The Sympathetic Nervous System
Breathwork and deep breathing exercises are one of the most effective and affordable tools you can find for assistance in restoring balance to the autonomic nervous system. Dee on August 19, at 1: There are also millions of nerve endings on your skin. The autonomic nervous system has two parts: Too much fruit also stimulates sympathetic stress and drains neurotransmitters. There are numerous time-tested strategies to calm and soothe the nervous system that I will discuss in this article. Excellent sources are deep-sea fatty fish see above , eggs from grass-fed hens, walnuts, flaxseeds, avocado, coconut oil and fish oil supplements.
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You can either take light sniffs of the oil or apply the oil to pulse points on your body, like the wrists. Eat foods that calm the stomach. To help offset a nervous stomach, there are specific foods that contain enzymes and other properties that can relax the digestive tract. Mint and peppermint, which contain properties that relax smooth muscles like the stomach. Ginger and candied ginger, which contain pyrochemicals that help fight nausea. Papaya, which contains protein digestive enzymes that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Try to relax your body one part at a time. This is also known as progressive muscle relaxation. When you are feeling tense and your stomach is in a knot, try standing still with your eyes closed.
Assess where you feel the most tension in your body, and focus on letting this tension go. Take deep breaths as you relax your arms, your legs, your back, your neck, your torso, and your stomach. Focusing on your body instead of your thoughts can help calm you down.
Doing this technique repeatedly can also trick the body into releasing this tension throughout the body, including the stomach. Treat your symptoms with medicine. While you never want to take medicine if you can avoid it, sometimes a nervous stomach can be so extreme or persistent that it becomes necessary. Common over-the-counter examples include: Try deep breathing techniques.
This will stimulate the diaphragm and your parasympathetic nervous system, which can relax you. Not Helpful 5 Helpful I have functional dyspepsia, and I feel slightly sick to my stomach all the time. Talk to your doctor about this option. Not Helpful 8 Helpful Is there a solution to the warm, anxious feeling in my stomach that I get after I experience an anxiety attack? Push all the air out and repeat.
Hold at each end for seconds. Repeat until you feel calmer. Not Helpful 9 Helpful This is indeed challenging if you have chronic stomach pain. I find that deep breathing throughout the day and prayerfully placing my anxiety about stomach pain before God help. Every time your start to feel anxious about your stomach hurting, say "Lord, I give this anxiety to you and accept your peace in return. Not Helpful 7 Helpful Citrus oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit have a high acid content and can irritate the lining of the stomach.
Tomatoes also have a high acid content. Yellow tomatoes have less acid than the red ones. If you are having stomach issues, you might want to avoid these foods until the problem passes. Not Helpful 15 Helpful What can I do to stop feeling like there are butterflies or worms crawling in my stomach?
There is something called belly breathing. Do that, and those butterflies will be gone in minutes. All you do is put your hands on your tummy, and breathe in and out as you feel your hands move up and down.
Then you should start to relax and feel better. Your stomach is digesting food all the time but it is louder when it's empty. Try eating something because you may just be hungry. I am anxious over a test. When your total stress load, which is the sum of all your stressors added together, becomes too high then dysautonomia occurs.
Charles Gant calls this the web of distress. When we are under stress, the fight or flight system is activated and the sympathetic nervous system is in control; digestion is shut down, metabolism, immune function and the detoxification system is impaired, blood pressure and heart rate are increased, circulation is impaired, sleep is disrupted, memory and cognitive function may be impaired, neurotransmitters are drained, our sense of smell, taste and sound are amplified, high levels of norepinephrine are released in the brain and the adrenal glands release a variety of hormones like adrenalin and cortisol.
In a state of chronic stress, the body remains in this condition continually. We can easily see how remaining in a state of constant fight or flight would lead to a variety of digestive and circulation disorders as well as high blood pressure. However, it's much deeper than that. Although norepinephrine is crucial for our survival and proper brain function, it becomes toxic when it is in excess.
High levels of norepinephrine in the brain result in fear, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and inability to relax, while adrenalin triggers the liver to dump its sugar reserves into the blood stream. High levels of sugar in the blood steam alert the pancreas to release high levels of insulin.
