Let’s talk about Fight or Flight. How it happens, what does it look like, and how can we correct it?
When people think about Fight or Flight, they often think anxiety and stress. This thought isn’t wrong because anxiety and stress are a large part of it, but there is so much more to it. When we take a few steps back and break down what fight or flight scientifically means, it is a nervous system that is overwhelmed with stress and “stuck” there. The nervous system is meant to be in a relationship of ebb and flow between its two states of function: the Sympathetic (Fight or Flight/Stress Response) and Parasympathetic (Rest and Digest) sides.
The sympathetic side of the nervous system is responsible for our response to physical, chemical and emotional stress. This response is a healthy action to help ward off the negative effects or what that stress may do to our bodies. When our body encounters these stressors, our nervous system starts a chemical and functional shift in our body that is different than our baseline of function.
How It Plays Out
Let’s use a silly example to make this easier to understand! Imagine you are getting chased by a bear. When you first realize there is a bear nearby, you become aware that there is an imminent threat. At this time, you have 2 choices: fight or flight. Your nervous system is aware that there is stress and immediately begins to change your bodies chemistry so you can either high tail it out or there or offer up the best fight of your life. In this moment, our body begins to release higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline which gives us the best advantage to get away by prioritizing our body’s functions for this moment. These chemical changes start to suppress unnecessary bodily functions like the motility of our digestive tract, reproduction, sleep and rest, growth and development and we can even have alterations in our immune response. The suppression of these bodily functions allows for the freeing up of resources for more important functions to help us evade our stressor. These changes look like the speeding up of our heart rate to help deliver more oxygen to areas that need it, pupil dilation for better vision at distances, bronchodilation of our lungs to aid in breathing and so much more.
So we can see that these changes can be very beneficial while this stressor is present, but when the stress is gone, the sympathetic activation is meant to get shut off and we are intended to shift back to our parasympathetic state of function.
The parasympathetic side of the nervous system is responsible for the proper regulation of major functions that sustain optimal health and vitality. This includes the regulation of rest, relaxation, optimizing digestion and immune function as well as stimulating proper growth and development. Ideally, this is where we want to be.
The problem lies when the sympathetic, or fight or flight, system remains engaged chronically. Again, the fight or flight system is extremely beneficial when used in short periods, but it is meant to get turned off so our parasympathetic side can take over to re-regulate the body.
When our fight or flight is engaged chronically, it will alter our bodily functions chronically as well leaving us at a disadvantage to thrive. For a lot of infants and babies, this may look like digestive struggles of reflux or constipation. It may look like a baby who cannot fully relax and is struggling with stiffness and rigidity. Muscle tension that is causing them to favor looking to one side, or challenges to get restful sleep. Not only this, but an infant who is in this state may experience tension through jaw creating a less than optimal latch.
As kiddos get older, this chronically engaged fight or flight system may lead of chronic immune challenges like reoccurring ear infections, RSV and other illnesses. It can also present with neuro-developmental delays in speech, coordination, and emotional regulation.
School aged kids may start to present with breathing challenges like asthma as they begin more activity like sports. A nervous system that is chronically under stress will have challenges focusing and being fully attentive and retentive. With the brain being under this much stress already, it may also present with kids that have trouble adapting to stress leaving them with anxiety or depression.
This All Makes Sense, But How Does This Happen!?
It can start all the way back in-utero. As pediatric chiropractors, it is our job to play CSI and figure out all of the details regarding the how and why. When we investigate more regarding pregnancy, we first ask how the pregnancy for mom was. One thing we know is that there is an intimate relationship between mom and baby as she shares everything with her growing little one. If mom’s state was being in stress, that physiology can start to wire baby’s nervous system for stress. Not only that, but if baby was in a less-than-optimal position, this can be physically stressful on their growing body. Jumping forward to birth, no matter if it is a natural vaginal delivery, a delivery with interventions like forceps or vacuum, or even a c-section, all these different variations of birth can be very taxing physically or even chemically on their bodies.
As you know, stress doesn’t stop there! Stress can continue and can look different for every individual. For some, that looks like a nutrient deficient diet. For others that may look like chemical overload with the chronic use of medications. In others it may be the physical stress of sports or the redundant bumps and falls of a developing toddler, or even the long days sitting in a desk chair.
So How Does Chiropractic Help?
The spine is not just a big hunk of muscles, ligaments and bones. The spine is a conduit for your nervous system and offers a superhighway of communication between your brain and your body. When the body and nervous system gets overwhelmed with these stressors we have just talked about, it can show up as “subluxations” (a fancy work for spinal stress/misalignments) in the spine. This is where a pediatric chiropractor comes in!
At our office, we start with an extremely detailed health history to start putting the story together. But we don’t stop there! We have neurological scans that can measure and locate these subluxations so we know how to take the best approach to care. After we know the health history and study the neurological scans, our team of doctors will put together the best care recommendations to get the body healing and back to a state of balance and optimal function!
Innate Health Chiropractic
26580 N. Dixie Hwy, Perrysburg, Ohio 43551