The Sympathetic Nervous System
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People who are intolerant of prescription drugs often have a polymorphism in CYP2D6. Some research, like that done by Professor Nicola Cherry, suggests that approximately one third of the population may be deficient in paraoxonase, an enzyme that is needed to detoxify organophosphates. These people would be much more susceptible to herbicide poisoning and other negative effects from these types of chemicals.
So, what we see here is that the toxins themselves impair the detoxification system, but a detoxification system that is not working properly for other reasons, can make one vulnerable to toxicity and develop health conditions that would not have developed if the system were up to par in the first place.
To improve the detoxification system the toxins both internal and external must be reduced and the functioning of the system must be improved. Functional medicine testing can be used to identify the weaknesses in your detoxification system and then it can be improved with diet, lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements. So obviously, we are missing something here.
This method apparently does not have the complete picture either. However, there are a variety of reasons one doesn't see progress with detoxification and nutritional supplements. Partly it can be because they didn't have the proper testing to really identify what it is in their unique biochemistry that needs replenished to get the detoxification system working.
They may not have had the genetic testing to identify the genetic problems. They may not have a physician that has the level of expertise that is needed to suggest the appropriate tests or identify their weaknesses accurately. Testing and supplements are expensive, and many people cannot afford to do all that is really needed to get to the bottom of the issue. For one reason or another they have not found all the pieces of the puzzle that will push them out of the sympathetic fight or flight and into the parasympathetic state where healing can take place.
Additionally, when the body is in the degenerative, sympathetic state then the detoxification system also becomes impaired. So once again, we have another catch Thus, once again, the goal in recovery must cover both the bases.
We must reduce exposure to toxin so the autonomic nervous system can return to the parasympathetic state and enhance the detoxification system, and also improve autonomic nervous system function so detoxification can improve. Again it goes both ways; environmental clean-up, internal clean up of toxins from organisms, healthy diet, nutritional supplements and exercise on one hand, with deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, yoga, or any alternative method that turns off the sympathetic nervous system are required.
One may be able to get into the parasympathetic regenerative mode through any or all of these paths. If the frontal lobes aren't working properly, then fight or flight cannot be regulated properly.
They are released during times of stress to bring us back to the parasympathetic state. However, the problem is that toxins target the frontal lobes of the brain, thus inhibiting them from doing their job of helping us cope with the total stress load. Pesticides inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which causes a build up of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that runs our autonomic nervous system, thus resulting in a constant firing of the sympathetic nervous system.
However, it doesn't matter what the toxin is, be it mold mycotoxins, food sensitivity, lyme, gut, cavitations, heavy metals, pesticides or psychotropic street drugs or prescription medications. Each and every one of them target the frontal lobes of the brain. Not only does this frontal lobe damage keep the body in the sympathetic state, but it also results in diminished levels of neurotransmitter production and function, which compounds the problem even further.
Our inhibitory neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and GABA and hormones like cortisol and DHEA that are used for coping can't keep up, so they begin to diminish and are not available to us when we need them.
Insufficient or out of balance neurotransmitters and hormones result in a long list of disruptive and sometimes debilitating symptoms like anxiety disorders, depression, hyperactivity, insomnia, impaired memory, learning and concentration and more. As we mentioned earlier, cortisol is a hormone that the adrenal glands release to help us cope with stress. Thus, perpetuating the problem even further.
Not having enough cortisol then puts even more stress on the body and thrusts you deeper into fight or flight. If this cycle continues for too long the neurotransmitters and hormones burn out. Cortisol burnout leads to adrenal fatigue, which is commonly labeled as chronic fatigue syndrome.
So toxins not only trigger your sympathetic nervous system thrusting you into fight or flight, but they also impair your built in back up system that is supposed to help you cope with the stress process and thus prevents you from returning to the parasympathetic state.
Additionally, the frontal lobes will also not work adequately if they are not receiving the proper nutrients needed for production, function and transmission. Neurotransmitters and hormones cannot be formed or function properly if the body is missing crucial nutrients like amino acids, fatty acids, b vitamins and minerals.
So once again we see the importance of assessing and replenishing nutrient status. The more deficient you are, the more dominant the sympathetic nervous system is likely to become. The goal in recovery of the frontal lobes is two pronged. On one hand you must reduce the toxins you are exposed to so the frontal lobes can begin working properly again and you must also engage in therapies that help increase frontal lobe activity, like deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, yoga, art, music, humor, spending time with nature, meaningful relationships, biofeedback, nurturing movies and writing; anything that is nurturing and soothing.
