There have been studies done on how our lifestyle choices and the environment we surround ourselves with have direct impact on our health and wellbeing. As I research more and more into this topic I am finding from different sources, whether it’s a research study, an article or a book; our health is greatly influenced by the environment we live in and the lifestyle choice we make on day to day basis. In fact, our environment and life style factors have a far greater impact on our health than heredity and genetics.
Last year I read a great book by Dr Todd that introduced me to a phenomenon called Sympathetic Dominance. The more I read on it the more I realised how deeply our everyday decisions on what to eat, how to tolerate stress, how to approach a health problem and what steps to take to resolve it, whether we are in a healthy loving relationship and have healthy social interactions with people; how all of it is so intrinsically interwoven with our epigenetics and health outcomes.
Our genes are the genetic code that we inherit from our parents. Epigenetics on the other hand as Dr Todd mentions “influence how these genetic codes express themselves, or whether they express themselves at all.” He gives a simple example of two siblings whose inherited genetic code puts them at risk of diabetes. This genetic code may switch on if one of them becomes overweight and may stay off in the other sibling due to their healthy life style choices. One important take away from this is that our health outcomes can be heavily influenced by our lifestyle choices and our environment.
Another major contributor to our health’s wellness is the levels of stress we expose our bodies to. Stress is experienced on a mental level and if we are in stressful situations all the time and put our bodies through it on regular basis without getting an opportunity to relax and rest, it starts to affect us physically that can result in an illness. If we keep our bodies in a tense and wound up state, all the time and are in either in flight or in fight mode (more on these modes in my 2nd post of these series) we continue to run on adrenaline. When someone is constantly running on adrenaline, they end up being in Sympathetic Dominance.
Prolonged Sympathetic dominance (SD) although a result of certain lifestyle choices and/or environment factors, becomes a cause of mental and/or physical illnesses. Increased blood pressure, diabetes, digestive problems, fatigue, auto immune disorders and much more, can be a result of SD. These illnesses then can cause other illnesses. Take Julia for an example. She has a very stressful job. She works for long hours, starting work early in the morning and finishing late evenings on most days. On top of that she has a very demanding partner who is unable to work due to his health issues and often fights with her. On most nights, she goes to bed feeling exhausted, angry and frustrated. She doesn’t get good sleep and tosses and turns in bed. Her circumstances result in her becoming insomniac. Unable to cope and feeling anxious and fatigued all the time along with poor diet leads to decline in her overall health and soon enough she starts to experience all sorts of health problems. Julia’s body is essentially in a survival mode!
Being in a survival mode isn’t healthy for the wellbeing of oneself. If you don’t keep yourself calm and relaxed and don’t give your body enough time to recuperate and repair itself from stress, and resolve the negative situations, your body will experience negative mental and/or physical side effects. And not taking control of your health and life situations, can result in much more serious health issues. But the good news is that there are ways and tools available to take control and improve your health and see considerably big positive outcomes.
Yes, it is not always possible to have the perfect and desired lifestyle that is stress free and that allows us to be always happy and content. The reality is that stress is unavoidable. There will be situations where you will experience stress, frustration, or even anxiety resulting in less than ideal circumstances. The key is to equip yourself with tools that allow you to manage stress and unideal situations. When we experience adverse circumstances that have a damaging impact on our health, the chemical and/or hormonal balance in our body may be affected and often we don’t even realise it or notice it until it has resulted in a much bigger health problem.
Recently I read about the health triangle that affects everyone. It comprises of physical, chemical and emotional health. All 3 types of health are intrinsically connected to each other and damage to one can affect the other two. For example, you can be very fit, go to gym, do Yoga or Pilates on regular basis and eat healthy food i.e. your physical health is in top notch condition but you completely ignore your mental health. You may have a very demanding job that could be exhausting and that can result in you feeling under constant pressure and stress. Unmanaged stress will eventually impact the physical health. Conversely, physical illness can lead to depression impacting one’s mental/emotional health. The point is that all three types of health need to be in balance to improve overall health and wellbeing.
