We know more and more about the vagus nerve as the scientific community conducts more research on it. According to experts, this nerve could be key to reducing levels of inflammation in the body.
While some studies have focused on stimulating the nerve through the use of implants, there are more natural and less invasive ways to stimulate the vagus nerve.
What is the vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system that controls our adrenaline “fight or flight” response to stress and danger. However, some people's vagus nerve is stronger than others, allowing their bodies to relax more quickly after a rush of adrenaline.
The strength of the nervous response is called vagal tone and can be measured by a person's heart rate.
The vagus nerve has both sensory and motor functions, including:
· Provide sensations for the skin behind the ear, the outside of the ear canal, and some parts of the throat, as well as the lungs, trachea, heart, and most of the digestive tract
· Stimulate the muscles of the heart, pharynx, larynx, and soft palate, and stimulate contractions in the digestive tract
Research on vagus nerve stimulation
A pilot study placed electrical implants directly into the vagus nerves of 20 volunteers with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The goal was to "turn off" the immune system in cases where it attacks the body rather than foreign cells, or in chronic conditions, such as RA.
Vagal nerve stimulation has already been approved for people with epilepsy, so there was already preliminary evidence for other conditions. Once the pacemaker was inserted into their throat, the volunteers were given magnets to pass through the area six times a day. This stimulated the nerve for 30 seconds each session.
More than half of the patients had a significant improvement and a third went into remission. Sixteen of the twenty felt better as the inflammation in their blood also decreased. Some are currently drug free. None of the patients wanted the implant removed.
Later, in a study, more evidence wa