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Function of the Vagus Nerve

Published on December 26, 2014

Human Beings have an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) that is actually comprised of three separate subsystems, the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The enteric nervous system has been described as a "second brain," which communicates with the central nervous system (CNS) through the parasympathetic (e.g., via the vagus nerve) and sympathetic nervous systems. However, vertebrate studies show that when the vagus nerve is severed, the enteric nervous system continues to function.

We now know that the ENS is not just capable of autonomy but also influences the brain. In fact, about 90 per cent of the signals passing along the vagus nerve come not from above, but from the ENS and that is why many consider it as a backup brain centered in our solar plexus. Our gut instincts are not fantasies but real nervous signals that guide much of our lives.

It is our vagus nerve that provides the gateway between the two parts of the autonomic systems. The vagus acts as a bio-informational data bus that routes impulses going in two directions. Since the vagus nerve acts as the central switchboard it should come as no surprise that impaired functioning of this one nerve can lead to so many different conditions and problems. Some neurological diseases actually come up from the gut spreading to the brain via the vagus nerve.

Christopher Bergland, writing for Psychology Today, 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.”

The vagus nerve is known as the "wandering nerve" because it has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that wander to the lowest viscera of our abdomen touching our hearts and most major organs along the way. Vagus means "wandering" in Latin. It meanders all the way down, into the belly, spreading fibers to the tongue, pharynx, vocal chords, lungs, heart, stomach, intestines and glands that produce anti-stress enzymes and hormones (like Acetylcholine, Prolactin, Vasopressin, Oxytocin), influencing digestion, metabolism and the relaxation response.

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Dr. Peter Levine talks about how the vagus reaches down to the genitals and about healing sexual stress and trauma through opening up the vagus.


The vagus nerve uses the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.  If our brain cannot communicate with our diaphragm via the release of acetylcholine from the vagus nerve then you will stop breathing. Botox is a toxic substance that has the power to damage the nervous system and shut down the vagus causing death.

It is interesting to note that the heavy metal mercury blocks the action of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that passes the nerve impulse from the vagus nerve to the heart muscle. Both acetylcholine and the nerve receptors in the heart muscle contain thiol (sulfur/hydrogen) proteins. When mercury attaches to the thiol protein in the heart muscle receptors and in the acetylcholine, the heart muscle cannot receive the vagus nerve electrical impulse for contraction. Mercury accumulates in the heart muscle and heart valves, causing damage by attaching to thiol (SH-) proteins. This damage is indicated by EKG and confirmed by histologic study.

The frequently observed rocking and swinging behaviors in autistic
individuals may reflect a naturally occurring bio-behavioral strategy
to stimulate and regulate a vagal system that is not efficiently functioning.
Dr. Stephen Porges

In this video, Dr. Stephen Porges talks about how vagus disturbances are found in Autistic children. Many practitioners have related the advent of autism to vaccines containing the highly toxic mercury containing substance called Thimerosal. In addition, the public have been highly contaminated with mercury used in dental amalgam, which dentists routinely place only inches from the brain. Moreover, more than 3,000 tons of mercury are put into the atmosphere each year contaminating the entire biosphere of our planet but the government nonsensically worries more about CO2 emissions from coal-fired smokestacks instead of the huge amount of neurotoxic mercury.

The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerve systems in the body. Only the spinal column is bigger. Sometimes this nerve is referred to as cranial nerve X, the 10th cranial nerve. The vagus is used to send a variety of signals throughout the body, but will also transfer signals back to the brain. The vagus nerve is constantly sending updated sensory information about the state of the body’s organs "upstream" to your brain via afferent nerves. In fact, 80-90% of the nerve fibers in the vagus nerve are dedicated to communicating the state of your viscera up to your brain.

Vagus Nerve in Yellow

The vagus nerve helps manage the complex processes in your digestive tract, including signaling the muscles in your stomach to contract and push food into the small intestine. A damaged vagus nerve cannot send signals 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, which is part of the GERD complex.

Because the vagus nerve supplies motor parasympathetic fibers to every organ from the neck down to the second segment of the transverse colon (except the adrenal glands), its effect can be far reaching. Stress can raise the body’s level of epinephrine and norepinephrine, which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to over-ride the parasympathetic nervous system, of which the vagus nerve is the main component.

The vagus nerve is used to regulate the heartbeat and the muscle movement necessary to keep you breathing. This nerve also regulates the chemical levels in the digestive system so that the intestines can process food and keep track of what types of nutrients are being gained from the food that is taken in.

There are two main types of vagus nerve disorders. One is caused by an under-active or inactive vagus nerve, while the other is caused by a vagus nerve that overreacts to ordinary stimuli. Vagus nerve disorders that stem from an under-active vagus nerve often lead to a condition known as gastroparesis which is a frequent and severe complication of diabetes. Patients suffering from this disorder may experience pain in the stomach, nausea, heartburn, stomach spasms, and weight loss. Patients with under-active vagus nerves often experience severe gastrointestinal problems. Those with overactive vagus nerves may faint.

Testimony: I just recently developed my vagus nerve condition a few months ago even though I now believe it started over a year ago with IBS symptoms. This disorder is absolutely crazy with so many symptoms that do not show up in testing by physicians except when certain symptoms get really bad that it’s hard to get the diagnosis.

My journey with vagus nerve disorder started one night when I was at my computer and bent over to move a shoe out of the middle of the floor. I passed out and woke up in a sweat thinking I was having a heart attack. I woke up in kind of a dream state wondering why I was laying down on the ground.

