Sympathetic dominance: balancing strategies

Your nervous system manages everything in your body — actions, thoughts, sensations, and how you interact with the world. It has sympathetic and parasympathetic branches that enable you to respond to threats, or relax and heal.

Let's explore this further.

You can think of these branches as the accelerator and brake, working together to keep your body balanced and functioning correctly.

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is like the accelerator, preparing you to respond to stress or danger — for “fight or flight.” It increases your heart rate and blood pressure, slows digestion, redirects blood flow to the muscles, and triggers the release of glucose for extra energy.

The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is like the brake, also referred to as the “rest and digest” system. The PNS conserves energy and promotes relaxation and recovery. It reduces heart rate and blood pressure, supports digestion, fertility, and repair.

Sometimes, the accelerator ‘sticks’— this happens when the sympathetic system becomes overly active. The nervous system is thrown out of balance and leads to a state known as sympathetic dominance.

The causes vary, but it’s often triggered by the stressors of modern life, such as being constantly busy, overwork, financial struggles, mental health challenges, and physical illness. As a result, we become trapped in a survival loop, neglecting relaxation and healing.

From a chiropractic perspective, sympathetic dominance may cause issues such as:

  • anxiety,
  • digestive problems,
  • fatigue,
  • headaches,
  • high blood pressure,
  • increased heart rate or palpitations,
  • low mood,
  • physical tension and discomfort,
  • shortness of breath,
  • trouble sleeping.

These symptoms can occur with various other health issues, so seeking professional advice is essential. If you do have sympathetic dominance, there are steps you can take to recover. Start by addressing the leading cause: ongoing stress. Find the sources of stress in your life and limit its impact.

Here are some practical lifestyle tips to bring back balance in your life:

  • Practice mind-body techniques: meditation and deep-breathing can promote relaxation.
  • Find relaxation through hobbies and activities you enjoy.
  • Prioritise sleep – to be healthy, you must sleep well.
  • Follow a wholefood, balanced diet.
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Quit smoking.

Exercise regularly with gentle activities like: walking, yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, light resistance training, and flexibility exercises.

Feel free to inquire about sympathetic dominance and discovering the underlying reasons behind your symptoms.

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Sympathetic dominance: balancing strategies
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