Team GR: It’s easy to understand the benefits of a chiropractic adjustment, but what many people overlook is how beneficial they are for those with autism. We asked chiropractor Dr. David Foss, founder of Vital Wellness Center, to explain dysautonomia and the benefits of an adjustment.
Fight or Flight: A Chiropractor Explains Dysautonomia
When I attended the Autism Education Summit in Dallas, I was reminded how incredibly smart the doctors and families are that make up Generation Rescue. A common theme I kept hearing from the speakers was how our autistic kids are in a continual state of “fight or flight.” I’d like to break down this phenomenon and explain why the nervous system is locked in this emergency response.
This perpetual state of fight or flight is called dysautonomia. Dysautonomia refers to the autonomic division of the nervous system. The autonomic system “automatically” controls the body’s organs and glands. This includes the immune, digestive, cardiovascular and endocrine systems to name a few. For simplicity sake, I will divide the autonomic system into two parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. Think of the sympathetic nervous system as the “gas pedal” and the parasympathetic nervous system as the “brake pedal.”
The sympathetic nervous system is your body’s fight or flight response. It is responsible for speeding up your physiology by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation and sending power to your muscles so you can either run from the tiger or fight the tiger. The sympathetic system also causes what’s known as “survival mind,” meaning more stress, anxiety, less focus and more forgetfulness.
The sympathetic system is necessary to survive a threat, however, if it is constantly firing, your body will suffer. The parasympathetic nervous system is designed to slow the body and mind down. It is responsible for growth and development, immune response, digestion and hormone balance. The parasympathetic system slows the body down and causes one to be more mindful and improves executive functioning. Most children with autism are in sympathetic overload, which means the gas pedal is floored.
As one can see, dysautonomia is really at the root of many of the social and physiological symptoms of autism. But what causes dysautonomia?
Three major causes of dysautonomia
Emotional or mental stress
The more emotionally stressful our environment is, the more our nervous systems will respond in a sympathetic manor. It is important to create a loving and peaceful environment while also cultivating healthy relationships. This in turn will create a culture of health and well-being.
Toxicity or chemical stresses
The biggest offenders being heavy metals, like aluminum and mercury, and toxins found in the standard American diet which is composed of highly processed, GMO, sugar filled foods. Other toxins are found in our cleaning supplies and personal care products. It is very important to eat and live clean to reduce the toxic load from your body and mind.
Trauma to the head and spine resulting in vertebral subluxation
Subluxation occurs when a misalignment or fixation within the spine creates stress and tension on the nerves. This stress causes the nervous system to get locked in a fight or flight response. Subluxation can be caused by a traumatic birth, C-section, or any other slip or fall. Even sitting for long periods of time in a car seat or desk can cause subluxation. As long as the spine is subluxated, the nervous system will be locked in fight or flight. Children with subluxated spines can have less ability to adapt to their environment, less executive functioning, suppressed immunity and digestive problems.
These are just a few of the health problems caused by subluxation. It is important to check the spine and nervous system by a qualified pediatric chiropractor. A chiropractic adjustment corrects the subluxation, the stress response is lifted, and rest, relaxation, digestion and immune function improve, while growth, healing and development are restored!
Chiropractic adjustments are an absolute necessity for any person with autism. As important as diet and detox are for autism recovery, chiropractic adjustments are even more critical. Getting the stress response off the nervous system with chiropractic will allow for improved digestion of nutrients, better detoxification, better sleep and calmer mind. Adjustments can enhance the results of ABA and OT therapies as well.