Balancing The Autonomic Nervous System: The Key Factor in the Healing Process and Health Maintenance


Balancing The Autonomic Nervous System: The Key Factor in the Healing Process and Health Maintenance

Submitted by AdminSite on Wed, 05/15/2024 - 12:35

Autonomic Nervous System BalaceThe autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the body's automatic system that manages the physical functions that we don't consciously think about, like breathing, heart rate, and digestion. It operates below our level of awareness to handle essential functions that keep us alive and adapting to changes in our environment.

The ANS is divided into two main parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. They have opposite functions and complement each other to maintain homeostasis in the body. The sympathetic system is often called the "fight or flight" system because it revs the body up in response to stress or danger, increasing heart rate, raising blood pressure, and giving you a burst of adrenaline. On the other hand, the parasympathetic system is known as the "rest and digest" system. It helps calm the body down after a threat is gone, slowing the heart rate and promoting digestion and other restorative processes.

The fine balance between the two systems is one of the key factors in the healing process and in health maintenance.


Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)

The sympathetic nervous system is your body's accelerator. When you face a stressful situation, this system kicks into gear, preparing your body to fight or flee. Some of the physical responses you experience when this system is activated are: your heart rate speeds up, your pupils dilate, your muscles get a rush of blood, and your body releases adrenaline. This is all designed to make you more alert and ready to respond to immediate threats. It’s what makes your heart pound and your palms sweat when you’re nervous or scared.


Para-Sympathetic Nervous System (PSNS)

On the flip side, the parasympathetic nervous system acts like the brake. It comes into play when the threat has passed, or you're resting. This system helps slow down the heart rate, decrease blood pressure, and stimulate digestion and other metabolic processes. It's responsible for calming the body and conserving energy so you can recover from the stress and be ready for whatever comes next. This system is what helps you relax and feel calm after a stressful event.


Signs of SNS Dominance

SNS system dominance occurs when your SNS is relatively stronger than the level of PSNS or your parasympathetic nervous system PSNS is depleted so that it can not effectively counteract the stimulation of the SNS. These symptoms can manifest as:

  • High heart rate and blood pressure
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Nausea and “sour stomach”
  • Digestive issues
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Hypersensitivity to sounds, smells, or light
  • Reduced appetite
  • Cold sweats
  • Inability to relax
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Tightness and tension of muscles

Long term, this can lead to chronic inflammation, neuropathic pain/nerve damage, anxiety, heart conditions, and other chronic health problems.


Causes of SNS Dominance

The lifestyle in the modern Western world requires a strong and healthy ANS to cope with society’s stresses and demands. Often, the balance between the two components of ANS is chronically compromised, setting a foundation for diseases to arise from the imbalance.

From the lifestyle point of view, the imbalance of the ANS can be caused by:

  1. Overuse of stimulants such as coffee and other caffeinated drinks
  2. Overuse of alcohol
  3. Exposure to excessive physical exercise, societal pressures, and stress
  4. Lack of routine relaxation and time off
  5. Irregular, excessive or unhealthy food intake
  6. Excessive emotional stress and traumas
  7. High level of drive and hyperactivity
  8. Overdose of over-the-counter medicine (OTCs), such as pain medicine
  9. Substance abuse

Physiologically speaking, some contributors to sympathetic dominance are:

  • Faulty Body Signals: If the sensors in your body malfunction (like those that manage blood pressure and heart rate) or become less sensitive, the part of your nervous system that handles "fight or flight" responses can overreact, keeping you in a constant state of high alert.
  • Brain Regulation Issues: Due to changes in their structure or function, the control centers in your brain that help calm things down might not work properly. If these control centers are off, your body might stay in a heightened state of stress.
  • Hormonal Effects: Certain hormones that act like messengers in your body can also make your nervous system overactive. For example, hormones like cortisol increase stress responses, making your heart beat faster and raising your blood pressure.
  • Nitric Oxide (NO) Imbalance: Normally, NO helps keep your nervous system calm. If your body isn’t making enough NO, it can't keep things balanced, leading to more stress responses.
  • Oxidative Stress: Free radicals can build up in the body and cause damage to your cells, leading to inflammation and a heightened stress response.
  • Exaggerated Responses to Stimuli: Sometimes, your body might react too strongly to things that should cause minor changes. For instance, if your body overreacts to changes in CO2 levels or physical stresses, it can trigger excessive stress responses.
  • Genetic and Molecular Factors: Small changes in your body at the genetic or molecular level can disrupt how your nervous system controls stress responses.
  • Chronic Conditions: Long-term health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney problems can worsen this issue. These conditions create a vicious cycle that keeps triggering your nervous system, keeping it overactive.


Illnesses Relating to SNS 

Clinically speaking, ANS imbalance is found in most patients. They are usually not aware that the conditions that they are presenting might be a result of a long-term dysfunction of the ANS.

Sympathetic dominance has been linked to a range of illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, but they also affect other various systems within the body. Initially recognized as a contributing factor to cardiovascular conditions like hypertension, palpitations, ischemic heart disease, and chronic heart failure, It is now understood to play a role in other serious health issues: psychological conditions, such as anxiety, anger, rage, agitation, panic attacks; chronic pains; digestive issues; menstrual issues, autoimmune disorders, and so on.

Sympathetic overactivity is often a comorbidity in obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that disrupts normal sleep patterns and can lead to severe fatigue and other health issues. It has also been associated with conditions like obesity, where excessive sympathetic activity complicates metabolic function. It is associated with metabolic disorders like type II diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome, both of which come with significant health complications over time.

When it comes to kidney health, increased sympathetic nerve activity has been identified in conditions such as kidney disease, contributing to poor outcomes in diseases like end-stage renal disease.

Sympathetic dominance has broader implications for psychological disorders. It has been linked to depression, anxiety, anger, rage, agitation, and panic attacks. It also contributes to gastrointestinal disorders, such as constipation, diarrhea, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and Chron’s Disease.

Sympathetic overactivity exacerbates underlying conditions, contributing to a cycle of worsening health. Sympathetic dominance's broad impact affects cardiovascular health and influences a wide array of bodily functions, leading to diminished health outcomes and increased mortality in affected individuals.


Addressing ANS Imbalance in My Clinic

In my clinic, more than 60-70% of my patients exhibit signs of SNS dominance. Whether they are treated for digestive, gynecological, psychological, or musculoskeletal conditions, I incorporate ANS balancing treatment to calm the nervous system. Japanese acupuncture and Reiki Energy Healing are both extremely effective for this purpose. When the SNS calms down, patients feel relaxed as if thick armor heavily guarding the body and the mind has slipped off. This is the moment when deeper healing begins.

At my clinic, I offer holistic treatment using Japanese-style acupuncture and herbal medicine to guide your body and mind to heal. For more information about my practice, please visit


  5. Kiiko Matsumoto and David Euler, Kiiko Matsumoto’s Clinical Strategies, Vol. 1



This article “Balancing The Autonomic Nervous System: The Key Factor in the Healing Process and Health Maintenance” was originally created and published by under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Mika Ichihara, M.S., L.Ac., LL.M., B.Phar., Founder, Owner and Grand Master in Eastern Medicine and Energy Soul Medicine. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution and author bio. For more information about Mika and her practice, please visit


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