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Gas vs. Brake

Our brain and nervous system control absolutely everything that happens in our body including muscle activity, our internal organs and systems and even the way we think and feel. But as big and as complex as our nervous system is, it only has two settings – a gas pedal and a brake pedal.

The gas pedal is your fight or flight system. It’s supposed to turn on if you’re in danger or scared, or doing something sporty and then turn right back off by using the brake pedal. The break pedal is where you heal. Think immune function, digestion, development, sleep, relaxation, learning – essentially all of the healthy stuff. But more often than not, when people come into our office as patients, we find out that they are gas pedal dominant, which is something we can test for. This is even seen in little kids. The most common cause of gas
pedal dominance is too much stress, especially when it’s early and often in life.

Overactive Stress Response

Stress, however, can have many meanings such as physical stress from birth, mental and emotional stress, nutrition stress and so many more. Yet, so often, for our littlest patients, birth is the biggest stressor – because birth is a big deal. Moms, you remember, right? Babies feel that too, but they just can’t say “Mom, that was crazy, can you take me in to see someone so I feel better?” But they can start getting colicky, get ear infections, have sleep issues and as they get older, can have issues in school. The issues snowball because of an overactive stress response.

Gentle and Beneficial Adjustments For Kids

The reason why the birth process has such a big effect on the stress response is because your body’s brake pedal primarily lives in the upper cervical part of your spine, located at the base of your skull. Try Googling Vagus Nerve. It’s the longest nerve in your body. It starts at your brain stem and goes down your spine on either side, hits your heart, lungs, goes through your diaphragm and through all of your digestion. It’s the nerve known as the “gut – brain” connection. But it’s most important function is acting as your body’s break pedal or the counter-balance for your body’s fight or flight stress response. So whenever we hear of a child who was born with an “eventful” birth, whether it’s really fast, really slow, the child was stuck, they used tools like forceps, vacuum, or c-sections being the biggest trigger, our first thought is that that child just lost their brakes. So by default, the gas pedal has taken over and become dominant and that’s what snowballs and turns into all the bigger issues. Yet, since it’s the physical trauma that started this stress cascade, it’s also the physical correction, with a gentle and specific adjustment, that can be so beneficial for these kids. If this is connecting any dots for you, reach out to learn more!

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