Release Stress & Stored Trauma (30 Day Course)



Conditions That Can Be Managed By Regulating Your Nervous System

Posted by Liz Tenuto on

A dysregulated nervous system underlies multiple common health problems, including mental health issues, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid conditions. Additionally, a dysregulated nervous system exacerbates the symptoms of many illnesses — this list ranges from ADHD and depression to hashimoto's and graves' disease.

Your nervous system is designed to react to threats and stressors in short bursts. But when you're exposed to ongoing stress, they become chronically activated. And this chronic activation will result in dysregulation, where your body's stress response systems fail to properly go from 'on' to 'off'. 

Typically, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are meant to be released and then quickly shut off. But with long-term stress, your body gets stuck in a heightened state of alert. And over time, this leads to stress hormones being released into the body when they really shouldn't be — leading to extreme wear and tear on your body.

That wear and tear can look like inflammation, decreased immunity, disruption of blood flow, and even a decline in your nervous system's ability to function.

At first, that'll show up as:

  • frequent stomachaches
  • getting sick more often than not
  • heart palpitations
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • numbness or tingling in limbs
  • sensitivity to light or sound
  • muscle fatigue
  • coordination problem
  • difficulty with balance

But when you're never releasing your stress, and your body is stuck in a heightened state of alert, the consistent high cortisol will begin to damage your systems... permanently.

This permanent damage can result in multiple chronic health conditions and ailments. Things like autoimmune conditions, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer can manifest in your body due to a dysregulated nervous system.

But there is good news! With small lifestyle shifts focused on regulating your nervous system, you can manage, and even reverse, the chronic health conditions associated with a heightened stress response.

Here are a few conditions that can be managed by regulating your nervous system:

Fibromyalgia

A dysregulated nervous system can play a role in fibromyalgia - a condition involving chronic widespread pain and tenderness. Since the nervous system controls pain perception, chronic nerve hyperactivity found in a dysregulated state can amplify pain sensitivity. Additionally, the fatigue, sleep issues, headaches, anxiety, and cognitive fog seen in fibro often stem from an overloaded nervous system stuck in stress response. Research shows many fibromyalgia patients have autonomic nervous system dysfunction and sympathetic hyperactivity that correlates with symptom severity. So for people with fibromyalgia, regulating the dysregulated nervous system is vital. 

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes rapid skin cell buildup resulting in scaly, thick patches on the skin. However, psoriasis flares are also tied to stress and a dysfunctional nervous system. When the body is in chronic stress mode with increased nerve signals, this can trigger ramped up inflammation and skin cell overproduction seen in psoriasis outbreaks. Activating the body’s relaxation response helps counter the nerve and immune dysfunction contributing to psoriatic arthritis and skin lesions. So for many sufferers, regulating that dysregulated nervous system activity can be key in controlling flare-ups. 

Eczema

Similar to psoriasis, eczema is also an inflammatory skin condition that can worsen with stress and nervous system dysfunction. Eczema often correlates with impairment of the skin’s barrier function, allowing external irritants, allergens and germs to trigger immune reactions. Research confirms that stress disrupts skin barriers by altering nervous system signaling. So when someone has an activated, dysregulated nervous system stuck in hyperdrive, this enables external eczema triggers to more easily penetrate the sensitive skin. By regulating the nervous system, eczema patients may experience healing of inflamed skin by addressing that stress-immune-skin pathway internally.

Hypertension

Hypertension, or chronically high blood pressure, also has ties to dysregulation of the nervous system. The sympathetic branch controls the body’s “fight or flight” reaction, which increases blood pressure. In some patients, sympathetic nerve signals remain elevated, leading to sustained constriction of blood vessels and more forceful heart contractions. Additionally, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol activated from chronic stress can also increase blood pressure. When the parasympathetic “rest and digest” system cannot balance sympathetic firing, the result is hypertension. Therefore, addressing the root issue of a dysregulated nervous system is key.