As the weeks passed, more symptoms started to appear. Weird sensations in certain parts of my body, more passing out episodes, shortness of breath and fast heart rates. I went to the doctor and he said all my vitals and internal numbers were healthy but I felt like my body was not working right. I took some nerve calming drugs and that helped for a couple of weeks then they did not work and arrhythmia bouts set in. I would get arrhythmia for 8 to 12 hours and was up all night wondering why my heart was kicking my behind like this when it was running smoothly several weeks ago.

Acupuncturist Jill Blakeway asks, “So how does the vagus nerve get irritated in the first place? Any kind of GI distress can put pressure on the nerve and irritate it, with a hiatal hernia being a frequent culprit. Poor posture along with muscular imbalances can also cause the vagus nerve to misfire, as can excess alcohol or spicy foods. Stress can inflame the nerve, along with fatigue and anxiety.”

Blakeway recommends:

Many of the patients who present with symptoms of an irritated vagus nerve have what could be described as a Gall Bladder and Heart Complex in Chinese medicine. This traditionally has been a diagnosis used to describe a collection of symptoms such as esophagitis, hiatal hernia, gastritis, insomnia, palpitations, fearfulness, being easily startled, chest fullness, and a bitter taste in the mouth. In these patients, I have found that accessing the Gall Bladder Divergent Channel can bring almost immediate relief. I usually use the separating and convergent points of the channel GB 30 and GB 1, along with GB 34, LIV 3, PC6, SP 4, LIV 14, and UB 19.

How can patients suffering from an irritated vagus nerve help themselves? Here is the advice I give my patients, with one caveat: Because these symptoms can be caused by so many disorders, I always refer my patients to their MD to rule out more serious pathologies before giving self-help suggestions.

  • Regular acupuncture reduces the inflammation that is often at the root of this disorder and calms the irritated nerve.

  • During an attack, patients often find that moving, stretching and/or burping can relieve the pressure and calm the heart.

  • During an episode of tachycardia, vagal maneuvers can be used to slow the heart rate. These simple maneuvers stimulate the vagus nerve to slow down the electrical impulses through the atrioventricular (AV) node of the heart. Vagal maneuvers that you can try to slow a speedy heart rate include: Herbal formulas that support digestion (and calm the heart) along with probiotics and digestive enzymes can really help remove the GI inflammation that is part of this syndrome.

    • Gagging

    • Holding your breath and bearing down (Valsalva maneuver)

    • Immersing your face in ice-cold water (diving reflex)

    • Coughing

  • Likewise, diaphragmatic breathing, yoga, and meditation help the parasympathetic nervous system over-ride the sympathetic nervous system and calm the vagus nerve.

Researchers confirm that daily habits of mindset and behavior along with conscious breathing and yoga can create a positive snowball effect through a feedback loop linked to stimulating your vagus nerve. In order to maintain homeostasis, the central nervous system responds constantly, via neural feedback, to environmental cues. Stressful events disrupt the rhythmic structure of autonomic states, and subsequently, behaviors. Since the vagus plays such an integral role in the regulation of heart rate and heart rate variability it follows that how we breathe when under stress makes all the difference in the world.

Dr. Stephen Porges, gives us a great clue to the connection between the sensory nervous system and the very center of our emotional makeup. Darwin (1872) noted in The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals the importance of the bi-directional neural communication between the heart and the brain via the "pneumogastric" nerve, now known as the vagus nerve. According to Dr. Porges, “Darwin’s statement is important, because it emphasized two points: 1) afferent feedback from the heart to the brain through the vagus was independent of the spinal cord and the sympathetic nervous system, and 2) the vagus played a regulatory role in the expression of emotions. The Darwinian description of the vagus, emphasizing the bi-directional communication between the periphery and central nervous system, assumes that the vagus is part of a feedback system. Implicit in this “vagal system” are motor pathways to change visceral state, sensory pathways to monitor visceral state, and brain structures involved in the evaluation of the input and the regulation of the output.”

We all have an internal assessment mechanism thought to be housed in the amygdala, the hypothalamus or mid-brain which acts as a central intelligence agency challenging every situation, scanning every perception; reacting instantly to the one key question, will it hurt “me.” Will it make “me” feel more or less secure? Will it fulfill or deny me my basic needs? Will it enrich my life or lead to separation and life alienating feelings? The heart is the center that houses our sense of self, the “me” or the ultimate “I.”

# # #


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Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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  • Catherine McKinney

    Many years ago I had a tumor (cancerous chemodectoma) on my left cranial facial nerves, external jugular, aorta and base bone of skull. It was treated with surgery and high dose (98,200 RADS) radiation. I lost my left vagus, with damage to hypoglossal and glossopharyngeal, removal of left external jugular, and resection of aorta. I was left almost totally dysphagic, dysphonic, irregular heartbeat and loss of cardiac sphincter. My problems that has been constant and unresolved are constant pain and irregularity in my lower left intestines. The pain is so severe that I have to crawl on the bathroom floor. Additionally I have some strange sleeping problems. I can go for days without sleeping and I want to sleep. Then after 3 to 4 days, I just fall out and sleep for hours. Can these problems also related to the vagus nerve. I was scanned for gallbladder but results were inconclusive and I have become diabetic. I am tired of hurting and really tired of being told nothing is wrong because it is not what the doctor thinks it should be. Any suggestions.

    • Mark Sircus

      Yes and I know what its like to crawl on the bathroom floor…….the only thing I know of that is powerful enough to help a situation like yours is hydrogen inhalation, with oxygen….and hydrogen water……am racing to finish my Hydrogen Medicine book – Combining Oxygen with Hydrogen and CO2. You might think of doing a consultation with me…..

