Eating for your nervous system and personality type


FOTCM Member
In trying to figure out a case of chronic hives that I've been struggling with, I've been coming back again and again to the idea that I have some type of dysfunction in my nervous system. The other day I came across an interesting book, Nutrition and the Autonomic Nervous System by Nicholas Gonzalez. He put together a protocol for treating various forms of cancer using diets tailored to the type of nervous system of the patient. He bases his framework largely around Francis Pottenger Sr.'s work during the 1930's, who theorized that diseased states were caused by autonomic imbalances. The autonomic nervous system is composed of the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and relaxation) systems. Pottenger discovered through his studies that some people were dominant in one system or the other. People who are sympathetic dominant have strong muscles, bones, hearts, endocrine systems, and the left hemisphere of the brain were strongly developed. These are the structures of the sympathetic nervous system. Meanwhile their right brain hemisphere, digestive system, pancreas and liver are inefficient and weak (these are the structures of the parasympathetic system).

Nutrition and the Autonomic Nervous System
"In these "sympathetic dominants," Pottenger identified a series of ailments related to their autonomic imbalance. emotionally, these patents were anxious, irritable, reactive, and easily upset, in keeping with their overly developed stress response system and high levels of circulating adrenaline from sympathetic nerve firing. Such patients tended to be disciplined and good at routines. Structurally, they were usually thin, because of their strong thyroid and adrenal function. They needed little sleep and often slept lightly and fitfully. In these patients, Pottenger reported strong muscles but terrible digestion: such patients were subject to a wide range of digestive problems such as food intolerances, ulcers, colitis, irritable bowel, chronic ingestion, and hiatal hernias."
With parasympathetic dominant individuals Pottenger saw the polar opposite in terms of strengths and weaknesses within body structure as well as very different personalities.

Nutrition and the Autonomic Nervous System
"Pottenger described these patients as calm, emotionally stable, and even keeled, very slow to anger but at times prone to depression. They were, Pottenger said, undisciplined but very creative. This group suffered degenerative musculoskeletal illnesses, as well as low adrenal and low thyroid function, correlating with their weak sympathetic tone. Such patients had a diminished capacity to deal with acute stress, and as a result of their low endocrine output, such patients could easily become overweight. Even minor stresses could be exhausting."
He also described a third group that had a balanced autonomic system with equally strong and efficient sympathetic and parasympathetic systems and had a personality profile between the two extremes.

Pottenger considered autonomic dysregulation as the root of many diseases and disorders and that three minerals - calcium, magnesium, and potassium where primary regulators of these systems. From the introduction, "He (Pottenger) found that the administration of magnesium would suppress the sympathetic system, potassium stimulated the parasympathetic system, and calcium stimulated the sympathetic system." His book Symptoms of Visceral Disease explores his research from a medical perspective.

Gonzalez next introduces to William Kelly, an orthodontist who in the 1960's became very ill and was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer that was far advanced and spread to the liver, lungs and bones. His liver was so inflamed that he could feel it protrude through his abdomen. His doctors thought he only had weeks left to live. He had an interest in nutrition and thought he might try some experimentation with diet. Certain foods, specifically red meat and poultry made him feel immediately ill. He could feel the inflammation of his liver right away. Other foods like raw fruits, leafy greens and fresh vegetable juices made him feel stronger. His mother came to help him and under her advice Kelly focused on eating a largely vegetarian diet that included the utilization of enzymes along with coffee enemas for detoxing. Through this course of treatment he got better and better and eventually was cured. I think it was this protocol and treatment that served as a springboard for the vegetarian diet advocates in the US. However, these advocates stop there and ignore the rest of his work. Don't get hung up on the vegetarian issue for now. His work looked at how different nutrients stimulate the nervous system in specific ways and how the same nutrient can be either very helpful or very harm for specific types of people, and more importantly this work shows how different foods feed the two different parts of the nervous system. This relates to the phenomenon of contraindications. I'll return to diet as it relates to the nervous system in a bit, but first a little detour.

The nature of contraindication itself seems rooted in the levels of dominance an individual has in either the sympathetic or parasympathetic system. For example, I can eat walnuts and be completely fine, but if I go near poison ivy (I don't even have to touch it) I can end up with an extreme rash that covers my entire body. Conversely, a different type will go into anaphylactic shock if they eat the smallest bit of a walnut, and yet they could roll around in poison ivy without getting any rash at all. Our allergies (not including food sensitivities), lack of allergies, and reactions to various substances may actually provide a lot of insight into our individual nature.

Last week I came across the video below. In it Andrew Weber talks about how he has a deathly allergy to wasp stings and walnuts. If he gets stung by a wasp or accidentally eats a walnut, he'll go into anaphylactic shock and needs a shot of epinephrine to save his life. He came across some info that suggested urine therapy could counter the shock. His theory was that homeopathic antigens are excreted in the urine within seconds of getting stung, and that by urinating and putting it under your tongue, that this contains the information your body needs to identify the antigens to counter the shock. He said some years later he was indeed stung, he tried this method, and didn't have a reaction. Here's the video:

At this point I had made a bit of progress with my hives, but they were still coming on each day and I really wanted an answer. So I took the plunge and tried this therapy to see if I'd see some improvement (don't judge me!). Some hours later I had one of my worst reactions yet. I was going on a fast and didn't want to take any medication, so I took a cold bath instead which has always helped in the past. I also saw some bentonite clay and thought that would be helpful to sooth the reaction, so I piled that stuff on too. Interestingly, the cold bath wasn't having any effect. I didn't even feel cold during that bath and actually my body heated up very quickly after getting out. And then my hives got a lot worse than they already had been. My entire right arm was one giant angry hive.

The thing to note here is that urine acted in place of epinephrine for Andrew Weber's deathly allergy. It probably wasn't a homeopathic solution that did the trick but rather that urine is a major stimulant for the sympathetic nervous system. I actually just looked it up and found that epinephrine is indeed excreted through the urine. This can be life saving info for people who have weak sympathetic systems and have dangerous allergies, but for me it sent my system further into a tizzy. Calcium is also a primary operator for the sympathetic system, and it is the main component of bentonite clay. The bad news for me was that the combo sent my hives into the extreme, but the good news was I had just read the following section on calcium in Gonzalez' book so it served as a strong signal to continue looking down that road.