Neural retraining or limbic system retraining is proving to be helpful in this process as well. We must reduce the toxins we are exposed to, while simultaneously trying to increase frontal lobe activity that will help us return to the parasympathetic state. Frontal lobe health must be supported with a diet high in protein for amino acids, as amino acids are the building blocks for neurotransmitters,, a healthy diet, nutritional support, and activities like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises and time with nature.
The ability to inhibit the sympathetic nervous system Locus ceruleus, excessive norepinephrine, amygdala and thus reduce chronic stress burnout from excessive fight or flight is dependent on the health of your brain. To create a healthy brain it needs nutrition, good diet, detoxification and exercise.
Yes, just like your body, your mind needs exercise, but brain exercise is achieved through mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, visualizations or neural retraining etc. If you are exposed to a lot of toxins, then there is increased oxidative stress from phase I detoxification in order to detox these toxins. Oxidation of the toxins burns.
Therefore, high levels of oxidation lead to inflammation pain, swelling, redness. High levels of oxidation tears up your tissues. This is similar to the oxidative stress that we experience when our immune system protects us from threats like viruses, bacteria etc. It also increases inflammation. Both instances cause an increased level of oxidative stress and increased levels of inflammation. It is the oxidation that is at the root of many generalized systemic inflammatory disorders like Fibromyalgia, arthritis etc.
An ironic side-effect of what the body must do for itself to survive. The more toxins you are exposed to, then the higher the level of oxidation and the higher level of inflammation is likely to be. The more infections you have to fight off, the higher your oxidation will be and the more inflammation there is likely to be.
When you have both a high level of infections and a high levels of toxin exposure, then double the oxidation and inflammation. Say, for example, you have h pylori, candida overgrowth, lyme, or parasites.
Each of these emits toxins that the body must detox. Additionally, they trigger the immune system to protect itself. Therefore with these kinds of infections you are getting oxidation from the toxins and the immune reaction.
Thus another double whammy that results in inflammation. So healing from toxicity involves not only healing from the toxin itself, but from the oxidation as well. High levels of antioxidants, like C, E and Coq10 are needed to contain the burn and reduce the inflammation.
Antioxidants are also anti-inflammatories because they reduce both the oxidation and the inflammation as a result. One of the ways toxins impact the immune system is through the development of haptens.
A hapten is a "small molecule that can illicit an immune response only when attached to a large carrier such as protein. Typically, only large molecules , infectious agents or insoluble foreign matter can elicit an immune response in the body. However, when the hapten attaches itself to the larger protein it is then enabled to do the same. Haptens then make proteins of self look like a foreign invader and the immune system attacks itself, thus we have autoimmune disorders.
After the body has produced antibodies to fight off the hapten, the hapten may also attach itself to the antibody. Alternatively, it may block an immune response to the carrier of the hapten, called hapten inhibition.
Many toxins, bacteria, viruses etc. When haptens occur, it takes very little of the toxin to set off the immune response or the sympathetic nervous system. For example, lyme, heavy metals, candida yeast, mold, bacteria in a cavitation or the gut, halides, pertussis vaccine, babesia, malaria and pesticides are all known to have a hapten effect. The toxin that is oxidized in phase I detoxification becomes the hapten. This immune stress then triggers the sympathetic nervous system and the body is in fight or flight.
One of the most common conditions associated with haptens is autism. It is believed that autism is often triggered by the hapten effect of mercury, and not the toxicity of the mercury itself. There are many other contributing factors to autism as well, like candida, nutritional deficiencies, impaired detoxification, etc.
People with autism and people with MCS have striking similarities. The thyroid and other glands are particularly vulnerable to haptens, and they often play a role in hashimotos. Then after the immune system attacks the thyroid for an extended period of time it leads to hypothyroidism. This means that heavy metals, candida or mold cause problems not only in their toxicity, but also in their hapten effect, giving two different assaults from one toxin.
For example, heavy metals can bind with iodine receptors, can impair neurotransmitters, can disrupt the endocrine system, impair methylation, and trigger an immune response with haptens. The same applies to halides like bromine, fluoride and chlorine. Toxins also weaken the immune system by the free radicals that are produced by oxidizing of the toxins.
So if there is a high level of toxins to be oxidized all the time, this will degrade the immune system. The hapten effect explains why very small amounts of a toxin can trigger an immune response and the sympathetic nervous system. Many researchers get perplexed, saying that the amount of toxin is not enough to produce poor health, they are not taking the hapten effect into account.
