The autonomic nervous system includes the parasympathetic and the sympathetic systems. The parasympathetic system is in charge of the organs and their functions, while the sympathetic system is in charge of the fight or flight response to perceived danger or stress, whether that means running from a dangerous animal, being stuck in a dreadful job, or dealing with a difficult boss!
Excess fear or anger, stress or shock can cause the sympathetic nervous system to turn on and shut down the parasympathetic system. When this happens the organs don’t receive their usual instructions and stop functioning normally so that all energy is diverted to the “fight” or the “flight”.
Sometimes after the shock is over or the danger has passed, the sympathetic nervous system forgets to revert control back to the parasympathetic system, which in turn inhibits proper organ function, and could lead to disease if prolonged. This state is called sympathetic dominance, a term used by Dr. Lawrence Wilson, and indicates a pattern of over-utilizing the sympathetic nervous system. Previously, he referred to it as the “pusher pattern” because he noticed that people who showed this pattern on a hair mineral analysis tended to push themselves too hard or worry too much. Sympathetic dominance can also occur when there is not enough downtime for recovery between stress responses.
This is one of the most important and most interesting patterns seen on hair mineral analyses. The sodium and potassium readings on a hair tissue mineral analysis, and to some degree their ratio, have to do with the utilization of this branch of the autonomic nervous system
Sympathetic Dominance on a Hair Analysis
The sympathetic dominant pattern is always characterized by one of the following:
- A slow oxidation rate AND a potassium level of 4 mg or less. This is the most common situation of sympathetic dominance. The lower the potassium level, the more severe the pattern. The slower the oxidation rate, the more severe the pattern.
- A slow oxidation rate AND a sodium/potassium ratio greater than about 3 to 4. Both the above can also be present. The higher the sodium/potassium ratio in this case, the more severe the pattern. If the calcium/magnesium ratio is also greater than 9.5, the pattern is a double pattern and is more severe.
Individuals who are sympathetic dominant usually have a very active mind to begin with, and can easily become overactive. Often it is rooted in a background that taught them not be lazy, to be productive and to not waste time; which can develop into a compulsive or obsessive quality.
Some people may experience emotions of fear, anger, worry or other negative feelings that drive them to achieve highly or just to keep moving all the time. This can make relaxing, sleeping or just sitting even more difficult. The reason for this is that the body is often in a “second wind” mode of living much of the time.
Many who are stuck in sympathetic dominance, if they were honest with themselves, would admit to being fearful and always somewhat depressed; the high state of activity or acheivement provides them a way to “run away” from dealing with situations that trouble them, otherwise they would not feel well.
Sympathetic dominance is often a lifestyle pattern. This means it is usually more of a habit, rather than a strictly physical illness or condition.
Symptoms of Sympathetic Dominance
- Lots physical activity – often run around too much physically
- Forever busy
- Difficulty relaxing, sitting still, resting, and being idle
- Highly driven and compelled
- Somewhat obsessive or compulsive
- Often stressed as if being “chased by tigers”
- Believe that to relax is a “waste of time” or “unproductive” or “lazy”
- Identify themselves as a “doer” with lots of physical or mental activities
- Struggle to be happy without needing to run around or do much of anything
- Anxious or worriers. This is a form of “running around aimlessly” in the mind
- Tired, but usually somewhat out of touch with the fatigue and exhaustion
- Might only feel tired when they slow down. If you relax, you feel like going to sleep
- A very active or analytical mind
- Willful, often willing themselves to think and do too much
- Fearful and always somewhat depressed underneath due to fears, worries and fatigue. Constant busyness allows them to avoid feeling these unpleasant emotions.
- Desire to “move on”, but unsure how to do this
- Somewhat lonely but try to ‘fit in with the crowd’
- Overwork, overachieve, and generally run themselves ragged
- Try to please others and exhaust self in the process
- Reduced libido in some cases. This may stem from hidden fatigue, and an inability to just relax.
- Ungrounded and not centered enough. This goes with the tendency to run around too much or worry too much.
Correcting Sympathetic Dominance
A Nutritional Balancing program is geared to correct sympathetic dominance in many different ways.
- Good nutrition – those with sympathetic dominance often have digestion and elimination concerns. This is addressed with the right food, good eating habits and the use of supplement nutrients to aid in healing and supporting a healthy digestive system. Specific nutrients are important to rebuilding the brain and nervous system, along with eliminating stimulants such as caffeine and sugars.
