Dysautonomia is a fancy word for the imbalance of the autonomic nervous system. The automatic nervous system (A.N.S.) of the body is a dynamic system that affects almost every function that you perform- from food digestion to even feeling and saying “I love you”, as well as running away from a potential threat to even what you think about what this sentence is saying.
The Automatic Nervous System System (A.N.S.)
In truth, is a complex system so sophisticated that even modern science has yet to fully understand it in all its intricacies. For practical purposes, scientists and health care professionals have designated two primary states of the A.N.S. – the Sympathetic (Fight or Flight) State and the Parasympathetic (Rest & Digest) State. Think of these as two different software programs that the hardware of your A.N.S. can run at any given time. In reality, the A.N.S. is not really this simple binary system, but the distinction is practically very useful and a sufficiently accurate one for many intents and purposes.)
The Sympathetic state is a physiological state where your body’s various systems (circulation, musculature, vision, cell metabolism, hormone ratios, nervous energy, etc.) are all primed for the actions of dealing with the challenges and dangers threat – e.g. by fighting or running away. Whereas in the parasympathetic state our body directs more energy towards the physiological functions of resting, digesting food and replenishing cellular resources.
Both the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic state can be very helpful and appropriate given the circumstances you find yourself in, but if you get stuck in one state it may have serious consequences for your health and functionality. For example, if you find yourself being physically attacked, its extremely appropriate for your A.N.S. to switch into full Sympathetic mode to help you fight off the attacker, but if you’re stuck in the parasympathetic state you may lose the fight because your body isn’t great at the functions required for fighting when its in the parasympathetic state. Conversely, if you’re stuck in a sympathetic state and you eat a meal you will not digest it as effectively as you would if you were in a parasympathetic state.
For everything to be groovy so that you’re primed for the activities at hand, whatever they be, your Autonomic Nervous System needs to be responsive to the environment and to orient itself appropriately to the task and situation at hand. The tricky thing is that changes in modern living environments, medications, supplements and diets all have the potential to create imbalance in your A.N.S. External stressors and internal body chemistry can create problems for the A.N.S.
Achieving Balance: Treatment for Dysautonomia
Our highly complex body is kept functioning efficiently under widely varying physical and emotional conditions by a central control system continuously running in the background. This is the autonomic nervous system. This system is automatic, we can’t voluntarily control it. Heart and breathing rates vary, our digestive and cooling functions modify when needed. Various organ systems are auto-regulated to maintain optimal functionality and step-up to our bodies demands and needs according to how we call for them. The control system has two distinct modes – the sympathetic system (SNS) otherwise called “fight or flight” and the parasympathetic (PSNS) is responsible for “rest/relax and digest” responses. They generate different responses to changes in our body physiology and emotions. In general, SNS activity is energy utilization and is catabolic while PSNS is energy conservation and is anabolic to the body physiology.
To maintain excellent health these two branches, need to be in balance – this is referred to as homeostasis. When the system is out of balance and the two arms are not in rhythm it is referred to as dysautonomia. A poorly functioning central autonomic system, a so-called “dysautonomia” state, may be the root cause of many modern diseases including type-II diabetes, attention deficit syndrome, hypertension, congestive heart failure, PTSD, migraine, systemic inflammation, sleep apnea, chronic fatigue, and hormonal imbalances. Treating the underlying cause rather than just the symptoms can lead to a much healthier lifestyle.
Holistic Treatment for Dysautonomia
In traditional medicine, treatment is aimed at symptom reducing by primarily focusing on reducing sympathetic dominant symptoms. The problem with this, is that usually, the sympathetic nervous system is already functioning at a deficiency, but patient symptoms are sympathetic dominant because the parasympathetic nervous is functioning at a worse deficiency.
Dr. Nickels understands this through important testing that is not done in traditional medicine. Her patients feel better quickly, as her treatment is to balance and support both sides of the autonomic nervous system! To her, this is curative!