why is treatment for the sympathetic or parasympathetic system difficult?
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A simple question, but a complicated answer. I've a misfiring autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS comprises the SNS and PNS, as well as the enteric nervous system (ENS), which is in the gut and contains as many neurons as the spinal cord! The ANS is part of the peripheral nervous system, which includes sensory (back to brain) and motor (from brain out) systems.
Neural circuits extend to where they need to go typically by neurotransmitters, which require receptors. Agonists specific to certain receptors amp up the signal; antagonists tamp it down. There are excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters.
There are lots of neurotransmitters. The most important of the PNS is acetylcholine, which also is the main neurotransmitter of the SNS for the sweat glands. I'd say the most important of the SNS is norepinephrine, tho others are important, like epinephrine. These 2 substances also operate as hormones, but their importance is reversed when acting as hormones. Adenosine triphosphate is another important neurotransmitter, which works in the mitochondria in the production and storage of cellular energy. Orexin is another neurotransmitter involved in arousal, as in not sleeping during the day.
Sometimes the PNS may be overactive OR the SNS may be underactive, and sometimes the SNS may be overactive or the PNS may be underactive. And there don't seem to be good ways to measure the activity or underactivity of each of these systems, so you don't always know which is the culprit as to a specific misfiring bodily function.
Lots of pop lit online is to activate the PNS, the rest and relax response, and, by implication, to deactivate the SNS, the fight or flee response. But too inactive an SNS means you don't sweat; too much PNS, and you suffer hypotensive episodes. Too active an SNS, you don't move your bowels; too much PNS and you can have trouble with your glottal valve–ie., have a swallowing problem.
The goal is to be in a default PNS dominant setting with SNS always operating in the background and ready for extraordinary action. We all want our SNS when attacked by a lion or when under cross-examination. But we also need the SNS working in the background governing our sweating or, in my case, regrowing hair, resolving 50 yrs of Dupuytren's contracture and hemorrhoids, and regaining and promoting gum health! The PNS and SNS are complementary and work in a strange synergy.
How to promote, not a specific system, but a neurotransmitter/receptor pair within a system? Take acetylcholine. Eggs have choline, but no food has an agonist for the receptors of which I'm aware. Benadryl is an anticholinergic (of which acetylcholine is one), but don't take it if you're old like me (dementia risk). Adenosine, which is prob more important than melatonin in the sleep cycle? Avoid antagonists like caffeine or theobromine (chocolate) (these are methylxanthines); I don't know of foods to produce adenosine, tho.
I haven't touched on dopamine, serotonin, or other well-known neurotransmitters. Nor procedures like square breathing to promote the PNS or the Valsalva breathing procedure or a hand dip in ice to promote the SNS.
I don't get the science, but we laypersons can, by carefully charting our foods and procedures, find correlations with bodily functions that are controlled by the ANS and shape, tho never control, our ANS to good effect. And everything cited above (and much more) is available online; just limit your searches to reliable cites like Mayo, Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic or the numerous NIH articles online, some of which are free in their entirety and some of which are synopsized.
So treatment, as well as diagnosis, even monitoring, of a misfiring ANS is no easy matter.
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A great synopsis. Thank you for posting this for everyone. The complexity requires an Excel spreadsheet lol for the entire autonomic nervous system. And it's such a fluid dynamic that you really have to be surfing it and intervening frequently when you have disregulation. I developed autonomic disregulated from COVID-19. I've greatly improved over there year with extensive efforts, as you've mentioned. But I still have the dysfunction, and expect I always will to some degree. I feel like Humpty Dumpty after COVID. Recognizing symptoms and intervening short + long term is key. You've done a great job showing common symptoms we can all recognize.
Wishing you health.
Hello @zhouziqiu, welcome to Connect. So glad you've joined us. What a great, complicated question to ask. You've received a dynamic answer from @tallyguy and I wanted to be sure you saw it as your "@mention" was not in their reply. Kudos @tallyguy for breaking it down. You sure do know your science!
Thank you for sharing your comprehensive study of the ANS. This misfiring of the ANS is a very common problem amongst the aging population. I had a very high functional job when I was still working. Now that i am retired, I have this problem. I sometimes just feel fear or nervousness out of nowhere even now that I still try to be active at most times. I have a hard time to decompress and slow down. I am now doing guided meditation and breathing exercises.
I was fortunate enough to be able to retire when my ANS blew up. Unable to do much conceptual (left brain) processing, I reverted to sensory (right brain) processing. As to brain lateralization, consider reading Julian Jaynes' The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and Ian McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary. I postponed reading Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight for a couple of yrs; when I'd already decided to continue to indulge my senses, even as my cognition rose to the higher levels of mildly impaired, I read Taylor's book and found, as I suspected, she had traveled the same path, but, 37 yo at the time of her left-brain stroke, she could "go native," but not "stay native"–and achieved a massive accomplishment in returning to her profession as a Harvard-based neuroanatomist!
Yes, I read several hrs a day. (Right now, the recently published, glorious right-brained translation of the Iliad by Emily Wilson, who, in addition to the usual prep for a massive translation, visited the beach to hear the ocean waves crash onto the shore, observed light reflecting off metal, and attended to the sights, sounds, smells, and proprioception of horses and dogs.
I also cycle at least 12 hrs/wk along a lonely gravel trail and a few canopied rural roads, I do all of my own yardwork, I wrangle and hug my four large hounds, and I cook nearly all of the nearly entirely single-ingredient food that I eat.
My ANS remains unruly, but shapeable through diet, strenuous exercise (but not during flareups!), procedures (e.g., square breathing or face immersion in cold water for parasympathetic and Valsalva or body immersion in cold water for sympathetic), and long immersion in rest-and-relax settings, in which my fight-or-flee response can surge whenever needed. Just like the hounds!
I would request how to treat lack of blood in my left brain resukting in weak left leg
I did not have a stroke. My case is mild so I am just taking GABA supplement. I exercise and do guided meditation.
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