Sympathetic Exhaustion signs include muscle soreness, weakness or leg cramps, sore back, restless legs, irritability, poor immune function, and sleep difficulties. In this article I discuss the causes of Sympathetic Exhaustion and what to do to help yourself if you have it. First, what does the sympathetic nervous system do?

The sympathetic is part of the autonomic nervous system which controls among other things, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, stress response. The autonomic nervous system has two parts which balance each other – the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. When stress occurs your sympathetic system increases heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and muscle tension and slows digestion. The parasympathetic system slows heart rate, relaxes muscles, increases digestion etc. These two systems must work in balance for us to be healthy. Long term, chronic stress and deficiencies in key nutrients can lead to sympathetic exhaustion which can cause the following symptoms:

Symptoms of Sympathetic Exhaustion

People who have digestive problems, poor immune function, slow healing, do not rest well, and are unable to get adequate amounts of sleep are suffering from sympathetic nervous system exhaustion.1

Adequate levels of blood calcium and protein are needed for the body to respond to sympathetic stimulation.  

So, how do you tell if you are low in calcium? Symptoms of low blood calcium are:

  1. bone disorders, spurs, osteopenia or osteoporosis
  2. muscle soreness, weakness or cramps
  3. frequent symptoms of irritability and anxiety
  4. restlessness including restless legs at night
  5. low back pain, weak joints and ligaments and fallen arches 1
How to help your sympathetic nervous system

Eat foods high in protein and calcium  to support proper function of your sympathetic nervous system.

Protein comes from:

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • beans
  • nuts
  • eggs
  • dairy

High calcium foods include:

  • Dairy
  • Fish such as Sardines, salmon, tuna
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, turnips, and collard greens
  • broccoli
  • almonds/almond butter
  • eggs
Calcium needs to be balanced with good levels of potassium for the proper parasympathetic to sympathetic nervous system balance.

Besides helping balance the autonomic nervous system,  high potassium foods help with fluid and electrolyte balance. Potassium is also needed by your heart, kidneys, and brain. Potassium is important for nerve and muscle cell function. Your body continuously balances potassium and sodium. It’s important to limit sodium (table salt) while keeping up your potassium.You should eat some high potassium foods every day because low potassium can cause its own sets of problems which follow.

Potassium deficiency can lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weight gain
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cellulite looking worse
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping, bloating
  • severe headaches,
  • dehydration,
  • and swelling of glands and tissues.

High potassium foods include:

  • spinach
  • sweet potato
  • tuna
  • pumpkin seed, sunflower seeds
  • avocado
  • acorn squash
  • apricots
  • pomegranate
  • coconut water
  • white beans

In conclusion: We can help

Chiropractic adjustments and hands on muscle work like myofascial release and massage work can help with some of the symptoms of sympathetic exhaustion. However if you are not eating healthy foods high in protein, calcium and potassium, you would have a very hard time getting better. Getting better and/or improving health takes doing a lot of little things right. Do you have digestive issues on top of needing help with food choices? You may benefit from a nutritional consult in addition to your regular chiropractic care. There may be no need to suffer. If you need help, simply give us a call at 978-535-6155 and ask for an appointment to include a nutritional consult.

  1. From the article: Recognizing Symptoms of Sympathetic Exhaustion by Howard F. Loomis, Jr. DC in The American Chiropractor Sept. 2016 edition