When I first heard of Sympathetic Dominance about 2 years ago, I had no idea what it was or what it meant. To me the words “Sympathetic Dominance” (SD) together didn’t make any sense. I have mentioned in my previous blog (The impact of our environment and our lifestyle) that I was introduced to this term by one of my natureopaths in relation to the body’s nervous system. This immediately sparked my interest and I got researching and sourced some books. I was actually amazed as to how much medical information and well-known facts are available on SD and yet whenever I speak to any of my clients and mention it, I am met with blank faces.
Once you understand what SD means and what it is, you will find it to be a very very common phenomenon occurring almost everywhere. It has sneaked into almost every home and have managed to thrive without being noticed by any one of us. Coaching clients have made me realise that SD impacts so many of us on almost daily basis. So many of us display its symptoms and yet its importance has been overlooked by so many healthcare practitioners for decades.
Our Nervous system is made up of 100’s of billions of nerves and cells known as neurons that are responsible for sending signals to all parts of our body. Our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is part of our Nervous System that is responsible for regulating internal body processes and organ functions that require no conscious effort. Thus, we are usually not aware of these functions. Our heart beating, our blood pressure, us breathing and digesting our food, are all examples of functions and processes that our body conducts without us even knowing. ANS is made up of two parts; Sympathetic and Parasympathetic. These two functions or parts are opposite of each other.
Sympathetic part is responsible for body’s ability to prepare itself for the stressful situations. These situations will either make body to get into in flight or in fight mode.
Parasympathetic part is responsible for body’s ability to relax and perform normal body functions i.e. to maintain calm state during peaceful situations.
Main thing to remember is that both modes cannot be active at the same time. It’s one or the other. They work together to ensure when one mode is dominant, the other is suppressed. When one of these modes is dominant its functions are elevated and more active and when it’s suppressed its functions are inhibited and less active. It’s automatic and natural for the body to go into in flight or in fight mode when it senses unfavourable or dangerous situations. While it may be OK to stay in Sympathetic mode for not too long, overwhelming research has shown that staying in Sympathetic Dominance for prolonged periods of times can result in health problems. Therefore, it is essential for parasympathetic side to be not suppressed for long periods of time because it handles important body functions.
If you look up the definition of Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) on Wikipedia, it reads ‘The parasympathetic system is responsible for stimulation of “rest-and-digest” or “feed and breed” activities that occur when the body is at rest.’ I mentioned earlier that PSNS is responsible for body’s calm and relaxed state. When Parasympathetic System is switched on our body is well nourished and rested. All the body functions work normally as they should. These functions include, digestion, reproduction, hormones production and body’s response to fight diseases and so many more functions that allow our body to stay healthy. I will get back to talking about the numerous wonderful benefits of PSNS but it is important that I talk about and shed more light on its opposite Sympathetic side which I like to call its evil side! For that reason I have dedicated my next blog post to SD.
You’ve heard me mention “In flight” and “In fight” states a few times. A lot of people are familiar with these terms. When it comes to body’s internal functions, it is important to identify these modes because being in SD for long periods of times can lead decline in health. Knowing is the first step. It allows you to begin to take appropriate action to bring your body back to its normal and happy state. Remember that, being in any of these modes, may affect you mentally initially but eventually your physical health will suffer as your mental and physical health are intrinsically connected to each other and damage to one will impact the other.
Much Love and Light to You.