Table Of Content

How to Activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System

Updated May 20, 2024

Reviewed By: Vanessa Leikvoll

Table Of Content

Living in a nonstop, fast-paced world, children and adults often feel overwhelmed by stress. We push ourselves into fight-or-flight mode, making it difficult to rest, recharge, or relax. If this high-stress state continues for too long, it can have negative effects on children’s health and development.

This is why we need to activate our parasympathetic nervous system—our built-in restoration system for recovery.

At PX Docs, we help overloaded kids and families tap into the incredible power of the vagus nerve, the key player in the parasympathetic network. Stimulating this “wandering nerve” can work wonders, dialing down distress and restoring calm.  

In this article, we’ll discover what the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system do and why optimizing their performance matters for health. We’ll also outline the signs of dysfunction and, most importantly, provide practical ways to activate the body’s “rest and digest” response for much-needed relief from the frantic pace of life today.

What is the Parasympathetic Nervous System? 

The parasympathetic nervous system is part of your autonomic nervous system—the control center running all your automatic bodily functions below conscious awareness. While its partner system, the sympathetic nervous system, stimulates the “fight-or-flight” stress response, the parasympathetic system counters with “rest and digest.”  

After dealing with threats, this restoration system calms your body and mind. It slows your heartbeat and breathing, relaxes muscles, conserves energy, and activates digestion. This much-needed recovery phase allows vital processes like tissue repair and growth to catch up. When properly balanced, the two systems work harmoniously to meet ever-changing daily demands.

The parasympathetic nervous system heavily relies on the vagus nerve to maintain equilibrium. This critical communication highway extends from the brainstem throughout the body. It interfaces with the heart, lungs, and digestive organs along its winding path, coordinating appropriate reactions.

The Consequences of Chronic Sympathetic Nervous System Overload

The sympathetic nervous system activates the body’s innate “fight or flight” response to perceived threats. When faced with real or imagined danger, the sympathetic nervous system triggers a cascade of physiological changes to prepare us to stand, battle a threat, or run away to safety.

Essentially, the sympathetic nervous system is our pre-wired survival system passed down by our ancestors. In short bursts, this amped-up state gives us laser focus, lightning reflexes, and the energy reserves needed to power quick muscular feats we otherwise couldn’t achieve. Once the threat passes, the sympathetic nervous system is supposed to stand down so the parasympathetic system can take over and initiate rest and recovery.

However, the stressful circumstances of modern life have made it such that many live with chronic, low-grade sympathetic activation, leading to chronic stress.

Immune System Imbalance

The sympathetic nervous system directs blood flow outward toward the limbs and away from digestion and healing pathways. Chronic stress leaves the gut lining vulnerable to inflammation, hyperpermeability (“leaky gut”), and pathogen invasion. Consistent stress can create autoimmune reactions, allergies, asthma, and sensory issues.

Blood Flow and Pressure

Initially, norepinephrine increases circulation to the heart and muscles. However, extended periods constrict blood vessels, heightening blood pressure and cardiovascular risks. This imbalance strains the heart as relentless demands outpace oxygen and nutrient delivery.

Tissues starved of adequate perfusion grow irritated and inflamed. Nerves compressed by tension swell and signal pain. Meanwhile, depleted brain blood flow impairs focus, mood, and coordination.

Disordered Stress Hormones

The sympathetic nervous system stimulates stress hormone cascades, starting with adrenaline and cortisol. In bursts, these help us power through danger. Their ebb and flow grows dysregulated. Excess cortisol suppresses immunity, while adrenaline wears down neurotransmitters.

Restoring the Parasympathetic Nervous System

In today’s nonstop world, far too many kids and families overload their nervous systems. 

The pressure to push our physiological limits traps our nervous system into overdrive. Established research proves sympathetic dominance sabotages children’s development, health, and quality of life.

This is because when we’re chronically in “fight or flight mode,” the domino effect throws multiple organs into disarray. Fortunately, by activating the vagus nerve, this deluge of stimulation can be halted, and normal nervous system regulation can resume. 

Through precise, Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care interventions targeting the vagus nerve, the body can be reminded to rest safely by easing nerves trapped in overdrive. As tensions release, blood pressure lowers, circulation improves, hormones balance, and health improves.

Without vagus nerve stimulation, the “off switch” remains broken, leading to an unrelenting flood of stress chemicals causing horrific neurophysiological breakdowns such as:

  • Inflammation raging out of control
  • Digestive dysfunction
  • Recurrent illnesses
  • Sensory processing disorders
  • Behavioral and emotional dysregulation
  • Neurological conditions

Stimulating the vagus nerve with targeted Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care re-engages the parasympathetic nervous system “off switch.” As kids recalibrate to patterns of activation and recovery, positive transformations emerge, including improved digestion, sleep, focus, and overall health and well-being.   