Nutrition and the Autonomic Nervous System
Kelly came to believe, as Pottenger had earlier, that calcium metabolism was crucial to understanding the differences among the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and balanced types. Although we think of calcium as the main cement and foundation of our bones, calcium is an extremely versatile molecule. On a cellular level, calcium actually functions as a hormone, stimulating a variety of reactions within the cell. In addition, calcium is one of the major molecular components of the membranes of all cells and provides membrane stability. Kelly believed that in his sympathetic dominant patients, the excess sympathetic tone and the high levels of circulating adrenaline in these patients tended to drive calcium into the cell membranes and into the cell interior.

Contemporary physiologists now know that sympathetic action, and adrenaline, will do just this. In turn, this excessive intracellular calcium tends to produce very strong, very tight cell membranes that impede the passage of nutrients into cells and wastes out of cells. This might explain why Kelley’s extreme sympathetic dominants, presumably with the tightest cell membranes, were very resistant to allergies; their membranes served as a barrier, blocking the entry of potentially irritating molecules into the cells, as well as the release from the cells of molecules normally associated with allergic symptoms, such as histamine and serotonin. Kelley’s biochemical hypothesis helps explain why, fifty years earlier, Pottenger had noted that his sympathetic patients rarely suffered allergies.

This calcium retention he, and Pottenger earlier, observed in sympathetic dominant patients had a very important effect above and beyond cell membrane structure. For years, even in Pottenger’s time, orthodox physiologists have known that the stimulation of the sympathetic nerves requires the presence of calcium ions, and the more calcium present, the greater the sympathetic output. In effect, a strong sympathetic nervous system causes a cascade of increased calcium retention, and the increased calcium stimulates further sympathetic firing. In a similar way, the acidic environment created by a strong sympathetic nervous system tends to keep that system strong. In essence, the sympathetic-dominant system creates a biochemical environment that perpetuates its own dominance.

When talking to my allergist, one of the first things he told me that my condition wasn't an allergy. I understood this to be true because their onset doesn't come as a result of eating a specific food or being exposed to anything in particular. I had long ruled out that it was an allergy, but what stood out for me when I read the above section was that my particular type of hives are actually the opposite of an allergy, a bizarro-allergy.

In any case, I'd like to revisit Kelly's work on cancer. After he had success with his own cancer, he started seeing others with different types of cancers as well various health conditions. But he found that the vegetarian diet he was doing for himself was actually destructive for other illnesses. Through trial and error he tried different diet combinations that included raw vegetarian, cooked vegetarian, raw meat, raw meat with veggies, and cooked meat with veggies for various patients. What lead to improvement in one condition could lead to deterioration in another.

Nutrition and the Autonomic Nervous System
By 1970, Kelley began to classify his patients into three broad categories: vegetarian, carnivore, and balanced metabolizers, with subtypes within each category. Kelley developed his complex therapy out of his clinical experience. He had learned that certain patients did best on a largely vegetarian diet, others with a largely meat diet, and others with a varied diet including both plant and animal products. He learned that certain patients thrived with most of their food eaten raw and others with most of their food cooked. He learned that vegetarian patients did well with very large doses of vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium, but that carnivores did best with low doses of C, minimal if any magnesium and potassium, and large doses of calcium. Experience taught Kelley that these things were true, but on a physiological level, he did not know why.
Now this starts to get into the different types. There are a number of different physiological types which also line up with particular psychological types. I'm going to quote at length because it details the basis of a comprehensive model that describes our psychic and physiological makeup and how the two are connected.

Kelley also described, in far greater detail than Pottenger, the psychological makeup of sympathetic-dominant patients. Like Pottenger, Kelley believed that the strong sympathetic and weak parasympathetic systems in these patients could explain the observed behavioral characteristics. Sympathetic nerves, when active, produce two major hormone products, norepinephrine and epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. These two hormones act as neurotransmitters as well as hormones and affect, very predictably, many brain functions. Neurotransmitters are the signaling molecules released by nerves that allow them to communicate to other nerves, or to tissues such as muscle or the pancreatic acinar cells.

Scientists have known for more than fifty years that an injection of the sympathetic neurotransmitter epinephrine into a laboratory animal produces very distinctive reactions associated with an acute stress response. The animal becomes irritable, angry, aggressive, and prone to quick reactions and reflexes, as if the brain is on full alert. These animals have to be handled with care, as they can be unpredictably violent. In a threatening situation, such responses are clearly protective.

In humans, epinephrine enhances alertness, depresses appetite, and reduces sleep needs. During World War II, Japanese authorities fed factory workers in the war industry large doses of amphetamines, a pharmacological sympathetic stimulant, to increase productivity and reduce sleep requirements. On amphetamines, workers could easily go through twentyfour-hour shifts, barely needing breaks for food.

In his human patients, like Pottenger before him, Kelley described his sympathetic patients as irritable, prone to anger and temper outbursts. They slept poorly and lightly, but nonetheless reported excellent energy and concentration. They tended to be very aggressive and controlling, very concerned about position and dominance, all aggressive characteristics, Kelley believed, brought on by high levels of circulating adrenaline. The sympathetic-dominant mind works very fast and responds to situations quickly, oftentimes without evaluating the consequences.

Overall, in sympathetic-dominant patients, thinking tended to be linear and simplistic rather than expansive and three-dimensional. Such patients were good at rote activities requiring discipline and concentration but weren’t very creative or imaginative. They made good workers, but not innovators. In the extreme, these patients could suffer agitated depressions, with anger, insomnia, and irritability dominating the clinical picture.

Kelley described the parasympathetic dominants in equal detail. In these patients, all the tissues normally stimulated by the strong parasympathetic nerves—such as the stomach, the intestinal tract, the pancreas, the liver, and the right hemisphere of the brain—tended to be well developed and overly active. In contrast, the tissues normally stimulated by their weak sympathetic nerves, such as the endocrine glands, the muscles, the heart, and the left hemisphere of the brain, were inefficient and sluggish.

