Human Beings have an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) that is actually comprised of three separate subsystems,
The enteric nervous system has been described as a "second brain," which communicates with the central nervous system (CNS) through the parasympathetic (e.g., via the vagus nerve) and sympathetic nervous systems.
However, vertebrate studies show that when the vagus nerve is severed, the enteric nervous system continues to function.
We now know that the ENS is not just capable of autonomy but also influences the brain. In fact, about 90 per cent of the signals passing along the vagus nerve come not from above, but from the ENS and that is why many consider it as a backup brain centered in our solar plexus.
Our gut instincts are not fantasies but real nervous signals that guide much of our lives.
It is our vagus nerve that provides the gateway between the two parts of the autonomic systems. The vagus acts as a bio-informational data bus that routes impulses going in two directions.
Since the vagus nerve acts as the central switchboard it should come as no surprise that impaired functioning of this one nerve can lead to so many different conditions and problems. Some neurological diseases actually come up from the gut spreading to the brain via the vagus nerve.
Christopher Bergland, writing for Psychology Today, said,
The vagus nerve is known as the "wandering nerve" because it has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that wander to the lowest viscera of our abdomen touching our hearts and most major organs along the way.
Vagus means "wandering" in Latin.
It meanders all the way down, into the belly, spreading fibers to the tongue, pharynx, vocal chords, lungs, heart, stomach, intestines and glands that produce anti-stress enzymes and hormones (like Acetylcholine, Prolactin, Vasopressin, Oxytocin), influencing digestion, metabolism and the relaxation response.
Dr. Peter Levine talks about how the vagus reaches down to the genitals and about healing sexual stress and trauma through opening up the vagus.
The vagus nerve uses the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.
If our brain cannot communicate with our diaphragm via the release of acetylcholine from the vagus nerve then you will stop breathing. Botox is a toxic substance that has the power to damage the nervous system and shut down the vagus causing death.
It is interesting to note that the heavy metal mercury blocks the action of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that passes the nerve impulse from the vagus nerve to the heart muscle. Both acetylcholine and the nerve receptors in the heart muscle contain thiol (sulfur/hydrogen) proteins.
When mercury attaches to the thiol protein in the heart muscle receptors and in the acetylcholine, the heart muscle cannot receive the vagus nerve electrical impulse for contraction.
Mercury accumulates in the heart muscle and heart valves, causing damage by attaching to thiol (SH-) proteins.
This damage is indicated by EKG and confirmed by histologic study.
In above video, Dr. Stephen Porges talks about how vagus disturbances are found in Autistic children.
Many practitioners have related the advent of autism to vaccines containing the highly toxic mercury containing substance called Thimerosal. In addition, the public have been highly contaminated with mercury used in dental amalgam, which dentists routinely place only inches from the brain.
Moreover, more than 3,000 tons of mercury are put into the atmosphere each year contaminating the entire biosphere of our planet but the government nonsensically worries more about CO2 emissions from coal-fired smokestacks instead of the huge amount of neurotoxic mercury.
The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerve systems in the body. Only the spinal column is bigger. Sometimes this nerve is referred to as cranial nerve X, the 10th cranial nerve.
The vagus is used to send a variety of signals throughout the body, but will also transfer signals back to the brain. The vagus nerve is constantly sending updated sensory information about the state of the bodyís organs "upstream" to your brain via afferent nerves.
In fact, 80-90% of the nerve fibers in the vagus nerve are dedicated to communicating the state of your viscera up to your brain.
Vagus Nerve in Yellow
The vagus nerve helps manage the complex processes in your digestive tract, including signaling the muscles in your stomach to contract and push food into the small intestine.
A damaged vagus nerve cannot send signals to your stomach muscles. This may cause food to remain in your stomach longer, rather than move normally into your small intestine to be digested, which is part of the GERD complex.
Because the vagus nerve supplies motor parasympathetic fibers to every organ from the neck down to the second segment of the transverse colon (except the adrenal glands), its effect can be far reaching. Stress can raise the bodyís level of epinephrine and norepinephrine, which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to over-ride the parasympathetic nervous system, of which the vagus nerve is the main component.
The vagus nerve is used to regulate the heartbeat and the muscle movement necessary to keep you breathing.
This nerve also regulates the chemical levels in the digestive system so that the intestines can process food and keep track of what types of nutrients are being gained from the food that is taken in.
There are two main types of vagus nerve disorders. One is caused by an under-active or inactive vagus nerve, while the other is caused by a vagus nerve that overreacts to ordinary stimuli.
Vagus nerve disorders that stem from an under-active vagus nerve often lead to a condition known as gastroparesis which is a frequent and severe complication of diabetes. Patients suffering from this disorder may experience pain in the stomach, nausea, heartburn, stomach spasms, and weight loss.
Patients with under-active vagus nerves often experience severe gastrointestinal problems. Those with overactive vagus nerves may faint.
Acupuncturist Jill Blakeway asks,
How can patients suffering from an irritated vagus nerve help themselves?
Here is the advice I give my patients, with one caveat.
Because these symptoms can be caused by so many disorders, I always refer my patients to their MD to rule out more serious pathologies before giving self-help suggestions.
Researchers confirm that daily habits of mindset and behavior along with conscious breathing and yoga can create a positive snowball effect through a feedback loop linked to stimulating your vagus nerve.
In order to maintain homeostasis, the central nervous system responds constantly, via neural feedback, to environmental cues.
Stressful events disrupt the rhythmic structure of autonomic states, and subsequently, behaviors. Since the vagus plays such an integral role in the regulation of heart rate and heart rate variability it follows that how we breathe when under stress makes all the difference in the world.
Dr. Stephen Porges, gives us a great clue to the connection between the sensory nervous system and the very center of our emotional makeup.
Darwin (1872) noted in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals the importance of the bi-directional neural communication between the heart and the brain via the "pneumogastric" nerve, now known as the vagus nerve.
According to Dr. Porges,
We all have an internal assessment mechanism thought to be housed in the amygdala, the hypothalamus or mid-brain which acts as a central intelligence agency challenging every situation, scanning every perception.
Reacting instantly to the one key question, will it hurt "me."
The heart is the center that houses our sense of self, the "me" or the ultimate "I."