Acupuncture and Your Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts; the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is otherwise known for its “fight or flight” mechanism to be mobilized when the body senses a threat, while the parasympathetic nervous system is its counterpart, therefore, encouraging the body to rest, digest and heal. These opposite functions are necessary for day to day functioning as they help us respond to changes in environment and external stimuli. This stunningly mirrors the stimulating and settling actions of yang and yin, respectively, in the study of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Clinically, we see nervous system dysregulation symptoms such as insomnia, exhaustion, headaches and dizziness, palpitations and chest tightness, digestive issues like IBS, frequent colds, cold hands and feet, numbness in hands and feet, easily nervous, stressed or distracted, unexplained irritability, anxiety and depression.
Where to start addressing your autonomic nervous system dysregulation:
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Eat breakfast: Eating breakfast within an hour of waking can lower cortisol levels. We want breakfast to contain fibre, protein and fat to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Get 10 minutes of sunlight upon waking: Bonus points if you can also get outside within an hour of hopping out of bed. If the sun isn’t present, 20-30 minutes under cloud cover achieves this too! This will positively regulate your circadian rhythm and stress curve response for the day.
Eat dinner at least three hours before bedtime: Eating too close to bedtime can disrupt the regulation of the autonomic nervous system, as well as lead to more incidence of heartburn.
Exercise: Engage in exercise such as taking a walk, swimming, yoga, pilates or lifting weights for at least 30 minutes per day 4-5 days per week.
Consider herbal medicine for support: This makes a wonderful complement to your acupuncture treatment. Book here! TCM Herbal Consult
Smiling and laughter: Smiling and laughter can enhance the body’s ability to release dopamine, endorphins and serotonin- our happiness hormones.
Singing or humming: Singing or humming for 10 minutes daily can help regulate mood by stimulating the vagus nerve and switching you into your parasympathetic nervous system.
Take a hot or cold bath: Soaking in water at 39 to 40 C daily can help promote better sleep but any warmer can stimulate a stress response. In the early morning, a cold shower or bath can help to develop your response to stress positively but in the evening it can keep you awake.
Practice breathing exercises: Box breathing, wim hof, alternative nostril, and belly breathing can all help to regulate the nervous system. Brownie points for two treatments in one if you can focus on this during your acupuncture sessions.
For more tips and tricks to hack your nervous system, book an acupuncture or herbal consult today!