Sometimes it isn't the toxicity of the toxin that produces the symptoms, its the haptens that disrupt the immune system and trigger the autonomic nervous system. Sometimes, the hapten effect is not experienced until several exposures. For example, a child in a mother's womb gets exposed to mercury because the mother eats mercury laden fish all the time.
Then a couple months later they get a vaccine with mercury. The first exposure sensitized them and the second exposure is a stronger hit to their system and sets off the hapten effect. Or sometimes, it isn't until the third or fourth vaccination. One of the most common and confusing toxins in our society and one that is often overlooked are psychotropic toxins.
Psychotropic toxins are substances that alter the brain or in other words, mind-altering or mood altering substances. This would include both street drugs like marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines, etc and prescription drugs like Xanax, Prozac, Ativan, as well as sugar, caffeine, nicotine, chocolate and carbohydrates, even complex carbohydrates like whole grains.
As we discussed throughout this page, the autonomic nervous system and neurotransmitters in the brain are impaired from toxins and results in the vast amount of psychological and physiological symptoms like MCS, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, headaches etc. This often pushes the individuals to reach for psychotropic toxins in order to feel better. The most dangerous aspect of psychotropic toxins is that they temporarily relieve your symptoms, thus tricking you into believe they are making you better.
For example, nicotine mimics dopamine and acetylcholine, marijuana mimics dopamine and endocannabinoids, alcohol affects serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and GABA, opiods mimic endorphins and dopamine, while benzodiazapines mimic dopamine and GABA. They temporarily boost your neurotransmitters and turn off your sympathetic nervous system.
However, the brain then responds by making less neurotransmitters because it thinks it has enough. When they aren't present, then they can't counteract norepinephrine and turn off your sympathetic nervous system. Thus a vicious cycle ensues. When neurotransmitter levels drop lower, then you become dependent on the psychotropic substance to bring them back up. The more you turn to the psychotropic toxins, the more your neurotransmitters become depleted and the more dominant your sympathetic nervous system becomes.
More and more symptoms develop and mental and physical health continue to decline. Psychotropic drugs become a way of anesthetizing the autonomic nervous system. Addicts of all kinds are unconsciously trying to restore balance to their brain chemistry, soothe their autonomic nervous system and find inner peace, which has been disrupted from toxins or stress, by using psychotropic chemicals to artificially stimulate their neurotransmitters.
Like all other toxins, the psychotropic toxins must be removed in order to return to the parasympathetic state. There cannot be improvement in psychiatric or physiological health if one remains dependent on psychotropic's. Psychotropic's take the brain, which is the captain of the ship for the autonomic nervous system, out of the ball game. Psychotropic impair this process. Without these neurotransmitters we cannot turn off fight or flight.
However, one's ability to give up the psychotropic toxins is highly dependent on the diet they eat, their nutritional status and the amount of toxins, both internal and external, they are exposed to; as each of these issues disrupts neurotransmitters and triggers the autonomic nervous system.
So once again, we see how recovery requires that the toxins be eliminated, the diet improved and the nutrients replenished. Nothing is unscathed by toxins; even our spiritual health is impacted. By spiritual I am referring to the level of meaning and purpose we have in life, our level of inner peace, and our relationship or connection with self, others and the Universe. It is very difficult to feel spiritually connected and maintain inner peace when you have depleted neurotransmitters and are continually in a state of fight or flight.
Thus your level of spiritual health can be greatly influenced by the state of your autonomic nervous system and frontal lobes. Many of the common spiritual practices, like meditation, that can enhance our health and life may be difficult to embrace in this debilitating state. This too is very much connected to toxicity and detoxification. For example, individuals who have a genetic polymorphism in their methylation gene, called catechol-o-methyltransferase, which would result in a reduced capacity to eliminate norepinephrine and toxins that results in an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system, often have difficulty with meditation.
On the other hand, like most aspects we have discussed on this page, inner peace and spirituality is a two way street. If you can increase your meaning, purpose, inner peace and connections to self, others and the Universe, this boosts neurotransmitters and has a soothing effect on the autonomic nervous system. Thus will help move you into the parasympathetic zone and promote healing. Once again, we see the two prongs of recovery. On one hand toxins must be reduced, nutrients replenished, the detoxification system improved, while at the same time engaging in practices like meditation, deep breathing exercise, time with nature, music, yoga, etc.
