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The Vagus Nerve and Stress:
Understanding The Vagus Nerve and Stress
What Is The Vagus Nerve? The Vagus nerve is the the longest of the cranial
nerves. It “wanders” like a vagabond, sending out fibers from your brainstem to
the organs. The vagus nerve is the leader of your inner nerve
center the home the parasympathetic nervous system. It's function is to overseeing a
crucial functions, communicating nerve impulses to every organ in your body. New
research has revealed that it may also be the missing link to treating chronic
inflammation, and the beginning of an exciting new field of treatment that
leaves medications behind. Here are nine facts about this powerful nerve
What Does the Vagus Nerve Do?
The vagus nerve recognizes inflammation cytokines or
the inflammatory substance tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Then it
alerts the brain and starts anti-inflammatory neurotransmitters via the
cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. A certain amount of inflammation
after injury or illness is normal. Too much inflammation is linked to many
diseases and conditions, including autoimmune conditions.
Helps you make memories.
The vagus nerve improves memory. When stimulated
it releases the neurotransmitter norepinephrine into the amygdala and
this helps consolidating memories.
Helps you breathe.
The neurotransmitter acetylcholine, elicited by
the vagus nerve, gives you the breath of life by telling your lungs to
breathe. You can also manually stimulate your vagus nerve by doing abdominal
breathing or holding your breath for four to eight counts.
Closely involved with your
heart. The vagus nerve is responsible for
controlling the heart rate via electrical impulses to the sinoatrial node
of the heart, where acetylcholine release slows the pulse. The way
medical tests determine the “tone” or “strength” of your vagus nerve (and
your cardiac health) is by measuring the time between your individual heart
beats and then plotting this on a chart over time. This is known as your
“heart rate variability.”
your body’s relaxation response. When your always
alert sympathetic nervous system revs up the "fight or flight responses" it
pours out the stress hormones called cortisol and adrenaline into
your body. The vagus nerve tells your body to slow down and try to
relax, by releasing acetylcholine. The vagus nerve has tendrils that
extend to many organs. These send instructions to release enzymes
and proteins like prolactin, vasopressin, and oxytocin, which are
the enzymes that calm you down.People with a stronger vagus response
may be more likely to recover more quickly after stress, injury or illness.Those with a weaker vagus response will likely take more time to
Translates between your
gut and your brain. Your gut uses the vagus nerve
to tell your brain how you’re feeling via electric impulses which are called
action potentials. This means that your "gut feelings" are actually very
Overstimulation of the
vagus nerve is the most common cause of fainting.
If you tremble or get queasy at the sight of blood or needles, you’re not
weak; you’re experiencing what is know a vagal syncope. Your body is
responding to stress and this over stimulates the vagus nerve, causing your
blood pressure and heart rate to drop. During extreme vagal syncope, blood
flow is restricted to your brain and you can lose consciousness. But most of
the time you just have to sit or lie down for the symptoms to subside.
Electric stimulation of
the vagus nerve reduces inflammation and may inhibit it altogether. It
has been proven that stimulating the vagus nerve can significantly reduce
inflammation. In experiments that involved implants to stimulate the vagus
nerve via electronic implants showed a drastic reduction, and even
remission, in rheumatoid arthritis. This is significant because
rheumatoid arthritis is often treated with the toxic cancer drug
methotraxate, which results in —hemorrhagic shock and other serious
Vagus nerve stimulation
has created a new field of medicine. The field of “bioelectronics”
involved using of vagal nerve stimulation to treat inflammation and
epilepsy. Some believe it may be the future of medicine. Bioelectronic
implants that will deliver electric impulses to various body parts will
stimulate healing to treat illness with fewer medications and fewer side
effects....the a similar way to how we use homeopathy for gentle,
Diagram of the Parasympathic
System and the Vagus Nerve's connection to other organs.
Dr. Stephen Porges - Human Nature and Early Experience
Understanding The Vagus Nerve and Stress (46:38 minutes)