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"It completely changed my practice": Doctor touts new nervous-system test he calls game-changer

New tool measures how body handles stress and rest
New tool measures how body handles stress and rest 02:29

MINNEAPOLIS -- In a routine checkup, your doctor listens to your heart, and takes your blood pressure, your weight, and height.

But there's a new tool that one local expert is calling the stethoscope of the future. It measures how your body teeters between stress and rest. After seeing patients for 35 years, Dr. Greg Plotnikoff says this test is a game-changer.

With the help of a new test he's been using for several months, Plotnikoff showed WCCO his autonomic nervous system (ANS) test. It takes 15 minutes, it's noninvasive, and Plotnikoff hopes it will become more common in the next decade or two.

"I have been blown away. I've been in practice 35 years, I've never seen anything this helpful," he said. "It makes visible, things that we have never seen before, at least not in regular practice."

The ANS test looks at both halves of your nervous system -- your fight or flight and your rest and digest -- essentially checking to see if the sides are balanced and coordinated. Plotnikoff says getting your nervous system figured out can be helpful for a host of ailments.

"Fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, depression, insomnia, gut issues, heart issues, lung issues, the list goes on and on," he said.

He says the test can even help people still suffering from lingering COVID symptoms.

"Many long covid symptoms are actually dysfunctions of the ANS," he said.

The test involves being hooked up with a few heart monitors, taking deep breaths for a few minutes, holding your breath, and other simple tasks.

"With this test, with different stressors or challenges, we understand how does the body respond to deep breathing, to bearing down. Understanding the body's response gives us a lot of information," Plotnikoff said.

Only a handful of local providers do this test now, but that could change.  

"I hope so because this has allowed people to get off medications or to identify the right medications," Plotnikoff said. "It is so relevant, it completely changed my practice. It has completely changed action plans for people. It has been deeply meaningful for many many people."

He says the test may reveal your body is having a hard time when you're resting. He could then recommend things to relieve stress, like meditation or yoga.

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