Sympathetic Dominance

Sympathetic dominance is one of the most important and most interesting patterns seen on hair mineral analyses.  It has to do with the autonomic nervous system.

The pattern is called sympathetic dominance because a person with this pattern is overusing the sympathetic nervous system. However a ‘pusher pattern’ is also a good name because people in this pattern tend to push themselves too much.

Name confusion.  This is not the same as a sympathetic state of body chemistry.  This is fast oxidation.


This pattern is always characterized by either:

  1. A slow oxidation rate AND a potassium level of 4 mg% or less.
  2. A slow oxidation rate AND a sodium/potassium ratio greater than about 3 to 4.

Both the above can also be present.

Let us discuss these possible patterns in more detail:

  1. Slow oxidation PLUS the hair potassium level must be 4 mg% (or 40 parts per million) or less.This is the most common situation of sympathetic dominance.

The lower the potassium level, the more severe the pattern.

The slower the oxidation rate, the more severe the pattern.

  1. Slow oxidation plus a sodium/potassium ratio greater than about 3 or 4.

The higher the sodium/potassium ratio in this case, the more severe the pattern.

If the calcium/magnesium ratio is also greater than 9.5, the pattern is a double pattern and is more severe.

The hair must not be washed at the laboratory for accurate assessment of sympathetic dominance.


Sympathetic dominance indicates a person who is over-utilizing his or her sympathetic nervous system.  In simple terms, the person is pushing himself or herself, or worrying too much.

The sodium and potassium readings on a hair tissue mineral analysis, and to some degree their ratio, have to do with the utilization of this branch of the autonomic or automatic nervous system.

Relation to the stress wave and progression from fast to slow oxidation.

The stress wave is the way the body responds to a stressor.  Sympathetic dominance can occur when there is not enough recovery phase.

The progression from fast oxidation to slow oxidation.   While some use of this fight-or-flight system is normal and needed, when it is overused chronically, it becomes exhausted.  The body flips into a parasympathetic state we call slow oxidation.  However, if one keeps on using the sympathetic system after exhaustion occurs, the sodium and potassium levels in the hair keep declining, revealing the pattern we are discussing.

Physiology.  In fact, the person is eliminating in the urine and sweat some sodium and potassium beyond what is ideal.  This directly gives rise to the low levels.  The pattern also has to do with the level of aldosterone in some instances, and it has to do with more complex mechanisms that come into play when the adrenal glands are very stressed, and depleted nutritionally.


  1. More physical activity than is appropriate for them.People who are in a sympathetic dominant mode of behavior often 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 at times, somewhat obsessive or compulsive, though usually not in a pathological way.  In fact, this can be a very positive trait when it is controlled.  Many are very caring and thoughtful, for example, but it is taken to an extreme and eventually begins to damage the body.

Some believe they are still fast oxidizers, when, in fact, the body has “burned out” of fast oxidation and is now in slow oxidation.

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.

  1. Anxious or worriers.  This is a form of “running around aimlessly” in the mind
  2. 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.
  3. A very active mind.Sympathetic dominant individuals are generally smart and have a very active mind to begin with, which gets overactive easily.  This can make relaxing, sleeping or just sitting even more difficult.
  1. Willfulness.  This, of course, is a good thing 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.
  1. 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.
  2. A high copper type of personality.  They generally have hidden or overt copper toxicity.  This helps explain some of their symptoms such as an active, analytical, emotional aspect of the personality.
  1. Reduced libido in some cases.  This may stem from hidden fatigue, and an inability to just relax.
  1. Ungrounded and not centered enough. This goes with the tendency to run around too much or worry too much.

11. Often occurs in intelligent, spiritually-oriented people. We are not sure why this occurs, but it is common.


Causes for this pattern can come from the spiritual, mental or physical realm.

  1. Spiritual imbalances as a cause of sympathetic dominance.Sympathetic dominant individuals are usually quite spiritually oriented or advanced, compared to the mass of the people.  One wants to “move on”, so to speak, but does not know how to do this without burning out the nervous system in a fight-or-flight reaction.

This is where meditation/mindfullness of the proper kind can be essential and powerful.  It is a productive way to use the will and other mental faculties without burning oneself out.

The same will that gets one into trouble with this mineral pattern can thus be used in a powerful, healing, creative manner.