  • Michelle Stone

    I need help and advise. One month ago my life was normal. Working and taking care of my family. Then one day I had the inability to swallow. The muscle would not work. The cartilage was cracking and crunching in my throat. After 3 ER visits, two CT scans, 2 EKGs, and scoping of my esophagus they determined I have GERD. Had allergies reaction to PPI, and H2 blockers gave me such heart palpitations. I’m on sucralfate which seems to be helping. I am now so weak, can feel my heart pounding in my chest, neck and belly. If I look up feel like I’m gonna pass out. Confused,vision not great. I also feel very anxious which I have never had issues with anxiety. Can this be a vague nerve dysfunction or cranial nerve compression. I can’t believe this is all GERD. Any help or suggestions please!!!

    • Phlapoo

      Hey, I’m right there with you. It’s heavily affected me with anxiety and brain fog. I got the GERD diagnosis too. Do your eyes hurt when you wake up and you’re always tired feeling? I had a stress test that said I was low risk and am having an echo on my heart tomorrow. I am going to ask for a holter monitor. Some additional related symptoms I have that you might. When I’m hungry my stomach doesn’t growl, it gets warm instead. Also when it gets warm and I’m laying down I get a poprocks fizzing sound in the back of my neck. I also can rarely tolerate caffeine or alcohol without serious issues. A few beers will put me into a 4 day long super hangover and caffeine makes me exhausted.
      I believe in my case there may be some sort of chronic infection affecting the vagus and lining of my stomach that’s releasing toxins hindering my livers ability to process alcohol and causing neurological conditions. Most neurological symptoms diminished once stopping alcohol and taking oregano oil for a few weeks. I figure that partly validates my infection toxin byproduct theory. If any of this resonates with you then let me know and I will post some updates when I have them.

      • Lynn Ross

        I would love it if you gave us an update! My symptoms are a lot like yours, including the four day super hangovers and intolerance of caffeine. I think anything that helps you is likely to help me too.

    • Mark Sircus

      Sorry just saw your message now… above what I just posted above to Catherine…..I went down the tubes with GERD five years ago and had to fight for my life….literally… also should think of doing a consultation with me

  • Jennifer Donnell

    I had gastroparesis I have mostly healed after using a very high quality probiotic. It was best when I did yoga breathing and walked more. But I have not been doing the last two as much due to a busy schedule. However, sometimes when I get GERD or Gastroparesis flare up, I will get a nervous feeling for no reason- feeling of dumb and anxiety/ OCD. The moment all the acid or undigested food comes up, I feel immediately better, so I know it is physical and related to the acid and my vagus nerve, rather than emotional.

    • Nancy Cranford Norvell

      Jennifer, what probiotics did you use. I was just diagnosed with gastroparesis.

      • Jennifer Donnell

        Hello, Nancy! I use Garden of Life Probiotic for Older Women (just because it has more in it). I take before bed and take between 5-6 capsules a night. Start slow though. If I miss it for more than 2 weeks, it will flare. I have to take it consistently. Walking regularly also huge help.

  • Andrew

    I have vagus nerve damage from childhood physical abuse, I’m wondering if anyone has any recommendations for books to read or resources to check out. THanks!

    • jj

      Are the abuser/s still alive? You must sue them or somehow make them pay.

    • Anne Leblanc

      Try TRE Trauma Release Exercise by Dr. David Bercelli. Practitioners are trained in many countries. Once you learned how to do it, you do it at home, daily, Very efficient and easy to do. Removes the root cause of the damage, rather than dealing with the symptoms. Good luck!

  • Use your Logic

    Multiple studies, from multiple sources, many of which are independent third bodies with no corporate interest have proven that vaccines do not cause autism. If you chose to put your community and your self at risk of brining back diseases that have otherwise been erradicated from society you need to re-evaluate your life. Please look at the legitimate research available. People are more than welcome to try alternative medical methods not based on the scientific method, but if you are risking the larger community as a whole based on an un-educated, un-proven conspiracy theory you are a threat to society.

    • Marie

      Ok so now a child has like what more than 40 vaccines by the time they enter school? In the pipeline now are many more vaccines being researched. How many is TOO many? 60? 100? 200? 400? 500? In TIME there WILL come a tipping point. These children will be SO sick and yet it will be very hard to prove the sickness/weakness came from vaccines. This is why they are so insidious.