High levels of insulin in the blood stream on an ongoing basis lead to many degenerative health conditions like insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many more. During this process, other neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA and serotonin are overstimulated as well, which eventually leads to depletion. Neurotransmitters are what govern our moods, thoughts, feelings, behavior, memory and cognitive function, so if they become depleted then many psychological symptoms develop.
Additionally, neurotransmitters are needed to modulate the autonomic nervous system and restore the body to the parasympathetic state, so if they are not available in sufficient numbers, then the sympathetic nervous system runs rampant. It is exceptionally important to replenish GABA levels and prevent histamine excess. Cortisol is extremely important because it helps counteract some of the negative effects of stress and keep things in balance.
It enhances digestion and metabolism, restricts insulin, is a crucial player in blood sugar management, glucose metabolism, immune function and the inflammatory response. However, excessively high levels of cortisol that occur when the demands of stress are too high result in high levels of anxiety and fear, disruption of the hormonal system, may impair memory and cognition and eventually leads to burn out.
If the demands for cortisol remain high and incessant, eventually the adrenal glands can no longer produce enough cortisol. Charles Gant, when the demands for cortisol are extremely high, a phenomenon called cortisol steal occurs.
All the precursors needed for the hormones in the body like aldosterone, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and dhea will be used up to create cortisol and thus these hormones will become deficient and create additional burdens on the body and lead to more degeneration in health. For example, aldosterone is important for regulating blood pressure and the sodium potassium ratio in the body. It is the combination of these negative effects of excessive sympathetic nervous system activity that lead to dysautonomia.
At this point there is a domino effect on other organs and systems in the body, the entire nervous system, immune system, endocrine system, hormonal system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, etc.
Since the primary root of dysautonomia and autonomic nervous system dysfunction lies in an overactive sympathetic nervous system or activation of the fight or flight system, the ultimate goal in recovery is to restore balance to the autonomic nervous system. In other words we want turn off the sympathetic nervous system and return to the parasympathetic state. The preferred state for the body and mind.
Regardless of which health condition you face, healing takes place in the regenerative state. Healing can't happen in a degenerative state. The process of restoring balance to the autonomic nervous system requires a complex and comprehensive approach that addresses each and every one of the contributing chronic stress factors that exist for each individual, as well as a variety of techniques and lifestyle changes that encourage activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and oppose the high levels of norepinephrine.
One must go through the list of 12 types of stress above, identify each one that pertains to their situation and address them accordingly. If you have a boat filled with water and it is sinking, you take a bucket and toss the excess water out and the boat will stop sinking.
The same applies to the stress load. Start tossing them overboard so you can get your head above water. For example, if you have Candida, nutritional deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity, emotional stress, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, lyme, low serotonin, structural stress, etc.
Whatever stressors apply to your life, these are the areas you need to focus on to reduce your total stress load. Unfortunately in our society we tend to frown upon people who rest and take naps.
We are expected to be doing something all the time, and if we aren't then we are often labeled as lazy or lacking in motivation. This attitude contributes greatly to autonomic nervous system conditions, because basically the norm in our society is to run yourself into the ground. Taking time to rest and nap is very healthy and getting plenty of it is a crucial part of recovery for an overactive sympathetic nervous system.
This includes insuring that you get your 8 or 9 hours of sleep each night. The adrenal glands, as well as the body in general, does its regeneration while we sleep. Charles Gant tells us that a cholesterol level of below is very hazardous to your health. Cholesterol is needed for the synthesis of all our steroid hormones. If you don't have enough cholesterol, you can't produce your life sustaining hormones like dhea, progesterone, estrogen, aldosterone and testosterone and most importantly in regard to the autonomic nervous system, cortisol.
Cholesterol is converted to pregnenalone, which is converted to progesterone, which is converted to cortisol. If your cholesterol levels are too low, then they need to be increased. What you eat has a profound impact on your autonomic nervous system. Sugar, food additives, preservatives, dyes, caffeine, chocolate, pesticides all trigger the fight or flight system and keep the sympathetic nervous system in high alert and should be eliminated.
