Overactive Sympathetic Nervous System in Chronic Illness

by admin on October 9, 2013

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Dr. David A. Jernigan

“Imagine it is a pitch black night outside and you are in a tent in Africa. A lion roars nearby and you are thinking about how flimsy the fabric is to keep that lion from coming in and eating you!Your sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear! This is the “fight or flight” mode of your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Your sympathetic nervous system is a built -in, automatic (autonomic) mechanism that increases your ability to survive, by either vigorously fighting the lion, or running away to fight another day!

It is very predictable what your sympathetic nervous system will do in this stressful situation with the lion. All of your senses will go on maximum alert. The pupils in your eyes will dilate widely in order to see the slightest indication of the lion. Your ears will strain, to hear the slightest noise. Your muscles will ripple and tremble with tension as huge amounts of energy have been diverted to the muscles so that you have super-human reflexes and strength!

In the super stimulation of the sympathetic nervous response to the roaring lion, your bladder can empty without warning, in order for you to flee or fight unimpeded by a full bladder. It is a quick thing to urinate, something you could possibly do even while running or fighting, however a bowel movement takes too long. In the time it takes to have a BM the lion could pounce and you would be defenseless! So your sympathetic nervous system causes the colon to shutdown.

The meal you ate sits like a brick in your stomach. The sympathetic nervous system shut down digestion, diverting the energy to the muscles. After all, what is more important, digesting or fighting and/or running away from a hungry, man-eating lion?

Blood rushes to the head and the heart begins to increase its energy, beating hard and fast, to get ready for the upcoming fight or flight.

The adrenal glands secrete cortisol to open up the cells to receiving more blood sugar and thyroid hormones, as adrenaline supercharges the entire body. The lion roars again, closer this time. The sympathetic nervous system causes the thyroid to crank out more T3 and brings more of its reserve T4 online to be converted to T3 as needed in order to increase overall cellular receptivity to blood glucose.

The skin tightens and every hair stands on end like little antennae, sensing the slightest change in the breeze. Every aspect of the body is on high alert. Your body is maximally sensitive to any change in its environment.

The night turns to day, you dare not leave your tent, since you can still hear the lion pacing…at least you think it’s still the lion…dare you stick your head out of the tent to check and see? No, it is too scary a thought, being eaten alive. So you stay as still as possible, every sense still poised to address any sign of the lion tearing through the tent…

Get the picture? Now imagine what would happen if you never left the tent and your sympathetic nervous system never relaxed!

Your heart rate would stay too fast. Your food never would seem to digest. Your bladder would constantly feel like you need to go. Your colon would be constipated. Your muscles would be tight and painful from all the strain. You would suffer from light and sound sensitivity. Your thyroid would begin to strain under the constant work and would start to have too much T3, and Reverse T3 would start to elevate to keep you from having too much thyroid hormone stimulation. There would be too much cortisol and adrenaline so your anxiety and panic would be through the roof. The cells of the body would become insensitive to the hormones and glucose, since you are just sitting there in the tent not really doing anything but waiting for the lion to go away. Sleep would be impossible since you are too stimulated and overwhelmed, and never feel safe. The mind races thinking of all of the possibilities. Round and round your mind goes. You cannot turn it off now…it is stuck in a biochemical loop.

Now throw pharmaceutical drugs into this mess. Symptom-treating drugs that unclog your constipation. Purple pill to stop the indigestion. Beta blockers for the heart. Anti-anxiety meds to calm you. Muscle relaxants to ease the tight, painful muscles. Tranquilizers to sedate you to sleep. Synthroid to supposedly simulate normal thyroid hormones. Blood sugar regulators to force the glucose out of the bloodstream. Your body becomes more dysfunctional and toxic.

This is where 90% if not more of the chronically ill crowd is living. The lion is the illness by whatever name. The Autonomic Nervous System is an automatic mechanism that gets triggered by stress of any type. Structural stress, biochemical stress, mental/emotional stress, and/or environmental/bioenergetic stress. Any stress puts stress on every aspect of the body, mind, and spirit.

One cannot pluck one strand of a spider web without vibrating the entire web. The body, mind, and spirit are an intertwined web. Break a thread and the shape of the entire web changes. True healing necessarily will ALWAYS need to repair the broken threads of the Autonomic Nervous System and calm the Sympathetic nervous system before lasting health can be restored.

This is what Post-Traumatic Stress disorder is all about, whether the stress was from horrific war, such as with “wounded warriors”, or the stress of profound illness and the life changes it causes.”

Life Vessel works to help the body heal itself as well as the Autonomic Nervous System!

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