Since You Can’t Beat It, Join It!

The nervous system controls the collection and interpretation of data electrically and chemically. The better tuned our receptors (the five senses, perception and balance), the greater our chances of relating effectively with our environment. Furthermore, the better wired we are into our spinal chord (the super highway) and our brain (the control center) where calculations are performed based on our intentions, the better chance we have of understanding our environment. Finally, how well we set intentions determines whether we make choices that support our goals and interests.

Because the autonomic nervous system determines our relaxation routines, reactions to stress and because it manages much of digestion, we’ll focus on that aspect of the greater picture. To get an overview of your nervous system, read Anatomy and check out the links in the Continued Learning section below.

ANS: The Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system is divided into two subsystems, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, which work in tandem, either in a synergistic or an antagonistic way. The sympathetic system [SNS] is responsible for providing responses and energy needed to cope with stressful situations such as fear or extremes of physical activity. In response to such stress, the sympathetic system: raises blood pressure, heart rate, and the blood supply to the skeletal muscles at the expense of the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, and skin; dilates both the pupils and the bronchioles, providing improved vision and oxygenation; and generates needed energy by stimulating glycogenolysis in the liver and lipolysis in adipose tissue. In general, it serves to stimulate organs and to mobilize energy.

Between stressful situations, the body needs to rest, recover, and gain new energy. These tasks are under the control of the parasympathetic system [PNS], which lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, diverts blood back to the skin and the gastrointestinal tract, contracts the pupils and bronchioles, stimulates salivary gland secretion, and accelerates peristalsis. The parasympathetic system influences organs toward restoration and the saving of energy.

Some anatomists refer to a third, or enteric, system primarily situated in the intestinal walls. It can be modulated by both sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve fibers which are connected to plexuses in several layers of the walls. However, the enteric nervous system is capable of operating on its own, even after having been severed from input from the SNS and PNS. This is why the enteric nervous system is sometimes referred to as a ‘second brain.’ (Hospital Practice, The Enteric Nervous System: A Second Brain, Michael D. Gershon, MD, Columbia University) ( [1])

The enteric nervous system [ENS] regulates secretions of the intestinal glands, regeneration of the intestinal epithelium, and intestinal motility. The ENS is sometimes considered the third part of the autonomic nervous system. 1 In some modalities, this is known as the inner brain.

Integrated Neurology

Although you cannot really control your ANS, many lifestyle choices you make determine how it functions. The more you realize the physiological consequences of how you live, the easier it becomes to make choices with awareness, develop habits that serve your greater good and live easier. It takes patience, diligence and a sense of humor to get the new rhythms going, but once flowing you’ll certainly reap more than you sowed.

Remember, you’re not designed to be stressed all the time, even moderately. Not really digesting, pumping blood under higher pressure than needed, with tired eyes and poorly nourished skin, it’s a surefire way to compromise your fine-tuning and experience dis-ease, ultimately creating disease. There is nothing decadent about nourishing yourself with rest, gentleness, inspiration and whatever makes you thankful to be alive, especially if you do it in ways that support the same in others.

Long-Term Tension

If your muscles are contracted in a semi-permanent state of being, blood and impulses are not flowing optimally. At some point, the flow has been compromised for so long that our minds decide this must be the new regular state-of-being. Your body is then officially engaged in maintaining a physical habit (see below). Furthermore, continued troubles do not just affect the specific location, but radiate to other systems like the fascia and skin (puckers, dimples, cellulite), pressuring confined organs and creating numbness and/or discomfort which can illicit a myriad of symptoms.

Injuries

Just like with tension, blood and information flow are compromised if you injured yourself (twisted ankle, broken leg) or had surgery (scar tissue, muscle atrophy). Too often we also have a fear of re-injuring or over-stressing these parts, and sometimes our brains send out a "Do Not Use" order even after the area has healed. This indicates that we are acting on old information and avoiding the chance of re-experiencing pain and injury. Fear or no fear, messages to and from headquarters can get pretty muddled, and like a bureaucracy, after awhile one hand doesn't know exactly what the other one's doing! Let's remember that it's always possible to reeducate and rejuvenate the body and mind to flow optimally.

Physical Habits

Most of us are aware of some habits, and unaware of others. Things we hear people say:

All of these scenarios reflect body complacency. So WHAT is a body to do? Schedule a session and reset your neurology.

Continued Learning

Super great content made for curious birds who are newcomers to the topic.

1 From Wikipedia’s Autonomic Nervous System – all text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Autonomic Nervous System - Neuroscience for Kids

Neurotransmitters & Neuroactive Peptides - Neuroscience for Kids

Who Wants to Be a Mill-Neuron-Aire? - Neuroscience for Kids; Test your neurological prowess!

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