by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© July 2023, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
I. INTRODUCTION AND DEFINITION
II. MEANING OF THE PATTERN
Sympathetic dominance is one of the most important and most interesting mineral patterns seen on hair mineral analyses. It is present in at least half the tissue mineral tests I review. It is an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system.
Name of the pattern. I used to call this pattern the pusher pattern, because I noticed people with this pattern tend to push themselves. This is the name used for this pattern in advanced acupuncture.
The pattern is now called sympathetic dominance because a person with this pattern is overusing the sympathetic nervous system.
Name confusion. Sympathetic dominance is not the same as a sympathetic state of body chemistry, which is fast oxidation.
Also, some other practitioners use the term sympathetic dominance differently. So please strictly follow the definition below to define this pattern.
DEFINITION OF SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE ON A HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS
1. A slow oxidation rate AND
2. A potassium level of 4 mg% or less AND/OR a sodium/potassium ratio greater than about 4.
Let us discuss thIs in more detail:
1. Slow oxidation AND the hair potassium level of 4 mg% (or 40 parts per million) or less. This is the most common situation of sympathetic dominance.
Quantifying the pattern. The lower the potassium level, the more severe the pattern.
2. Slow oxidation plus a sodium/potassium ratio greater than about 4.
The higher the sodium/potassium ratio, the more severe the pattern.
If the calcium/magnesium ratio is also greater than 9.5, the pattern is a double pattern (high Na/K and a high Ca/Mg) and is more severe.
NOTES: Dr. Eck did not recognize this pattern. I first noticed it around 1998, after he died.
The hair sample must not be washed at the laboratory for accurate assessment of sympathetic dominance. See below for more about hair washing at the laboratory.
II. THE MEANING OF SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE
Overusing the emergency system. Sympathetic dominance indicates a person is over-utilizing the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. This system should be used only for emergencies, sometimes called “fight-or-flight”.
When a person has sympathetic dominance, he or she is using it much of the time just to get through the day. In simple terms, the person is pushing himself or herself, or worrying too much.
An adrenal exhaustion pattern. The adrenal hormones keep the sodium and potassium levels in the tissues normal. When sympathetic dominance is present, the level of potassium in the tissues decreases and the ratio of sodium to potassium may rise.
Slow oxidation is an important feature of the pattern and is an exhaustion stage of stress according to the stress theory of disease.
Blood tests will not reveal this condition, so blood tests are not helpful for assessment of sympathetic dominance.
An inflammation pattern. An elevated sodium/potassium ratio is often part of the pattern. This is associated with inflammation.
III. CAUSES FOR SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE
Causes can be physical or mental:
1. Nutritional depletion. This causes adrenal exhaustion and a deranged energy system. As a result, the person has very low energy and must push themselves just to get through the day.
2. Toxic metals or too much of toxic forms of nutrient minerals. These can stimulate the nervous system and maintain sympathetic dominance. One of these is copper.
Everyone in sympathetic dominance has hidden or overt copper toxicity. This helps explain some of their symptoms such as an active, analytical, emotional aspect of the personality. For details, read Copper Toxicity Syndrome.
The three amigos are also always present in excess. They help support the sodium level. Note that they will often not be revealed on early hair mineral analyses. The “amigos” are aluminum, along with a biounavailable form of manganese and iron that are most likely oxides. These irritate and stimulate the nervous system, perpetuating the pattern. For details, read The Three Amigos.
Other toxic metals, especially mercury and cadmium, or even toxic chemicals in the body may also irritate and drive a person even when he or she wants to relax.
3. A mental tendency to push oneself. This is common in modern society. It makes one more productive, which is viewed as positive.
1. Tired, but usually somewhat out of touch with the fatigue and exhaustion. They often feel tired only when they slow down. The reason for this is that the body is often in a “second wind” mode of living much of the time. If they relax, they often feel like going to sleep. This is disturbing for them, so they get up and go again, putting themselves back in a sympathetic nervous mode.
2. Perhaps more physical activity than is appropriate. Some who are in sympathetic dominance run around too much physically. Many are forever busy. They have trouble just relaxing, sitting still, resting, and being idle.
They often feel compelled, and may be obsessive and/or compulsive. Many believe they are still fast oxidizers. However, the body has “burned out” of fast oxidation and is now in slow oxidation.
Burning out is a literal term that means the person has depleted vital nutrients that are needed to maintain a high energy level. This is very common today! Some are born missing vital nutrients. Others have a trauma such as rape and this depletes nutrients.
Many feel they are being “chased by tigers” much of the time. They may have been taught that to relax is a “waste of time” or “unproductive” or “lazy”.
They are doers. Often they identify themselves with their ‘doingness’, meaning their activities, physical or mental, rather than identifying with their beingness. The latter would be more like a very young child who is just happy to be himself or herself and need not run around or do much of anything to be happy.
2. Anxious or worried. Worrying is a form of “running around aimlessly” in the mind.
3. A very active mind. Sympathetic dominant individuals are generally smart and have an active mind to begin with, which easily becomes overactive. This can make relaxing, sleeping or just sitting even more difficult.
