“Rest and Relax” (PNS) vs “Fight or Flight” (SNS)…. I am writing this Blog the week before Super Bowl LII, while most sports fans are thinking AFC vs NFC and which is stronger and who will over power the other. Well, I want you to consider in your own mind which system in your body is overpowering the other?
What do I mean by that? Well, we all have both a Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and Sympathetic nervous system (SNS), both of which are regulated by our Central Nervous System (CNS). Which ever one is dominant in you may influence your overall health. People who are more SNS dominant may have trouble relaxing, they may have hypertension, muscle tension, irritability, and difficulty with digestion and/or elimination. There are a host of health-related problems from being too SNS dominant, but for the sake of this blog I will highlight how it effects our overall nutritional intake and absorption.
Have you ever switched your focus from what you are eating to how you are digesting? Are you really absorbing all the nutrients from your foods?
The parasympathetic nerves come from the cranial nerves and include the vagus nerve. The PNS nerves perform the following digestive functions:
- Stimulate the activity of the stomach
- Inhibit the release of glucose
- Stimulate the release of the gallbladder to release bile needed to digest fat
- Stimulate the activity of the intestines
- Trigger peristalsis, which helps prevent constipation
- Trigger enzyme production in the pancreas (pancreatic enzymes to break down carbs, protein and fats)
- Signal if satiated
- Signal if hungry
- Need for more stomach acid (HCL), enzymes, bile and peristalsis
The sympathetic nerves do the opposite, including:
- Inhibit the activity of the stomach
- Stimulate the release of glucose (increasing blood sugar levels)
- Inhibit gallbladder function (inhibiting the release of bile for fat digestion)
- Inhibit the activity of the intestines
Stress impairs our digestive process. Digestion is a parasympathetic nervous system process (PNS) also known as the “rest, digest and repair” nervous system. For maximum health we should be in the PNS 80 percent of the time and the other 20 percent of the day we should be in the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), also known as the “fight or flight” nervous system. Now what percentage of the day do you think you are in PNS versus SNS? What about when you are eating? Resting? Sleeping? We should be in the parasympathetic nervous system when eating but rarely do we sit, relax and focus on eating a meal as they do in most areas of Europe.
If you are a typical type-A personality, over-doer in life, then you may struggle with taking time out of your weekday for a relaxing meal and unplugging. What is the difference? Eating in the parasympathetic nervous system versus the sympathetic nervous system. Digestion is turned off when you are in the sympathetic nervous system. Many of us are living life as a race leading us to be in the sympathetic nervous system 80 percent of the day instead of 20 percent, causing a domino effect of health problems.
So, we know the vagus nerve highly influences the PNS so our vagus nerve needs to be strong in order to help in the digestion process. Remember, we get our amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals from the food we digest and break down, which helps build enzymes, hormones, muscles, bones, blood and our gut biome.
We need to support our vagus nerve and (PNS) to improve our digestion and gut health if we want to be healthier, since good digestion leads to a healthy gut, which results in reduced inflammation and an improved immune system (70% of our immune system is in the gut!).
Stop, pause, slow inhales, long exhales and reset. Take some deep breathes in and out, focus and unplug. Other techniques to boost your PNS: gargling, humming, singing, cold showers, meditation, mindful yoga, and connecting with loved ones.
Our digestion is as important as our diet. To nourish ourselves, we must support our digestion, but also our brain, as the brain communicates to the gut and the gut communicates back to the brain. Anti-inflammation is key to our bodies’ repair, recovery and regeneration, but it doesn’t happen if we are not in the parasympathetic nervous system more often during the day and all night.
Chiropractic adjustments can strengthen your PNS since it deals directly with your nervous system. Every function of your body is controlled by your central nervous system, and these functions can be disrupted by misalignments in your spine. These are called subluxations. A subluxation creates interference in the function of your spinal nerves, and this can result in impaired functioning of your organs and endocrine system.
So, slow down, take some deep breaths and get regular chiropractic adjustments to keep your vagus nerve and your PNS strong and healthy.
If you have any questions about this blog or your health in general, please feel free to contact me at: email@example.com