In terms of their overall body appearance, Kelley found parasympathetic dominants tended toward a rounded appearance, with large shoulders, a rounded rather than narrow facial structure, and a broad dental arch. Because of their chronic weak sympathetic nervous system tone, parasympathetic dominants usually had flabby, unresponsive muscles—just as Pottenger had described. Even mild exercise could result in severe pain, muscle tears, and hernias. And because of their weak endocrine and thyroid function in particular, these patients gained weight easily.

Biochemically, the cells of parasympathetic-dominant patients efficiently —in fact, too quickly and too efficiently—converted sugars into energy through glycolysis and the complex Krebs cycle. After a meal loaded with carbohydrates, these patients would use the sugar load so rapidly that, ironically, low blood sugar resulted. Because the brain uses blood glucose preferentially as its energy source, without an adequate supply patients can suffer fatigue, sleepiness, and depression. They tended to do far better, in terms of their general energy and well-being, when they ate fatty, highprotein foods. In these patients, proteins and fats only gradually convert into energy, allowing for a slow, steady production of ATP energy on a cellular level.

This efficient energy metabolism produced only minimal amounts of acid wastes. In addition, Kelley believed that the kidneys in these patients proficiently excreted acid molecules and tended instead to reabsorb bicarbonate—the body’s main alkaline buffer.As a result, parasympathetic cells, tissues, organs, and body fluids were very alkaline, as opposed to acid. This alkaline environment, Kelley maintained, tended to stimulate the already strong parasympathetic—and suppress the weak sympathetic—nervous systems. In a sense, the alkaline environment of a parasympathetic dominant supported parasympathetic activity and autonomic imbalance.

In contrast to the sympathetic-dominant patients, the parasympathetic cells tended to lose calcium into the bloodstream, and the kidneys rapidly excreted calcium into the urine. As a result, these calcium-deficient parasympathetic cell membranes were loose and leaky, easily allowing the influx of molecules into cells and the efflux of wastes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other cell products out of cells. Because of these porous membranes, potential allergens easily made their way inside the cells, and the mediators of inflammation, such as histamine, easily left cells to produce the symptoms of allergy—mucus production, asthma, skin rashes, postnasal drip, hives, and irritability. Kelley’s biochemical hypothesis neatly explained why Pottenger found his parasympathetic patients to be so prone to allergic reactions.

In Kelley’s model, the personality of the parasympathetic dominant contrasted greatly with that of the sympathetic profile and could be explained by the strong parasympathetic and weak sympathetic systems. Such patients produce minimal amounts of the stress hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine that produce protective, aggressive behavior, but large amounts of the parasympathetic neurotransmitters acetylcholine and serotonin. Serotonin, the main parasympathetic neurotransmitter in the brain, has a relaxing, sedating, calming effect. Our bodies manufacture serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan, which physicians used for years as a sleep enhancer. And the Prozac generation of antidepressants work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain, which tends to produce calm, reduce anger and aggressiveness, and improve sleep.

As a group, parasympathetic-dominant patients tend to be easygoing and friendly, enjoying the company of friends, rarely prone to anger or temper tantrums. Kelley found them usually nonaggressive, at times passive—and as a result, easily taken advantage of by aggressive sympathetic dominants. Predictably, because their levels of the aggressive sympathetic neurotransmitters tend to be low, parasympathetics don’t like confrontation. Patients in this group usually sleep very soundly and need long hours of sleep, at times ten to twelve hours. They feel best in the later portions of the day but feel groggy and spacey in the mornings.

In the extreme, these patients can suffer lethargic depressions, characterized by withdrawal and severe melancholy. In the most extreme situation, with serotonin levels far too high, these patients can become paranoid and then defensively violent. When depressed, parasympatheticdominant patients do better with sympathetic stimulants such as the tricyclic antidepressants, rather than the serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Parasympathetics do poorly, Kelley claimed, with rote and routine, but are in general very creative and innovative in their perspectives and thinking. These patients have as a group a very well-developed right hemisphere of the brain, where three-dimensional thinking occurs. Many successful artists and creative scientists are parasympathetic dominant, Ernest Hemingway being a classic example. Undisciplined and prone to moodiness and severe depression, Hemingway enjoyed the company of friends, loved sensual pleasures, and of course was very creative in his work. Toward the end of his life, he became paralytically depressed and paranoid: unable to write and enjoy what he loved most, he ended his life in 1962.

The third general type, the balanced metabolizers, fall between the sympathetics and parasympathetics in terms of their structure, biochemistry, physiology, and psychology. Because both branches of the autonomic system tend to be equally developed and equally efficient, Kelley maintained, all the tissues, organs, and glands stimulated by the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves—the heart, the muscles, the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and the digestive, endocrine, and immune systems —are equally developed, equally efficient, and equally strong. There is no imbalance and no dominance of organ systems.

In terms of their overall structure, Kelley described balanced metabolizers as well proportioned, neither too lean, like the sympathetics, nor overly rounded, like the parasympathetic group. Their facial structure and dental arch are ideally proportional. Their bones and muscles are innately strong and responsive to exercise, though not as responsive as the bones and muscles of the sympathetics. They can be good athletes, with training.

On a cellular level, the balanced cells efficiently produce energy through both glycolysis and the Krebs cycle, which function neither too quickly nor too sluggishly. Their cells can effectively convert sugars as well as proteins and fats into energy and can use a variety of food types equally well, unlike the parasympathetic and sympathetic extremes. Overall, these metabolizers have excellent energy and stamina, unlike the sympathetics, who tend to have excessive energy for short bursts, or the parasympathetics, who tend toward fatigue.

In balanced patients, the cells, tissues, organs, and body fluids are neither too acid nor too alkaline. The kidneys and the bicarbonate buffer systems work efficiently to keep the levels of acid and alkaline molecules under tight control. In turn, the neutral acid-base balance keeps the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems in equilibrium, with neither system overactive because of excessive acidity or alkalinity.

Such metabolizers use calcium efficiently, holding on to the mineral when needed and easily excreting any excess. Calcium enters cell membranes as needed, neither excessively nor too slowly. The membranes of balanced cells allow influx of nutrients as needed and the efflux of wastes as appropriate. If exposed to high levels of allergens in the bloodstream or body fluids, balanced metabolizer cells can respond with the release of histamine and other mediators of allergic reactions—but only if such allergens are present in excessive amounts.