- Balancing the oxidation rate – this helps eliminate toxic metals and restore the autonomic and other parts of the nervous system to optimal functioning. Balancing the oxidation rate increases energy production and energy efficiency of the body. It is like pedaling a bicycle at the right speed, which greatly enhances your power and endurance. In the body, an optimum oxidation (metabolism) rate may provide an optimum physical and chemical environment in which millions of enzymes function best. If we can provide this, the body simply functions better with less stress.
- Lifestyle – We recommend a lot more rest and sleep, going to bed early, and making a concerted effort to slow down your thinking, moving, eating, and all other activities. Other lifestyle recommendations include learning to start each day slowly, taking walks during the day and deep breathing on a regular basis.
- Detoxification – Using a near infrared lamp sauna each day is extremely helpful. Foot reflexology and chiropractic adjustments can also be very helpful in reducing tension in the body.
If we are stuck in the Sympathetic Dominant state, we are never able to rest, digest and heal. I believe that using essential oils can help to balance and support our autonomic nervous system as well. To help stimulate the parasympathetic response, applying a Young Living oil blend like Stress Away and Grounding to the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) and at the base of the skull (where you feel a small indent) and on T-1 where the sympathetic nervous system starts (which is the knobby vertebrae at the top of the shoulders at the bottom of the neck).
Essential oils can also help support the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands produce several hormones, including cortisol which is released to help the body manage stress. This stress response can throw the cortisol supply out of balance, either releasing too much (often called hyper adrenal conditions) or too little (often called adrenal fatigue). EndoFlex blend can help support and calm the adrenals when too much cortisol is released and support them during periods of adrenal fatigue.
One of the most common causes of poor adrenal function is lack of minerals. Minerals are necessary not only in the manufacture of steroidal hormones, but also as a co-factor in liver enzymes that digest the fats needed for the building blocks of those adrenal hormones. Adrenal problems can sometimes originate in the liver when it may not produce the cholesterol necessary for the adrenals to manufacture their corticosteroid hormones. This may result in imbalanced hormones.
Certain hormones directly affect blood pressure and mineral content and help regulate the conversion of carbohydrates into energy. The adrenal glands help determine and regulate the body’s stress by secreting hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Prolonged periods of stress can deplete our reserves of these hormones and exhaust the adrenal glands, but essential oils (along with nutrition, supplementation, detoxification and other lifestyle changes,) can play a part in correcting these deficiencies.
Nutmeg essential oil, for example has adrenal-like activity that raises energy levels. The EndoFlex blend, which also contain nutmeg, can be applied topically over the adrenal glands (located in the middle of the back, just under the ribs, and about 1 inch to the side of the spine), and may help to increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress and maintain healthy adrenal function.
The Pituitary gland is an endocrine gland about the size of a pea. It’s connected to the bottom of the hypothalamus gland at the base of the brain by the pituitary stalk. The hypothalamus secretes factors into the pituitary gland which in turn secretes hormones directed to the thyroid and other glands of the body. The hypothalamus is a region of the brain that serves as control center for neural and hormonal messages received from/sent to body. It is constantly reading the blood levels of cortisol, and adjusting signals sent to the adrenal glands for optimal internal balance (homeostasis) of the body.
Chronic and prolonged stress can damage the hypothalamus’s ability to receive clear messages from the body which then impacts all outgoing endocrine and neural signals. Applying the Awaken blend over the third eye and/or on the reflex point of the big toe may help reset the natural ability of the pituitary/hypothalamus to send and receive clear messages to and from the body.
As mentioned above, some symptoms of sympathetic dominance can be being fearful and somewhat depressed. Anything that creates fear, whether it be listening to the news, watching a scary movie or any other frightening situation can contribute to sympathetic dominance symptoms. In Chinese medicine, feelings of fear and paranoia can be held in the kidneys, impairing function. Applying Geranium over the kidneys (located about 2 inches under the last rib and 2-3 inches to the side of the spine), can help us work through fear.
For many in a sympathetic dominance pattern, anger often presents an adrenal response to fear that is projected onto others. Young Living Release helps support the release of emotions, including frequent irritation, impatience, resentment or frustration, being critical of yourself or others, control issues, an inability to express your feelings, feelings of not feeling heard, not feeling loved, and not being recognized or appreciated. Apply over the liver (located immediately under the ribs, on the right side, about an 1-1/2 inch from where the ribs from a V) and/or on the bottoms of the feet.
So many people today are in sympathize dominance and like so many other things in our life we have to find balance with our autonomic nervous system as well as everything else. I believe that nutritional balancing and essential oils can be a great way to get started with achieving this balance. The body is about homeostasis, or in other words balance; balance of emotions, of systems, or energy, of chemical processes, of hormones, etc.
Need more information about nutritional balancing or essential oils? Let me help you get started on your journey to balanced healthy living today!