By: Kathy Duvall
The Academy of Foot Zone Therapy

The Latin word Vagus means literally “wandering” (the words vagrant, vagabond, and vague come from this word also.) The Vagus nerve touches every organ in
the body. The Vagus Nerve is responsible for such varied tasks as heart rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis, sweating, and quite a few muscle movements in the mouth, including speech (via the recurrent laryngeal nerve) and keeping the larynx open for breathing. It also receives some sensation from the outer ear, via the Auricular branch (also known as Alderman’s nerve) and part of the meninges.

The Vagus nerve is used to regulate the heartbeat and the muscle movement necessary to keep you breathing. It is the responsibility of the Vagus nerve to shift blood as needed. It maintains blood flow to the brain at all times to keep us from fainting. 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. As late as the 1990’s the medical field would clip the Vagus nerve at the Pyloric Sphincter when someone was having acute ulcer problems. They believed that this would stop the production of acid in the stomach, thus eliminating the ulcer. This practice has been stopped and replaced with drugs to block the acid.

We are born with an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) that is comprised of three separate subsystems, the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PMS). 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 (CNS) through the parasympathetic (e.g., via the Vagus nerve) and sympathetic nervous systems. (See training on the Autonomic Nervous System)

We know that the ENS is not just capable of autonomy but also influences the brain. In fact, about 90 percent of the signals passing along the Vagus nerve come out from not the brain, but from the ENS and that is why many consider it a “Backup Brain” centered in our solar plexus. The instincts that come from our “gut” are not mystical or made up, but are very real nervous signals that actually guide so much of our lives.

We all work with clients that have seen many physicians for seemingly mysterious complaints. These are the most difficult issues to deal with. I would like to suggest that we take a look at the functions of the Vagus nerve and all the many organs it deals with and ask ourselves could this be the culprit? Since the first assignment of our bodies is to “simply stay alive”, it is the Vagus nerves assignment to determine which functions, that it is in control of, are most important to that command.

The Vagus nerve is the Gateway between the two parts of the autonomic systems. It 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. It has recently been discovered that some neurological diseases actually come up from the gut spreading to the brain via the Vagus nerve.

Dr. Peter Levine also talks about how the Vagus reaches down to the genitals and about healing sexual stress and trauma through opening up the Vagus.
Christopher Berglund, 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 crate 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 cortical 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.”

You can imagine how difficult a ride on a bus would be if the driver continually accelerated and then stopped on a regular basis. Have you ever ridden in a vehicle that was driven that way? Well, that is what happens in your bodies when the Vagus nerve is malfunctioning. It is a constant start-stop motion. We become unsettled and upset. It is very difficult to feel content and confident when things are moving so inconsistently.

The Vagus nerve is one of the largest nerve systems in the human body. Only the spinal column is larger. This nerve is also referred to as cranial nerve X, the 10th cranial nerve is the only nerve that starts in the brainstem (within the medulla oblongata) and extends, through the jugular foramen, (a large aperture in the base of the skull) down below the head, to the neck, chest and abdomen, where it contributes to the innervations (to supply nerves to a bodily organ or part) of the viscera.

Eighty to ninety percent of the nerve fibers in the Vagus nerve are dedicated to communicating the state of your viscera (internal organs, especially in the abdominal and thoracic area) up to your brain. The Vagus nerve is not only used to send a variety of signals throughout the body, but it will also transfer signals back to the brain. The Vagus Nerve is in constant use sending updated sensor information about the state of the body’s organs “upstream” to your brain via afferent nerves (nerves that are used to carry sensations such as pain to the brain). We all have an internal assessment mechanism thought to be housed in the amygdale, the hypothalamus or mid-brain which acts as a central intelligence agency challenging every situation, scanning every perception; reacting instantly to key questions:

  • 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”, according to Candace Perks, MD. The simple responsibility of the Vagus nerve is to act as commander-in-chief of your body. It stands on guard constantly to carry messages about the condition of every organ in your body. It is constantly searching for weak links in the health of your body. When any organ in your body is not functioning at its optimum, the Vagus nerve is the first to carry the messages of distress back to the central nervous system.

There are times in our lives that we all go thru stress. What is most important is that we learn to “HELP” turn the organs back on with the assistance of the Vagus nerve which allows us to return to homeostasis in our entire body.

Researchers have confirmed that daily habits of mindset, exercise and behavior along with conscious breathing and yoga routines can create positive effects that use the looping effect (a dynamic between people and categories of human kinds such as in a monastery or prison) in the feedback message routine to notify the central nervous system that things have returned to homeostasis. Stressful events disrupt the rhythmic structure of autonomic states, and subsequently, behaviors. We know that there are many times we have no control over stress. The Vagus nerve is assigned to turn off NON-essential functions of the body during times of acute stress. This is the time that fingernails don’t grow, hair is not shiny, and skin tones are dull and illness is allowed to begin. How does your body react to accidents, lack of sleep, poor diet, death etc? We know that the body will react almost immediately to these sever stresses. What experiences will be severe enough, in a positive way, to have the reverse effect on the Vagus nerve? What will cause the Vagus nerve to carry a message back to the CNS to return the organs that have been shut down, for survival, to turn back on to full function?

If you can imagine one commander and response center for the entire world-that works well for everyone, this is symbolically what the Vagus nerve is and does for us. We all need to get highly effective treating this nerve while administering the zone. Some of the ways we can better affect the Vagus nerve are:

  • Energy follows thought: use your intent to move and work with the nerve
  • Learn more about the placement of the Vagus nerve
  • Be very precise in working with the Vagus on the neck area
  • On the back of the big toe, work the Atlas and Axel well and move UP near and around the Pinal gland
  • Hold a hot rock in the area of the sternum and massage it gently, hold and with intention request that it releases
  • Hold for a few seconds and push harder and hold again for a few seconds, repeat
  • The spleen is closely related to the Vagus, when you are releasing the spleen hold the Vagus nerve with your left thumb until it releases, you may feel an opening similar to a grape bursting

Following these techniques we will achieve higher effectiveness in the zone thus being of more benefit to our clients.

The Vagus Nerve

Important Facts

  1. Releases the emotion of “SHAME” concealed in the human body.
  2. The vocal sound of “VOO” held by the person will resonate thru the body and release tightness in the Vagus nerve
  3. It carries messages both TO and FROM the central nerves system and the viscera of the body.
  4. Acts as a shock absorber of stress that enters the body.
  5. The Vagus nerve 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.
  6. The Vagus nerve plays a regulatory role in the expression of emotions.
  7. Acts as a “Vagal system” and is a motor pathway used to change visceral state, sensory pathways to monitor visceral state, and brain structure involved in the evaluation of the input and regulation of the output.
  8. Afferent feedback from the heart to the brain through the Vagus was independent of the spinal cord and the sympathetic nervous system.
  9. If the Vagus nerve is severed, the enteric nervous system continues to function. (Vertebrate Studies show)