The personality of the balanced types tends to be very resilient and adaptable, not prone to extremes of behavior, in keeping with their balanced autonomic system. These metabolizers produce equivalent amounts of neurotransmitters from both the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, such as norepinephrine, epinephrine, acetylcholine, and serotonin. Balanced individuals are not prone to anger and irritability on the one hand, or depression on the other, responding with aggressiveness when appropriate yet able to relax when needed for body repair and regeneration. They need six to eight hours of sleep a night in general, though under stress they can function well with less and when relaxed can sleep more at will. The balanced types can adjust to routine as needed but can also be very creative.

In situations of stress, their sympathetic system can turn on fairly strongly —though never as strongly as in a sympathetic dominant. However, under prolonged stress, if the sympathetic system continues to fire, the balanced metabolizer patients can develop sympathetic ailments, such as digestive problems, ulcers, or colitis. If the stress persisted too long, Kelley claimed, the sympathetic system in these patients could actually wear out and shut down, leaving the parasympathetic system to take over by default. In a state of such parasympathetic dominance, the balanced metabolizers could literally change personality and develop the classic parasympathetic illnesses, such as allergies and depression.

Kelly saw varying levels of sympathetic and parasympathetic efficacy in his patients based on their nutritional needs and he came up with 10 types:


He found targeted diets for each of these types. As a rough summary, the extreme sympathetic dominant types did best on a mostly vegetarian diet with just a little bit of animal protein. The extreme parasympathetic dominant types did best with lightly cooked red meat and as much fat as possible. And then there were variations for those who fell between the extremes. I think the chart is super interesting, but there may be some variations not listed and there may be another dimension to our system to consider.

Gonzalez' research into autonomic types also included a look at Pavlov's dogs along with the work of Dr. Funkenstein (a Harvard doctor who continued with Pavlov's work, but interestingly there is nothing online about him). Pavlov had two overarching classifications of his dogs' reactions to stress - excitatory and inhibitory. The excitatory dogs became aggressive when exposed to a shock, and stayed in the aggressive mode long after exposure. The inhibitory dogs basically shutdown and retreated when exposed to a shock and also stayed in that mode long after exposure. He also found two additional types that rebounded fairly quickly from the shock and didn't become stuck in any particular mode. What I think is interesting is that the two extremes match with character disturbance and neurosis in humans.

All this isn't to say that all sympathetic dominant people should just be doing a vegetarian diet. The point is that we are varied individuals and the function or dysfunction of our system may very well call for specific doses of different foods at different times. I think having a dominant sympathetic system with a potentially strong secondary parasympathetic system makes things difficult to sort out, and vise versa. It's like both systems need to be fed, while not letting the other go wonky. There could be periods of needing one type of diet, and then changing to another depending on how things are balancing.

I'll leave it there for now. There's more to explore, and another section is coming soon on some of the psychological applications/aspects with some speculation. But I wanted to get this out there to see what people think.


Jedi Master
FOTCM Member
Thanks for mentioning this book. I have read some chapters and it is very interesting.

Kelley and Gonzalez had exceptionally high cure rates in their cancer clinics. For example, Gonzalez mentioned a stage 4 pancreatic cancer patient, who has been cancer free for decades (Gonzalez continued to treat her after Kelley). It seems that they were doing something right.

I suspect I might be a "moderate symphatetic dominant", although it's difficult to determine your own metabolic type without outside assistance (I seem to struggle on pure ketogenic diet, etc).

In the cases where ketogenic diet doesn't work with cancer patients (and could make the situation worse), the patient being the "wrong" metabolic type could be an explanation.

Ketogenic Diet - Powerful Dietary Strategy for Certain Conditions


FOTCM Member
Very interesting, and provides more evidence that no one diet fits all, and, as we finding out through research and application, that diets are highly individual.


FOTCM Member
Interesting! The urine part is a bit too weird for me, so I'll pass for now:-P. But the diet according to parasympathetic/sympathetic predominance sounds like something worth trying, if the person is willing to test and adjust depending on their know food intolerances as well. But I think that in most cases it may not be a clear-cut division, even though we may have more of the symptoms described for one type or the other.

Anyway, I found this, FWIW:

Using Exercise to Balance the Nervous System

by Dr. Chad | Feb 14, 2012 | Natural Remedies, Naturopathic health | 28 comments

It is generally accepted that if you need to lose weight, are stressed out or want to put on muscle mass, you need to hit the gym and hit it hard! While this approach will work for some people, most people’s eating habits and lifestyle choices will cause high intensity workout sessions to have a detrimental influence on their health. That’s because of the effect these sessions have on a person’s nervous system.

Without getting too embedded in the physiology, the nervous system has two main parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS represents the largest part of the nervous system and includes the brain and spinal cord. The PNS consists of all the other nervous structures that do not lie in the CNS. The large majority of what are commonly called nerves are considered to be in the PNS.

Autonomic nervous system (ANS)
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is that part of the PNS that acts as a control system, maintaining balance in the body. The ANS controls and regulates all life-sustaining functions you don’t have to think about; it’s your ANS that keeps you alive when you are asleep or when you get knocked unconscious. The ANS is divided into two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). It is these two branches of the nervous system that we are interested in, so a brief description is in order.

Sympathetic nervous system (SNS)
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is often called the ‘fight or flight’ nervous system because the SNS prepares the body to fight or run from danger. When the SNS becomes the dominant branch of the nervous system, blood is shunted away from the internal organs and into the muscles and the periphery of the body (the arms, legs, etc.) to facilitate action. Since there is an increased utilization of nutrients and hormones, as well as greater tissue destruction when the SNS is engaged, it produces a catabolic (break down) effect on the body. The SNS is dominant when you are exercising, working or doing something that requires increased delivery of blood to the muscles; this includes stress.

Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)
In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for digestion and elimination and serves to regulate restoration, rebuilding and repair of the body, making it more anabolic (building/repairing). The PNS also stimulates immune function at night while you are sleeping.

