- Gut (intestines, stomach)
- Reproductive organs (female)
- Neck (pharynx, larynx, and esophagus)
And many more
Vagus Nerve is Critical for Immune, Gut & Nervous Systems
Vagus nerve is critical to the health of your immune, gut & nervous system. The vagus nerve performs a number of critical unconscious body procedures like:
- Maintaining your heart rate
- Controlling your digestion (stomach muscle).
- Regulating mood
- Regulating the circadian rhythm
- Controlling your bowel movements (responsible for the production of gastric juice, gastric emptying & colon flow)
Vagus Nerve’s Link to Nervous System
The vagus nerve regulates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Note that the Autonomic Nervous System has 2 parts:
- Parasympathetic Nervous System (Yin / relaxation response or “rest & digest”)
- Sympathetic nervous system (yang / stress response aka fight-or-flight response)
The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system – commonly referred to the “rest & digest” system.
Vagus Nerve’s Link to Gut Health
A damaged vagus nerve really interrupts with the digestive balance. It can’t send signals normally 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.
In addition, vagus Nerve plays a large role in relaying information about the gut microbiome to the brain, and adapts signaling based on microbiome composition/activity.
Recent study shows how antibiotics can make us aggressive when they upset the microbiome balance in our gut.
Keeping the gut and vagus nerve gateway healthy impacts our mental health.
Vagus Nerve’s Link to Immune System
Vagus nerve is a sensitive detector of proinflammatory cytokines that are released naturally by our body when when an infection present. In presence of infections, Vagus nerve effectively sends a signal to the brain that the body’s under attack.
Common Symptoms of Vagus Nerve Damage
Vagus Nerve damage is often also called “10th cranial nerve disorders”.
As mentioned at the beginning, the vagus nerve passes through multiple vital organs. When the nerve is damaged, these organs cannot fully receive the signals and information your body is sending. Symptoms may be localised and reflected as minor organ dysfunction. Aka your organs don’t suddenly stop working, but they just won’t work as effectively.
How to test for Vagus Nerve Disorder
If you experience a combination of below symptoms, the vagus nerve is almost always at play:
- Brain Fog
- Gut Problems (Chronic constipation/ unjustified diarrhoea, stomach pain, bloating)
- Food sensitivities
- Insomnia/ difficulty sleeping
- Cold hands and feet
- Thyroid problem
- Numbness or tingling of the scalp
- Ringing Ears
Though not conclusive you can organise gene testing through 23andme.com if this SNP (rs6330) allele A is present. This is associated with low vagal activity & increased anxiety.
Vagus Nerve Infection Theory in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia
Michael VanElzakker (a Tufts University neuroscientist) came up with the Vagus Nerve Infection Hypothesis, which stipulates that that the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are caused by an infection in or around the vagus nerve.(cite)
According to the theory, the nerve cells of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers are infected by virus, bacteria or pathogens which trigger the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The vagus nerve detects these proinflammatory cytokines, sending a signal to the brain that an infection present. A certain amount of inflammation after injury or illness is normal. But an overabundance is linked to overwhelmed immune system.
This is translated to unwell feeling in form of “sickness Behaviour” (fatigue, mild fever, depression, pain, difficulty concentrating). Thus, slowing the body down, telling it to stop moving, stop eating, stop thinking.
After all, since the nerve connects all the different major organs, hence this can be a good explanation for the multi systems impact caused by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Which infectious agents in particular? Not a single infective agent has been isolated for CFS, but here are the usual suspects:
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Varicella zoster virus
- Chicken pox
- Certain kinds of enteroviruses
- Borrelia, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
Having adequate level of acetylcholine is Vital for the Health of Vagus Nerve.
Acetylcholine is the main vagal neurotransmitter
A neurotransmitter is a kind of chemical messenger released at the end of a nerve fiber, that allows for signals to be moved along from point to point, which stimulate various organs.
For example: the vagus nerve helps our brain to communicate with our diaphragm so we would stop breathing.
The vagus nerve relies on neurotransmitter acetylcholine to speak to various organs.
Low Acetylcholine amongst CFS ME & Fibromyalgia Sufferers
The link between CFS/ME and acetylcholine has been subject of ongoing research.
A number of research taken together suggest an interesting possibility that explains the disparate findings of all of these researchers: CFS/ME patients may have abnormally low levels of acetylcholine.(cite)
How to Boost Acetylcholine Level for CFS ME & Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Acetylcholine is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier so supplementing directly with Acetylcholine does nothing to raise levels in the brain.
Instead one needs to supplement with the precursor to Acetylcholine through diet or supplementation.
Choline supplement also brings the following benefit for CFS ME:
- Increase dopamine receptor densities in the brain
- Increases mitochondrial energy production in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for language, thinking, decision making, and planning
- Enhances glucose metabolism and increases blood flow to the brain.
Other Ways to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve
The first, and most common, treatment to vagus nerve damage is vagus nerve stimulation. Your goal here is to increase (1) vagus nerve activity and (2) parasympathetic system activity.
Do Taichi or Yoga
Taichi and Yoga exercises help with qi flow (energy flow), promote blood circulation, and increase GABA (calming neurotransmitter) in your brain. These activities have positive net effect for your parasympathetic system. (cite)
Maintain Positive Social Relationship
Surround yourself with people with good energy who brings you laughter & happiness. You may want to consider getting rid off your energy-sucking vampire friends . Negativity is simply bad for your vagal nerve!
Meditation & Breathing
Breathe deeply and slowly lowers blood pressure and reduces anxiety by reducing your sympathetic nervous system and increasing your parasympathetic system.
Avoid Stress & Relax
- Try foot reflexology
- Try a long holiday (holiday where you completely chilled & not reminded by work)
- Try singing to your favourite song
- Try unconditional self-love, pamper yourself & don’t feel bad or guilty about it!
Acupuncture – especially in the ear [cite]
Electrical Impulses to the vagus nerve (using a medical device).
Eating Clean & Try Intermittent fasting
Eating clean allows your body to relax, which ease the task that your gut have when digesting hte food. Fasting has also been shown to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system
Incorporate Seafood into Your diet
EPA and DHA increase heart rate variability and lower heart rate
Things to Avoid for the Health of Your Vagal Nerve
Avoid Antihistamines, Anti-Anxiety Meds & Antidepressants.
These medications are likely to inhibit acetylcholine production, including: Benadryl, Xanax, and various psych and stomach meds.
Botox has been known to shut down the vagus nerve.
Remove Mercury, especially from your Dental Fillings
Mercury blocks the action of acetylcholine. Mercury used in fillings only inches from the brain as well as mercury in the atmosphere can interfere with acetylcholine production.
The Vagus Nerve Verdict for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia
Choline supplementation will help boost acetylcholine level that will in turn stimulate your vagus nerve.
However, the vagus nerve infection theory does not explain 100% of CFS ME & Fibromyalgia symptoms.
Since you’re likely to struggle with poor sleep quality / disorder in your sleep cycle – this signifies a broken circadian rhythm. When this is broken, your vagus nerve will be broken.
Your parasympathetic nervous system benefits the most from proper high quality deep sleep. After all, these are where the most restorative actions take place.
So, first & foremost, you need to fix your sleep. Check out our Fatigue No More formula specially crafted to support CFS ME & Fibromyalgia sufferers to beat chronic fatigue: sleep better & wake up with elevated energy.