If you're struggling with weight gain, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, insomnia, fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome you may have a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system.
Dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system can impair the quality of one's life and contribute to severe illness.
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) unconsciously regulates the bodies’ internal organs such as the heart, intestines and stomach. The ANS is also responsible for urination, respiratory rate, papillary response and sexual arousal. It is the primary system in control of the fight-or-flight response and freeze-and-dissociate response.
ANS balance is important for your health and sense of wellbeing.
The ANS holds three major divisions: the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the enteric system (ES).
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for rest-and-digest or feed-and-breed activities that the body performs largely when at rest. These include digestion, sexual arousal, salivation, lacrimation, urination and defecation.
The sympathetic nervous system promotes a fight-or-flight response and incites arousal, generates energy and inhibits digestion. The SNS increases heart rate, dilates pupils, constricts the intestinal sphincters and stimulates orgasm. When in a state of anxiety the SNS is active.
The PSNS and SNS are complementary systems that require balance. The activity and function of these nervous systems are known as the ergotropic (SNS arousal) and trophotropic (PSNS arousal).
When someone is in an anxiety state their sympathetic nervous system will be active, meaning their heart rate will rise and they may experience shortness of breath, sweating, trembling or shaking. The amygdala fires, triggering the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and glucocorticoid hormones are flooded into the system.
The Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is involved in the neurobiology of functional illnesses and mood disorders such as burn out, major depressive disorder, insomnia, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome.
'Common causes of strain on the sympathetic division are stress, chronic illness or infection, scar tissue, traumatic impact and anxiety. Another is experiencing a highly stressful situation that the body is unable to process adequately. Sympathetic division strain can lead to dysfunction of central processing areas of the ANS (within the brain and spinal chord), particularly portions of the limbic system (emotional and memory processing area), the hypothalamus (internal regulatory areas) and the reticular alarm system (vital function area). A chromic internal state of fight, flight or freeze can occur, causing relentless challenges leading to dysfunction and illness.' - Tad Wanveer
All people experience times of anxiety and stress, however when stress and anxiety are constant the sympathetic nervous system becomes overworked, leading to an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, and illness.
You may often feel tired, have poor memory, experience weight gain and struggle with anxiety.
Stress can have a long-term effect on your physical and psychological health. Repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body and contributes to high blood pressure, clogged arteries and causes brain changes that can contribute to depression, anxiety and addiction.
When the brain perceives something as dangerous the hypothalamus releases the corticotropin-releasing hormone, which travels to the pituitary gland, prompting the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone. This hormone travels to the adrenal glands, triggering them to release cortisol.
'Elevated cortisol levels create physiological changes that help to replenish the body's energy stores that are depleted during the stress response. But they inadvertently contribute to the buildup of fat tissue and to weight gain. Cortisol increases appetite, so that people want to eat more to obtain extra energy. It also increases storage of unused nutrients as fat.' - Harvard Health Publications
To counteract this imbalance, the hypnotherapist can induce a trophotropic state through hypnosis and apply various therapeutic techniques to help the client learn ways to counter their stress response.
As little as 30 minutes of exercise a day will immediately boost the brain's norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin levels, leaving you feeling more relaxed and clear of mind. Yin Yoga is an excellent option for people with chronic fatigue as it is a gentle practice which focuses on calm, trophotropic breathing.
If you suspect you're suffering from a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, contact your doctor and ask for a cortisol test.