It is important to realize that when the SNS is dominant, the functions of the PNS are proportionately shut down. Over time, over-stimulation of one system over the other can lead to clear-cut signs of imbalance:

SNS Dominance
Poor digestion/⇓ salvation
⇑Respiratory/heart rate
Poor sleep quality; restless
Night sweats
Orgasm/sexual inhibition
Waking un-rested
Nervousness e.g., restless/agitated
⇑Muscle tension
⇑ Inflammatory conditions
⇑ Susceptibility to infection

PNS Dominance
Strong or excessive digestion
Hyperactive bowel; colicky
Drop in blood pressure upon rising
Poor sleep quality; hibernation
⇓ Perspiration
Genital stimulation/increased libido
⇓ Respiratory rate
Nervousness; depression; somnolence
⇑ Mucus secretions
Hands warm and dry
⇑ Gag reflex
⇑ WBC count

When you are thinking about what kinds of exercise would be beneficial, first begin by looking at each of the indicators above; the more symptoms a person has under one system, the greater the relative imbalance between the branches of the ANS. Although even one indicator, when chronic, can indicate an imbalance of significance, it is generally reliable to assume that the greater number of chronic indicators you find, the greater the problem and the more critical it becomes to modify diet, exercise and lifestyle factors to encourage balance.

Balancing the ANS with Exercise
A general rule of thumb is that if you can’t perform an exercise comfortably on a full stomach, the exercise is stimulating your SNS. With that in mind, you can easily envision how the great majority of exercises serve to further stress the SNS; keep in mind that SNS stimulation keeps the body in a catabolic (breakdown) state. If you are stuck in a SNS dominance in response to the stressors in your life, exercises that stimulate the SNS will only serve to perpetuate an already dysfunctional situation. Many people experience this as poor sleep, illness, anxiety, poor digestion and/or increased muscle tension.

If you are in a SNS dominant state, focus on chi balancing exercises to help rebalance your nervous system; these include gentle yoga, Tai Chi, Qi-gong or simply walking.

As your system rebalances, you will be able to tolerate more and more SNS stimulation through exercise. Start with one or two compound exercises (full body, pushing/pulling), keeping the training sessions under 30 minutes and supplementing with stretches that specifically restore muscle balance to improve overall nervous system balance. When you see sleep quality, energy levels, mood and response to exercise improving in concert with a reduction of chronic SNS dominance indicators (from the table above) you can carefully add more challenging exercises and increasing exercise duration and intensity.

We must let go of the ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy. Instead think in terms of ‘train, don’t drain!’, and listen to your body tell you what it needs to function optimally. Nutrition also plays a key role in helping to rebalance your nervous system and keep you functioning optimally – feel free to contact us for more information.
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FOTCM Member
Using Diet to Balance the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems – Part 2 of 3 | Natural Solutions

Using Diet to Balance the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems – Part 2 of 3

by Dr. Oler, ND | Feb 5, 2015 | Eating Naturally, Natural Remedies, Naturopathic Health, Nutrition | 36 comments

What you eat can have a dramatic impact on the balance and function of the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) nervous systems. Most often, people experience SNS dominance (to determine SNS or PNS dominance, see this post); the following recommendations can be used to calm the sympathetic nervous system.

  • Get enough protein. Protein is needed to supply vital amino acids that are essential for calming the nervous system. Eat plenty of eggs (from grass/pasture fed hens preferred), raw nuts, fish (especially deep sea fatty fish including anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, and sardines) and grass-fed meat (chicken, beef).
  • Get an oil change. Avoid hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated and trans fats and get plenty of omega-3 (and some omega-6) fatty acids. Excellent sources are deep-sea fatty fish (see above), eggs from grass-fed hens, walnuts, flaxseeds, avocado, coconut oil and fish oil supplements.
  • Bone up on B-vitamins. B-vitamins are used in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body related to nervous system balance and control. Good food sources include nutritional yeast (1-3 tsp/day)
  • Get grounded – vegetables that is. Root vegetables contain many nutrients– including vitamin A, B-complex, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron and trace minerals- that the body needs to calm an overly active sympathetic nervous system. Eat plenty of carrots, beets, yams, sweet potatoes and potatoes to help get you more grounded. Soups and stews are great options.
  • Heat things up. Research indicates that capsaicin, the heat component of red/hot peppers, can significantly lower sympathetic responses after consumption. Pour on the hot sauce!
  • Drink up. Dehydration puts a lot of stress on the body. Drink one-half your body weight in ounces of water throughout the day. For example, a 150 lb. person would need at least 75 ounces of water divided up throughout the day. Aim for 2-4 ounces every ½ hour.
  • Chew. People that are SNS dominate generally don’t digest food well. Give your body a fighting chance by chewing every mouthful of food until it’s a liquid (at LEAST 30 times) before swallowing.
  • Decrease/eliminate caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the SNS – you don’t want to do that if your SNS is already over-stimulated. Opt instead for herbal teas, Teeccino or water.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol also increases SNS activity. A study published in June 1995 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that SNS activity nearly doubled after participants received an alcohol infusion. When you go out, try a juice and tonic or sparkling water instead.

Divide by Zero

The Living Force
Interesting find!
Many years ago I tried urine therapy but didn't follow through. It wasn't the taste that stopped me but laziness/inconvenience. It tastes a bit salty or bitter depending on your intake of minerals, since the kidney flushes out excess through urine. It could be a good "taste test" to see if you are low on salt, etc.

FYI, for women, I recall reading back then that you should collect urine a few seconds after you start to ensure clean urine.

Echo Blue

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
Back in the late 1980’s I came across a book entitled “Urine Therapy - It May Save Your Life” by Dr. Beatrice Barnett. I still have this tiny 44 page book.

At the time, I bought the book out of curiosity as I was very interested in alternative medicine. Easy read. But one weekend night my young son developed an earache. Gave Tylenol for pain (it was in the 80’s) with no change in pain or discomfort.

So after a while, I decided to give this therapy a try. Had my son pee in a cup. Told him I found some medicine for his ear pain. Put a dropper full in his ear while laying on his side. Within 20 minutes he was sleeping!

