When it comes to our bodies, having a good understanding of how they work is one of the most empowering feelings. But if you feel like your knowledge about body functions could use an upgrade—which let’s face it, no matter what we know there’s always more to learn—you’re not alone! In this blog post, we will be exploring “Sympathetic Vs. Parasympathetic”—two divisions of the autonomic nervous system that describe the very nature and functioning within us. For proper body function, it’s important that these systems remain balanced. If they become imbalanced, we begin to notice dysfunctions within the body, which ultimately lead to symptoms. Knowing which system is active in any given situation can help you to better understand how your body reacts and behaves under different circumstances; essentially providing insight as to why certain reactions or responses occur both physically and emotionally. With this knowledge and awareness you can re-balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems yourself, or you can seek the correct professional help if needed.
What is the autonomic nervous system and what are its two divisions?
The autonomic nervous system (also known as the involuntary nervous system) is a division of the peripheral nervous system that controls and regulates the functions of our internal organs and glands, such as the heart and digestive system. It is responsible for carrying out involuntary actions that occur unconsciously within our bodies. The autonomic nervous system has two divisions: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
What is the sympathetic nervous system?
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the body’s “fight-or-flight” response and can be seen as the body’s primary source of energy during times of distress. It is activated when we perceive danger, stress or excitement. During this response the body will experience an increase in organ output such as increased blood pressure, organ speed such as a faster heart rate, increased muscular contracture, and the release of certain hormones to prepare the body for action.
What is the parasympathetic nervous system?
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for controlling basic bodily functions such as digestion, sexual arousal, and rest and relaxation. It works to keep the body in a balanced state of calmness, working behind the scenes to maintain homeostasis and good health. During this process, the body will experience a decrease in organ output such as lower blood pressure, organ speed such as a slower heart rate, as well as a decrease in muscular contracture and an increase in energy conservation.
How do sympathetic and parasympathetic systems work together to maintain balance in the body?
The sympathetic and parasympathetic systems work together in a type of counterbalance to keep the body functioning properly. When one system is activated, the other is simultaneously inhibited. This system of checks and balances is known as the autonomic balance, and it helps to maintain a steady state within the body. In times of stress, the sympathetic system is activated to provide energy and focus, while at rest the parasympathetic system helps us to relax and restore. When both systems are in balance, our bodies remain healthy and efficient.
It is important to remember that although these two branches of the autonomic nervous system can have opposing effects on the body, they are both essential for proper functioning. A healthy balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity is necessary for good health and wellbeing. By understanding their roles within our bodies, we can learn to control them in order to maintain a balanced state of mind and body.
What happens when the sympathetic vs parasympathetic systems become imbalanced?
When the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic systems become imbalanced, it can lead to a variety of physical and emotional symptoms. Common signs of an autonomic imbalance include fatigue, anxiety, headaches, racing heart rate, digestive problems, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. Essentially, when the systems are imbalanced you will experience some type of symptom or body dysfunction. If the Sympathetic system is working harder (in times of stress), or the Parasympathetic system is inhibited, your symptoms or dysfunction will be that of an organ increasing in function (ex. high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia). If the Parasympathetic system is working harder, or the Sympathetic system is inhibited, the opposite will happen. Your symptoms will be that of the organ decreasing in function (ex. fatigue, constipation, muscle weakness).
With proper understanding of how the autonomic nervous system works, we can learn to recognize and manage any imbalances that may arise. By controlling our sympathetic and parasympathetic responses, we can maintain healthy levels of both systems and enjoy a balanced lifestyle of peace and wellbeing. If these symptoms persist for long periods of time or are particularly severe, it is important to seek professional help in order to determine whether an autonomic imbalance is the cause.
If you are experiencing significant stress or anxiety it can be helpful to practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises. These activities can help to relax the body and restore balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. By understanding the role of the autonomic nervous system in our bodies and how to maintain a balanced state, we can ensure good health and wellbeing for years to come.
How can you support your autonomic nervous system using lifestyle changes and natural remedies?
In order to maintain a healthy balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, it is important to make positive lifestyle changes. This may include finding ways to reduce stress, such as meditation or mindfulness practices, getting plenty of restful sleep each night, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. If you live a fast-paced and active lifestyle, these stress reducers are essential. Doing Vagus Nerve stimulation exercises will be beneficial as well, which we will discuss in another post.
In addition to these lifestyle changes, there are also several natural remedies that may help to support the autonomic nervous system, such as herbal teas, essential oils, and dietary supplements. By understanding how the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work together to maintain balance in the body and by making positive lifestyle changes, we can learn to create a healthier, more balanced state of mind and body.
It is important to remember that these systems are interconnected and work together in order to keep the body functioning properly. As such, it is essential to be mindful of their interplay and strive for a healthy balance between them. With some effort, we can all learn to foster this balance and enjoy a healthier, more balanced life.