These substances also deplete neurotransmitters. Foods that are high in starches like whole grains, potatoes and legumes break down into sugar in the body and should be avoided or at least greatly restricted as they too trigger the fight or flight and deplete neurotransmitters. Too much fruit also stimulates sympathetic stress and drains neurotransmitters. Additionally, if the diet does not contain the right amount of nutrients that the body needs to produce hormones like cortisol or for the brain to produce neurotransmitters, then neurotransmitters and cortisol will not be available in sufficient amounts to regulate the autonomic nervous system.
The diet should be high in animal protein and low-starch vegetables, contain a moderate amount of fat, eggs and fish, and a small amount of low sugar fruits, nuts and seeds.
If you tolerate dairy, then butter, ghee, cream, and full-fat yogurt can be good for the endocrine and nervous system as well. It is my opinion that a slightly modified version of the Paleolithic Diet is what is best for not only restoring balance to the autonomic nervous system, but for optimal health overall. Most of the common everyday chemicals found in your cleaning products, personal care products, perfume, cologne, laundry products, air fresheners, pest control, lawn products etc.
This is especially true of pesticides. They are one of the most harmful toxins that exist. And, this applies to mold as well, they emit mycotoxins that can be harmful to the mind and body in the same manner as any other toxin. It is crucial to eliminate these substances from your living space; eat organic and switch over to environmentally friendly personal care and household products.
The autonomic nervous system simply cannot be restored to balance if it is constantly exposed to environmental toxins. You may want to read this page, for a more thorough discussion of how toxins impact our mental and physical health. Microbes of all kinds candida, viruses, bacteria, parasites can be a major contributor to excessive sympathetic nervous system activity, because they, their toxins, antigens, and consequences are a significant source of stress.
Additionally, microbes can disrupt neurotransmitter balance that is needed to regulate the autonomic nervous system. Getting regular exercise is very important for healing the autonomic nervous system, however the type of exercise that you engage in is even more important. Exercise that is too intense , strenuous or lasts too long will put too much pressure on the endocrine system and add to depletion of cortisol and neurotransmitters in the brain and thus trigger the sympathetic stress response.
And it might be because, although scientists know it has many functions, they aren't sure exactly how this nerve actually works. What we do know is that it's a major regulator of the peripheral nervous system, which is also known as the "rest and digest" response because of its ability to slow our pulse and lower our blood pressure.
The vagus nerve is also a central player in the gut-brain axis , which has become a pretty big deal in the wellness world. In , a German physiologist first discovered that stimulating the vagus nerve caused the heart rate to slow down by triggering the release of a substance he called Vagusstoff vagus substance.
It was later discovered that this substance was actually acetylcholine—an important neurotransmitter in our nervous system. Since then, researchers have discovered a lot more about the vagus nerve and the role it plays in quite a few different diseases and important systems in the body. For example, electrical stimulation of this nerve has been shown to reduce the rate of epileptic seizures and help with depressive symptoms.
Vagal tone—or how strong your vagus nerve is—can be connected to inflammation , immune system regulation , metabolism , and emotional regulation , which we can all agree are pretty important. So what does the vagus nerve mean for mental health? Low vagal tone is associated with poor emotional and attentional regulation, inflammation , depression, and is even used as a measurement for a person's sensitivity to stress.
Meanwhile, a healthy vagal tone is associated with the opposite: Some studies have even shown that increasing vagal tone could be helpful in treating addiction and certain cravings. Knowing this, it might be time—in honor of Mental Health Month—for all of us to study up on this very important part of the body.
Wondering if you can strengthen your vagal tone for better health? Many psychologists, neuroscientists, and integrative health experts say we can tap into the power of the vagus nerve to improve our mental health.
Christopher Bergland in Psychology Today wrote that "Vagusstoff acetylcholine is like a tranquilizer that you can self-administer simply by taking slow, deep diaphragmatic breaths.
But besides breathing, there are a host of different ways to give your vagus nerve a much-needed workout. Here are five that will help you fight anxiety and stress on a neurobiological level. Research shows that singing has a biologically soothing effect, which has everything to do with the vagus nerve. This can be anything from a slow mantra to chanting to belting out your favorite '90s song. In studies testing the effects of vagus nerve stimulation on children with epilepsy, one of the side effects is uncontrollable laughter.
And while it's not a desired side effect in a clinical setting, this does show that laughter is associated with an increase in vagal stimulation.