Because I was concerned that I might have done something terrible to his ears, I brought him to the doctors the following Monday. The doctor checked his ear and said everything was fine. Needless to say, I did not mention how I treated my son’s earache.

Fast forward about three years and again it was a weekend night and I developed an earache! I had not had an earache since I was a child. But the pain was very uncomfortable and I was so tired and just wanted to go to sleep but I couldn’t.

It took me a while to convince myself to try the urine therapy on myself. But I did. And just like my son, after about 20 minutes with a dropper full of my urine in my ear, the pain was gone. Just gone.

After that when my son developed a cough that just wouldn’t go away and the doctors did not know what was causing the cough, I again decided to try urine therapy. I would collect his morning urine, and give him three drops in his mouth under his tongue......Just like you would do when using homeopathic remedies. And again, to my surprise, the cough disappeared within a day or two.

I have not used urine therapy for a very very long time. Kind of forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thanks, renaissance, for this interesting expose. I think it summarizes what I have come to realize in the last few years of my research into health and nutrition, that we are all different, and that we all need to approach health and nutrition from an individual point. And that is something that allopathic medicine does very poorly, so no wonder we fall back into this trap again and again.

I have heard positive accounts of people drinking their own urine over the years but haven’t been game enough to try that one out, but I guess in a pinch, I would try this - or as you state further up, it might be wise to remember if someone has an anaphylactic reaction and no epinephrin handy to put some drops of their own urine under the tongue (not sure about the practicalities in all this, but nevertheless ...)


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thanks for the info Renaissance. If the hives problem is related to some disbalance in the nervous system then Quinton ocean plasma should help, among other things. For me, the isotonic plasma greatly reduces acne, along with taking care that I don't overdo on protein and include dark green leafy and some other vegetables with plenty of fat.

You can also check out this book. It deals with acne primarily, but you might find it useful, as it tackles the issue from both the diet and psychological angle. It's quite pricey, as is usually the case with useful books.
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The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I've been coming back again and again to the idea that I have some type of dysfunction in my nervous system.

Here is what I would recommend:

1/ Acupuncture.
As usual, I would recommend to be diagnosed by a real acupuncturist. The acupuncturist is able to read the body state trough a fine reading of the pulse and treat. I remember, mine was able to see that my sympathetic/parasympathetic was not balanced but what cause him problem was to find if it was the parasympathetic which was too weak or the sympathetic which was too strong because it's not the same treatment. Anyway, the human body is a complex machine and the causes of an illness can be multiples and the pulse reading is such an help to find what is going wrong and see the body as a whole.

2/ Osteopathy.
If you're convince that you have a problem with your sympathetic/parasympathetic system, it's another very effective approach. For what I know, the osteopath cannot really diagnose the state of the sympathetic/parasympathetic system but can very effectively act on it by manipulation of precise areas. Manipulations can do a "reset" of it, or simply, by physically balancing the body, unblock nerves flux.

3/ Radiac.
Cayce Radiac is the treatment of choice for balancing the nervous system. Incredibly effective. The problem is that it take time (1 hour each day) and it's a bit constraining to use but nothing efficient come for free.

Of course the diet is very important above that.


FOTCM Member
I suspect I might be a "moderate symphatetic dominant", although it's difficult to determine your own metabolic type without outside assistance (I seem to struggle on pure ketogenic diet, etc).

I think once you get a grasp on the features of the two systems, it's fairly easy to grasp which side you fall on. Some of the personality stuff should help too, and I'll be putting that info up soon.

But the diet according to parasympathetic/sympathetic predominance sounds like something worth trying, if the person is willing to test and adjust depending on their know food intolerances as well.

One of the interesting things I've found since I've started experimenting more with my diet is that previous intolerance or sensitivities to certain foods have disappeared! I've always had bad reactions to most nightshades and various nuts, namely in the form of inflammation in my back or neck, and now I can eat them all with no reaction.

If the hives problem is related to some disbalance in the nervous system then Quinton ocean plasma should help, among other things.

Yes, I think the Quinton water really kick started some processes in a number of ways. I've posted about my experience here with the treatment. It was a post in that thread with a link to a pdf that mentioned isotonic being good for sympathetic dominance and hypertonic being good for parasympathetic dominance that introduced me to these terms. I had been looking up nervous system issues but hadn't come across those specific terms.

Here is what I would recommend:

1/ Acupuncture.
Of course the diet is very important above that.

I've tried an acupuncturist and was actually pretty impressed. But yes, if you're eating the wrong sorts of foods, then I think you'll continually be out of balance.


FOTCM Member
I just started reading I.P. Pavlov: Selced Works and I think his research explores so much more than what he is renown for. The research in this field in Russia seems particularly unique, and I think has the ultimate potential for healing many things. Funny enough, the intro mentions Pavlov was interested in how the nervous system interacted with nutrition. There's a lot of work referenced that I'm guessing isn't translated into English. Pavlov's large body of work itself also doesn't seem to be accessible in English. In any case, certain aspects of Pavlov's work have apparently not been pursued, at least in the West. Behaviorism could be said to be the main outgrowth of his work, but it seems to me a primarily material pursuit. Behaviorism can be be helpful for recognizing the mechanical nature of human beings, but as far as I can tell, it has done little to alleviate the suffering caused by such forces. As far as I understand, there's no higher unifying factor within this approach.

Human physiology and psychology seem connected through an 'electric universe' of our own bodies - our nervous system. Working with nutrition to meet the needs of the body's various systems appears to have an effect on the personality through the feedback of the nervous system. There is this in the Selected Works intro, which I think sets up a good direction for a proper line of focus:

Pavlov's theory of conditioned reflexes was a landmark in the development of advanced philosophical thought and natural sciences in our country, where, as in no other country, the question had been resolutely raised of overcoming the dualism of matter and consciousness, of substantiating the material foundation of the psychical processes on the basis of unity of matter and spirit, while the idealists affirmed the non-material nature and immortality of the spirit in contradistinction to the material nature and the mortality of the body.

Pavlov's work into conditioned reflexes demonstrated how there are two different fundamentally different responses to stress, inhibitory and excitatory. He thought the former was the weaker of the two, with the latter having a more resilient nervous system. Things get a lot more nuanced when we look at the human characteristics of dominance in the sympathetic or parasypathetic systems.

