VNS analysis (analysis of the autonomic nervous system)

Analysis of the autonomic nervous system

By measuring heart rate variability (fluctuations in heart rate patterns), the functional state of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is determined. The ANS is the overarching control and regulatory system of the body, responsible for controlling all vital organ systems such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory system, digestive system, immune system, hormonal system, and more. Therefore, it is crucial to assess the functional state of this regulatory system.

What is a VNS analysis and why is it conducted?

With VNS analysis, the functional state of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is measured. The ANS is the central control and regulatory system in our body, responsible for governing all the involuntary organ systems such as heart rate, respiratory system, digestive system, hormonal system, immune system, blood pressure, and more.

The ANS consists of the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest response).

Originally, the ANS evolved to prepare the body for fight or flight responses. In a metaphorical sense, when a saber-toothed tiger approached early humans, the sympathetic nervous system was activated. It increased blood pressure, tensed muscles, and released sugar into the bloodstream. The body entered a state of extreme tension and heightened focus.

At the same time, the parasympathetic nervous system was suppressed along with all the systems not required for fight or flight, such as the immune system, hormonal system, and digestive system. It wouldn't be appropriate to feel the need to use the restroom in a life-threatening situation.
After physical activity (fight or flight), the body could recover and regenerate as the parasympathetic system was reactivated, and the sympathetic system was toned down. Cells could regenerate, and the body could replenish its strength. It was truly a brilliant mechanism of nature.

However, in modern times, the problem is that the body is exposed to similar stress factors as it was with the saber-toothed tiger, but physical activity is lacking. Standing in the supermarket with a malfunctioning debit card, having an urgent appointment, the children refusing to go to kindergarten, being late for work, dealing with a demanding boss, and so on.
The issue here is that the ANS prepares the body for fight or flight in these stress situations, just like it did with the saber-toothed tiger. However, it's difficult nowadays to dissipate this stress through physical activity. You don't necessarily want to step into the boxing ring with your boss or start a sprint in the supermarket.

If stress situations persist over a prolonged period, eventually, the ANS becomes unable to establish a balance between rest and recovery (parasympathetic) and fight or flight (sympathetic). The fight-or-flight response solidifies into a state of chronic stress (constant activation of the sympathetic system). This chronic stress raises blood pressure and increases blood sugar levels (which aren't consumed through muscle movement). The sympathetic system keeps all organs in a state of tension, even high tension. On the other hand, the parasympathetic system operates at a low level, affecting the digestive system, hormonal system, and immune system.

Eventually, at any time of the day, the ANS can no longer replenish the energy stores or switch cell communication from fight or flight to relaxation, regeneration, and recovery.

In such a situation, it's only a matter of time before all emergency resources in the body are depleted, and the ANS dysfunction manifests as organic disease symptoms, becoming chronic.

How is VNS analysis conducted?

During VNS analysis, the fluctuations in heart rate at rest are analyzed as they reflect the activation state of the autonomic nervous system. A total of 520 heartbeats are measured, specifically the time intervals between each heartbeat (RR intervals). If there is variability (different time intervals) observed, it indicates that the body can effectively adapt to internal and external stimuli. However, if no variability is observed in the heart rate variability (HRV) analysis, it means that the body is unable to adequately or not at all adjust to internal and external stimuli. In such a situation, the body is in a sympathicotonic state, with the parasympathetic system partially rigid.

Greater variability in heart rhythm measurement indicates a stronger activation of the parasympathetic system (recovery/regeneration).

Less variability indicates a stronger activation of the sympathetic system (fight/flight).

The HRV analysis, performed at rest and in a seated position, should demonstrate a more active parasympathetic system than the sympathetic system, as this measurement situation does not reflect a fight or flight response.

What are the benefits of VNS analysis?

Chronic dysregulation of the VNS typically leads to organ dysfunction or impairment within one to two years. Increased blood pressure becomes hypertension, upper abdominal pressure can result in chronic gastritis, and excessive mental strain can develop into burnout syndrome or manifest depression, among other conditions.

Therefore, VNS analysis plays a crucial role in preventive care, as it allows for the detection and treatment of regulatory disorders before functional impairments occur. VNS analysis is an integral part of comprehensive preventive examinations.

Moreover, VNS analysis provides an unprecedented opportunity for patients with existing conditions such as burnout syndrome and other psychophysiological disorders to have an objectively measurable parameter for their illness. It also allows for monitoring the recovery process in these patients under successful therapy through follow-up measurements.

In addition, VNS analysis can determine the extent to which current therapies contribute to a balanced VNS in patients with other chronic conditions, or if therapy optimizations are still required. For instance, the choice of a specific blood pressure medication depends on whether the sympathetic nervous system remains overactive or not.

For all chronic illnesses, VNS analysis should be conducted at least once a year, and more frequently in the case of abnormalities.

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