4. Willfulness. This is good if it is used wisely. However, the best use of the will for the sympathetic dominant type of person is to will oneself to slow down, relax and perhaps meditate, since that can undo the pattern better than anything else. The use of the will for other purposes, such as planning, moving the body, thinking too much and so forth, tends to make the pattern worse and keep it going.
5. Fearful and always somewhat depressed underneath due to fears, worries and fatigue. Some with sympathetic dominance are running away because otherwise they would not feel well.
6. Reduced libido, in some cases. This can be due to hidden fatigue, and an inability to just relax.
V. CORRECTING SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE
1. Slow down. Eat slow, talk slow, walk very slow. This will be difficult, at first, but it helps turn off the sympathetic nervous system. Start your day slowly and gently.
2. Follow the development program. This program is designed to correct sympathetic dominance in at least ten different ways, which I will elaborate here:
Basic good nutrition. Those with sympathetic dominance often have poor eating habits, as they are always somewhat on the run. They also are depleted by their pattern. Also, the sympathetic nervous system interferes with their digestion and their elimination, so these area of their bodies are weakened in most cases. These are specifically addressed with development programs with the right food, good eating habits and the use of supplements such as GB-3 and others.
Balancing the oxidation rate. This helps eliminate toxic metals and restore the autonomic and other parts of the nervous system to optimal functioning.
Toxic metal removal. The development program removes all toxic metals and toxic forms of nutrient minerals. For more about how this is done without chelation therapy, read The Danger of Toxic Metals and Chelation Therapy.
Specific nutrients. We give specific nutrients to rebuild the brain and nervous system.
Supplement program alterations. It is important to give fewer stimulating supplements to those with sympathetic dominance. For example, we substitute Thyro-complex at 2-2-2 for Endo-dren because Thyro-complex is more balanced and not as powerful a product.
Also, I reduce Megapan to 1-1-1 instead of 2-2-2 in all cases.
We may also give more parasympathetic-oriented supplements. These may include calcium, magnesium, zinc, ox bile, pancreatin or other supplements such as valerian root, for example, if needed for sleep or relaxation for a while.
Lifestyle. We recommend a lot more rest and sleep, going to bed early, and making a concerted effort to slow down your thinking, moving, eating, and all other activities.
Other lifestyle recommendations include learning to start each day slowly, taking slow walks during the day and deep breathing on a regular basis.
Dietary suggestions. Eliminate all stimulants such as caffeine, fruit, fruit juices and sugar.
The Pushing Down Exercise. This is the most powerful way to slowly undo many of the physical, mental and emotional causes for the sympathetic dominance pattern.
Use a lamp sauna daily. Using a near infrared lamp sauna each and every day is extremely helpful. You may feel tired temporarily, but that is because it is relaxing the autonomic nervous system and is very, very helpful. Just rest after the sauna session. A far infrared sauna or traditional sauna are not as good.
Foot reflexology and coffee enemas. Foot reflexology is superb to rebalance the acupressure meridians and relax the nervous system.
Coffee enemas bring energy downward in the body and are also particularly needed by people with this pattern. They can be life-saving and usually feel very good. These procedures, along with the sauna sessions, are specifically helpful for this mineral and personality pattern.
Chiropractic and Rolfing. Also consider chiropractic adjustments and perhaps Rolfing or structural integration to reduce adhesions and tension in the body.
VI. OTHER TOPICS
HAIR MUST NOT BE WASHED AT THE LAB TO IDENTIFY SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE
It is critical that the hair not be washed at the laboratory for accurate readings of sodium and potassium, in particular. These are water soluble minerals, and are easily removed by washing.
Only two laboratories I am aware of do not wash the hair at the laboratory. These are Analytical Research Laboratories in Phoenix, Arizona, the one I most recommend, and Trace Elements, Inc. in Addison, Texas.
We do not recommend using Trace Elements, Inc. for hair testing. They are not as careful, they do not list the ideal hair values, their graphs are more difficult to read, and their nutrition programs are not as good.
I do not recommend using a hair tissue mineral testing laboratory that washes the hair in any manner. In my experience, the problems associated with hair samples that are contaminated with dust or other items is much less than the problem of skewed readings due to the chemicals used to wash the hair.
SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE ON RETEST HAIR MINERAL ANALYSES
On retest hair mineral analyses when a person is following a development program, the pattern is much less important because it is usually just a retracing effect that is very temporary and will pass usually in a few days to a few weeks or so.
One may still experience the symptoms of sympathetic dominance while one is retracing the pattern, but the symptoms are usually transient and fairly mild most of the time.
VARIANTS OF SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE
Burned Out Sympathetic Dominance. This pattern is present when the sympathetic dominance pattern of a low potassium level combines with a sodium/potassium ratio less than 2.5.
