.
Because our microbiome has such vast effects on our brain and the rest of our health, when you hear people talking about the gut-brain axis, what they are really referring to is the microbiota-gut-brain axis.
Let's take a closer look at Parkinson’s.
We still don’t know what causes conditions like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. However, Braak and a team of scientists have found that people with Parkinson’s have unhealthy proteins clumped together in the gut. We call these alpha-synuclein proteins, and they are very bad for our health, causing inflammation and damage to the surrounding cells. If our gut is inflamed, these unhealthy proteins can cross the leaky gut barrier and travel from the gut, via the vagus nerve, up to the brain, where they then cause damage to our brain and spinal cord, reducing the levels of dopamine that is produced and available for use by the brain.
When the body lacks dopamine, it makes you feel tired, unmotivated, sluggish, and affects your concentration and memory. When the parts of the brain that control movement lack dopamine, this can lead to the symptoms of Parkinsonism, including rigidity, tremor, stiffness and difficulty moving.
Interestingly, for many people with Parkinson’s, the first signs of the condition aren’t the classic rigidity and tremor, but actually gut issues. People with Parkinsons have been shown to have these alpha-synuclein proteins in their gut, sometimes up to 10 years before their Parkinsons diagnosis is made. Given that most doctors still only diagnose Parkinson’s based on signs of affected walking, rigidity and tremor, this is often years too late.
It is crucial that we begin to consider Parkinson’s not as just a neurodegenerative brain disorder, but also a gut disorder, and to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to treat the gut to prevent the disease.
So now that we understand the gut-brain axis and the impact when things go wrong, let's look at how light therapy can assist.
Laser Light therapy is an approved medical therapy that has been around for over 100 years and describes the application of red/infrared light to the body. Laser light therapy works in many ways, including to energise the cell, helping to regulate our stress response and acting as a powerful anti-inflammatory.
When we apply a SYMBYX laser to the gut, we are energising the mitochondria of the cells within the gut to produce more energy, known as ATP, which is used for cellular growth and repair. Alongside this increase in cellular energy, there is also an increase in cAMP, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
By stimulating gut health and repair, leaky gut can hopefully be treated and even prevented. Leaky gut is when the walls between cells in your gut become compromised, allowing bad bacteria and other particles to cross over from the gut into the bloodstream. It is one of the key hypotheses by which those unhealthy alpha-synuclein proteins spread to the brain in Parkinson’s disease, however it is also implicated in many other disease processes, such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, mental health disorders, chronic pain disorders including Fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease and more. By reducing gut inflammation, the walls of the gut can be repaired, and this leaking of unhealthy particles can be prevented.
Very excitingly, research has also shown that when SYMBYX light therapy is applied to the gut, it can directly increase the number of good bacteria that are living within the gut. When we talk about a healthy gut microbiome, a high level of biodiversity is critically important. Many people lose the diversity of the gut microbiome in their gut, which leads them to an unhealthy gut microbiome, known as a gut dysbiosis. Laser light therapy has been shown to improve markers such as the Firmicute: Bacteroidete ratio, which is commonly used as a marker of health of the gut microbiome. It’s also been shown to increase the levels of good bacteria which are used to produce important substances such as short chain fatty acids.
One very important short chain fatty acid is butyrate. Low butyrate levels have been linked with Parkinson’s disease, as it plays a role in not only regulating gut health and preventing leaky gut, but also in contributing to the levels of dopamine in the body and the brain. By stimulating the gut microbiome with laser light therapy, research suggests that we may be able to improve the state of the microbiome, so that more of the microbiome is available for the production of important substances such as butyrate.
SYMBYX has the only laser light therapy device in the world medically approved and ARTG-listed to treat Parkinson’s at home via the gut-brain axis.
The SYMBYX lasers have been developed over years of research, with scientists from around the world, and has shown to be effective in reducing motor and non-motor Parkinson’s symptoms. Whilst it is not a cure for Parkinson’s, it has been shown to reduce the severity of Parkinson’s symptoms, and at 3 years of follow-up, prevent further symptom regression in many patients. Patients using SYMBYX devices have noted improvements in not only fine and gross motor skills, such as rigidity, walking and mobility, but also in non-motor symptoms, such as improved sleep, sense of smell, decreased brain fog, better bowel habits, decreased anxiety and depression, decreased pain and more liveliness.
The SYMBYX Parkinson’s protocol is designed to be applied three times per week with a one day rest in-between sessions. SYMBYX devices are very easy to use, designed for at-home use by anyone, and you don’t need a medical referral to purchase one. All you have to do is apply the device to the body, and wait for a beep to signal when it is time to move it. SYMBYX devices are also portable, making them easy to travel with and integrate into a busy life.
This ground-breaking research is now also being tested and applied by scientists around the world for many other disorders, such as Fibromyalgia, chronic muscle and joint pain, inflammatory bowel disease, attention deficit disorders, cognitive disorders and mental health disorders. SYMBYX really believes in research and thorough testing, which is why they are so heavily invested in furthering what we know and making these devices accessible to people from all around the world. Further trials are currently underway in countries such as Canada and Australia.
In conclusion, an apple a day might not only keep the doctor away, but can also be considered medicine, not only for our guts, but also for our brains and nervous system. Alongside a healthy, balanced diet high in fresh produce, regular sleep and exercise, and improving mental health, laser light therapy may also offer a safe, effective and natural treatment that can positively improve someone’s health and wellbeing.
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Until next time, stay healthy and happy!