Dec 27, 2012 | Dr. Daniel Zagst
(NaturalNews) It's no secret that a healthy nervous system is important for well-being and longevity. The spinal nerves are responsible for controlling most of the muscles in your torso, arms, and legs, along with bowel, bladder, and reproductive functions. The cranial nerves reside mostly in the head region and control much of what goes on in the face and neck, but the tenth cranial nerve goes way beyond. The Vagus nerve influences your body and brain more than most people realize.
What is the Vagus nerve?
The Vagus nerve is responsible for speech, swallowing, keeping the larynx open for breathing, slowing heart rate, monitoring and initiating digestive processes, and modulating inflammation, among other actions. It arises from the medulla in the brain and passes through the skull down within the chest cavity where it branches off in multiple directions to innervate organs and muscles. 80 to 90 percent of the nerve fibers are devoted to sending information from the organs/gut back to the brain. The Vagus nerve is the main line of communication between the brain and the energy-producing digestive tract. It also relays information to the brain from what is known as the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The ENS is our "second brain" controlling the digestive process; it is made up of over 500 million neurons that surround the digestive tract. It is called a second brain because it can function independently from the brain if the Vagus nerve is severed. Research into the Vagus nerve and its effects on the body and brain have revealed good reasons to keep it stimulated.
Research shows health-promoting effects
The Vagus nerve is an activator of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is responsible for relaxation, slowed heart rate, digestion, sleep, and general well-being by the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that acts as a messenger. Furthermore, Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been found to activate anti-inflammatory pathways that work in the digestive tract. Another recent study found VNS to be a possible treatment for chronic depression in people that didn't respond to any other treatments. It is not entirely understood how VNS affects the brain in such a profound manner but it may be due to the inhibition of certain aberrant pathways. A secondary effect of VNS was weight loss due to the "feeling of fullness" caused by activation of the Vagus nerve, the same that is felt after consuming a large meal. Research is now moving forward into possible applications in the treatment of anxiety disorders, Alzheimer's disease, and fibromyalgia.
How to activate the Vagus nerve
VNS is commonly performed as a surgical procedure to install a pacemaker-like device that continuously stimulates the nerve. Although effective, it carries many risks and there are easier ways you can stimulate the Vagus nerve without surgery. VNS can be achieved by performing a vagal maneuver; the same given to people with a fast heartbeat or blood pressure issues. These maneuvers include holding your breath, placing a cold, wet washcloth over your face, or tensing your abdomen as if you were going to get punched in the stomach. Taking deep, long breaths using your diaphragm to expand your belly is one of the best ways to achieve VNS while simultaneously oxygenating your blood. When hungry, performing these maneuvers may help you resist those high-calorie holiday snacks in the brake room.
About the author:
Dr. Daniel Zagst is a chiropractic physician at Advanced Health & Chiropractic in Mooresville, NC. He has a BS in Professional Studies of Adjunctive Therapies, Doctorate of Chiropractic from NYCC, and an Advanced Certificate in Sport Science and Human Performance. Find out more at www.dzchiro.com