This is where the tools and protocols to manage health problems come in. Take me for an example. I developed digestion problem out of nowhere couple of years ago. I was burping a lot and experiencing acid reflux after eating foods that previously I could eat without any health issues. I saw gastroenterologist and got all sorts of blood tests done that were all clear. I wasn’t sleeping well and felt my shoulders were always very tense. Every day I woke up feeling I had been on a battle ground at night. And whenever I had some sleep it was very light and full of vivid dreams. I had no apparent “cause” of all these symptoms that I was experiencing and felt stuck for what steps I needed to take to fix all these problems. Studying to become a health coach was a true transformation for me. By designing the right protocol for my unique body which I now offer as part of my 90 Day Total Health & Lifestyle Transformation Program to my clients, I finally had an action plan to follow that allowed me to eliminate possible causes of all the symptoms 1 by 1. Within months, my burping had reduced and acid reflux became an occasional thing rather than something that occurred on regular basis. In just a few months I’ve achieved phenomenal success in my health that I couldn’t for many years before. I feel better every day.
Let me talk a little bit more about “no apparent cause” of symptoms that we may experience. With my gut issue, I became extremely frustrated. Quite often I felt that I was getting nowhere with the results. Everything seemed fine yet I was burping and getting acid reflux. Let me give you another example. When we get a headache, often we will instantly treat it by couple of pain killer tablets. But do we ever think about what caused the headache in the first place? Often there is nothing wrong at all. Sometimes people wake up with a headache. Sometimes people have had a busy day and end up getting a headache towards the end of the day. Why? If you dig deep there may be many factors at play. A person waking up with a headache didn’t get much or any sleep at night. Why didn’t they sleep well at night? A person who ends up getting headache towards the end of the day due to busy schedule may not be drinking enough water. They might be running on adrenaline all day or just sitting at a computer without stretching and taking the time to relax. The fact is that there can be so many underlying triggers at play and sometimes it is hard to pin point what caused the health issue in the first place.
I first learnt about Sympathetic Dominance a few years ago. Once I researched more on SD, I knew straight away I needed to dig deeper than just looking at the symptoms of my health issues and only treating the symptoms. For example, I had regular chiropractor adjustments to relieve the stiffness in my next and shoulders. I would feel great after the adjustment but a few days later, my neck and shoulders would go back to being tense again. I felt like I was wasting my money. That is because I had been treating the problem in isolation. I had tense shoulders, insomnia and felt fatigued all the time. Little did I know that these symptoms were connected and a result of SD. My tense shoulders were a result of lack of sleep. Lack of sleep was due to me running on adrenaline every day resulting in being tired all the time. I knew I had a problem and I was treating each problem separately without getting any positive outcome.
Sympathetic Dominance is when our Sympathetic Nervous System is running on a survival mode. Survival mode can be our body’s in flight or in fight response to something that causes stress. It could be the body tensing up and becoming ready to protect itself from a possible danger. When this happens sole focus of our body becomes to defend itself from an adverse situation or physical or emotional stress. During this state the body will not care about digestive, reproductive or immune system. This is fine if this response is short lived. However, if our body is always in survival mode, it becomes a problem and this is where most of the health issues can stem from.
That is why it is essential that you empower yourself with the knowledge and tools that will help you recognise the issue and help you get back into control and enjoy a healthy life. Depending on the severity of your health issue, it may take a few weeks or a few months to see any positive outcome. The key is perseverance and knowing what steps to take to see positive outcome. Yes, our lives are busy and demanding and it is almost impossible to lead a stress-free life every day. It comes down to how to manage the stress levels and how to switch of in-flight or in fight mode to bring back the equilibrium in your mental, chemical and physical health. This is where you can achieve phenomenal results with a help of a Health Coach. You will be surprised how some of the things that I coach my clients on are so simple yet they achieve far greater results if done with the right system in place.
When the underlying functions of your body are well and working as they should, you will feel good and achieve optimal health. Yes, our goal should always be to reach optimal health no matter what our age is and to maintain it, no matter what your health condition it, no matter what health issues you’re facing. Know that you can always improve your health and there are ways to change the course of your health towards you becoming more fit and healthier. You don’t have to be suffering from any illness to implement positive changes in your lifestyle. A lot of my clients come to me to improve their over all lifestyle by implementing better health habits. And with the tools and practical knowledge that I pass on to them they are able to take control of their health before their health with lasting changes.
Now that I’ve introduced to the concept of called Sympathetic Dominance, I will take you through series of blogs, explaining in more detail how health problems can arise and why it’s so important to address these problems from holistic point of view.
Much Love & Light to You