  • Cheri

    My daughter, now 22, had a closed head injury with large hematoma on the left side of her brain at age 3. She was “clinically dead” for 4 1/2 minutes, completely blue, until EMT’s could get her heart started again. At first, she could not move from her neck down. A half hour later, she could move her hands and arms again. That evening, she started having seizures (grand mal), and was seen by a neurologist that put her on Dilatin, then changed to Phenobarbitol, then Tegretol to help control the seizures. None of these medications actually stopped the seizures, but did slow down the frequency of them. At age 6, she was told that she had a heart arythmia and murmur, and saw a cardiologist. He then stated that the reason the anti convulsants were not working, was because of a vagus nerve issue, and placed her on heart medication to help regulate her heart rate, and high fluid, high salt diet to keep her blood pressure up. She was weaned off of the seizure meds. She seemed better for a while, however she could not participate in any activities that increased her heart rate, as her heart would go from beating fast to simply stopping, until she would fall, have a grand mal seizure, and regain consciousness being very tires afterwards. This continued until age 15, where she completed a tilt table test, and flatlined on the table. Diagnosed with Neurocardiogenic syncope with seizures. More blood pressure meds to increase blood pressure and regulate heart. The seizures then continued during a shower, in hot weather, when she was scared or startled, when she got hurt or experienced pain, and left her very tired. At age 19, she developed allergies. She also has repeated and ongoing kidney infections, trouble with her digestive system (either constipated or diarreah, never regular), severe perspiration, headaches, and last year developed auto immune disorder and fibromyalsia. She has recently had an MRI of her brain, and her right temporal lobe is damaged, has a cavity, and is shrinking due to multiple uncontrolled seizures. She was started on Keppra, 250 mg, and within 2 weeks is now up to 2000 mg, trying to control the seizures. She is scheduled for a 5 day EEG, to see if the seizure activity is concentrated to this one location of the brain, and if so, they are talking about brain surgery to remove this section to limit seizures.
    As an advocate for my daughter, I started doing my own research. I have found many different and sometimes contradictory information regarding the vagus nerve, and how this can affect some of the issues my daughter is having. It appears that (from what I have read) vagus nerve damage can actually cause fibromyalsia, low blood pressure, heart arrythmias, kidney infections, auto immune disorders and allergies, and digestive issues. Is this correct??? Could it be possible that my daughter has a “damaged” vagus nerve, and if so, could this be the culprit of all that is going on with her? And if that is the case, is there a “test” or way to confirm that? Is there a procedure to correct the vagus nerve, either stimulation, surgery, or something else that could possibly correct everything without all the medications? It feels like we have been treating symptoms for the last 20 years…I would sell my soul to be able to help her! ANY help would be GREATLY appreciated!!!!

    • the one

      I feel for you situation ..and your love for your daughter. I am no doctor..but I would say investigating the vagus nerve connection is a good idea. Please consult British doctors about I feel they have a better understanding of how this nerve affects many things in the human body. American doctors often look away and don’t get it. I doubt that it explains all of your daughters problems..but it may affect some of them. God be with you…don’t give up . The vagus nerve most certainly can can heart palps and stomach issues…they know that for sure.

    • Lori

      I would highly recommend you google Dr. Katinka Van Der Merwe of The Neurologic Relief Center in Fayetteville Ar. She has many patient testimonies on utube. She treats the vagus nerve. Good luck!

    • BWB

      Has any neurologist suggested you look into a Vagus Nerve Stimulator(VNS)? You mentioned stimulation in your question. I used to have seizures. Not as a child but it started when I was around 35 and am now 49. After a few years and a bunch of meds. My doctor neuro guy suggested a stimulator which attaches to your heart and it detects the seizure before it hits the brain. Ask your doc.

  • lyn bayley

    james you know nothing!! thimerosol is a toxic stayer in all vaccinations it is formed aluminium and the second most toxic element on earth mercury and formaldehyde they use to store the vaccinations (google doctors against thimerosol)and tell them they know nothing
    you dont have to be smart just( google what is the preservative used for vaccinations)
    it is used to make the product last up to 2 years where as using natural forms last about 6 weeks james its all about money in 1900 there was minimal problems with autism 1 in 2000 were born with autism and the rate it is going 1 in 6 will be affected in another 20 odd years with autism spectrum see the Amish sect who have never been vaccinated never has there been a case of autism recorded
    now go back to fairy land and believe what you want but you wont change mind about dr sircuses genius in keeping people alive naturally from the toxic fat soluable poisons vaccinations and other poisons modern medicines (quacks) want to put in peoples bodies

    Will Bayley Perth western australia

    ps he is 100% about my problem with the vagus nerve Thanks dr Sircus

    • IndigoImpressions7

      I agree with you…to keep it short…in a conversation yesterday with a friend…the vagus nerve came up. She explained to me what it regulates, etc. I had a reaction to the tb skin ppd, which I received four weeks ago…I would have never gotten it; had I done the research of what it actually was. The person whom I am going to be working for told me that it wasn’t a vaccine and that her doctor said so and that it was okay. (I still should have read up on it since I have MTHFR gene mutation from both parents and I am also against vaccines for religious reasons, etc.) Any how, I had an allergic reaction…my arm felt itchy and then I felt nerve damage/pain/like carpal tunnel go up my arm and around my shoulder to my back wing (I will call it) and also down to my wrist. I said that shortly after…I noticed I was more constipated and then I had issues sleeping suddenly…all of these things happens to kids on the spectrum…I took melatonin and have been able to sleep. I also took stuff to detox and epsom salt bath, etc. Actually, taking another epsom salt bath…set this off again (probably detoxing) the same symptoms, so back to the accupunturist I went…When describing what happened to my friend…she mentioned the vagus nerve.

      To further my experience…I recovered three of my kids from vaccine injury…it has been a long road, but…my daughter is now almost 20 and has been fine for about 12 yrs. We healed a leaky gutt and went to a nutritionist to help us do this and she gave us supplements, etc.; we also worked with accupuncturist and natruopath; she also had did many traditional and alternative therapies since all of her senses were affected…this basically rewired her brain in that particular sense or made a new pathway, etc.

      So, I do believe the vagus nerve is being affected…makes total sense to me!

      • Marie

        If the first child was damaged by vaccines then why did you vaccinate the other two? Maybe didn’t realize it was the vaccines i bet. It’s so insidious. I knew about them back in 1972 when my son was one. He got his first dpt vaccine and was sick for four days with a high fever of 103 and convulsions! I never gave him another. It was easy in those days to avoid it.

    • Marie

      I don’t know about in 1900, but i did read that in the 1950’s the rate of autism was like one in 10,000 babies. I still think it’s the vaccines. I am in late 60’s and i only had like 2 polio vaccines in my life and maybe a tetnus one when i was 20, but won’t take them anymore as i believe all vaccines are dangerous.

