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What Is the Autonomic Nervous System & Why Is It Important?

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
  • The nervous system is made up of the brain, brainstem, and a network of nerves throughout the body.

    The autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary movements and processes.

    Autonomic dysfunction can lead to major health problems. A supplement like fatty15 can help support your autonomic nervous system and improve your health.

The human nervous system comprises two major parts and several subparts. We’ll break them down and focus on the autonomic nervous system, including what it does, why it’s important, and what you can do to support it.

What Is the Central Nervous System?

The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord. This is your body’s central processing center. The job of the CNS is to take in information, process it, and send out signals to effect necessary changes in the body. 

What Is the Peripheral Nervous System?

The peripheral nervous system is made up of the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. 

Somatic Nervous system

Your somatic nervous system is responsible for muscle movement, including involuntary muscle movements like the beating of your heart. It also helps your senses (smell, sound, touch, and taste) collect data and respond to stimuli. 

What Is the Autonomic Nervous System?

The autonomic nervous system can be divided into three parts: the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, and the enteric nervous system.

The primary purpose of this part of your nervous system is to control involuntary actions like blood pressure, breathing, the widening and constriction of blood vessels to regulateblood flow, sweat glands, contracting the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, and immune system responses. 

To help perform these functions, the autonomic nervous system uses nerve fibers to send signals along four cranial nerves, various peripheral ganglia and ganglions, and spinal nerves in the thoracic, lumbar, and sacral areas. 

To carry these signals, the different parts of the autonomic nervous system use various neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. These signals then reach the hypothalamus, which directs the body to perform the necessary function.


The sympathetic nervous system is your “fight or flight” response system. It speeds the heart rate, sends blood surging through your veins, helps your lungs take in more oxygen, controls pupillarydilation, and readily activates stored energy in the liver for immediate use. 

Your sympathetic nervous system charges you up, prepares you for action, and keeps you on red alert. 

Parasympathetic Nervous System

This is your “rest and digest” response system and communicates largely with the medulla through the vagus nerve. It’s the yin to the yang of the sympathetic nervous system. 

The parasympathetic system helps your body relax for sleep. It also aids digestion by increasing saliva production from salivary glands, relaxing the nerves in the bowels, and producing bowel movements. It regulates sexual function and aids in reproduction. 

Enteric Nervous System

The largest part of the autonomic nervous system is the enteric nervous system. It regulatesgastrointestinal function without the aid of the central nervous system. 

However, because there are relationships between the neurotransmitters of each of the different parts of your nervous system, issues that arise in the CNS may manifest as dysfunction with parts of the ENS.

Issues With the Autonomic Nervous System

When there are problems with your autonomic nervous system, it’s referred to as dysautonomia. This can result in diseases and even life-threatening conditions like:

  • Hypertension

  • Heart conditions

  • Recurrent urinary tract infections, constipation, and trouble with urination.

  • Trouble breathing and swallowing

  • Orthostatic hypotension or postural hypotension, conditions that cause a sudden drop in blood pressure when moving from seated to standing positions.

  • Autonomic neuropathy, a condition where the autonomic nerves become damaged

The autonomic nerves in your body can be affected by underlying diseases like Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. 

How Can I Support the Autonomic Nervous System?

You can support the nervous system by managing stress, getting plenty of exercise, eating a balanced diet, and ensuring your body has the nutrients it needs to function properly on a cellular level. A suggestion? A fatty acid supplement that is scientifically proven to support your cells, help repair them, and even assist in bringing homeostasis to the functions controlled by the nervous system. 

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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C15:0 and Your Nervous System

Pentadecanoic acid (C15:0 for short) is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that science supports as the newest essential fatty acid, and the first to be discovered since the omegas 90 over years ago. That means our bodies need C15:0 to maintain our health, but can’t readily make it on our own. 

C15:0, like omega-3, can help your cells function better, which translates to a better functioning, more energetic you.* New studies support that C15:0 is even better, broader, and safer than omega-3, which means you might just be able to get rid of your daily fish oil capsule.* 

Because C15:0 has been consistently associated with healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improved metabolic, heart and liver health, we know that it works directly with the cells of the autonomic nervous system to strengthen them and keep them functioning properly.* 

It does this in two ways:*

  • By strengthening cell membranes. C15:0 integrates itself into cell membranes to fortify them and keep cells strong. 
  • By boosting mitochondrial function. C15:0 supercharges your cells’ mitochondria, so your cells can give you the energy you need. 

The Endocannabinoid System

In addition to cellular support, C15:0 helps your body make a special endocannabinoid that is directly connected with the regulation of the processes controlled by the autonomic nervous system. 

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a web of receptors located in your body's nervous system, helping to ensure that the system remains balanced. For the ECS to function correctly, it needs endocannabinoids. 

C15:0 is a key ingredient your body uses to make pentadecanoylcarnitine, or PDC, the second ever to be discovered fully-acting endocannabinoid that is integral in helping your ECS function properly. 

Where Can I Get C15:0?

C15:0 is found in trace amounts in whole fat cows milk and in some fish and plants. However, icreasing your intake of these foods often means increasing your calories and your intake of unhealthy, even-chain saturated fats. 

Instead, there’s fatty15. 

Fatty15: Support for Your Autonomic Nervous System

Fatty15 is an award-winning supplement borne of scientific research containing one ingredient: the pure, vegan version of C15:0 known as FA15™. 

Just one capsule per day can restore your circulating levels of C15:0 and allow your body to create PDC, a fully acting endocannabinoid that supports your homeostasis and your whole body and mind health.* And that leaves you room to think about things that matter most. 


Somatic Nervous System: What It Is & Function | My Cleveland Clinic.org

Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS): What It Is & Function | My Cleveland Clinic.org

The bowel and beyond: the enteric nervous system in neurological disorders | Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology

The unexplored relationship between urinary tract infections and the autonomic nervous system | PMC

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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