Sympathetic, Parasympathetic and Autonomic

By: Kal Sellers
Published: March 10, 2020

If you are really sick, really weak, depressed, fatigued, brain-foggy and your immune system is just freaking out with allergies and inflammation...this is the conversation I will have with you first. This is what you MUST know to stabilize yourself, restore your immune system and nervous system and energy levels to a basically stable state.

Now, right from the start, I want to be clear that complete healing is not found in the diet I am going to give you or the principles I am going to teach you here. However, if you walk in totally unstable and weakened as many of my patients do today...if your gut is decimated and your system is depleted and your thyroid and adrenal glands do not work...if you are inflamed, sensitive to every food you eat, filled with cravings and craziness...

If any of these are you, you simply must start here. Without restoring some stability and nutritional foundation you will not be able to even use the tools that will restore you to complete health. You can go try other methods if this sounds too complicated and then, when those fail, this article will still be here to teach you how to do it right.

Normally, I would expect 1-4 years, depending on the severity of the case, to restore stability. Then you can begin to use the real healing remedies which will restore normal function or even optimal function. Those tools are very different. They are based of optimization, rather than recovery from the brink of all systems failure. Please try to understand that the following program is designed to stabilize.

Once you are stable, then it is time to use herbs and raw plant food and different remedies entirely to clear the liver and the blood, fill the body with high-vibration nutrition, drain off the excess fluid, oxygenate your tissues, deep-clean the colon and restore all around optimal function.

The popularity of diets which may sound similar to the one below is entirely due to the fact that most patients today are extremely unstable, have severe autonomic imbalance and simply cannot tolerate even a basic cleanse, much less an intensive, plant-based, mostly raw diet (which often is taught in ways that are simply not very wise). Those diets are not optimal, no matter how well they sell them to you. They are popular because they work and they work because they deal in one way or another with avoiding food allergies and balancing the autonomic nervous system. Often, because the authors do not really know that is why they work, the diets do not even do a very good job of balancing the autonomic nervous system. However, one popular diet today is pretty wise and pretty helpful, and this is the Paleo Diet. This is not optimal, no matter what they say about it, but it does help restore autonomic balance. When you are done with this article, I hope you will understand exactly why it works and why you will, eventually, have to get off of it to restore normal function and optimal health.

I often discuss autonomic imbalance and many people wonder where they can learn more. It is not so much that the concepts or applications are difficult--rather it is that the concepts are new and people have difficulty wrapping their brain around these new ideas which they have trouble fitting into the thought prejudices they have previously been taught.

As I have looked around the internet, the diets I have seen for autonomic imbalance or parasympathetic dominance are poorly conceived and often so constructed to carry a lot of additional problems and toxicity which are not necessary at all. Because of that, I do not refer you to other sites on this subject, but I try to guide you myself and give you the benefit of my lifetime of knowledge and experience in the healing arts. I have a gift for understanding how things work in the human body in a natural function framework. I am not the best person to get a medical diagnosis from (though I have spent plenty of time in diagnosis classes), but to understand your body in the framework of nature and natural function, I am hard to beat. I hope that will prove beneficial to you here.

The idea of autonomic nervous system imbalance (now, the autonomic nervous system is the division of your nervous system which runs everything you do not have to think about--respiration, blood pressure, metabolism, immune response, hormones, building tissue, circulation and patterns of circulation at different times of demand, detoxification, digestion, repair, chemical regulation, and so much more) is not new. It emerged in the 1800's in connection with an understanding of how cancer gets started and how it continues. Dr. Kelly cured himself of metastasized pancreatic cancer and then pioneered clinical applications of this knowledge throughout his life. He passed it on to Dr. Nicolas Gonzales MD, who continued to work on it throughout his life. What I am going to give you here is a most user-friendly version of this information, which is the healthiest form of it that I have ever seen.

So, you need to know that the autonomic nervous system is divided into nighttime and daytime functions. Nighttime functions are called PARASYMPATHETIC and daytime functions are called SYMPATHETIC. There are, in addition to this, stimuli which might push us one way or the other. If you have an extreme stressor, or a dangerous situation you might go to an 8 or 10/10 on your sympathetic function scale. Adrenaline might pump and blood pressure and circulation to the brain and thyroid and adrenal glands might skyrocket. When the threat is over, you will go back to some kind of daytime norm, probably a 2-4/10 on the sympathetic function scale if you are healthy.

If you sit down with family to watch a movie and eat a rich meal in your easy chair, chances are you will move to a 8/10 parasympathetic or nighttime mode. Once you go to sleep, if you are basically healthy, you will fluctuate between a 2-4/10 parasympathetic function.

If you go too far or spend too long in either extreme, you will develop problems. Sitting in a cubical, eating rich food, stuffing the desire to punch someone in the nose who desperately needs it, trying to act civil all the time, etc, will tend to push you into parasympathetic mode even in the daytime. The consequence of this is an imbalance--it is the most common problem we see today.

Contributing to the severity of this modern condition are certain contaminants in the air, bad nutritional supplementation advice (especially magnesium and vitamin D), processed food and (perhaps especially) the vegetable oil revolution, where high omega 6 processed oils (canola, soy, corn, sunflower) were not only encouraged but actually pushed on the population by an errant government who mistook the cause for the effect in heart disease and made everyone worse for it.

Additionally, natural healing professionals have not helped things much. They did not know about the autonomic imbalance and all the great natural healing experts worked during a time when almost every patient was SYMPATHETIC dominant, and so developed natural healing strategies (lots of greens, cleansing and maybe magnesium) based on the needs of that population. This was followed by a generation of natural healers who are not clinically savvy at all, but who simply learn and regurgitate. The result was a barrage of bad information flooding the bookshelves and the "professionals" who spread these ideas.

