What is the Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve. Vagus means “wandering” in Latin, which is very fitting for this nerve because it truly is a wandering nerve. It communicates with every organ in the body and controls many vital functions such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, and many others. It also controls our parasympathetic nerve system, allowing your body to respond appropriately when faced with stressors. The sympathetic nerve system is responsible for activating our “fight-or-flight” response, which fills your body with the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. The vagus nerve reverses this response by releasing certain molecules to promote calm and relaxation.
3 Cool facts about the Vagus Nerve
- It prevents/reduces inflammation.
Although inflammation is a totally normal and important aspect of health, chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of many serious health problems. These health problems include but are not limited to auto-immune conditions, digestive problems such as IBS, and arthritis to name a few. The vagus nerve helps this process by reducing the inflammatory response and by reducing the inflammatory molecules that are present in chronic inflammation. Being connected to all the organs in the body, the vagus nerve alerts the brain when there are these inflammatory molecules present and the brain will send anti-inflammatory molecules to the area under attack to reduce the inflammation. There are many research studies that show that stimulating the vagus nerve significantly reduces inflammation.
- It helps create memories.
The vagus nerve carries sensory messages to and from the brain. Through the release of a very powerful molecule into the brains memory formation area, called the Amygdala, it helps to form positive memories. When the vagus nerve is communicating appropriately with the brain, it can also help in coping with traumatic memories as well as negative thoughts. Many recent research studies have shown that a healthy communicating vagus nerve can help reduce symptoms of cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- It controls your Heart.
The vagus nerve also controls your heart rate by communicating with heart muscle to slow the heart rate down after being in a high stressed state. The vagus nerve acts as our bodies NATURAL pacemaker. Numerous studies show that an upper cervical adjustment can improve your heart function.
Remember the Vagal Space?
I know you all have heard us talk about the Vagal Space. Now you know how important it is for that nerve to have no interference when communicating with the rest of the organs in your body. What would cause this nerve to have interference and not allow it to communicate the way it was intended? SUBLUXATION is the reason! The vagus nerve exits the skull and travels in front of the cervical vertebrae. So any sort of misalignment in the upper neck can cause pressure on this nerve, causing interference, which will disrupt the normal nerve flow you need to have in order to have a fully functioning and healthy vagus nerve.
Call to Action!
How do you make sure the vagus nerve is communicating how it’s intended to? We talk a lot about our 3 legged stool to optimal health; keeping adjustments in rhythm, doing home therapies, and breaking bad habits. Each adjustment builds on the previous one. If someone is training for a marathon they wouldn’t just run a couple miles here and there when they “feel” like it. Each training session is strategically placed in order to accomplish the goal of running that race. The same with adjustments, the more in rhythm your adjustments are, the better the outcomes are for your health. Poor posture is one of the biggest reasons for vagus nerve interference, so making sure you are breaking those poor posture habits will allow the Vagus nerve to communicate how it is intended to!