Kelly's system looked at 10 models of dominance with variations in each set. I'm going to be describing a modified form of Pavlov's model that uses two overarching systems (as did Kelly) with four sub-types, but keep in mind that many variations likely exist within. Things probably aren't necessarily as simple as fixed categories (sympathetics, metabolizers[this middle category could probably be split in two with each leaning toward one or the other pole], and parasympathetics), but they do provide an outline of the drivers of our system and the psychological structures that they work with. I do tend to think that people will fall on one side or the other though.

At the fundamental level these two systems seem to represent the two sides of the universe - order and creation. Order is the side of activity, of doing and building. It's the engine. Creation is the side that provides direction, inspiration, applies the breaks, performs change and does repairs. Each side has it's own version of corruption when there are imbalances. With too much order and not enough creation, things can become too rigged, fixed, and dominating, with a sole focus on the self. With too much creation and not enough expression of order, there is chaos. Things are torn apart. The extremes of one feed the extremes of the other. The characteristics and levels of manifestation in each can be identified in our psychology and in our physiology. Each characteristic provides an ideal functional use, but when there is dysfunction and imbalance, then it's like the function operates in reverse as it's opposite.

Let's take a look at the extremes of the human personality and go from there. George Simon looks at the patterns of neurosis and character disturbance and how they are two fundamentally different systems. The therapies used to help and treat one type can be harmful for the other. He conceptualizes neurosis and character disturbance as existing on opposite ends of a continuum. One one end we have the aggressive and narcissistic personalities and on the other is the neurotics. He identified the assertive personality as the most healthy. I think the assertive type could be the healthy form of both the aggressive and melancholic types. The 'character disturbed' have super strong personality structures, they are rigid, self serving and difficult to change. They can exhibit the corruption of order with very little creation. On the other end are the neurotics whose personality structure is very loose and chaotic, but when they have a bit of order they can be very creative.

I think character disturbance touches on a much larger personality structure, however. Most are not criminals but do have a strong tendency of being self centered. These are the doers of the world. In the healthy form they are assertive, active, very productive, and can get things done with speed and efficiency since there is little holding them back. In their unhealthy form they can range from being sick, lazy, sluggish energy, isolated, messy, addicts, and human leaches. Samenow's work details many of the structures of this type that lead toward destruction. This is the sympathetic dominant types. They won't have allergies (but could have bizarro-allergies). It's easy to confuse their disruptions in personality as being neurotic, but really these problems seem largely to come from issues regarding their self image.

The aggressive/assertive type lean toward human authority and can be strong leaders or ardent followers. Others, the narcissistic type, lean toward themselves - they have a core belief that they are the highest authority and often have certain gifts - brains, physical beauty, or athletic talent that they attribute to themselves rather than a gift from nature, the divine, god, etc. Narcissists can have underlying aggressive tendencies, and aggressives can have underlying narcissistic tendencies.

To me, it seems the narcissistic can be the most unhealthy of all personality types. Aggressives are closer to reaching assertiveness and they are at least honest about their nature, though they can be dominating to be around. These types can feed off the authority they can have over others and they may seek to hold onto their anger from various stresses rather than processing it, because it does act as a fuel for maintaining dominance. The aggressives who can process anger can learn become assertive when needed and more empathetic when the situation calls for it. A variation of the aggressive (and part of the aggressive himself) is the 'authoritarian follower'. These are dedicated soldier types who hold their chosen authority in high regard. They can be excellent workers. In some cases, unhealthy elements of narcissistic interest in the self image can make them appear timid or unsure of themselves.

Narcissists on the other hand are largely detached from a wide range of emotions. They live to feel good and to 'have a good time'. They can be very entertaining and are often enjoyable to be around. They can present a pleasing personality (or try to project one). I think many of this type are also prone to dissociation, fantasy, and addiction.

I think the personality structure for sympathetic dominants is based largely on control and stress is a catalyst for either increased aggression or narcissism. There's a quote from Uri Avnery, who just passed away, up on SOTT today that sums up the effect of stress on the sympathetic dominant rather well:

"I will tell you something about the Holocaust. It would be nice to believe that people who have undergone suffering have been purified by suffering. But it's the opposite, it makes them worse. It corrupts. There is something in suffering that creates a kind of egoism. Herzog [the Israeli president at the time] was speaking at the site of the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen but he spoke only about the Jews. How could he not mention that others - many others - had suffered there? Sick people, when they are in pain, cannot speak about anyone but themselves. And when such monstrous things have happened to your people, you feel nothing can be compared to it. You get a moral 'power of attorney', a permit to do anything you want - because nothing can compare to what has happened to us. "

Samenow also describes the need for stimulation, excitement, power, control, and the central importance of the self image in the criminal mind. These appear to me to be the psychological structures developed out of those dominant in the sympathetic system. I think a caveat is necessary here: just because someone is sympathetic dominant, it doesn't necessarily mean they have no capacity for empathy or creativity. Many do, however, they need methods that require 'putting on the breaks' like boundaries, a social system to form attachment, discipline, direct feedback, and a healthy organization of their environment to develop it. Learning to genuinely care for others rather than just the self is a main pursuit, I think. It's a challenge to do that with a suffocating or dominating personality.

The higher the degree of sympathetic dominance, the more activity and stimulation is needed. These types feel the need to be constantly doing something. If they are not 'on the go', they feel like they are screaming internally to do something. The medical solution to this for hyperactive and ADD kids is to overpower their system with stimulants, which shuts them down.

As mentioned, these types typically have a subconscious belief that they are the 'ultimate authority'. A focus for their energy that is beyond the self is needed; a submission them to something greater than themselves like an Aim, truth, or as in many cases religion. This however can easily feed into the desires of self image by promoting oneself as 'virtuous' or 'special' when there is a lack of sincerity.

In essence, I think this side of the spectrum composes the sympathetic dominant righteous mind.