      • Marie

        Oh and i forgot to say….that i have read that now it is less than one child in 75 who gets autism!!

    • Marie

      I have read too that in 20 yrs one in TWO babies will have autism !!! It HAS to be the vaccines and i believe that it is PLANNED genocide….to dumb down the human race to make slaves of us all.

  • James

    I was interested in this article until I got to the part where it suggests autism is caused by vaccines. Then I checked the author’s credentials- doctor of oriental and pastoral medicine?? LOL This guy is NOT a doctor, people! Not even close! The vagus nerve is fascinating to learn about, but this is not a reputable source!

    • Marie

      It does not matter that this is not a “reputable” source. The fact is that vaccines are harmful. Maybe read up on it more.

    • Jeanne Bischoff

      If you’re referring to him not being a medical doctor (MD), you need to learn more. MDs know nothing about nutrition. Nothing about the connection between mind, body and spirit. Nothing about environmental toxins. And on and on. They are simply robotic captives of the pharmaceutical industry with drugs and surgery being their only options. Thus the sad state of health and wellness in the U.S. Thank God for alternative practitioners like Dr. Sircus.

  • Isa Shisha

    people interested in the vagus nerve i encourage to see the yt videos Dacher Keltner did on it!!!! talks about how it also regulates empathy, gut instinct, being able to look somebody in the eye while speaking….very interesting

  • lyingskies

    Can a botched femoral hernia repair result in damage to the vagus nerve ultimately resulting in gastroparesis over a period of months or years? My query…is essentially a hypothetical of…is it possible?

  • Dr. Mary

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to order an MRI of the skull with contrast as I did for my patient. The MRI revealed “A left posterior inferior cerebellar artery appears to mildly displace the root of the left tenth nerve,” the vagus nerve. I have adjusted this patient (I am a Doctor of Chiropractic) with great success to relieve his symptoms. I like this kind of challenge.

    • Nicholas

      Very refreshing to have a straightforward advisory that suggests common sense.

  • Lisa Michaels Hanifan

    Hi there! I have had unusual symptoms throughout my body which began about 7 years ago. I had taken a pretty bad fall down my entire stairway. I was diagnosed with concussion and whiplash. Prior to that time, the only medication I was taking was a small dose of paxil for anxiety and depression from work stress. Post fall, I began having hypothyroid symptoms & my PC put me on 25mcg of synthroid & 5mcg of cytomel (low free t-3). I then started getting back to back sinus infections and had 2 sinus surgeries. Perhaps a year following the sinus issue, I developed significant fibromyalgia. My PC increased the synthroid until my symptoms went away. I was then on 88mcg of synthroid. I then developed acid reflux and had an endoscopy. The only thing my GI doc told me is that I had some esophageal damage and put me on meds for the reflux. He also said that I have a small pancreatic crest in my stomach. He said that it was rare but not an issue. Unfortunately, he forgot to tell me about a small hiatal hernia that he discovered. As time went on, I became increasingly fatigued, anxious, depressed. About 18 months ago, I was so debilitated that I could only get out of bed for maybe an hour or two. I hopped from dr. to dr. to find the cause. I lost friends, because they thought I was a hypochondriac. Finally, in May of 2015, I talked to my OBGYN about taking out my ovaries. I had convinced myself that hormones were the culprit. Luckily, he is a very caring and educated physician. He told me that my symptoms didn’t make sense to him, so he ordered an abdominal and pelvic CT. The only abnormality was a very large paraesophogeal hiatal hernia. He sent me to a surgeon, and I had the hernia repaired in June of 2015. Apparently, the hernia was much larger than he had anticipated and had pushed my esophagus back and was pressing on the vagus nerve. This had been causing my symptoms. While pulling the stomach back down, the nerve became a little more irritated, and I developed tachycardia. I saw a cardiologist and I take Metropol currently. I have been seeing improvement in my overall well being since the surgery. I would say that I am about 65-70 percent of my normally functioning self. I’m undergoing acupuncture treatments, and I am hopeful that I will be back to my old self within 6-12 months. The moral of the situation is that this Vagus Nerve travels throughout most of the body and mimics many diseases. I am now down to 50mcg of synthroid, but I still have tachycardia, fatigue (improving), and neck pain. I would highly recommend that if a person is having weird symptoms that your pc can’t figure out, have an abdominal CT and an endoscopy. A paraesophogeal hiatal hernia can make you very sick, and you may not realize you have one. They are fairly common. I hope this helps. Blessings, Lisa

  • Vera Kavanagh

    I have had symptoms over the last 18 years 6 bad attacks it is after i have eaten starts with a fluttering in the top part of my stomach,palpitations, sweaty face ,hot,feel sick,feeling i will pass out on one occasion i have and ended up in A&E fell on my face put my teeth through my lip the next day i feel really rough as if i have a bad hangover but i do not drink ,other times i have had palpitations and this fluttering in tummy i have had ECG’s seen heart specialist nothing i have HB pylori and had a camera down they said i produce a lot of acid i burp a lot even though im on omeprazol three of these attacks were after Chinese food they now wonder if intolerant to MSGS But after doing some research i am now wondering if it could be something to do with the Vegas nerve ?