Another spiritual aspect of this pattern is that many with sympathetic dominance are somewhat lonely because of the their level of mental development.  They react to this by trying to ‘fit in with the crowd’.  To do so, they tend to overwork, overachieve, and generally run themselves ragged.  Many try to please others, which is always a mistake.  As a result, they exhaust themselves.

Another spiritual aspect is that these individuals are generally quite ungrounded and uncentered.  They have a strong need for grounding and centering.  There are not too many ways to achieve this, and one is correct meditation.  Walking slowly is another excellent way to become centered and grounded, and is highly recommended for this reason.  Also, learning to maintain strict boundaries and learning basic truths about the world and about people is also most helpful.

  1. Mental/emotional causes of sympathetic dominance. This has the most to do with one’s upbringing.  Many people are taught not be lazy, to be productive, to not waste time, and so forth.  This can become exaggerated into sympathetic dominance.  It is a type of compulsive or obsessive quality, we might say.

Another emotional cause may be excessive emotions that are fearful, negative, angry or harmful in some way.  For example, fear of poverty, fear of the unknown, fear of self, even, can drive many people to achieve highly or just to keep moving all the time.

Fear. The sympathetic nervous system is the fight-or-flight system.  It is the body’s response to fear.  Anything that creates fear, whether it be listening to the news, watching a horror movie or war movie, being in the company of harmful friends or family, or a thousand other situations can contribute to sympathetic dominance symptoms.

Anger. Many people with sympathetic dominance are quite angry underneath.  This is partially because they are spiritually advanced people who are having trouble handling the world.  It can also be for all sorts of other reasons, such as childhood traumas.  Dealing with anger, which is always an adrenal response to fear that is projected onto others, is important for many people with sympathetic dominance pattern.

  1. Biochemical or nutritional causes of sympathetic dominance.  Copper imbalance is always present with this pattern.  In fact, a low hair potassium, Dr. Eck found, is always an indicator for hidden copper toxicity.

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.

The three amigos are always present in excess as well.  They help support the sodium level, according to our research.  Note that they will often not be revealed on early hair mineral analyses.  These are aluminum, along with a biounavailable form of manganese and iron that are most likely oxides.  These also irritate and stimulate the adrenals or the nervous system, perpetuating the pattern.

Also, fatigue also depletes vital nutrients such as zinc, chromium, selenium and others.  These vital minerals and some vitamins as well are then often replaced by toxic metals such as cadmium, copper and others.

If one follows a correct healing program, however, the toxic metals and toxic chemicals will slowly be eliminated from the body.  As that happens, a person often calms down, worries less, relaxes more and the sympathetic dominance pattern disappears.

Many other toxic and physiological minerals can also contribute to the pattern.

  1. Physical causes of sympathetic dominance.An interesting cause of this pattern is muscle tension in the body.  This may take the form of simple tense muscles or it may cause spinal misalignments and other distortions of the physical body and posture that require handling by chiropractors or osteopaths.

It might also take the form of tight fascia, tight ligaments, bad posture or other structural or physical imbalances. [restrict userlevel=”subscriber” message=” “]Tight fascia can be addressed by Rolfing or Structural Integration[/restrict]

This is a strictly physical situation for the most part.  This also means that anyone with sympathetic dominance should consider physical therapies such as chiropractic and structural integration as part of an overall healing program.

An interesting structural aspect is that a so-called cringing posture will tend to cause this pattern by irritating the sympathetic nerves in the upper and lower spinal area.  As the posture changes, the nerves can relax.

Chiropractic misalignments can also contribute to the pattern in a fairly pure physical sense.

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The nutritional balancing programs we recommend are geared 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 nutritional balancing 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 nutritional balancing program begins to remove All of the toxic metals.
  • Specific nutrients. We may give specific nutrients to rebuild the brain and nervous system.  This, however, is never quite as important as the basic lifestyle changes mentioned above.
  • Supplement program special alterations.We give fewer stimulating supplements to these people.  For example, I 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 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 slowwalks 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.



On retest hair mineral analyses when a person is thorough healing 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.

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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.


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.


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.
  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. four lowspattern 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 eliminatorpatterns adds one sympathetic dominance indicator.
  12. Every four very poor eliminatorpatterns 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!


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