What is the Autonomic Nervous System?

Your Super Computer Within

The Autonomic Nervous System ANS regulates and controls your metabolism and your metabolic programs. "Autonomic" comes from the root word "Automatic", meaning that the ANS functions independently from our conscious mind. Some people like to refer to the Autonomic Nervous System as the Automatic Nervous System.

There are 2 nervous systems that operate within the body, the Autonomic Nervous System and the Central Nervous System. The part of the brain that is under the control of the conscious mind is called the Central Nervous System. When you decide to speak, raise your hand, walk, run, hit a golf ball, snap your fingers, these are all under the control of your Central Nervous System. But your heart beat, blood pressure, body temperature, digestion, detoxification, hormones, immune system are under control of your body's autopilot the Autonomic Nervous System ANS.

All of the basic life sustaining functions of the body are regulated by the ANS. To maintain proper balance and regulation within the body, the ANS switches organs and glands on and off. Receptors throughout the body manage the on/off signals. Each receptor has its very own function and it sends signals to the brain for processing. This is how the ANS knows when to turn certain programs on or off like digestion, detoxification, hormones, immune system, or if the body is under some type of threat or stress, the ANS will signal a sympathetic (fight or flight) response by increasing blood supply and oxygen to the muscles, brain, and heart for fight for flight.

The ANS also determines how our food, supplements, oxygen, water, will be used for energy production to support life within our body's. Because of this, the ANS is also called the Master Regulator of our metabolism, and how efficient and effective these fuel sources will be used to provide life energy.

There are 2 divisions within the ANS that are equal in importance but have 2 very different roles, the sympathetic nervous system SNS and the parasympathetic nervous system PNS. Each of these are responsible for sending nerve impulses throughout the body, switching on and off organs and systems in order keep proper balance (homeostasis) within the body. The SNS acts much like the gas pedal in your car generally speeding up activities within an organ or system, whereas the PNS is much like the brake pedal slowing things down.

The SNS is also referred to as our "fight or flight" response and is a stress response to some type of threat or to get our bodies ready for some type of physical activity. It is important to keep in mind When we speak of stress, it is important to note that the majority people only associate stress to emotional or mental stress, but stress can be from any number of internal or external source that are greater than the ANS's capacity to manage and adapt to. (see What are Stressors and Trauma for more information)

The PNS is like the brake that slows down the activity of the SNS and is primarily responsible for the body's rest, repair, regeneration, digestion, detoxification, immune system.  

These 2 equal yet very different branches of the ANS are always working in an attempt to keep our bodies in balance (homeostasis) and working optimally.

Good health and optimum performance depends on proper and balanced regulation between both sides of the autonomic nervous system, the SNS and PNS. This is referred to as homeostasis which means equilibrium between the 2 opposing forces. All organisms are constantly aiming for homeostasis, by attempting to regulate and maintain optimal conditions at all times. The ANS is constantly monitoring and reacting to any changes to the optimal state of homeostasis.

Things that cause imbalances and interfere with proper regulation of the ANS can be considered a stressor. A healthy body ANS will react to any stressor by a sympathetic nervous system SNS (fight or flight) response. This will be activated until the personal limits of homeostasis are obtained until the threat is addressed and homeostasis is once again reached. At that point the SNS activity is turned off and the PNS is turned on. Once the opposite homeostatic limit is obtained, the PNS is switched off, and the SNS once again switches back on.

Prolonged stress that cannot be addressed, corrected, or adapted to may result in a prolonged SNS response and a weak underactive PNS. When this happens, the majority of the body's energy reserves will be used by the SNS to fight the prolonged stressor at the expense of the PNS programs. We refer to this blocked regulation of the ANS as the chronic SNS. The much needed programs for the PNS to run properly which include rest, repair, regeneration, digestion, and detoxing. Overtime, this will result in poor digestion, insomnia, poor detoxification, weakened immunity, and the inability to repair and regenerate. Blocked regulation of the ANS results in increased inflammation, degeneration instead of regeneration, high blood pressure, high heart rate, high cortisol levels, anxiety, nervousness.

This stress response by the SNS was designed to address real threats to our survival for a relatively short duration of time. A sympathetic dominant response becomes a big problem and energy depleting endeavor for extended periods of time. The PNS state is much more preferred because of drives the rest, repair, and regenerating programs of the body.

First step in achieving optimum health and well being is to detect and to address the stressor that is causing the sympathetic fight or flight dominant response by the ANS. This can be accomplished through Autonomic Feedback Testing (AFT), which uses the autonomic nervous system as a feedback mechanism, to detect and address the most deep rooted stressors.

Once the stressor is detected and addressed, this ensures proper regulation of the ANS and homeostasis of the body's systems.

~The above text is taken from The Fast Way to Slow Down Ageing by Sheri Dixon

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.