    • Stanley

      I have been suffering for a year with similar symptoms. I have had heart tests and stomach tests which are all clear apart from acid reflux and hb pylori. I get really bad palpitations every day but worse after eating heavy meals or hangover days after alcohol. I get breathing problems that seem to put pressure on my stomach, like I have to press my stomach in to catch a breath. I feel weak and fatigued all the time, no energy at all. I have a arched spine at the top of my back and it feels stiff, I also have tension headaches and feel very dizzy. Here’s my conclusion, I have damaged my vagus nerve, wether it’s due to my love for spicy foods, my binge drinking off a weekend since I was 18, my pinched nerve in neck or stomach problems, it really doesn’t matter. As I know my my vagus nerve sends electrical pulses to my heart in order to contract, I am having a skipped beat on deep breaths, this explains why, my electrical impulse from my vagus nerve is slightly delayed causing a slow catch up. My breathing is also affected due to vagus problems. How do I fix it, well I stop drinking alcohol, I start eating more healthy leaving out spicy foods, I go to a doctor who specialises in neck problems. I manage my stress and enxiety levels threw meditation and lifestyle changes. I get in better shape threw exercise to help make my heart stronger. Insanity is doing the same thing day in day out and expecting change. Peace and love.

      • Inom Tsunami

        Did you get the answer? I have had same thing happened to me, H pylori and now non stop heart palpitation and what not. Please share If you have some success.

    • Kat

      Histamines and biogenic amine intolerances can affect the Vagus Nerve. Research Histamine Intolerance (HIT). A build up of histamines in my system (I have DAO and HNMT reduced activity snips thus problems with breaking down histamine) will cause vasovagal syncope along with many of your aforementioned symptoms. It’s taken me a long time to put the pieces together. Good luck.

      • Inom Tsunami

        I am in the same boat with suspicion of histamin intolerance, Would like to know about your expereince and journey.

        • Jason Bull

          Me too! I have had palpitations and a myriad of digestion problems for over 5 years now that all point towards histamine and the vagus nerve. It’d be great to compare notes and help each other reduce the symptoms or ideally eliminate them altogether.

    • BiancaD

      Sounds like it. Have a look at the youtube vids by the two docs recommended above: Dacher Keltner and Dr. Katinka Van Der Merwe of The Neurologic Relief Center. Hope you get some relief and answers!

    • Lusia

      I get A-fib few hours after eating food containing MSG, salt with iodine, seafood or any fish oil supplements, also by using, body lotions containing sea algae or other marine products including Magnesium oil (topical or ingested ).
      I am not sure if this is connected to vegus nerve disorders (just started looking into it) but I hope this info will help you manage your heart palpitations to some degree.

  • SASsy

    I’ve been searching online, trying to figure out what type of doctor I should take my daughter to in order to see if she has a vagus nerve disorder. I suspect she does – multiple concussion/whiplash injuries have caused her to lose the curve in her neck, she was diagnosed with GERD, gastroparesis, fructose malabsorption, lactose intolerance, and excess gut bacteria, all causing sever belly bloat. She’s a tiny 14 year old who wakes up with a flat stomach and by the end of the day looks 3 months pregnant. In addition she has: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, light sensitivity, headaches, chronic neck and shoulder pain radiating down her arms, jaw pain, asthma, tree nut allergy, short term memory loss, peeling nails, brittle hair….and somehow I believe they are mostly, if not all, related. I think the whiplash injuries have caused compression to the vagus nerve. I just need to find the type of doctor who will put this all together and help her. Any suggestions?

    • AB

      What part of the country do you live in? A good facial counterstrain therapist might be able to help.

      • SASsy

        I’m in southeast Michigan (metro Detroit area). I’m looking into a Craniosacral Therapist, but never heard of facial counterstrain. Looked it up and the first thing that came up was a doctor near me who does this but is mostly a medical marijuana prescriber. Not sure that’s the direction I want to go with my daughter; would rather find the cause of her pain first! I’ll keep looking, but if you have a recommendation for my region, please let me know. Thanks!

        • Margo klein

          I had leaky gut syndrome. It’s the sickest I’ve ever been. After 21/2 years of suffering I got help at an integrative health clinic in Grand Rapids, Mi. They cured my leaky gut but I have chronic nausea due to possibly permanent damage to the nerves in my gut because it took so long to get a diagnosis. . I have no faith in western medicine as they never asked about food being the culprit, when everything I ate made me extremely sick. My weight went down to 113 lbs and I’m 5’6″. I almost died and wanted to die. When I ate, food got into my blood system. It was like being poisoned. Most Drs don’t believe in LGS, however, thankfully a gastroenterologist from one of the best hospitals in the U.S. does but it was too late for me. The damage was done. Now I’m wondering if my Vagus nerve has been damaged also. If u have digestive issues don’t ignore them until it becomes a very serious issue. I’ve been sick for four years because of inept Drs that don’t care anymore. Especially when u are a female. Yes, I’ve found firsthand that sexism against women is alive and still thriving in the medical field. And I read we are on the cusp of recognizing that this horrible disease doe exist. I was literally starving because of the tiny holes in my gut caused me to be very sick. Some days I had to have help just to walk. We need more Drs that care and listen to their patients. I had to diagnose myself after seeing 5 MDs and 5 specialists. I finally found a Gastro who agreed with me and explained to me in detail, although I knew a lot about it the hard way. I’ve lost faith in Drs now and it’s going to get worse for everybody because all the good ones are retiring. Get the oldest dr you can find as they have seen a lot more than the new ones who will not go outside their “cookie cutter”training.
          They are well trained to not “color outside of the lines!” We had to spend thousands of dollars to get me this far as the insurance wouldnt pay for a disorder that is not recognized as a traditional disease. There’s no way to code it for billing as Drs refuse to recognize LG but that will change someday. Just too late for me and all I suffered. I lost four years of my life but I’m really lucky to be here. I wake up every day with nausea and have to take medicine every four hours or it comes back. I wish you all the best and hope this helps someone. I will add that you learn compassion. I’ve always had compassion, but now it’s quadrupled! My goal in life is to help anyone I can.

