If we were in the forest camping, and came upon a grizzly bear and its cub, we would have an instant to decide if we would stay and fight the bear, or run away from it as fast as we could!
Modern man has named that choice to react “fight-or-flight”, a term that is often used when talking about the human stress response. Though we no longer face bears on a regular basis, when we react to a car alarm with the same heightened response we would to a dangerous animal, we are stuck in the fight-or-flight mode! Over my 25 years as a holistic chiropractor, I have treated many patients stuck in this pattern, and they have successfully released it and re-balanced their nervous system.
The human nervous system has two major divisions, the voluntary and the autonomic systems. The voluntary system is concerned mainly with movement and sensation. It consists of motor and sensory nerves, among many others.
The autonomic system mainly controls functions over which we have less conscious control. These include the digestion of food, blood pressure and heart rate. Its nerves leave the spine and connect to all the major organs and glands, either inhibiting or stimulating their activity.
The autonomic nervous system maintains a balance by regulating the internal organs, blood vessels, and hormones. It is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic is active, controlling functions that include those associated with fight-or-flight. The parasympathetic is passive, controlling the functions of rest and repair.
When we are in fight-or-flight mode, the sympathetic branch activates the glands and organs that defend the body against attack. Its nerves direct more blood to the muscles and the brain. The heart rate and blood pressure increase, while it decreases the blood flow to the digestive and eliminative organs. It also activates the thyroid and adrenal glands to provide extra energy for fighting or running away. Nervousness, stress or feelings of panic are what we feel when in a sympathetic state of readiness.
A constantly active sympathetic nervous system results in sympathetic dominance and puts the individual at risk for increased disease and illness. What drives a person into sympathetic dominance? Chronic stress and overwork are the most common culprits.
The symptoms and illnesses associated with sympathetic nervous system dominance are those of fight-or-flight, and include: excessive worry, the inability to relax, nervous energy, and a strong self-will to “keep going.” Often my patients experience a dry mouth and sensitivity to bright lights and find loud music extremely irritating. Possible illnesses include: hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, type 1 diabetes, anxiety, panic attacks and poor sleep.
If you recognize yourself having any of the above symptoms, know that there is a way to remove yourself from the fight-or-flight pattern. I am experienced in cutting-edge techniques and protocols, and offer nutritional supplements as needed, to relieve your nervous system of the underlying stressors that are hindering it from functioning optimally.
When the sympathetic dominance pattern is broken, and balance is restored between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, the body’s innate knowing rushes in to restore the individual to an improved level of health and wellness!
Find out more about how your nervous system affects your health and your weight here.