Where have you been? Where are you going? What will you do along the way? These are questions you might ask the vagus nerve. It wanders through the body touching nearly every organ, monitoring and updating as it goes. Heart rate, digestion, breathing, and more; all things you seldom give thought to, but each vital to keeping you alive. The vagus nerve keeps an “eye” on them.
Many body functions are automatic
Your body’s Autonomic Nervous System is responsible for all things that need to be done automatically and is broken down into three parts. The Parasympathetic Nervous System, the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Enteric Nervous System. The Parasympathetic, generally, monitors day to day stuff. If life is dull and boring, the Parasympathetic is doing its thing. The Sympathetic Nervous System is the one that kicks in when things start happening. It oversees that famous fight or flight processes. The third system, the Enteric Nervous System is sometimes included with the Autonomic and sometimes not.
The Parasympathetic and Sympathetic systems run from the brain to the end of the spine. The Enteric is the gastrointestinal nervous system or your gut. Often described as the second brain, it oversees chemicals, secretions, blood flow and muscular movements involved in the gastrointestinal tract. There is much that goes on here without any input from the other nervous systems, which is why some say the systems should be divided. However, there are many functions that are tied together, via the vagus nerve, which is why it is often included with the other two.
Sometimes we are confronted with mystery illnesses, changing symptoms and health challenges that just don’t seem to make sense. They don’t follow normal patterns, they don’t stick to a known list of symptoms. The vagus nerve connects the brain, the spine and the gut (as well as all other organs), carrying messages to and fro. More and more researchers are starting to wonder if it is the cause, or at least a partial cause, of these mysterious health challenges.
Everything important to you is connected by the vagus nerve
Compare this scene to your vagus nerve. If the brain sends out a signal that all is well, and you are in your happy place, all will feel great. However, if the vagus nerve tells your stomach that things are stressful, initiating the fight or flight processes, you will immediately feel it. The stomach stops digestion and makes resources available for the body’s use in protecting itself. Perhaps you are just sitting on a deck chair, chilling after the barbecue. Because the vagus nerve delivered the “stress” information, food in your stomach is turning into a lump, instead of being digested.
Now you have an upset stomach, maybe you’ll get some acid reflux and maybe even constipation or diarrhea. What was the cause? Was it bad potato salad? Too much dessert? You visit the doctor resulting in tests for ulcers and food allergies as they try to find the answer. None of these tests will show that it was simply the vagus nerve communicating the “stress” message. You now have a mystery ailment, something that has stumped your doctor and isn’t showing up on tests.
Do you have multiple things wrong, or a traveling pain?
Maybe your mystery disease is a combination of different things. Today your stomach might be upset, tomorrow you have difficulties breathing, the day after that you have dry mouth, and on and on. In between, you have a day every now and then when you feel just fabulous! Each day a different symptom or pain, none connected to the other, or so it seems. My mother had what she called a traveling pain. For a day, week, or even a month, she would hurt in one place, then it would go away for a few days until she’d get pain in a new spot. She asked the doctor about it and he told her it was impossible, she was imagining it. That was over twenty years ago. Perhaps the answer to the symptoms were these complex interactions of the vagus nerve?
The guardian of the body
Because the vagus nerve serves as the guardian of the body, it is dedicated to communicating the state of your organs to the brain and delivering signals from the brain back to them. Consequently, it is constantly on the lookout for things that hurt or have the potential to cause pain. It also makes sure the basic needs of the body are fulfilled (air, blood, food, etc.). The vagus nerve monitors emotions. Are you feeling safe, content, accepted and loved? Are you feeling distressed, upset, unneeded?
If an organ is showing signs of weakness, if there is a part of your body that is malfunctioning, the vagus nerve is the first to detect it. Carrying the information to the brain and responding to the disorder. When you are under stress, the vagus nerve turns off non-essential functions (including executive functioning in the brain). If the vagus nerve is functioning poorly because of too much stress, what in the body notices?
Should we ignore our first line of defense?
We ignore the vagus nerve, assuming it will just do what it is supposed to. Consequently, we never give it a thought until disease sets in. Wouldn’t it be a better choice to proactively support it? In a world filled with stress, the vagus nerve is our first defense, it helps insulate us against the negative effects of stress.
Give the vagus nerve a little TLC
- Perfectly balanced to match the resonance levels of a healthy vagus nerve, the RezziMax® Tuner, will quickly become your best friend. By applying it to various parts of the body you can, essentially, reset the vagus nerve. Click here to learn how to effectively stimulate the vagus nerve.
- Research has shown there are many yoga poses that stimulate the vagus nerve. (1)
- More and more researchers are discovering that deep breathing can stimulate the vagus nerve. (2) A very simple thing to try is to take a deep breath, let it out and repeat for a total of seven times. You may want to cheat and simply yawn seven times (click here to read our blog on how the Yawn is an easy life hack).
- Fasting is something we all seem to avoid (who wants to be hungry), but scientists are constantly reporting good things about a periodic fast. Generally, they recommend fasting 12-24 hours once or twice a month. Fasting has been shown to increase lifespan, reduce signs of aging, improve heart rate and blood pressure and many other benefits. (3) It is interesting to note that many of these are things also controlled by the vagus nerve, leading to the conclusion that fasting also benefits it.
- Social Interaction. Why? Humans are social creatures, relationships are vital to our overall health and well-being. The vagus nerve keeps tabs on how we feel emotionally. Happy or sad, excited or bored, our emotions affect our nervous systems. Go for a walk with someone you love, enjoy a snack with your friends, even stopping to share the latest joke at the water cooler can help lessen the stress placed on your vagus nerve.
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