By Dr. Shawn VanWinkle

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a disorder of the central nervous system that results in degeneration of certain tissues in the brain. Specifically, it is caused by gradual destruction of cells in the basal ganglia that use the neurotransmitter dopamine to carry out their function. This area of the brain is highly involved with control of movement. Parkinson’s disease and related Parkinsonism syndromes are therefore classified as movement disorders.

What Parkinson’s Looks Like:

Classic symptoms include shaking or tremors, rigidity (muscles are resistant to movement), slowness of movement (bradykinesia) and difficulty with walking and balance. Due to their postural instability, patients with PD are at an increased risk to suffer from fall related injuries. Symptoms can also be neuropsychiatric in nature and include slow cognition, poor memory, depression, apathy and anxiety. Other less known symptoms and often early warning signs of PD are constipation, loss of smell, daytime drowsiness, urinary incontinence, blurry vision and decreased eye blink rate.

Leave My Glass of Milk Alone!

Understanding the cause of movement disorders such as PD has long been a frustration of the scientific community. Recent studies have shown a link between PD and diets that include dairy. In the article titled “Dairy products and risk of Parkinson’s disease” it was concluded that dairy consumption may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. The association was found in both genders but was stronger in men. These findings are not related to the consumption of calcium, vitamin D or fat.

Is My Immune System Attacking My Nervous System?

Autoimmune diseases are disorders where your immune system mounts an overzealous attack on your body’s own tissue. The immune system will make antibodies against certain tissue and will “tag” them, basically like a marked man from the mafia. Other cells (the hit men), experts at seek and destroy tactics, find these tags and will basically “snuff out” these self tissue cells. As you can imagine, if you start losing tissue from different parts of your body, these areas will slow down and eventually lose their ability to function. Many movement disorders, including PD have been known to be associated with autoimmune diseases. “Movement Disorders in Autoimmune Diseases” published early last year describes many of these associations. In this article, parkinsonism was found to be associated with autoimmune encephalitis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Sjögren’s Syndrome and even Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity.


Once a movement disorder has progressed into the late stages it becomes increasingly difficult to slow, stop or reverse the progression of it. Changes in how your body and nervous system function can often be seen as early as 40 years prior to the onset of the movement disorder. The literature also states that many autoimmune related movement disorders improve with dietary changes. Looking for a doctor who is trained in functional neurology and functional medicine is important for improving and maximizing your function. They will be able to identify the changes that happen to your nervous system at both very early and late stages. They can recognize what foods you eat and how your immune system may be contributing to the problem. Finally they will be able to develop a specific course of care complete with specific neurological rehabilitative exercises and nutritional protocols that will help halt the process, repair and support a healthy immune and nervous system.


Copyright © 2013 Integrated Health Systems. All Rights Reserved. Dr. Shawn VanWinkle is an Associate Doctor at Integrated Health Systems. To learn more about how we can help you with your health goals visit our website at A free initial consultation can be scheduled by calling our office at 303-781-5617.