The Autonomic Nervous System

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Holistic care of a child understands the impact of emotions on the nervous system, and the impact of the nervous system on health.


In children, if we can keep the nervous system settled, most issues will resolve themselves.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System & The Sympathetic Nervous System

For good health on all levels there must be a balance of activity between the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) & the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Both are part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The PSNS & SNS work in a ratio. When one increases activity, the other decreases its activity.

The SNS is responsible for our fight/flight - when activated it mobilises us for action and keeps us alert.

* Accelerates heart rate & relaxes bronchi in lungs for increased airflow

* Stimulates glucose release from liver (hence sugar cravings!)

* Stimulates adrenal medulla for release of epinephrine (adrenaline) & norepinephrine

* Inhibits immune system, emptying of bladder & mobility of intestines

When the SNS is chronically overstimulated, it depletes the body of:

* dopamine (the predominant neurotransmitter in your prefrontal cortex- cognitive behaviours & learning)

* GABA (calms the brain down & relaxes, essential for speech & language)

* serotonin (regulation, calm & focus)

The PSNS is responsible for our rest, digest, detox & heal functions. When activated it:

* Stimulates processing

* Stimulates vagus nerve which 'switches on' digestive organs - Intestines, pancreas, gall bladder, elimination of bladder and stimulates release of enzymes which break down food into nutrients.

* Constricts of bronchioles (breath out)

*** I've found that most issues in childhood can be linked to the lack of PSNS stimulation.

For example if the PSNS is not stimulated enough it can cause:

* Our body to become acidic, creating an environment for candida overgrowth & Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)

* Lack of vagus nerve stimulation = decreased digestion - constipation, reflux, lack of HCl production (= decrease in protein digestion - zinc, magnesium, amino acids)

* Lack of reflex inhibition

* Sleep issues

* Lack of emotional processing

* Disruption to immune system

* Behavioural & mood disruption


Is to breathe!

Make the out breath longer than the in breath.

For children - playing games such as blowing ping pong balls across a table with a straw or blowing bubbles each day.

Deep pressure (i.e. squeezing joints) is also a useful way to calm the ANS