Part II – What is Sympathetic Dominance?

When SD is active your body is in either in flight or in fight state. A lot of people think that these modes are switched on as body’s response to extreme situations. For example, if someone gets ready to physically fight (in fight mode switched on) or when someone gets ready to run from something dangerous (In flight mode switched on). However, little do most people know that it’s the littlest of things, such as being nervous and worrying or stressing about something etc., can cause the sympathetic side of ANS to switch on as well. It switches on exactly the same in flight/in fight response in both situations.

Let’s assess the first SD situation: You are getting ready to run in a life-threatening situation. Your brain’s automatic response will be to “survive” and it will immediately focus on the functions needed to “Run”. For example, your heart rate may increase, your blood sugar levels would rise, your body will move in forward position, your shoulders and muscles in your arms will tense up. Muscles in your legs will tighten up. You will become wide awake and very switched on and therefore become hyper sensitive to sound and light. While this is all happening, your body will start to suppress its digestive, reproductive and immune systems because right now the only thing your body cares about is its survival. Your brain’s signal to body is to pay full attention to the situation at hand. Nothing else matters.

Similarly, stress caused by worrying, can trigger the same body responses. If you are stressed and wound up, muscles in your body will tense up and SD will take control. I mentioned in Part 1 that it was ok to have SD active for appropriate amount of time. However, SD being in control of the body for increasingly long periods of times is where the problem starts. And my focus on this blog is to draw your attention to this problem, be aware of it and once you recognise it, you will start linking the dots of any health problems and start to understand the underlying causes. For example, if you usually have trouble going to sleep at night and find yourself wound up all the time with tense shoulders and neck, your body is running on in fight or inflight mode. So, if you grasp the linkage between these conditions, you can draw down to the cause and therefore acquire the skills to apply right treatment to address these problems rather than just treating the symptoms.

We learnt in Part 1 that Sympathetic and Parasympathetic are two opposite sides of Autonomic Nervous System. When Sympathetic side is active, Parasympathetic side is suppressed. This happens automatically and is something we don’t do consciously. And if Sympathetic Nervous System is active all the time in your body, it doesn’t get the time to rest and repair. This is when you start to see Sympathetic Dominance.

When the body is in either in flight or in fight survival mode, our brain fires up our sensory neurons that are responsible for activating different functions in the body and shutting down the other. So your first step is to identify the SD activation indicators that happen as result of these neurons being fired up. They are in no particular order because some people may experience them in different order or at the same time.

  1.     Tense Muscles

I’ve mentioned a few times that one of the things people experiencing SD may complain about is having tense shoulders and neck, back aches or tight and tender leg muscles. If your body is getting ready to fight, the muscles in your neck and shoulders will tense up because your head will drop forward that in turn will put pressure on your upper back. Your legs’ muscles will tighten up as your body gets ready to hop forward. All at the same time, your adrenal glands will start producing more of the stress hormone cortisol. Once this happens, your digestive system, reproductive system and immune system is supressed. Because hey, your body needs to handle the crises that you have at hand right now; fight. Right now it doesn’t have time to digest your food, or make babies or fight cold or flu bacteria.

If you would like to read more on these different types of neurons and how they work in more detail I will highly recommend you guys to read SD Protocol by Dr Wayne Todd

  1.    Bad Posture

Tense and tight muscles affect the equilibrium in body. When you are relaxed, muscles in your body are relaxed but the moment sympathetic nervous system is switched on, muscles in your body become tense and tighten up. Tense muscles impact:

o   Signal loop between the brain and body; Brain thinks something is wrong and starts suppressing vital systems we talked about earlier.

o   Ability to breathe properly; round up shoulders effect chest area. With good posture, shoulders are down, that allows the lungs to breathe in oxygen to their full extent as the chest opens. When shoulders are rounded up, it makes chest muscles tense up and constricts the air flow to ribcage. When your body is in survival mode, you are most likely to take short breaths as opposed to long deep breaths.

o   Balance; My Chiropractor always says “To correct bad posture you must correct balance.” When your shoulders are rounded, your head will lean forward and your body will try to rebalances itself to stay up right. This puts pressure on lower back and glute muscles. Lower back curves up and buttocks stick out.

o   Spine; When spine curves unnaturally for prolong period, it creates pain the lower back. And when neck muscles tense up and head stays in a forward position all the time it creates headaches.

  1.    Hyper-sensitivity to sound

Just like being sensitive to light, if someone is under SD they would be sensitive to sound as their sense sound will be at heightened state. They would always be in alert state ready to pounce and even the lightest of sounds would bother them. People whose sense of sound is always heightened may suffer headaches a lot or every now and then without any apparent causes.

  1.    Hyper-sensitivity to light

Have you ever wondered why most light sleepers complain that they cannot rest properly unless it is complete darkness? Even just a little bit of light bothers them. When someone is under SD and the body is in survival mode, you will become wide awake and your sense of sight will heighten. In the initial stage of SD the pupils of eyes dilate to allow your eye to see as much as possible especially when it’s dark. This in turn makes eyes sensitive to light. That is why you may struggle to fall asleep even if there is only a little bit of light in the room.

As a Health Coach I am an avid advocate of SD protocol that I have designed in my 90 Day Health & Lifelstyle Transformation Program. I know after years of reach and studying that health is not only a result eating habit and but also a result of our environment. It goes beyond looking at just nutrition and looking at other factors of our day to day habits that are almost always ignored by other health care professionals.


If you would like to know more about my 90 Day Health & Lifelstyle Transformation Program get in touch with me. I can and will change your life!

Much Love & Light to You.


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