Rest and Digest
While you probably know that you have a nervous system that controls the flow of the electrical energy in the body. As it turns out, you actually have two nervous systems!
One, which has been called the “fight or flight” system, is technically known as the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and it directs energy into the activities that keep us alive in emergency and life-threatening situations. The second, called the parasympathetic system (PNS) is involved with more long-term activities. The PNS is sometimes called the “the rest and digest” system and the more time we spend in this parasympathetic realm, the longer we will be alive and healthy. Or to put it another way, the less time we spend in fight or flight mode the longer we will be alive and healthy.
Many of the signs of illness and disease reflect chronic SNS activation and overload. Heart health issues especially high blood pressure and blood clotting are classics signs of fight or flight. Same goes for immune system suppression and frequent colds and flues. Cold sores and other skin problems may indicate that the sympathetic nervous system has been kicking in. Constipation, cramping and digestive problems often mean the body is in survival mode. For women dealing with menopause, hot flashes, night sweats, jitteriness, and anxiety are also signs that the body’s SNS emergency system has been activated.
In fact, almost any degenerative disease can follow long-term activation of the sympathetic nervous system. And it should come as no surprise that most us spend a large amount of time in fight or flight mode. Anything we can do to maintain ourselves in rest and digest, relaxation mode is in our long term health interest. This is especially true if we’re dealing with a major crisis like cancer or heart disease.
For the most part activating the rest and digest nervous system is simple. Simply reading a book or watching television can initiate PNS activity. Petting a dog or cat, getting a massage, or soaking in a hot bath are wonderful ways to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. . In addition to mental and emotional relaxation strategies, a good nutritional supplement program is one of the best ways to reduce the body’s sympathetic stress. High calorie, processed foods are particularly burdensome, so laying off the burgers, shakes and fries is important. Committing to spending 60 seconds a day practicing deep breathing techniques can be particularly helpful in turning on the “rest and digest” nervous system.