The sympathetic vs parasympathetic nervous systems…

You know the feeling of nervousness, stress or panic when we perceive danger or anticipating danger? Many of us know of the ‘fight or flight’ response being related to survival – but do you know much about the physiology of it?

How it affects your body in the long term to stay in that mode all the time?

 

Once upon a time we would have had to run from a predator, another opposing tribe or flee during bad weather… but in modern life, what is defined as things to escape from have somewhat taken on a new ‘cloak’. We now have ‘stress’ around us all the time, and what is physical or perceived stress WILL impact on our bodies, and sustained stress will turn into changes in our physiology.

Our bodies are designed to have short bursts of stress, and times of recovery in between so that we can maintain homeostasis and health.

The sympathetic nervous system is the one which activates our ‘fight or flight’ response… that includes activating thyroid and adrenal glands to provide energy so we can get away from the danger.

The energy this system uses is ‘destructive’ to the body – short bursts won’t necessarily harm, but long-term, the body ends up scrambling energy from any source it can, as quickly as it can, not discriminating where it comes from – it can be using muscles and other energy stores not normally used for ’emergency’ functions.

 

Of big focus to many who watch their waistline and wonder why it doesn’t change – the sympathetic nervous system won’t necessarily burn the fat you want it to!

 

If you stay in this ‘flight or fight’ mode… you will be burning through minerals, vitamins, potentially healthy muscle and other stores, and it will be detrimental to your adrenals and thyroid over time. You may feel great now, and amazed at how you can ‘keep on keeping on’, but a more major stressful life event will happen, and “suddenly” you will have a chronic illness, an autoimmune condition or even just get everyday sicknesses all the time, and not seem to ever fully recover.

You also have a parasympathetic nervous system which is involved in nourishing, healing, elimination and regeneration of the body.

The parasympathetic system gets ‘closed down’ to minimal operation when the sympathetic is active – imagine your body not being able to give much ‘attention’ at a metabolic level to your liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines? What do you think would happen to your body……?

  • Digestive disruption (slow motility, low stomach acid levels)
  • Low energy availability (where’s that energy coming from if you aren’t digesting?)
  • “Dis-ease” in these organs – diabetes/insulin resistance/blood glucose regulation, low digestive enzyme availability, gall stones, low liver function, etc
  • Constipation or diarrhea

“So what do I need to do?” I hear you say…

Working with your body to bring it into the parasympathetic state is really important – this means REST! Also nourishing your body fully so that when it needs to go into the ‘fight or flight’ mode, it has the energy sources, minerals and vitamins it needs to do it.

If you also contend with anxiety, depression, insomnia and the like, this can be extremely difficult – all of these conditions are heavily tied to mineral imbalances, so get testing done and learn about how they impact on your body, your brain and your life overall!

A few other things come to mind…

  • Be aware of your stresses in life – remove them where you can. If you can’t remove them, consider thinking outside the box on how to reduce them.
  • Relaxation, meditation, ‘me time’, anything to give you positive thoughts – do something EVERY day!
  • Eat whole foods, know what’s in your food… avoid all additives in ALL foods – not just the ‘numbers’ you know to be bad…..iron fortification, vitamin b, calcium
  • Empower yourself to understand your own health and that of your family – read, learn, ask questions, trust your gut… if it doesn’t seem ‘right’ for you… don’t do it.

Consider checking out the options and getting your minerals tested so you have a starting point. Remember, if you are always ‘running on empty’, this can be made worse by mineral imbalances and you are likely to continue to make the imbalances worse the longer you push through it.

Mineral imbalances don’t just fix themselves…nor do over the counter ‘quick fixes’ solve them. They are just band-aids…

Until next time!

– Kristan.

2 Comments

Filed under Calcium, Iron Dysregulation, Magnesium, Mineral Balance

2 Responses to The sympathetic vs parasympathetic nervous systems…

  1. Marla Ohm

    Is there a teaching seminar on this? Fight or flight response? Thanks.

    • Kristan Kershaw

      Hi Marla,

      Great question – at this stage no, but I am happy to consider requests!

      Is there a particular aspect on it you are curious on, or understanding it overall?

      Thanks for your question.

      Cheers,
      Kristan.

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