The autonomic nervous sytem regulates digestion, heart rate and blood pressure among other things. It is the auto-pilot of your brain. If the system isn't workng quite right, digestion might not be regulated properly. Patients with autonomic instability often have dizzy spells or episodes where their heart races.
Autonomic instability has a huge variety of symptoms and each patient has different clusters. The symptoms can wax and wane a lot. Females have monthly symptom spikes. It runs in families
Any of these can be a clue and will often be intermittent or episodic.
- Compared to laying down, blood pressure drops when standing upright and very still for a few minutes.
- Variable blood pressure readings under different conditions or at different times.
- Standing without moving can cause fainting. Tilt table test is a fancy version of this.
- heart rate goes up more than 30% when standing.
- heart racing or beating hard or extra beats
- panic attacks when your mind tries to figure out why the racing heart and decides you must be scared of something
- fatigue - love to sleep, love to be horizontal
- malaise - feel awful for no apparent reason
- can't tolerate exercise, inconsistent ability to exercise, can't do some types of exercise
- foggy thinking like being tired or low blood sugar
- memory issues
- tendency to get dehydrated
- shortness of breath, need to yawn but it doesn’t help.
- Fainting - sight of blood, crowded rooms, fright, grief, standing too long, etc. (fainting is never normal and needs medical attention)
- Blood tends to pool in feet or hands if they are dangling
- Feet and hands tend to fall asleep or tingle
- sweating for no reason, goose bumps for no reason
- pupils flutter or dilate
- mystery fevers when nobody else is sick
- can’t handle physical or mental stress – gets sick
- odd reactions to medications and drugs
- digestive upset or any sort (especially episodic) due to variable blood flow to intestines and faulty signaling from brain
- Abilty to eat a lot without gaining because just maintaining homeostasis burns so many calories
- cold hands and feet when not moving
- skin on hands / feet / legs turns blue / mottled / multicolored / spotted
- headaches - heat, tired, lack of food, caffeine related, crowded places, standing in lines, sitting too long, "ice cream headache" from standing up fast, migraines
- mild heart murmur or valve problems are often associated
- Like salt, wearing tight clothes and support hose
- Hate roller coasters, headstands, swings, hot weather, sitting or standing still
- slightly double jointed is a subtle clue
- Tall, thin, long bones, beautiful like a model, good singing voice are all subtle clues
There are a number of diagnostic terms that may be used. Here are a few:
- Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POST)
- Autonomic Instability
- Orhtostatic Hypotension
- Partial Dysaotonomia
- Soldier's Heart
- Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome
This link and the rest of the NRDF site are a good place to start learning more.
There have been several medical studies linking GERD and autonomic instability. A search of Entrez Med on "reflux and autonomic" pulled up 148 articles. Try these:
24-hour heart rate variability in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Folia Med Cracov. 2005;46(1-2):53-64. PMID: 17037287
Cardiac autonomic regulation differentiates reflux disease with and without erosive esophagitis. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2006 Sep;41(9):1001-6. PMID: 16938711
Oesophageal acid exposure and altered neurocardiac function in patients with GERD and idiopathic cardiac dysrhythmias. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Jul 15;24(2):361-70. PMID: 16842463
Disturbances of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) estimated by short-term heart rate variability recordings. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2004 Jul;55 Suppl 2:77-90. PMID: 15608363
Heart rate variability in patients with different manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Auton Neurosci. 2004 Nov 30;116(1-2):39-45. PMID: 15556836
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