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Hidden Causes of Anxiety, Poor Sleep, and Digestive Issues

Hidden Causes of Anxiety, Poor Sleep, and Digestive Issues

Could the state of your autonomic nervous system be the source of your anxiety, digestive distress, or poor sleep? Have you tried various mediation, therapy, or special diets and still struggle to feel better and reach your health goals?

While it’s not often talked about, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) plays a major role in how we prepare for, respond to, and adapt to stress. If it’s not in a balanced, dynamic state where it can easily shift between the parasympathetic and sympathetic sides, our mental and physical health suffers because our nervous system cannot be in growth 🌱and protection mode 🛡️at the same time.

➡️ GROWTH MODE (Parasympathetic Nervous System): When we're in growth mode, our nervous system functions optimally, allowing for adaptability, learning, and overall well-being. During growth mode, the ANS activates the parasympathetic branch, also known as "rest and digest" mode. This branch helps regulate bodily functions such as digestion, breathing, and heart rate. In this state, our body's resources are allocated towards growth, healing, and regeneration on a physical, emotional, and cognitive level.

➡️ PROTECTION MODE (Sympathetic Nervous System): On the other hand, when our nervous system senses real or perceived threats (e.g. STRESS), 😫 it shifts into protection mode. This response, often referred to as "fight or flight", prepares us for immediate action and shuts down any bodily functions not necessary for getting out of danger.

👉 When in protection mode, our body's resources prioritize short-term survival over long-term growth. While this mode can be necessary in times of genuine danger, prolonged activation from chronic stressors can have negative effects on our well-being because our body is NOT focusing on functions like sleep, digestion, and emotional regulation which help us thrive, feel rested, and think critically.

Continue reading to learn:

  • Signs your nervous system is stuck in protection mode

  • Why it’s problematic for your health and vitality to feel constantly stressed

  • Tests to measure the health of your autonomic nervous system

  • How to shift out of “fight-or-flight” mode and improve your body’s innate healing abilities

Signs Your Nervous System is Stuck in Flight-or-Flight Mode (and why that’s dangerous)  

When your autonomic nervous system is stuck in a sympathetic state (fight-or-flight mode)💥it’s as if you’re driving a car🚘with your foot pressed on the accelerator all the time … and your brakes no longer work.

Our bodies were designed to switch into this mode TEMPOARILY when an immediate threat presents itself so we can either fight or flee for our lives. Then, once the threat has been cleared, our bodies should shift back to a more calm and balanced state where it can focus on long-term growth, and prioritize rest, digestion, and healing.

Problems begin to develop when we live in a constant state of stress 🚨 and don’t give our nervous system a break from “protection mode”.  Over time, we can develop different symptoms and diseases if we don’t take action to lower our stress burden, restore the health of our nervous system, and practice lifestyle habits to shift out of a sympathetic state.

Warnings signs your nervous system is stuck in fight-or-flight mode (also known as chronic stress):

Physical signs:

  • Increased heart rate

  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath

  • High blood pressure

  • Tense muscles or muscle stiffness

  • Headaches or migraines

  • Digestive issues, such as stomachaches, diarrhea, or constipation

  • Fatigue or low energy levels

  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances

  • Weakened immune system, leading to frequent illnesses

Mental and Emotional signs:

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  • Racing thoughts or constant worrying

  • Memory problems or forgetfulness

  • Poor judgment or lack of focus

  • Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope

  • Increased irritability or agitation

  • Heightened anxiety or fearfulness

  • Increased sensitivity to criticism or perceived threats

  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions or pleasure

Behavioral signs:

  • Avoidance of certain situations or activities

  • Social withdrawal or isolation

  • Changes in appetite, such as overeating or loss of appetite

  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs

  • Nail biting or other nervous habits

  • Difficulty relaxing or unwinding

  • Increased aggression or conflict with others

  • Decreased productivity or motivation

Please note that experiencing a few of these symptoms occasionally is normal, but if you consistently notice several of these signs and they significantly impact your daily life, it's important to seek support and help from a neurologically-focused chiropractor (see why below), mental health therapist, or other naturally-minded healthcare provider.

How to Assess the Health of Your Autonomic Nervous System

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) consists of two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). These branches work together to regulate various involuntary processes in the body and maintain a balance known as autonomic balance.

✨A healthy ANS is DYNAMIC, meaning it can easily switch between the SNS and PNS depending on the environment and what is needed in that moment for protection or growth. A well-functioning ANS also has high battery charge ⚡️, meaning it has enough energy reserves to respond well to life’s stressors without burnout or developing unwanted symptoms.

While physical, mental, or behavioral symptoms suggest a stressed and exhausted nervous system is at play, it’s best to know (for certain) how your ANS is functioning through OBJECTIVE data. By doing a Heart Rate Variability (HRV) test on our patients, we gain valuable information about the ANS's health, stress levels, cardiovascular function, and overall adaptability to stress that we can then compare to future HRV tests once patients have been under chiropractic care for some time.

Listen to this explanation by Dr. McKensie on how to read and interpret your HRV test results and see what an IDEAL HRV scan looks like.

Want to Improve Your Ability to Heal, Adapt to Stress, and Feel Refreshed?

A calm mind, healthy body, and a good night’s sleep all begin with one thing: a well-functioning, dynamic nervous system 🧠.

If you’ve been struggling with racing thoughts, high blood pressure, digestive issues, or mood swings the source of your problem may very well be an overly-stressed, tense nervous system that isn’t properly communicating between the brain and body.

So what’s the BEST WAY to improve the health and communication lines in your nervous system? … Chiropractic care!

✅ Chiropractic adjustments improve nerve function and signaling and by removing nerve interference and stress within the nervous system. By restoring communication pathways between the brain and body and activating the parasympathetic branch of the ANS with each adjustment, the body begins to receive messages that it’s safe enough allocate resources towards rest, digestion, and healing. As the ANS spends more time operating from parasympathetic state, anxiety, irritability, constipation, fatigue and other health concerns begin to fade. 🙌 And when you incorporate these lifestyle practices that improve your Heart Rate Variability, you’ll notice an even bigger improvement in your overall health and stress response.

If you have been living with heightened stress for some time and want to be FREE from the health issues it’s causing, you need to prioritize taking care of your nervous system. It’s never too late to make a lasting, positive change in your life with neurologically-based chiropractic care! Book your appointment today to shift your ANS into a balanced, dynamic state and begin your healing journey today! 🥰

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