On the other side of the spectrum there are the melancholic/ normal types and the neurotics. The melancholic are balanced in terms of creativity and discipline. I would wager to say they are usually the healthiest type found in society, both in terms of their personality and physical health. They're on the parasympathetic side so they will tend to have some allergies, but probably not too many. They have a humble personality and tend to be pretty reasonable. That said, I think they can also adopt programs from sympathetic dominants, which can push them toward neuroticism and inhibition. They too would benefit from learning to be more assertive since they easily yield to the aggressive types, but often have a greater capacity for sorting things out.

The neurotic is undisciplined but very creative. They'll probably and typically have lots of allergies and their personality can be weak and malleable. They can be easily destabilized under stress and subdued by uncertainty. The 'character disturbed' can also present what looks like a type of uncertainty but as far as I can tell it is of a different nature. The neurotic's ability for change and healing, however, should be great when they apply therapies that boost their sympathetic system in appropriate measure. I think this needs to be done under specific settings as the dominance of the parasympathetic system could easily be triggered and lead them toward greater retreat. I think the little girl in the video in the Maternal Deprivation in young children thread is parasympathetic dominant/ inhibitory. She responded well not only to consistent attention, but also persistent and increasing levels of stimulation.

The Healing Developmental Trauma book seems applicable for both extremes as each have issues with attachment, but with different underlying drives. The NARM model utilizing top-down and bottom-up therapies also seem to be useful for both.

So, the model using the work of Pottenger, Kelly, and Pavlov synthesized by Gonzaz and combined with the work of Simon and Samenow (and others on the reading list) would basically look like this:

Sympathetic dominant - Parasympathetic dominant

Narcissists <---> Aggressives - Melancholic <---> Neurotic

This is a slightly different order than Pavlov's types. He had aggressives as the first type, with what I'm referring to as narcissists and melencholics as the more 'stable' middle two, and neurotics as the last type. I switched the narcissists and aggressives for the reasons mentioned above. Other than that, I think this model does line up with Pavlov's typology as a number of the essential characteristics of each type can also be observed in animals (without having to apply shocks!).

It's worth mentioning that everyone's individual issues cannot so easily be put into specific boxes. There are times a narcissist can use a loving touch, and there are other times that a neurotic could need firm boundaries. We're complicated. In applying this model to myself and others, I think it actually helps in discovering a number of things, including that a nuanced understanding of people is needed. For me, it has helped to make sense of a lot of things and has provided a good kick in the butt to get over the things that have been holding me back. The theories and speculation here could probably use some improvement and correction, and so with that in mind, I'd like to test these ideas with you.
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The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I thought that Sympathetic meant overactive and Parasympathetic was about being docile or calm. I would have said that I fall more in the Sympathetic end of the spectrum. But in trying to classify myself, I would say that I'm pretty rigid, and also neurotic. Those two seem to be opposites in this system. I only have a few allergies that don't bother me much. And while neurotic, I'd say I'm at least pretty disciplined in some ways. So I don't know, maybe I didn't get it, but it seems to put some things in opposition that go hand in hand for me. Maybe I just have a bit of a mixture?


FOTCM Member
I thought that Sympathetic meant overactive and Parasympathetic was about being docile or calm. I would have said that I fall more in the Sympathetic end of the spectrum. But in trying to classify myself, I would say that I'm pretty rigid, and also neurotic. Those two seem to be opposites in this system. I only have a few allergies that don't bother me much. And while neurotic, I'd say I'm at least pretty disciplined in some ways. So I don't know, maybe I didn't get it, but it seems to put some things in opposition that go hand in hand for me. Maybe I just have a bit of a mixture?

Yes, and that's why I was saying that it may not be so clear cut. It can even go in cycles, I think.


The Living Force
In trying to figure out a case of chronic hives that I've been struggling with,
I figured out the case of mine: curiously in the summer I have no hives. In the winter I always had hives. Turns out I'm a horrible dresser! Because
I didn't wanna pay as much heating bill during the winter I always wore more clothes in my room. Usually a T-shirt, then over it a short sleeved male shirt, then over that a thin pullover, then over it a thicker pullover like this. Then on the top I wear my old, Italian, superb winter coat and two layers for pants. Additionally I wrap myself into a thick bed sheet, like this to protect my legs & torso, while I sit before my PC and do work. The heating I set only enough so my hands aren't cold. At night I turn the gas heating off, because of the disturbing light of the gas flame and I can't sleep with the noise the heater makes anyway.

Turns out the thicker pullover was one or two sizes smaller than XXL and it pinched at the armpits, which directly resulted in stuffy clothing and hives.

Now I'm wearing a looser hoodie in place of a thicker pullover and my hives are almost non-existent.
- - -
I also noticed that after our garden was covered with horse manure in the Summer and when I worked in the garden and earth got under my nails.. I forgot to completely cleanse my nails and accidentally scratched my chest, the result was an evil looking strain of hives breakout. I could only make it disappear slowly by applying a thick sodium bicarbonate solution onto the affected red skin and leaving it there, until it dried and became white powder. Then against warnings, I left it on my skin. This resulted all my red skin to completely heal up.

I heard that in China a doctor must cure his patients or else he won't get paid but gets fired instead, something like that.

Earlier, before finding the solution to my hives, I was researching desperately to find a cure and went to the skin specialist at a local clinic. The poor unfortunate idiot lady doctor - looking at me - immediately began listing my various skin conditions like a robot, to her assistant. She prescribed me TOXIC[!!] Salicylic Acid and a cream, which had to be mixed locally there at their pharmacy and maybe some pills. It ALL made the hives turn way way worse: now my skin looked like a Hives-Nuke was dropped there and the redness spread out to the full everywhere and it burned like hell. The wretched imbecile specialist casually remarked after prescribing the first batch of above that if it DOES NOT WORK "- We will try different types of medicine.."

After finding the solution, for a long time I planned to pay her a visit, show her my hives-free, clear skin and tell her what FIXED it for just pennies, compared to the costly junk the she-idiot prescribed, which made things worse.

Now I'm also thinking - just causally as a "fancy thought-exercise" - to go back to her office with a ten foot pole and break it on her back.

If it were for me, voting for which doctor gets a job in our city, this skin specialist lady would already be fired and be diligently sweeping the streets in a nice Yellow Vest!
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