Childhood abuse and neglect or other strong emotional traumas like war, domestic violence, living in poverty, a car accident, witnessing a murder, death of a love one or surviving a natural disaster, living with a chronic and degenerative health condition, impair the brain and the autonomic nervous system in the same manner as toxins and thrust the individual into fight or flight response and deplete neurotransmitters.
These are intensely stressful situations that trigger the locus ceruleus to release norepinephrine, that triggers the amygdala, that triggers the hypothalamus and so on and so forth, as I described in the opening paragraphs of this discussion.
The impact of childhood abuse on the, brain, the endocrine system, and the limbic system has been studied extensively by Dr. Bruce Perry and others. I've written about this topic in more depth on the following page, Effects of Child Abuse. However, my point in bringing it up in this discussion is to make you aware, that if any of these situations apply to you, then they may be the root of what made your autonomic nervous system vulnerable to dysfunction in the first place.
For example, I lived with severe emotional, sexual and physical abuse as a child and I believe that was my original trauma that damaged my autonomic nervous system, thrust me into fight or flight and set me up for all the chronic health conditions that followed.
As my MCS began when I was There are some new and controversial approaches to healing MCS, CFS, FMS, EHS and other similar conditions associated with toxicity, on the scene called brain retraining, neural retraining, limbic retraining or amygdala training that are proving to be helpful for many people in returning the mind and body to the parasympathetic state. The point you want to keep in mind is that both the Amygdala Retraining TM and the Dynamic Neural Retraining System TM are effective for the same reason that any other treatment method for MCS, CFS or EHS works; because they enable the individual to return to the parasympathetic state, which in turn enables the detoxification system to function properly.
They are stimulating your frontal lobes, helping you make more of your coping and healing neurotransmitters and hormones and turning off the fight or flight response.
These programs use a variety of techniques like neuro-linguistic programming, visualizations, meditation, positive affirmations, self-hypnosis, yoga and others to achieve that goal. This does not mean that toxins are not harmful to us or that all the other contributing aspects that have been well researched and documented, like genetic polymorphisms in the cytochrome P, impairment in phase II detoxification, nutritional deficiencies, eating a healthy diet, addressing candida, living an environmentally friendly lifestyle etc.
In a nutshell, trauma from chemicals or other forms of stress, have resulted in pathways in the brain that keep us in a state of overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system.
It's a little more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea. Additionally, limbic system rewiring or retraining the amygdala works by using your neurotransmitters to form new pathways in your brain and turn off the overactive sympathetic nervous system. As we see on this page, neurotransmitters and the autonomic nervous system are depleted and disrupted by all the factors we've just discussed.
Therefore, if one does not have adequate neurotransmitters because of nutritional deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity, candida, parasites, bacterial overgrowth, lyme, frequent exposure to environmental toxins, genetic polymorphisms etc, then they may not have enough neurotransmitters to form new neuronal pathways and their ability to rewire the brain and turn off the sympathetic nervous system can be impacted.
Each of these factors are perceived by the body as stress. Stress depletes your neurotransmitters. For those who are not seeing very good results with retraining the amygdala or neural retraining, this is probably the reason why. People who are able to get well quickly with these programs are likely to have fewer stressors, while those who take a long time have more stressors.
If it doesn't work at all for you, then you likely have a bucket that is too full of stressors. Furthermore, as illustrated in my discussion above, the brain and the autonomic nervous system are impaired because of the toxins. A poor diet and nutritional deficiencies also lead to a host of other health conditions like cancer, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease and addiction to name only a few.
At least some degree of environmental clean-up and healthy eating should always be practiced. The castle you come home to should always remain as chemical free as possible and the food you put in your temple should be a wholesome as possible, if you want to maintain long-term health.
However, what we want to accomplish in healing is that we don't need "extreme" avoidance of chemicals, so that we may interact with the world once again and live a more full, productive and satisfying life. For example, when my candida overgrowth levels were high or if I have flare, then my level of chemical sensitivity goes through the roof.
I am a completely different person if I don't eat a healthy diet. Improving my acetylation detoxification pathway helped me immensely be able to tolerate terpines in the desert and perfumes when I go out and about.
Improving my glucoronidation pathway helped immensely with lowering my estrogen dominance and lowered my level of chemical sensitivity.
