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What does the parasympathetic nervous system do?

William B. Salt II., MD
Gastroenterology
The parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) has nerve fibers that originate in the cranial (top) and sacral (bottom) segments of the spinal cord. The parasympathetic branch calms the body, which is the precise opposite of the sympathetic branch. The parasympathetic system promotes routine activities, such as digesting your food. It slows the heart rate, whereas the sympathetic system speeds it up. It sends blood to the digestive tract, while the sympathetic system sends it to the muscles. The parasympathetic nervous system secretes the neurochemical acetylcholine, which is the "key" leading to relaxation. The lowering of heart rate and blood pressure and the reduction of muscle tension are produced by the parasympathetic branch. Stress management techniques aim to induce a positive parasympathetic state.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome & the MindBodySpirit Connection: 7 Steps for Living a Healthy Life with a Functional Bowel Disorder, Crohn's Disease, or Colitis (Mind-Body-Spirit Connection Series.)

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome & the MindBodySpirit Connection: 7 Steps for Living a Healthy Life with a Functional Bowel Disorder, Crohn's Disease, or Colitis (Mind-Body-Spirit Connection Series.)

Fast Facts on IBS: One in five people suffers from the frustrating symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). There is no simple answer--no pill, potion, or quick fix--that will cure IBS. But help...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.