Modern life can be constant and unrelenting. Whether it’s finances, relationships, work, study or family balance, the list could go on. Even though we know all of this activity is going on in our lives we often don’t realise how stress can remain undetected. We are going to explore the signs and symptoms of stress in this blog. 

More precisely, the effects of stress on the body can go undetected.  Some health concerns, especially those ones where you go to the medical doctor for and after a series of blood tests and scans, find out that “everything seems to be OK”. The signs and symptoms of stress may not be clinically detected. 

Great 👍– but why are you still feeling like you are not 100%, not as good as you were say 2-3 years ago. Can’t do what you used to do as easily.

As chiropractors, we hear people talking like this all the time.

Your health is made up of your Physical(Structural), Chemical and Emotional health,  Science shows us that you can’t separate mental and emotional health from physical health and when one area is present, then our overall health is compromised. These stressors are building up faster than you can get rid of their effects. These are our modern day ‘tigers’.

What is Sympathetic Dominance ?

The part of the nervous system that is out of BALANCE here is called the SYMPATHETIC nervous system (SNS). 

Don’t let this ‘cute’ sounding system fool you!! It’s not that it’s the ‘bad’ guy, because it’s designed to help us survive when we needed to  run for our lives, literally. When the tiger was chasing us.

However, this system is only meant to be turned on occasionally and then, when we have made our dash and survived the jaws of the tiger, our system goes  back into our PARASYMPATHETIC mode, the opposite to the sympathetic mode.  This allows us to rest, digest and repair our body.

THAT’S WHERE WE ALL NEED TO BE. The sympathetic and parasympathetic are the 2 parts of the autonomic nervous system. We definitely need to be in the parasympathetic mode for our health to flourish.

The autonomic nervous system, or as we often say, the automatic nervous system, is the part of our system that you don’t need to THINK about. It controls your heart rate, hormones, digestion etc,. The other part of your nervous system  (somatic) moves you, 🏃‍♀️ it’s voluntary – not automatic.

When the sympathetic system is activated (when stress is elevated) it suppresses your digestive system, reproductive system, immune system and the repair functions of the body. Under small amounts of time these responses are helpful but with prolonged time they are harmful. You may now be seeing where the signs and symptoms of stress may be coming from. They can look like:

  • Headaches,
  • Increase digestive issues
  • weight gain
  • muscle tightness
  • increase cholesterol
  • sensitivity to light     etc

No matter what age and stage of life you’re in, sympathetic dominance can occur.

We can’t put all illnesses down to SD, however, recognising the symptoms can help you heal your body, and get you back to feeling better than ever!

Soon we will be talking more about the SD protocol, that is, how to help yourself get back in control of your health, and get you back into your rest and digest and healing mode, your PARASYMPATHETIC mode.

The Car Analogy

To help us understand the areas of the brain that are fired up when our body is stressed and in a state of sympathetic dominance (Fight or Flight response), then we are going to imagine a  four wheel drive car.

-2 parents in the front

-5 siblings in the back

These siblings are acting out and its the parents in the front need to calm them down.

Now if let’s put this into perspective and link these to the different parts of the brain that play a role in sympathetic dominance.

The parents: are the higher cortex of the brain, it’s their job to dampen the situation and calm it down.

Sibling 1- Mesencephalic Reticular formation (MSR)

This is an area of the brain that activates when the sympathetic nervous system is fired up. It wakes the other siblings in the car up.

This area fire up the upper back and chest then fires down to the adrenal glands, activating the adrenal system. Prolonged activation leads to exhaustion and fatigue.

Sibling 2 – Red Nucleus

Responsible for skeletal muscle tone. Impacts muscles controlled by voluntary action. Sympathetic activation causes calves to tighten, shoulders to round and muscles generally become tense.

Sibling 3 – Superior colliculus

Receptor for vision input. Makes us sensitive to the sun glare, always at the ready with sunglasses on hand. Can’t go to sleep unless the room is completely dark room, digital letters on alarm clock covered, not lights in sight. Increased sympathetic nervous system, pupil dilates to take in as much detail as possible For pupils to dilate fibres in the upper thoracic cord are activated by the MSR.

Sibling 4 – Inferior Colliculus

Primary sensory neuron for sound. When this neuron is activated people are affected by loud noises. It fires up when SNS activates to take in as much sound as possible

When a person is in a chronic sympathetic state they are ultra sensitive to noise, jumpy in restaurants when a lot of activity, frequent headaches, constantly asking people to turn things down. This nucleus doesn’t fire up on its own, its associated with tense shoulders, sensitive to light, low energy.

Sibling 5 – Edinger Westphal nucleus

This nucleus in the brain constricts the pupils, It is part of the Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).. Job is to constrict the pupils when it is activated. It kicks in later down the line in sympathetic dominance. It activates when a person is in a chronic state of stress and eventually the nucleus constricts the pupil. A small pupil is a tell tale sign a person is chronically stressed especially with other associated symptoms.

This nucleus acts as a check and balance, over rides dilation of the pupils if they stay in a chronic state of sympathetic activation. We need to deal with the other siblings in the 4 wheel drive in order to bring calm to the Edinger Westphal nucleus. This is the key to reducing those signs and symptoms of stress in your body. 

Do these symptoms sound pretty familiar to you?

Are you sitting there thinking that this ticks all the boxes as to how you’re feeling?

Stay tuned for our video on how to dull down these siblings in the back seat and deal with the symptoms that come from being in a chronic sympathetic dominant state.

There is an extensive list of signs and symptoms of Sympathetic Dominance (SD) and if you email us we can send you the list.

Reference: SD Protocol, by Dr. Wayne Todd

PS Dr. Britt and l are SD Protocol Practitioners

You may be interested in viewing our video on posture CLICK HERE.

You may also be interested in viewing our video on sleep and blue light from computer screens. CLICK HERE.

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