What is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is the paired tenth cranial nerve that branches out from the brain, one of the longest nerves in the automatic nervous system in the body that helps regulate the gut function along with having effect on cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory and immune systems. So it is one of the major nerves in the body and is a parasympathetic nerve i.e. it counters the fight or flight response.  It has branches located both on left and right side of the body with each branch initially travelling down to produce the auricular nerve.  The auricular nerve supplies the external acoustic meatus/ear canal.  The branches also supply innervation to pharynx and from here right and left branches of the vagus nerve enter the thorax to supply organs located within the thorax and then down to the abdomen.

This nerve will innervate all critical organs in this area except the adrenal glands, descending colon, rectum and anus.  Looking at all the above connections the vagus nerve has, you can see how important it is and it also is involved in controlling heart rate, digestion and regulating breathing. The vagus nerve branches all throughout the body the vagus nerve has far-reaching effects which include involvement in swallowing, speech, heart rate, respiratory control, gastric secretion and intestinal motility.

Nerve fibres that exist throughout your stomach and intestines are referred to as your enteric brain because 90% of those nerve fibres connect back up to the brain through the vagus nerve. A major player in the body-mind connection, the vagus nerve is involved with your gut instinct, the knot in your throat, and the sparkle in your smile. The vagus nerve is a two-way radio communication system helping you stay in touch with your sensations and emotions.

People with vasovagal syncope commonly experience fainting spells with any psychological distress, especially when witnessing unpleasant scenes or any emotional shock.  In this case often doctors prescribe drugs to regulate BP or antidepressants.

Both chronic and acute stress whether physical, mental or emotional can affect the vagus nerve contributing to short/long term imbalances.

Benefits of vagus nerve treatment:

Short-term activation of your sympathetic nervous system releases cortisol and helps keep your immune system at healthy levels. Long-term stress suppresses immunity. However, chronic traumatic stress has an inverse reaction, leaving your immune system unchecked which leads to inflammation in the body.

Activation of the vagus nerve is essential for keeping your immune system balanced since there is a close connection between chronic stress, immune functioning, and inflammation. This activation helps release various hormones and enzymes such as acetylcholine and oxytocin.  It also assists in reducing inflammation, improve memory and brings about relaxation helping with tension headaches/migraines.

Helpful for many diverse systemic health conditions.

Very helpful for wide range of inflammatory disorders via its action. Acute lung disorders, arthritis, brain injury, burns, cerebral haemorrhage, colitis, diabetes, haemorrhagic shock, pancreatitis, post-operative ileus, rheumatoid arthritis along with all respiratory, digestive, reproductive, immune system disorders.

Some research indicates that Parkinson’s disease may be caused by an enteric neurotropic pathogen (gut nerve microorganism be it viral or bacterial) entering the brain via the vagal nerve.  This process could take over 20 years to manifest.  The virus can travel up the vagus nerve to the brain and affect the brain contributing to Parkinson’s disease.

Mental health, anxiety and depression and stress.

Some people may notice more energy or improvement of digestive and respiratory function. Others say they feel more mentally alert and a sense of being alive.  Outcomes vary with each person but it may be beneficial to include this sequence with the full body treatment.

If you suffer from any of the above disorders/symptoms then this treatment may help you.


Written by Lyn Craven. Lyn is a naturopath, Bowen therapist and an Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher, corporate health facilitator and presenter for health expos. She is also a health writer and has produced a meditation CD for stress, anxiety and insomnia.


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