          • Inom Tsunami

            I hear your pain, please try lico rice for nausea, it might help.

    • Laura

      I have much in common with your daughter. I urge you to seek out an upper cervical chiropractor – if she has an upper cervical misalignment (likely, if she has had concussions and whiplash) getting those upper cervical vertebrae moved back into place could really help her. Upper cervical chiropractic and craniosacral therapy are the two treatments that have helped me the most.

      • Laura

        Should have said – C1 and C2 vertebrae don’t have any bony structure around them like the rest of the vertebrae, making them likely to be moved out of placed during head and neck injuries. The vagus nerve runs through those vertebrae and you want to make sure the vagus (and other nerves) aren’t being impinged on or interfered with by wayward vertebrae.

        • SASsy

          I was able to get a script for craniosacral therapy and she started last week. The therapist said in all her 20 years of practicing, she’s never seen anyone as “crooked” as my daughter. From the hips up her vertebrae are twisted and turned, but her spine is relatively straight. We need to work from the bottom up, so to speak. I’ll have to look around for an upper cervical chiropractor, or ask the therapist for a recommendation. I didn’t know chiropractors specialized in certain areas of the spine. The CS therapist is also doing muscle energy along with the CS therapy, plus FSM treatments. It’s going to be a long road but I think we’re finally headed in the right direction. Thank you for your advice! I’ll look into a different chiropractor.

          • Jen S. Jones

            SASsy – how is your daughter doing now? Is she better?

          • Shelly Winkler Semanco

            Oh wow, so much has happened. She was diagnosed with Chiari 1 a few months ago, got into a car accident and got whiplash, which set her back about 1.5 years in recovery. She’s now having all kinds of neurological problems, and she was just diagnosed this week with Ehlers-Danlos hypermobility, which explains why her neck is so unstable and she can’t hold a chiropractic adjustment. We have a video consult with a Neurosurgeon who specializes in Chiari and Craniocervical Instability in a few weeks. We expect to hear that she will need a cervical fusion and possibly a decompression as well. Oh, her neurologist also highly suspects she has a CSF (cervical spinal fluid) leak due to her positional headaches. If surgery is recommended, it should take care of quite a few of her symptoms. But the widespread body joint and muscle pain is probably part of EDS, and will be with her her entire life. It should improve with a specialized PT and OT program, which she’ll start once her neck situation is resolved.

        • Susan Lee

          I have a C1/C fusion and intermittently have Vagus nerve flareups. When my neck is out, I begin to experience digestive issues, pain in the small intestinal area and mid – back pain all simultaneously. The only thing that helps me is a good chiropractic adjustment and an attempt to handle stress better. It’s a chicken/egg thing……is it the stress that started it or the neck being out? Just another reason to keep up with my maintenance adjustments to keep the neck in line. With the fusion, it only takes one good night’s sleep to put my neck out!

    • Alexis Han

      Your daughter sounds exactly like me! I lost the curve in my neck from an accident In Feb. I get severe bloat by the end of the day. Fructose malabsorption, egg intolerance, imbalanced gut bacteria, low stomach acid, GERD, ear popping, dizzyness, joint pain…you name it. I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy, blood tests, stool samples, accupuncture, and chinese herbs. I am so heartbroken and hopeless. Did you end up finding a cervical chiropractor for her? Do you have any advice?

      • SASsy

        We just saw a cervical chiropractor last Wednesday. He did a quick exam first and could immediately tell there was a bone out of place right under her skull. He couldn’t believe that no other chiropractor or physical medicine/physical therapist could feel that. He took some 3D xrays, did range of motion tests, checked her spine top to bottom. He drew some measurements on her Xrays and said he wanted to review her case over the weekend. We go back on Monday where he will do an adjustment then take another Xray to see if the bone (vertebrae?) moved properly. He’ll then let us know if he can help her. He was very thorough and explained about how her nervous system can be being compromised, affecting everything from her pituitary gland to her intestines. I’m hopeful he can help because everything else so far has failed. We’re also working with a registered dietitian who feels there is a connection between her injuries and her GI problems. They feed off each other. Her diet is nutrient deficient, she’s not absorbing the proper nutrients, it’s causing inflammation throughout her body, with can make joint/muscle pain worse. I feel we are on the right track. We need to attack from both sides; the physical deformity in her neck and the nutritional deficiencies. I should add, my daughter is extremely bright, has never had any issues with school grades, testing, etc. At the suggestion of a PM&R doctor we had her tested for cognitive deficiencies because she’s been having a hard time remembering things she’s read and is now struggling in math and science. Her IQ is high, she tests in the 75th-95th percentile on most areas but she now has was the doctor is calling acquired dyslexia. Some areas of her cognitive function tests have her in the 2nd to 9th percentile!!! I’m really hoping that by getting her neck back in order and her diet on track, that this is reversible. As it is right now, we have to have special accommodations made for her at school. All this started with her first concussion/whiplash and has gotten progressively worse with each subsequent concussion/whiplash. I’ll keep you posted. Good luck to you!

        • Facebook User

          I am wondering if the Chiro you saw is an upper cervical specialist who deals with the Atlas?? Is that the adjustment he plans on doing? Please keep me posted! I will check back here. I am having the exact same symptoms and was told that I have a displaced Atlas which is corrected simply and gently with machine and no hands on.

