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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Treating The Vagus Nerve

Sep 29, 2020 06:54PM ● By Jean Read
The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve in the body, but also one of the longest and most important nerves within the body. This nerve has many functions and influences our behaviors, digestion, vocal pitch, swallowing, heart rate, breathing rate, detoxification of the liver and kidneys, gall bladder function, saliva and sweat production, sexual arousal and more. While 20 percent of the nerve’s function is to carry signals from the brain to the body, 80 percent of its function is to carry information from the body back to the brain.
   
The major neurotransmitter utilized by the vagus nerve is acetylcholine, which has a major anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Therefore, one of the most important functions of the vagus nerve is managing the inflammatory systems of the body. If the vagus nerve begins to malfunction, then inflammation in the body reaches higher than normal levels and can become chronic. Common conditions that correlate to long term, high inflammatory levels include Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, ulcerative colitis, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease and more.
   
There are three main problems that can occur to cause vagus nerve dysfunction: dysfunctional signaling from brain to body; dysfunctional signaling from body to brain; and damage to the vagus nerve via physical, mental or emotional trauma or chronic state of stress.
   
The following mechanisms can lead to a dysfunctional vagus nerve: dysfunctional breathing (not using diaphragmatic/abdominal breathing and dysfunctional airways), dysfunctional digestive sequence (causing diarrhea or constipation, SIBO, poor dietary choices, herbicides and pesticides on our foods, poor satiety reflex, poor microbiome, leaky gut) dysfunctional heart rate, poor liver function, poor sleep and circadian rhythm and lack of social interactions.
   
For those who feel they might have a dysfunctional vagus nerve, there are several exercises that can be done to help improve vagal nerve tone. First, learn some deep, abdominal breathing techniques and do them often through the day or when stress levels are high. Start exposing the body to cold by ending showers with one minute of cold water; over time, extend to several minutes with good abdominal breathing. Chanting, humming, singing and gargling also activate the vagus nerve and often bring us into a state of calm (parasympathetic norm). Yoga, Pilates and meditation help teach us to focus and calm the mind and regulate our breathing. Laughter and fun social gatherings help improve our mood and heart rate variability and normalize our breathing patterns.
   
Other treatments that may help include: getting a monthly massage or body work; receiving visceral manipulation to the vagus nerve itself and the innervating organs within the abdomen and chest; chiropractic care; and special electrical stimulation units.

Jean Read is a physical therapist that has been trained in treatment of the vagus nerve using
visceral manipulation and refined techniques. Connect at 956-566-5443. See ad, page 19.

Jean Read

JEAN READ, PT - Tucson, AZ

PHYSICAL THERAPY: Jean is a physical therapist of 30 years, using a variety of manual techniques to treat conditions that have not responded well to traditional physical therapy. Treatm... Read More » 

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