Addressing a deficiency in Vitamin B6 and magnesium helped reduce stress significantly, alleviate muscle pain and spasms and heightened my overall sense of well-being. I overcame drug addiction, alcoholism, sugar addiction, food binging, anxiety attacks and clinical depression more than 20 years ago by simply making changes in diet and living a green lifestyle. No, I did not find the "magic key" with any of those methods that pushed me up over the fence and into the winners circle as far as MCS and CFS go, but I made progress in the race.
On the other hand, over the years I have also found that mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercise, nurturing movies, relaxation music, time with nature, gratitude and humor are all very helpful for turning off my sympathetic nervous system. So I have experienced both sides of this spectrum. I personally used the Dynamic Neural Retraining program myself for an entire year and I am still using the Gupta program since July and as of May I have acheived about 30 percent improvement overall, with higher percentages for some issues and lower improvement on others.
I have come to believe that both of these programs are poweful tools for healing that should be explored by everyone with these conditions. You can read my reveiw of these programs and get a better understanding of what it means to rewire the brain on my limbic system retraining page. I believe that Annie Hopper and Ashok Gupta's limbic system retraining programs have a great deal of merit and potential for healing.
I feel very excited about all that they are bringing to the table. However, I think it is dangerous and irresponsible on many levels to ignore the toxicity factor, the healthy eating factor, the nutritional deficiencies factor and all the other aspects I have presented on this page. I believe that limbic system retraining is indeed a very important missing piece of the puzzle, but I don't believe it is the whole kit and kaboodle, in and of itself.
Also keep in mind, that most of the participants in both of these programs have had MCS and CFS for a very long time and therefore they have already engaged in years of detoxification, living an environmentally clean lifestyle, eating a healthier diet, and addressed their nutritional deficiencies, thus their autonomic nervous system is primed for healing.
It is my opinion that is the combination of all these factors that helps make us so responsive to limbic system retraining. In my opinion it is not an either or situation. As I see it, MCS, CFS and other similar conditions definitely involve limbic system impairment, but it is also a matter of detoxification, nutritional status and genes etc. They are interconnected and really one cannot be separated from the other. Limbic system retraining and detoxification methods do not oppose one another.
One approach does not cancel out the other; they are just coming at it from different angles. As I see it, they fit together like a glove. For example, I have used my limbic system retraining to enable me to take a variety of nutritional supplements I wasn't able to take previously and correct some long-standing deficiencies.
It is my opinion that if you use one of the limbic retraining programs, it should be one component of a comprehensive healing plan, not the "sole" plan. When we look at all the factors that we have discussed on this page, we see that toxins weave a very complex and multi-faceted web that must be unraveled in order to restore balance to autonomic nervous system and improve health. Charles Gant brilliantly calls this the "web of distress. The oculomotor nerve's target is the eye. Its parasympathetic nerve fibers control the muscles that dilate or constrict -- enlarge or shrink -- the pupils.
They also control the muscles that change the shape of the lens to allow the eyes to focus on near or far objects. When the parasympathetic response is activated, muscles contract to constrict the pupils and make the lens rounder, to optimize focusing on close objects. The facial nerve has both sensory and motor nerve endings throughout the face, which are responsible for sensation and muscle movement. Parasympathetic fibers in the facial nerve control a number of glands that secrete fluid or mucus.
One such gland is the lacrimal gland, which makes tears to keep the eyes moist. Parasympathetic fibers also stimulate the release of mucus by the numerous mucus-secreting glands dispersed throughout the lining of the nose, mouth and throat. The glossopharyngeal nerve has a number of functions related to taste and eating. Parasympathetic fibers in this nerve control the parotid glands, the largest of the salivary glands.
Salivation is necessary for eating, a "peace time" function. Parasympathetic stimulation evokes a good flow of saliva. In contrast, sympathetic stimulation may produce a small flow of saliva or none at all, leading to a dry mouth.
Of all the parasympathetic cranial nerves, the vagus nerve, which contains about 80 percent of all parasympathetic fibers in the body, is the most important. Fibers from the vagus nerve pass all over the body, influencing almost every organ below the neck -- including the heart, lungs, esophagus, trachea, stomach, small intestine, first part of the colon, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and ureters. Parasympathetic activation of the vagus nerve therefore has a broad range of effects, including reducing the heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the production of stomach acid, stimulating the movement of food through the intestines and keeping the larynx open for breathing while constricting the air passages in the lungs.
Video of the Day. Disorders of the Sympathetic Nervous System. How to Relax the Nervous System Naturally.