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also strongly connected to having a dysregulated nervous system. PTSD involves an overactive fear circuitry in the brain stuck in the "on" position even when real danger isn't present. This leads to constant hypervigilance, anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks. PTSD from trauma has been correlated with lower parasympathetic "rest and digest" nervous system control and higher sympathetic “fight or flight” activation. Essentially, PTSD patients suffer from a damaged vagus nerve, which is crucial for nervous system regulation. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that causes digestive issues like cramping, bloating, and erratic bowel habits. Research confirms that IBS suffers have heightened stress responses and sympathetic nervous system activation compared to healthy subjects. This chronic "fight or flight" signaling increases inflammation and alters gut motility contributing to IBS symptoms. Additionally, those with IBS show low vagal tone - meaning the nervous system is stuck in sympathetic overdrive without sufficient vagus nerve calming effects. Managing IBS through the nervous system addresses the root physiological cause rather than just masking symptoms.

Insomnia

Insomnia is another condition intricately tied to dysregulation of the nervous system. Sleep issues typically arise from an overactive sympathetic “fight or flight” system paired with low parasympathetic “rest and digest” activation at night. This prevents the body from downshifting out of stimulating beta brain waves into calming theta and delta waves that enable deep sleep. The high arousal of the nervous system leads to racing thoughts, anxiety, increased heart rate and muscle tension - all impediments to falling asleep. Regulating the high nerve firing both improves sleep onset and sleep quality in those with insomnia and other sleep disorders.

ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is strongly influenced by dysfunctional nervous system activity. ADHD brains have lower baseline arousal levels seeking stimulation paired with poor modulation of nervous system firing. This manifests as symptoms like inattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsivity, emotional dysregulation and sleep disturbances. Standard treatments boost underactivated brain networks but fail to address the root issue of poor nervous system regulation. As individuals learn to modulate states of hyperarousal and hypoarousal with slowing or energizing activities, ADHD symptoms generally improve. Achieving homeostasis in the dysregulated nervous system allows the brain to reach optimal function without needing stimulant medication in many ADHD cases.

Hashimoto’s

Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder causing hypothyroidism, which has links to chronic stress and sympathetic nervous system dominance as well. During the fight-or-flight stress response, immune system changes can trigger increased levels of thyroid antibodies and inflammation that damage the thyroid gland. This produces symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, hair loss and sensitivity to cold in Hashimoto’s patients. Additionally, the high cortisol from constant activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis suppresses thyroid hormone production. Regulating the nervous system and blocking those signals that exacerbate Hashimoto’s can provide significant relief.

Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are fundamentally an issue of a dysregulated nervous system stuck in the “fight-or-flight” stress response. Sufferers have overactivity of the amygdala fear center pathway paired with underactivity of GABA pathways that inhibit excitation. This shows up physically through chronic muscle tension, headaches, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and panic attacks as the body perceives nonstop threats activating the sympathetic system. 

Graves'

Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that leads to hyperthyroidism, or overactivity of the thyroid gland. Like Hashimoto's, Graves' also associates with dysfunction of the nervous system. The heightened stress response and excess sympathetic stimulation observed in Graves' patients activates TRAb thyroid-stimulating autoantibodies that bind receptors and cause excessive hormone production. This thyroid overactivity leads to symptoms like anxiety, heat sensitivity, racing heart and muscle weakness. Dampening this stress response through parasympathetic nervous system activation can suppress the autoimmune attack in Graves'. As patients learn to self-regulate and reduce sympathetic arousal to the thyroid, the downstream effects include lowered heart rate, stabilized moods, improved sleep and a recovery of normal thyroid function over time through addressing the nervous system roots.

Regulating Your Nervous System With Somatic Exercises

As you can see, a diverse array of illnesses and symptoms can arise from the common issue of a dysfunctional, overloaded nervous system stuck in stress mode. With traditional medicine, each condition is generally treated by managing and addressing the individual symptoms through medications or supplements. However, by addressing the root biological cause of each condition — nervous system dysregulation — you can adopt a more holistic treatment approach with long-lasting results. So rather than temporarily masking the symptoms of a flare-up, instead, you can learn the tools to regulate your nervous system, which is the reason why you're experiencing a flare-up in the first place.

Somatic exercise is the only practice that re-establishes the communication within your nervous system so you can effectively and efficiently go from a state of fight-or-flight back to a state of homeostasis. Essentially, somatic exercises allow your body to respond to stress the way it was always meant to.

Do you want to manage the symptoms of your chronic health condition by addressing the root biological cause? Get guided through the step by step in 60 days with Heal Your Nervous System.