Parasympathetic Nervous System Dominance

By Dr. Michael Roth

In my last post we discussed the Sympathetic Nervous System, and the way it affects the body.  This time, we are going to explore the other part of our nervous system, the Parasympathetic, and discuss the interaction between the two.

Your body is more than blood and bones and muscle.  It is an elegant system that also includes glands and organs and is designed to work with perfect circulation, perfect assimilation and perfect elimination.  Yet, I see patients daily for whom this “perfection” is only a pipe-dream.  Sometimes, the culprit that is responsible for a body that is not functioning properly is the nervous system.

Flickr photo credit Laura Dahl

The parasympathetic nervous system works to nourish, heal and regenerate the body.  It is anabolic, which means it is concerned with rebuilding the body.  Its nerves stimulate digestion, and the immune and eliminative organs.  These organs include the liver, pancreas, stomach and intestines.  The parasympathetic nervous system, when activated by rest, relaxation and happy thoughts, is essential for balanced living and for all healing.

The sympathetic nervous system activates the glands and organs that defend the body against attack.  It is called the fight-or-flight system.  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 one feels when in a sympathetic state of readiness.  The sympathetic system is catabolic, which means it tears down the body.  Energy is used to prepare for defense, rather than for nourishment or for elimination of wastes.

Flickr photo credit Nate Steiner

Flickr photo credit Nate Steiner


The feeling often associated with the parasympathetic state can be one of lethargy or fatigue, as one is so relaxed.  This is not unhealthy.  Rather, it indicates a state of repair and rebuilding in progress.

Symptoms of parasympathetic nervous system dominance often include feeling depressed and cynical.  An individual may be paralyzed by their fear or anger about their situation.  There may be a decrease in clarity of thought as a part of a numbing process to avoid pain and overwhelming emotions.

When a patient arrives at my office in parasympathetic dominance, I often see a person who tends to be more fatigued and prone to depression and whose adrenal and thyroid glands tend to be underactive. They may experience multiple allergies. Other symptoms include weight gain, dizziness and light headedness, low blood pressure and diarrhea.

Many of my patients have already gone from doctor to doctor looking for a cure before they come to my office.  In my many years as a holistic chiropractor, I have studied and practiced effective procedures and techniques, along with nutritional supplements, that balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

When the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are working as they should, the tendency is to rest often and easily. The parasympathetic system reduces the activity of the brain, the muscles, and the adrenal and thyroid glands.  When no situation is pressing, the balanced person can comfortably choose to rest and can sleep deeply. In this restorative sleep, the parasympathetic system renews and heals any damage to the body caused by an over-active sympathetic nervous system.  Balance between the two systems is a key step toward greater health and wellness!

Flickr photo credit der wunderbare mandarin


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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. please before you read this as it sounds very extremly odd and take into consideration i dont do drugs,i dont drink,i dont smoke always ate extremly healthy,played sports my whole life so im puzzled with all this as are friends n family … . Wondering how its even possible to have lost my thought ability and to feel disconnected as one with everything .ive sent out over 1500emails worldwide seeking answers:: slowly started 3.5yrs ago when i was put on clonazepam started with dizzy spells,stopped takng it last yr nothing improved i started to have blackouts,smelling burnt ash,smoke and developed a stutter on two different occasions id also stare at the wall almost like having a stroke…kept going back to drs n hospital nothing was resolved was then put on zyprexa as it was assumed to be all in my head as i assumed nothing improved these symptoms that i never had before started Oct 10th this started with eyesight going surreal then started feeling disconnected from myself and surroundings around me not just emotionally but as a whole,tingling on top centre of head continously and sense of perception n reality continously getting worse, feels as though i have no connection as a whole,when I touch and feel things it doesn’t seem to register as a sense with brain,have ringing/buzzing inside ears from time to time,strangest part I have lack of thought which i alwats had an overactive one a loss of feelings,emotions its been a mystery to the drs ive been to so far If you could maybe help or know someone who could that would be great,ive tried so many things so far and spent substantial amounts of money trying to find out the root of the cause

  2. Hi Stephen! I’ve been in same situation with you. I studied a lot on my own trying to figure it. On top of that as you did researched and followed many doctors advices, etc. I got a hair mineral test done and it came back saying I had parasympathetic dominance.

    I have an answer for you. Please check my facebook page True Inner Self as well as my website.

    I discovered these amazing healing orchids and one particular essence is called SYMPATHETIC(P) it actions on the parasympathetic system. It made wonders with my state of being. My body start repairing and y mood improved. I also start exercising for my core and I’m now able to take walk of 5miles. I also started Qi-qong and Tai-chi classes, things that I could never start before due to my condition. I was to weak for anything.

    These essences are not expensive. There are other essences for other problems, issues and all sort of purposes. Apart for improving your health state you also have to go to the bottom of this condition and resolve the cause of it.

    I was born in a poor family so I struggle for survival from day 1 and also I was unwanted child so I had to clear up my cellular memory. For that I used another essence: LIFE RENEWAL.

    My point is that you have to release whatever emotional and mental (thought patterns and believes you hold about yourself and the world that are destructive) language you may have swept under the rug.

    If you think I can help you more feel free to contact me. I’m not sure if I can leave my contact details here.

    I hope this helps! Don’t give up as there is help for you!


  3. […] Parasympathetic Nervous System Dominance […]

  4. I was told by a trainer that I have Parasympathetic Nervous System dominance. The first day he was working with me he found that my heart rate gets to a point and won’t increase. Which then means I don’t get the increase of oxygen or blood flow to muscle like other people. When I exercise I’m almost always in oxygen deprivation and I’m miserable exercising until I’m done. After that I feel great.
    My sports chiropractor told me that it’s better to have that kind of nervous system dominance. After reading what it does I tend to agree. However, I would like to enjoy running 5k races and not feel like I’m going to die… I’m healthy & am not heavy, but people in worse shape & older than me can whip my butt in a race. Is there anything I can do different?

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