Your nervous system is connected with every part of your physical body. The nervous system is responsible for responding in both of internal and external stimuli with different actions and emotion. It has the function of controlling from the regulation of breathing, movement, temperature, digestion, physical activities and emotional response.
The autonomic nervous system regulates the function of our internal organs, such as our stomach, lungs, and heart. Essentially, it keeps the show running without us having to do anything, even while we are sleeping. Within this, there are two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (arousing/fight-or-flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (calming/rest-digest-heal).
Unfortunately, when the sympathetic nervous system is constantly in overdrive, this can cause havoc on our health.
If you suffer from any of the following symptoms you may be a victim of sympathetic overdrive:
Low Stomach Acid
Low Blood Sugar
"All healing occurs in a parasympathetic state; this includes healthy digestion, detoxification, and cellular regeneration."
The opposite of the Sympathetic nervous system is the Parasympathetic nervous system. This is the body's brake. In this relaxed state, our digestion, detoxification, and immune function is optimal. On a chemical level, the release of stress hormones is suppressed.
The vagus nerve, which is major part of the parasympathetic nervous system connects our brain to our gut. This nerve activates the Parasympathetic switch in your body.
Strong vagal tone regulates every function in our body for optimal health:
It regulates the brain by assisting in the production of feel-good hormones like serotonin.
It regulates the stomach by stimulating peristalsis and promoting adequate HCL production.
It regulates the pancreas by stimulating enzyme production and release.
It regulates the liver by stimulating detoxification and blood sugar regulation.
It regulates the gallbladder by stimulating the release of bile.
It regulates the heart by promoting a healthy heart rate and blood pressure.
It regulates the bladder to allow bladder retention.
It regulates the reproductive organs by supporting fertility and libido.
We should optimally be in a Vagal State (parasympathetic) 80 percent of the time, but many people struggle to be in this state at any point during their day. This is because stress inhibits the vagal response. There are consequences: the body’s essential processes shut down.
How to increase your vagal tone & functions of your parasympathetic nervous system:
1. Sleep: If you're not sleeping well, your body is not healing, repairing and functioning properly. It's as simple as that. Sleep is an integral part to our health as humans and unfortunately sometimes the last place that we look when it comes to helping our health. Sleep is as important to the body as eating or breathing. Lack of sleep reduces the body's ability to heal and fight off infections, reduces brain functions such as concentration, memory and information retention. The effects of sleep deprivation can cause numerous risks and health problems, among which are: risk of heart disease, weight gain, damages to your central nervous system, emotional imbalances or mood swings, hallucinations, and uncontrollable microsleep episodes. So turn off the tv and your phone and get some zzz's. Try and rise and set with the sun as much as you can this allows your body to work in rhythm with nature and the seasons as our ancestors did.
2. Essential oils: Essential oils are a powerful and potent plant medicine straight from mother nature.
Parasympathetic® Oil- This blend turns on your body’s ability to heal with this all-natural essential oil blend made from a synergistic combination of clove and lime essential oils. Melt away stress, elevate mood, boost energy, improve digestion, and regain focus. Find it here.
Stress Support Kit™ contains three powerful oils – Adrenal Balance®, Hypothalamus™ and Circadian Rhythm® – that when used in combination with healthy lifestyle changes, helps support the body’s systems of stress management. Find it here.
Stress Away - a natural solution created to combat normal stresses that creep into everyday life. Stress Away is the first product to contain the unique stress-relieving combination of lime and vanilla pure essential oils. Find it here.
Peace and Calming - this soothing and uplifting blend creates a relaxing environment that’s great for the entire family. Peace & Calming promotes calm focus, and can help channel mental energy into a positive outlet. Find it here.
3. Breathe: Five minutes a day of deep breathing through the nose is clinically proven to reduce stress levels and move you into your parasympathetic nervous system. Two great starter breathing techniques are:
4-7-8 breath, this involves inhaling through the nose for a count of 4, holding for a count of 7, and exhaling through the mouth for a count of 8.
Box breath, this involves inhaling through the nose for a count of 4, holding for a count of 4 and exhaling through the mouth for a count of 4.
4. Earthing: Earthing or grounding is the act of bringing the earth’s free electrons into your body to reduce chronic pain and inflammation, help you sleep better, improve circulation, and more. You can do it indoors with a conductive product or outdoors in nature. To find the best earthing products for your home visit here
5. Whole Seasonal Foods: A diet full of whole and seasonal fresh foods including fruits and vegetables is essential to good health and reducing stress in the body and nourishing our nervous system. Processed foods have an inflammatory response in the body and drain our body causing additional unnecessary stress. Also, as the seasons change so do the microbiome in the soil, meaning that if you're not eating in season you are even more disconnected form nature and our ancestral body.