Well, now you have the problem laid out, let me give you the basics of diagnosis. The diagnosis of PARASYMPATHETIC dominance (nighttime dominance) is based off of those functions which should be occurring, but which are not (or not adequately) because no strong SYMPATHETIC dominance is occurring (as it should from about 6 am to 8 pm). The diagnosis indicators are things which would literally NEVER occur in a good strong SYMPATHETIC dominant person, but which are common in the PARASYMPATHETIC dominant person.

So, the PARASYMPATHETIC or nighttime dominant person, who has moved inappropriately into nighttime mode too much or for too long, will have several (rarely all) of the following symptoms. Usually, I look for a pattern of 3-4 noticable symptoms from the following list and if they have that many, I generally feel they have a fairly serious problem of autonomic imbalance in the PARASYMPATHETIC direction.

These symptoms are in no particular order:

  • Depression
  • Loose or sloppy joints
  • Saggy skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Foggy brain
  • Low thyroid function
  • Food allergies/sensitivities
  • Airborne allergies
  • Low adrenal function
  • Fatigue
  • Common infections or get sick easily
  • Irritability
  • Chronic gall bladder problems
  • Excess fluid
  • Chronic irritation or bloating of the gut (often told they have "leaky gut" by those who do not really understand what is happening)
  • Frequently diagnosed with candida or Lyme disease
  • Prefer not to get up in the morning (like to rise at 10-12 am if they have no commitments) and feel like they wake up and can work at about 10 pm (and frequently like to stay up until midnight or 1 am if they have no commitments which prevent them)

Now, just briefly, let me mention a few things about SYMPATHETIC dominants, so that you have a feel for the contrast:

  • Insenstive
  • Not in tune to others' feelings
  • Can work 36 hours straight if needed
  • Pop or hop out of bed at 5 or 6 am ready to take on the day
  • Very intelligent
  • Unaware of their bodies
  • Not creative
  • Very dogmatic and unwilling to change or adapt
  • Do not detoxify well (often when they cleanse and switch to raw food they think they have found the perfect diet because they feel so fantastic, but they often resist any effort to cleanse or change because they are unaware of anything wrong)
  • Usually unaware they are sick until they get diagnosed with stage 4 cancer or die of a massive heart attack
  • Tight joints and build collagen well
  • Thyroid and adrenal glands are high functioning
  • Never depressed and truly believe that people who are are just making it up to get attention
  • Never have allergies
  • Get very severe versions of autoimmune diseases that are obvious and easy to diagnose (but never Multiple Sclerosis)

So, this article is not about these guys, so they will have to wait for another day!

Instead, lets talk about the dietary program to help the PARASYMPATHETIC dominants:

Avoid: Green leafies (lettuce, kale, spinach), magnesium (in any supplement), dairy protein (cheese, milk, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, kefir, whey), white sugar, corn, flour products of any kind, citrus fruit, vegetable oils.

USE LOTS: Grass fed beef, green beans, any legumes, cabbage, fermented foods (real pickles, sauerkraut, sourdough, miso, kim chi, vinegar), carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, Brussels sprouts, apples, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, wheatgrass, barley grass, alfalfa, salmon, grass-fed butter, grass-fed free range organic eggs, cod liver oil, organ meats, duck, chicken if the skin is eaten (dark meat is better)

SUPPLEMENT WITH: Calcium lactate and Zypan (from Standard Process) EVERY MORNING 8 and 2 respectively, Ferrofood, Cataplex F, Bio Dent, Cal Amo and Calcifood (from Standard Process), Thyroid Maintenance, Kidney Formula and Jurassic Green (from Dr. Christopher), Dandelion Root (10/day all at once for a month 4 x per year)

Use of all of the above is likely to be recommended for the parasympathetic dominant, though dosage and what to use first is decided based on the individual case when they come to see me. One can do pretty well just taking them and using them according to recommendations on the bottle, except for the calcium lactate and Zypan, which are essential for the recovery of the parasympathetic/nighttime dominant.

Many other foods are neutral, such as olive oil and coconut oil, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans (though almonds and hazelnuts might be marginally helpful). Avocadoes are neutral. Cherry tomatoes are helpful, though sweeter and milder tomatoes are neutral. Peppers are normally neutral unless hot, which helps. I cannot enumerate all foods but the list above is best adhered to if you want to recover.

Green beans have shown a particular ability to help the parasympathetic dominant, more than other things. It is my opinion that animal fats or at least fatty meats are vital for the first 6 months. The extreme parasympathetic dominant often cannot make normal cholesterol because of extreme fat deficiency brought on by the vegetable oil revolution mentioned above. I consider cholesterol intake to be vital.

Occasionally I get the question if a person can remain vegetarian and succeed at this program. It is certainly possible but remember that you are probably extremely cholesterol deficient and are using fat cells to manufacture poor quality cholesterol which oxidizes and accumulates in your blood while your brain and sex hormones starve for it. What can be done, however, is lanolin (which is collected from wool, the animals need not be killed) can be massaged in to the skin each day, about a teaspoon. This will give you cholesterol in a very absorbable form which will give the adrenal glands what they need to start working again.

Eventually, of course you can switch to vegetarian. Raw plant food is what we are designed for. There is no reasonable recourse to this statement. But you cannot probably be healthy doing that to start with and you will probably always need to stay mostly on the plants mentioned as helpful in the list I gave for parasympathetic dominants.

I know you will have lots of questions and I invite you to set up a consult with me if you have serious health needs.

Dr. Kal