          • SASsy

            Yes, he’s a NUCCA Upper Cervical Chiropractor. My daughter saw him for 9 months and has had some improvement of her pain but really no other symptoms have improved, and some have worsened, like the bloating. Last week she looked 6 months pregnant, and she’s a tiny 4’11” 95 pound girl, so that was difficult to hide. We switched to a different chiropractor who insists her problems is really at C7-T2. Her nervous system did not react well to the initial adjustments. We are traveling to Boston Children’s this week to see a Pediatric Neurologist along with a Neuro Ophthalmologist. We are hopeful for some new answers and solutions. Three of her specialists here in MI suspect a sub-chiari malformation, but her Neuro here is reluctant to diagnose that and insists the mild enlargement at the base of her brain could not possibly cause her cognitive dysfunctions along with the other symptoms. He doesn’t think outside the box so we are going to the best in the nation with our fingers crossed.

      • Brandi

        I was having serve bloating like this and it was causes from being gluten intolerant-
        I eliminated wheat barely and rye and bloating went away and so did joint pain- most dr wont test for celiac disease unless you ask for it

      • Peter Robinson

        I have the same issue when my jaw was dislocate by a dentist i woke up not moving my neck and my right side had collapsed. I got dystonia and spasms constantly in my gut …causing paresis in the gut….i lost half my body weight. Gerd light sensitivity.

    • Kat

      If the Vagus Nerve damage was due to compression a chiropractor might be a start. VN damage can also start with a virus (see Dr. Michael VanElzakker and his emerging theory of virus and Vagus Nerve damage. That’s how it happened for me.) Re the bloat, probiotic 299v, Lactobacillus Plantarum 299v has been most helpful in removing bloat. You can find it on Amazon. Also consider if she is eating high histamine/biogenic amine foods — she may be intolerant.

    • Lori

      I highly recommend Katinka Van Der Merwe, D.C. Of The Neurologic Relief Center in Fayetteville Ar. The specialises in Vagus Nerve issues.

    • Elizabeth

      Please Se someone who can check and adjust her atlas in the top of the neck. It creates huge problems with the vagus nerve from whiplash. There is a Swedish atlas therapy I am about to try in Brisbane. Extensive research after an accident led me to their site.

  • Jill Brock

    One of the most helpful things I have found when my heart starts racing because of my vagus nerve is a cold pack on my back. I calms it right down.

  • Tracy Quimby

    I have been doing alot of research due to many diagnosed and undiagnosed health issues but the y all seem to be coming together i think .All the way back in 09 i was diagnosed with paradoxical vocal cord motion disorder it was treated with much therapy and every 3 month botox injections in my vocal cords.Ever since then i have been developed much loss of sensation in the left side of face ,couple unknown seizures,chronic constipation ,2 stomach ulcers,abdomen pain ,distended abdomen,hoarse voice,32%hearing loss,4 idiopathic TIA’s,difficulty swallowing,tightness spells in throat, fearful feelings,pinched nerves in shoulders,severe arthritis ,nueropathy(no diabete),trigeminal nueralgia.I think that might be all ,i currently have lost 52lbs in the last 4 months without trying my gerd has increased ,i developed swallowing issues with pills and such last year notified my ENT for some reason he all the sudden took me off my botox injection list with no explanation.Well my symptoms with gerd greatly increased a month ago and also became difficult to eat solid food i belched all day long and started having esophageal spasms due to that i had great pain in chest .They did a scope and stretched a small area at bottom and took several biopsies.Then i had a modified barium swallow which showed my food was just sitting at the bottom of my throat and the peristalis was stopping half way down and also the sphinture into the stomach was not working they told me no solids at all well i havent eatin in 19 days now only smootie shakes i started protein ones ,I was also diagnosed last year with gastroperisis .I have been having spells of shakiness from the inside of my chest and also just recent developed spells of i feel like my breathing almost stops and i have to try and relax my chest with some deep breaths then it seems shallow and kicks back in .I have follow up tommorow with Gastro for biopsie results .anyway thought i would share my complicated story any input is welcome .

    • oh my dear! Botox is one of the most dangerous poisons being used in the medical world, It can drift from the injection site and cause other problems. I don’t know if all yours are related or not but highly recommend you get a consultation with Dr, Sircus to try to sort this out and find some solution to these problems you have.
      The following essay written many years ago will show the dangers of Botox.

      Consultation options can be found here

      Claudia French

  • Simply Put

    Back during 2012 I underwent heart surgery. before that time I could eat basically what I wanted to. Drinking water and so forth. Now the smallest portion leaves me full. I progressively have lost weight. I always enjoyed cooking but can’t eat. I was referred to a doctor by my cardiologist. They all seem to be friends, he did endoscopy took pictures but saw nothing unusual. I feel that during that surgery my vagus was damaged. The GI doctor talked about putting me on dilaudid, I refused. I belch daily ,cannot eat, often regurgitate white foam. Don’t know what to do. I’ve been praying for the answer

    • Dear Simply put,
      You may need to ohbtain a second opinion from somone outside the medical circle of friends you have already seen. They tend to stick together like glue.
      You can also obtain a consultation with Dr. Sircus for more guided direction.

      Claudia French

  • LucyJane

    What about an overactive, chronically stimulated vagus nerve? How do you stop that?

    • That’s a tough one…….Please seek a consultation with Dr. Sircus to discuss how his protocol will help this condition.
      Claudia French

  • Thank you for the detailed explanation of the Vagus nerve with the photos.

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  • 7LibertyForAll

    Very interesting article, Dr. Sircus–as usual.