This may indicate that a person has been in sympathetic dominance for a long time, or it has been quite extreme, so that now the adrenal glands are quite exhausted, causing a low sodium/potassium ratio. It is not a healthful pattern at all, and is associated with exhaustion, fatigue, depression, and most chronic illnesses.
Hunted. This is just a way to express or understand an extreme sympathetic dominance pattern. Criteria for a ‘hunted’ pattern include a potassium level of 1 mg% or less, a Ca/K ratio greater than 200, and an Na/K ratio of 4 or more.
Three highs. It is possible to have a three high macromineral pattern along with sympathetic dominant.
Four Highs. This is also possible along with sympathetic dominance.
Doubling. The sympathetic dominance criteria can exist on the second four minerals. When they show up on the second four minerals, it is called a doubling pattern.
Second four only. The pattern could also show up only on the second four minerals. We don’t believe we have seen this pattern. It would mean the condition is only present at a deep level of one’s being.
COMBINATION PATTERNS THAT INCLUDE SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE
Sympathetic dominance is part of a number of other important macromineral patterns on a hair mineral analysis in which the hair is not washed at the laboratory. These include:
1. Trying Too Hard pattern. This is indicated by sympathetic dominance and a calcium level above about 165, also called a calcium shell.
2. Wasting One’s Time or Biding One’s Time. This is a potassium of 4 mg% or less, combined with a calcium shell and a calcium/magnesium ratio of 13.5 or higher.
3. Stress From Within And Without This is sympathetic dominance combined with a calcium/magnesium ratio greater than 13.5.
4. Trying Hard To Stay Afloat. This consists of sympathetic dominance combined with a double high ratio pattern. The latter is a sodium/potassium ratio greater than about 5 and a calcium/magnesium ratio greater than about 10). It must also be a two highs or perhaps three highs pattern, but not a four highs pattern.
5. Workaholic pattern. This pattern is defined as three high macrominerals, AND a sodium/potassium ratio greater than 3.
All of the above patterns always include a sympathetic dominance pattern.
QUANTIFYING SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE
One can assess the severity of sympathetic dominance by assessing how many sympathetic dominance patterns are present on a hair chart. Double and triple sympathetic dominance patterns are common, and it is possible to have ten or even 15 sympathetic dominance indicators.
The way to quantify the pattern is to add up the number of sympathetic dominant indicators that are present on the chart. Here are the criteria, so far:
1. Potassium of 4 mg% = a single pattern.
2. Potassium of 3 mg% = a double pattern.
3. Potassium of 2 mg% = a triple pattern.
4. Potassium of 1 mg% = a quadruple pattern.
5. Potassium less than 1 mg%. This is not currently read on ARL hair tests, but some other laboratories read potassium levels at lower levels. Lower potassium indicates more sympathetic dominance patterns, and the exact criteria are still being worked out.
6. If the potassium is 4 or less, AND the sodium/potassium ratio greater than about 3 to 4, this may add another multiple, or up to 5 more sympathetic dominant patterns depending on how high the sodium/potassium ratio is. (For the number of indicators to add, see Elevated Sodium/Potassium Ratio in the Quantifying The Patterns article).
7. If the potassium is 4 or less, AND the sodium/potassium ratio is greater than about 3 to 4, AND the calcium/magnesium ratio greater than about 9.5, this adds another multiple, or perhaps more than one if the sodium/potassium ratio and/or the calcium/magnesium ratio are very high.
8. A four lows pattern adds another indicator.
9. If three highs or four highs pattern is present, AND the sodium/potassium ratio is about 3 or greater, this adds another multiple or perhaps more than one, depending on how high the sodium/potassium ratio is.
10. If three highs or four highs pattern is present, AND the sodium/potassium ratio is about 3 or greater, AND the calcium/magnesium ratio is greater than about 9.5, this can add another multiple or perhaps more than one, depending on how high the sodium/potassium ratio and/or calcium magnesium ratios are.
11. Every four poor eliminator patterns adds one sympathetic dominance indicator.
12. Every four very poor eliminator patterns adds an additional one sympathetic dominance indicator. (This is in addition to indicators due to poor eliminator pattern.)
In this way, one can have, for example, five, ten or even fifteen sympathetic dominance patterns on a single hair mineral chart!
WHAT TO DO IF ONE IS NOT SURE IF A PERSON HAS A SYMPATHETIC DOMINANT PATTERN
At times, a hair mineral analysis may reveal borderline sympathetic dominance such as a hair potassium level of 5 mg% and a sodium/potassium ratio of about 4. In these cases, here are some ways to decide if sympathetic dominance is present:
1. Retest the hair after two months or so using hair cut very close to the scalp and only ½ inch long in order to obtain very up-to-date mineral readings. This may clarify whether the person has moved into sympathetic dominance.
2. Try both a regular program and a sympathetic dominant program and ask the patient which way he feels better.
Begin with a sympathetic dominant program because it is milder and therefore safer. Giving a more powerful standard program when sympathetic dominance is present overstimulates the autonomic nervous system and the person feels better for a short time - a week or two - and then usually feels worse.
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