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.
  4. 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.
  3. Reduced libido in some cases.  This may stem from hidden fatigue, and an inability to just relax.
  4. 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.


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.