The Biggest Nerve of Your Nervous System and Acupuncture
If you’re stressed or eating poorly, you probably have issues with your vagus nerve, which often leads to chronic illness. The vagus nerve is the most involved cranial nerve bundle in the body (there are 12). Only the spinal cord passes more information through the multiple nerve bundles that pass through it. Apart from the adrenal glands, the vagus nerve has a role in every organ below the neck.
Stress tends to deactivate the vagus nerve, as the “Fight or Flight” response is the opposite of the “Rest and Digest” response of the Vagus nerve. This means stress can can cause:
- Gastrointestinal bloating
- Loose stools
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent urination
- Heartbeat issues such as tachycardia or skipped beats
- Most other digestive issues, such as GERD.
Research by the National Institute of Health (nih.gov) has even shown that violence due to testosterone is related to vagus nerve function!
In Psychology Today, Christopher Bergland said, “The vagus nerve is the commander-in-chief when it comes to having grace under pressure. The autonomic nervous system is comprised of two polar opposite systems that create a complementary tug-of-war, which allows your body to maintain homeostasis (inner-stability). The sympathetic nervous system is geared to rev you up like the gas pedal in an automobile – it thrives on adrenaline and cortisol and is part of the fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system is the polar opposite. The vagus nerve is command central for the function of your parasympathetic nervous system. Unfortunately, the vagus nerve’s reflexive responses can backfire and turn it from comrade into saboteur.”
One way that acupuncture seems to work is by activating the Parasympathetic nervous system – as opposed to the “Fight or Flight Response” of the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system activates the “Relaxation Response” which allows the vagus nerve to function properly.
At least one study has shown that acupuncture has a significantly measurable effect on vagus nerve function, comparable to embedded VNS (vagus nerve stimulator) devices. As well as affecting vagus nerve function, acupuncture reduces stress in the body. This means that stress, digestive, heart, and renal (kidney) issues often respond very well to acupuncture. If you suspect your vagus nerve is having issues, stop in and see what acupuncture can do for you.