6. Emotional Intelligence/ Healing: Being emotionally intelligent and healing any emotional wounds is very important to the health of our nervous system. Holding onto emotions for longer than needed or constantly reliving experiences/ situations/ emotions is very taxing to our nervous system and have our sympathetic nervous system constantly in overdrive. Holistic coaching may be something you want to look into, find more information here
7. Exercise: What is important about exercise is that you exercise smarter. If your body is physically and/or mentally exhausted it may be better for you to not go pushing it at the gym with something high intensity. Sometimes the best thing you you can do is more gentler movement such as stretching, walking and yoga. A great way to know what is best for you also is by looking at your human design chart- which you can find here for free. On the human design chart you will see 9 centres, your root centre, which is directly related to adrenaline, your adrenal glands, stress, pressure and your fight or flight is the one to look at for this. If you have an open root centre then you are best doing NON high impact exercise such as yoga, walking, weights, and pilates. If you have a defined root centre then you can get away with doing more "high pressure" exercises such as HIIT workouts, cross fit etc
8. Cold Water: I know there is a lot of talk about cold showers, cold plunges etc for the nervous system. But for those who don't want to do there for whatever reason, I bring you. splashing your face with cold water! A splash of cold water stimulates the vagus nerve. Whenever your body is required to adjust to the cold, your fight-or-flight (sympathetic) system declines and your rest-and-digest (parasympathetic) system increases.
9. Gargle & Hum: Gargling and humming both activate the vagus nerve and move the body into a parasympathetic state.
10. Meditate: Meditation has shown numerous benefits for the mind and body. In regards to the nervous system, meditation soothes and relaxes the nervous system, assisting it to stay in a parasympathetic state. Just 20-30 minutes a day can have profound effects.
11. Laugh: Laughter reduces sympathetic nervous system activity while activating parasympathetic nervous system activity. So put on a funny movie, play a game with friends of join a laughter class!
Ashwagandha- Ashwagandha (an Ayurvedic rasayana) has been treasured for its ability to revitalise and rejuvenate for more than six thousand years. It helps down-regulate the body's stress response, promote restorative sleep, calm the mind and support healthy ageing. Find my favourite Ashwaghandha Here
Reishi- In traditional Chinese Medicine, reishi is considered a spiritual herb, one of the top Daoist herbs believed to nourish our Shen - the spiritual essence of our being. Reishi is one of the most studied herbs in the world, and is highly regarded in Eastern medicine. Western science recognises reishi as a powerful immune herb and as an adaptogen (for its ability to help us adapt to stress). Find my favourite Reishi here
Astragalus- Astragalus’s adaptogenic properties essentially help your nervous system process stress in a more efficient way, which can improve your energy levels, immunity, and even your mood. Find my favourite Astragalus here
Lion's Mane- A wonder mushroom whose extract powder has been used for thousands of years by traditional herbalists to support the brain and nervous system, improve cognitive function and boost digestive health. Find my favourite Lion's mane here
Medicinal Mushroom Blend- a nourishing blend of medicinal mushrooms that support immunity, gut health, hormonal function and the nervous system. Find my favourite Medicinal mushrooms blend here
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CBD oil- CBD oil has a close relationship with both the nervous system and endocannabinoid system assisting in the calming and regulation of our mind and body. Find my favourite CBD oil here (For 20% OFF use code STEFANI)
13: Eating Relaxed: Eating in a relaxed state, (not rushing, on the go, working or watching tv) activates the calming and soothing effects of the parasympathetic nervous system allowing you to properly digest your food. This is important in preventing, bloating, malabsorption of nutrients, indigestion and acid reflux.
14: Caffeine: Coffee and caffeine-containing teas or drinks can be very stimulating for the nervous system. Choosing to consume less caffeine, changing the time you consume it, or having a caffeine-free drinks may be a better choice to help to keep your nervous system in a relaxed state and in particular to enable you to sleep better!
15: Bodywork: Massage, rolfing, abdominal massage, bowen therapy, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture/ acupressure and reflexology are all amazing at allowing the body to relax and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
16: Vitamins & Minerals:
Magnesium: Magnesium is a natural relaxer of both the body and mind, taking 400-800mg of magnesium glycinate daily during times of high stress can help to keep you and your body calm and relaxed.
EFA's (essential fatty acids): Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, are very important for the nervous system to develop and function its roles.
B vitamin complex: A B-complex formula, they help turn food into energy, help create new red blood cells, and help build your brain’s chemical messengers. Individually, each B vitamin also serves its own purpose in the nervous system.
Potassium: Potassium helps regulate the electrochemical impulses your nerve cells use to send signals throughout the cell. Potassium strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, helps calm the sympathetic nervous system. It is critical for the ongoing health of every cell in our body. Along with its partner sodium, the two minerals balance the nutrient and waste exchange of each cell.
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17: Blue light: Blue light exposure at night from smartphones, TVs, iPads, tablets and computers, and lack of sunlight and full spectrum light during the day is a major risk factor for insulin resistance, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, headaches, and other health problems. Blue light at night confuses the brain, having it think that it is still day time and delays the production of melatonin (your sleep hormone) It is important to try and reduce your blue light exposure at night as much as possible, using blue light blocking glasses, the f.lux app on your computer, blue light blocking apps on your phone and even using candle light and warm coloured lights in your house at night time.
This is one of the simplest ways on how to strengthen nervous systems health naturally at home that you must do. Sunlight is known as a rich source of vitamin D that is necessary for your overall health and helps in regulating the nervous system.
Expose your body to the early morning sunlight while not using any sunscreen. 10 to 15 minutes in summer and 20-30 minutes in winter, exposing your arms, legs and chest as much as possible.