What is Autonomic Dysregulation

I wrote an introductory article about the Autonomic Nervous System, which can be found here. To review, Autonomic drive is controlled by the Sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The SNS and PNS control the ‘fight or flight’ and ‘rest and digest’ reactions, which is depicted below.

AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM

Conditions with Autonomic Dysregulation

Various conditions can feature autonomic dysregulation.

Primary causes of autonomic dysregulation are:

  • Familial dysautonomia (Riley-Day syndrome)
  • Idiopathic orthostatic hypotension
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple system atrophy (Shy-Drager syndrome)

Secondary causes of autonomic dysregulation are:

  • Amyloidosis (abnormal protein build-up)
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Small-cell lung cancer
  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes
  • HIV and AIDs
  • Lyme disease
  • Nutritional deficiencies: specifically Vitamins B1, B3, B6, and B12
  • Paraneoplastic syndromes
  • Physical trauma, surgery, pregnancy, or viral illness
  • Porphyria (an enzyme disorder that mainly causes skin and/or nerve problems)
  • Toxicity (i.e., alcoholism, chemotherapy drugs, and heavy metal poisoning)
  • Treatment with medicines, including chemotherapy and anticholinergic drugs
  • Ehler’s Danlos syndrome
  • autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy
  • autonomic neuropathy

It’s important to consider autonomic dysregulation for anyone with these symptoms, especially when treatment doesn’t seem to work.

  • Anhidrosis (diminished sweating) [1]
  • Anxiety [2]
  • Blurry or double vision [1]
  • Bowel incontinence [1]
  • Brain fog [1]
  • Constipation [2]
  • Dizziness [2]
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Exercise intolerance [1]
  • Chronic fatigue [2]
  • Insomnia [2]
  • Low blood pressure
  • Orthostatic hypotension [1]
  • Syncope (fainting) [2]
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
  • Tunnel vision (since there is an effect on the pupils) [2]
  • Urinary incontinence or urinary retention [1]
  • Vertigo [2]
  • Weakness [2]

Too Much PNS drive or SNS Drive?

Remember, ANS balance is maintained by SNS and PNS balance.

If for some reason one is overactive, or underactive compared to the other, symptoms will arise.

Dysautonomia can be from too much sympathetic drive or too much parasympathetic drive.

The image below depicts how each would look.

Parasympathicus is too much parasympathetic drive (on the left of the image) while sympathicus is too much sympathetic drive (on the right of the image). Remember, it can be from too much activity or too little activity causing these symptoms.

Image source: By Geo-Science-International - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47377075

The_Autonomic_Nervous_System

Treating Autonomic Dysregulation

Treating can be complicated, as every individual has different circumstances to consider. Seeing a naturopath or integrated medical doctors will allow proper time and history taking to figure out the best treatment for you.

Many people have underactive parasympathetic drive, please click here to learn more about that. Keep an eye for more articles on this matter, I will slowly be adding to this article series.

Summary

Dysautonomia or autonomic dysregulation is basically an imbalance between SNS and PNS nervous system activity. This is all controlled by the brain, and there are various ways to treat these conditions.

This article shows you the wide-spread effects of the ANS and if you haven’t explored all treatment options, I implore you to investigate this topic more thoroughly, by seeing a naturopathic doctor.

References

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