what the *bleep* is dysautonomia | part one

Sunday, July 13, 2014

oh I've thought it many many times since being diagnosed with dysautonomia which was over a year ago. after countless doctors appointments, lots of research, and talking with other individuals who have dysautonomia, I (sorta kinda maybe) have a grasp on it. anywho here goes nothing.


Dysautonmia refers to a spectrum of symptoms that are a result of the malfunction of the body's autonomic nervous system. Certain symptoms or characteristics are grouped together and given a label or diagnosis. I have been diagnosed with neurocardiogenic syncope (also known as vasovagal syncope) and inappropriate tachycardia syndrome. Other examples of dysautonomia include postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), orthostatic intolerance, pure autonomic failure (PAF), and multiple system atrophy (MSA). Basically dysautonomia is an umbrella term.

Good thing the autonomic nervous system isn't in charge of anything important right... Oh how I wish that were true! One's autonomic nervous system controls or affects things such as as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, digestion, breathing, and much more.

The autonomic nervous system has two branches. 

Sympathetic Nervous System = Fight or Flight
if your body was a car, the sympathetic would be the accelerator. it speeds things up such as heart rate and blood pressure. 

Parasympathetic Nervous System = Rest and Digest
using the same analogy, the parasympathetic would be the brake. it slows things down such as heart rate and breathing. 

In order for the car (aka body) to run smoothly the accelerator (sympathetic) and the brake (parasympathetic) need to be working together to balance things out. Things start to get out of control when one system is more dominant than the other. Thanks to Dr. Matt (my chiropractor) for sharing this analogy. 

Here's a nice diagram that summarizes the effects of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. 

The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System from Dysautonomia Interantional

As you can see the autonomic nervous system has affects on many of the body's organs. To complicate things, the autonomic system is also connected to the metabolic and endocrine system. So if you're following my train of thought, a lot can go awry when one's autonomic nervous system is misbehaving. Just trust me on that one. 

So that's what the body is doing on the inside. This is what it can look like on the outside 
  • dizziness or lightheaded
  • fainting
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea/GI upset
  • temperature irregulation
  • chest pain  or palpitations
  • tachycardia (high heart rate) or bradycardia (low heart rate)
  • hypertension (high blood pressure) or hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • numbness and/or tingling in extremities 
  • fatigue/exhaustion 
  • insomnia
  • difficulty concentrating aka brain fog   
If you have dysautonomia, know someone who does, are a nerd or even bored check out these two links. They are full of information and my absolute favorite places to go to learn more and stay up to date! 

So that's the skinny on what the *bleep* is dysautonomia. Keep in mind that dysautonomia is chronic (aka forever) and there is no cure. Treatment equals management. Let's not end on that depressing note so here you go... 

thoughts, comments, questions shoot them my way... part two will be coming at some point and that will talk about types of treatment and lifestyle changes to help manage dysautonomia. 


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