3 easy ways to check the health of your nervous system

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 2 March 2021

Did you know that up to 90% of doctor's visits for a chronic complaint are due to stress?

That's an alarming figure.

But when you consider the nervous system controls the majority of our bodily functions it makes sense that a healthy body results from a healthy nervous system.

There are only 3 things a cell requires to function optimally:
1. the right nutrients
2. the proper removal of waste
3. proper innervation from the nervous system

But there is no simple test to determine the health of your nervous system....or is there?

Here are 3 simple ways to determine the overall health and resiliency of your nervous system:

1. Orthostatic blood pressure

This is a measurement that I will frequently do in an office visit. It gives me a general indication of how your body has been dealing with stress over the last 8 weeks.

It involves taking blood pressure sitting, lying down, and then standing.

When you lie down your blood pressure should go down and then when you stand up your blood pressure should go up.

If your blood pressure goes up when lying down, your body is spending too much time in fight or flight. If your blood pressure goes down when you stand up, your stress resiliency is compromised. Ideally your blood pressure should go up a total of 20 points (10 systolic, 10 diastolic) on standing.

2. Heart rate variability (HRV)

This is a measurement that has been around in the world of elite sports for a while but has just recently become a more common metric for tracking your everyday wellness and fitness.

HRV is another heartbeat-based metric, like heart rate, but it's not focused on your heart health. Instead HRV reflects your nervous system.

It tracks the time in between your heart beats in a given time period. This allows you to see how quickly your autonomic nervous system communicates with your heart.  Measuring heart rate variability measures the flexibility of your nervous system.

Unlike what most people would initially think, a high heart rate variability (HRV) indicates that your parasympathetic system is doing a good job helping your body recover and regulate.

So how do you check HRV? The easiest way is to use this feature on an Apple watch if you have one. You can also use an Apps like Welltory, or an external heart rate monitor.

3. Dr. Bieler's saliva pH test

This is a take-home test that I will sometimes have patients do. All you need is lemon juice, water and pH strips to complete.

  1. First you take a baseline saliva pH reading.
  2. Then consume 1 tbsp of lemon juice + 1 tbsp of water.
  3. Then take a post lemon reading.
  4. Then take a reading every minute for 5 minutes post lemon.

What should happen is that your pH should drop immediately after the lemon juice and then gradually become more alkaline.

In patients who have chronic sympathetic dominance you will see an alkaline spike after the one minute mark instead of a gradual climb to alkalinity. Often these patients will complain if being wiped out and fatigued. They probably do not sleep well, are stressed, and complain of feeling depleted. Ironically they will also have difficulty relaxing.

Now I would love to hear from you! How do you check the health of your nervous system? Leave a comment below and I'll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!

6 Replies to “3 easy ways to check the health of your nervous system”

Mary Doyle

If these tests indicate your nervous system is not healthy, is it difficult resetting your nervous system to a healthy one?


Very interesting


Would a sign of the blood pressure going up when lying down be an increase in temperature? Every night when I go to bed as soon as I start falling asleep I get very warm and have to uncover.


I would be very curious as to how I would do with these tests.

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

It depends. The longer the nervous system has been out of balance the more work it will take to reset it.

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

Not necessarily. These symptoms do not always go together.

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