Automatic Autonomics and Bowel Obstruction
The Autonomic nervous system controls a host of automatic responses and they control
your life. There are 2 branches of the Autonomic Nervous System that have opposite
effects. Control of many of the body automatic functions is achieved by balancing the
Lets look at stimulated Sympathetic Nerves, since they are faster and more dramatic.
When a human or other mammal perceives a threat (such as suddenly seeing an open
mouth full of fangs), this cluster of things happens automatically:
The adrenal glands release adrenaline which increases the heart rate and contraction
force. The blood sugar raises and the muscles are given tremendous strength and energy.
The breathing rate and depth increase. Muscles that tighten lung airways relax to reduce
breathing resistance. All conscious thinking processes focus on the emergency, so other
types of thinking are nearly absent. Usually logical reasoning vanishes. The hairs on
the back of the neck may stand up. The eye pupils enlarge because certain muscles relax
and other muscles tighten. The skin becomes cold, damp and pale because the blood
vessels that feed the skin constrict. The blood vessels to the deep muscles enlarge to
shunt the blood flow to feed the deep muscles that might be needed to run or fight.
Everything that is not needed to run or fight is shut down to focus energy. The bowels,
stomach and bladder wall muscles relax to increase storage volume, and the sphincter
muscles tighten to stop digestion, bowel movement and stop urination. Secretions that
help digestion or lubricate the bowel walls are stopped. The immune system is
suppressed. Uterine contractions are stopped. Erectile function vanishes. Processes
that repair tissues, build proteins, store sugars and store fats are also stopped.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System does the opposite. Muscles relax, the heart slows
down and we breathe more gently. Digestion, healing, waste elimination, and immune
system activity are restored. The uterus can contract so babies can be born and the penis
can erect so babies can be made.
This explains a lot of responses that we see but normally dont understand. It explains
why doctors use epinephrine or sympathetic stimulants to stimulate stopped hearts, stop
premature deliveries, suppress allergic reactions and open airways stop asthma attacks.
It explains how a Grandmother can pick a car up to free her grandson. It explains why
we better not get between a female animal and her offspring. It explains why we get
constipated and have a knot in our stomach when we are stressed. It also explains why
we feel tired and sleepy when we come home from a stressful job, and why we had so
few trips to the restroom during stressful jobs. It also explains why male erections
vanish if some unexpected sound is heard or if he is stressed or worried about it.
Erections vanish after climax because climax stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.
When we switch from a stressed to an unstressed situation, our body relaxes and the
Parasympathetic system goes into healing mode. Forgive your spouse when they fall
asleep after work it means that they have relaxed and are recovering from the days
stress. It also explains why we are less logical and get lower scores on tests when
we are stressed. And it explains why stimulants used for weight loss can increase
infections, increase irritability, cause constipation and may cause heart attacks.
Here is the detailed list of what the Autonomic Nervous System controls:
Beta 1 receptors to effect heart rate and contractile force
Breakdown of glycogen in the liver to make glucose for quick energy
Resting tone of voluntary muscles and hair erection muscles
Voluntary muscle strength
Depth and rate of breathing and diameter of airway passages in the lungs
Eye muscle groups that open and muscles that constrict eye pupils
Alpha effect on smooth muscle to constrict or dilate blood vessels
Alpha and beta 2 effect on G.I. tract muscles to start or stop digestion
Synthesis of proteins to allow or disallow growth and repair
Alpha 2 and beta 1 effects on breaking down fats to make energy
Enhancement or unenhancement of learning and reasoning
Effects on gut and bladder wall muscle tone to store or move waste
Effects gut and bladder valve muscle tone to hold or release liquids
Alpha 2 effects on the GI tract to control secretions for digestion
Immune system function to fight or to not to fight microbes
Allow or disallow ejaculation (a Sympathetic Nerve activation)
Allow or disallow penile erection (disallowed by Sympathetic Nerves)
Allow or disallow contraction of the uterus (labor)
From Osteopathic and physiologic viewpoints, it is easy to see how muscle spasms can
affect parts of this dual system control. Since control is achieved by the balance of the
Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nerves, compressing one type of nerve shifts control to
the other type. For example, if the upper neck muscles are tight enough, they can
squeeze the Vagus nerve enough that its blood supply becomes inadequate for the
nerve to function. Without being aware of it, the persons heart rate speeds up and the
digestion shuts down. The muscles that seal off the stomach from the bowels and that
stop the bowels from emptying tighten up. The wall muscles that make the stomach mix
food stop contracting. The glands that secrete mucus in the bowels and stomach become
dry. If this goes on for days, then everything comes to a halt and the abdomen hurts. All
of this can happen because tight muscles in the neck inhibited the Parasympathetic
Vagus Nerve which then allowed the Sympathetic Nerves to take full control. In
adults, this is called Bowel Obstruction. In babies, it is called Failure to Thrive.
In either case it can be fatal. This is not evaluated and not treated by most physicians,
But Osteopaths are trained to find and correct dysfunctions of the Autonomic Nervous
System as well as the voluntary nervous system.
My Grandfather had a Bowel Obstruction, and was being treated in the hospital. Rather
than have an exploratory surgery with no known cause, he chose to die at home. When I
relaxed his upper neck muscles, his system started up rapidly. He got off his death bed
quickly to answer the call of nature. A week later he bought a new car went on a vacation
in Canada. Without that treatment he would have died.