Signs of Parasympathetic Nervous System Suppression  

Signs of dysfunction manifest when the parasympathetic nervous system and vagus nerve grow overtaxed without reprieve. Here are some typical indications your child’s parasympathetic system needs urgent support:

  • Sleep disorders: Can’t fall or stay asleep, frequent waking, restless sleep  
  • Sensory issues: Tactile, taste, sound, visual, and vestibular sensitivity
  • Digestive problems: Constipation, abdominal pain, and acid reflux
  • Immune system dysfunction: Frequent infections, inflammation, or allergies  
  • ADHD struggles: Impulsivity, inattention, or hyperactivity
  • Behavioral problems: Defiance, aggression, and emotional volatility
  • Anxiety or mood issues: Irritability, separation issues, phobias, or mental health issues

These relate directly to overburdened parasympathetic nervous system function. Subluxation and neurological dysfunction worsen this “Perfect Storm” of external stressors without restoring balance. Symptoms then spill into developmental delays, chronic health conditions, and psychiatric disorders over time.  

Catching parasympathetic nervous system suppression early and addressing root causes with care preserves health and potential. Evaluating vagus nerve function and making it a focal point of care opens doors to incredible transformation.

How Subluxation and Dysautonomia Disrupt the Parasympathetic Nervous System

At the heart of parasympathetic nervous system suppression lies subluxation, a neurological interference originating from neural misalignments. This neural “traffic jam” emerges from: 

  • Birth trauma: Forceps, vacuum-assisted deliveries, and C-sections
  • Childhood trauma: Impacts vertebrae, skull bones, and meninges 
  • Poor posture ergonomics: Alters spine curvature and strains the neck
  • Physical or emotional stressors: Tenses musculature, restricts nerves

Subluxations trap the nervous system in distress mode, causing dysautonomia and faltered communication between the brain and body as neural signals bottleneck. With the vagus nerve irritated, the parasympathetic nervous system remains muted.

With the use of INSiGHT Scans, we can pinpoint the location and severity of these subluxations. This advanced assessment exposes dysautonomia by mapping neurological function. The results guide targeted care to relieve nerve tension and restore homeostasis.  

Adjusting subluxations while stimulating vagus nerve pathways lets the parasympathetic nervous system rebound. These targeted Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care interventions bring the body back into self-regulation without medications, surgery, or injections. 

How to Activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System  Holistically

Advanced Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care models, such as those used by PX Docs, target the root causes perpetuating parasympathetic nervous system and vagus nerve dysfunction using a whole-body approach. Neurologically-focused PX Docs employ proprietary Neuro-Tonal care protocols shown to: 

  • Release subluxation patterns   
  • Reduce nerve system tension/irritation
  • Stimulate vagus nerve pathways
  • Balance dysautonomia   
  • Engage the parasympathetic nervous system to “rest and digest”

Through delicate adjusting techniques, these pediatric specialists relieve points of interference and stress in children, manifesting as sensory disorders, chronic infections, food sensitivities, and more.  

While care progresses, parents can apply these additional ways to aid parasympathetic activation:  

  • Soothing music, visualized calming scenes  
  • Diaphragmatic breathing exercises   
  • Yoga poses, massage, and reflexology
  • Relaxing activities before bedtime 
  • Healthy, anti-inflammatory nutrition

This multi-pronged approach provides comprehensive support so the parasympathetic nervous system can fully emerge from hiding and do its job—bringing the body back into balance.

Restore Your Child’s Health Potential Naturally

We live in constant stress, which taxes children’s nervous systems, suppressing the calming parasympathetic nervous system branch. With the vagus nerve unable to keep up, the body can’t rebalance or recover. This locks them in fight-or-flight mode, setting the stage for dysautonomia and impaired development.  

Detecting and addressing subluxation early is key, therefore, to reviving parasympathetic nervous system function before dysfunction occurs. Advanced INSiGHT Scans expose nerve interference while evaluating vagus nerve communication, which is vital for systemic regulation.

If your child struggles with unresolved symptoms suggestive of an overburdened nervous system, parasympathetic impairment may be the missing clue. Visit the PX Doc Directory to connect with a top pediatric neurological specialist for an evaluation today.

Discover new, drug-free possibilities for improving your child’s health and well-being.

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