Inflammation and the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is undeniably the most important nerve in terms of the gut-brain connection and gut bacteria. It should be considered as a system in itself as it has such far-reaching influence (Faure Alderson, 2008). It conveys sensory information about visceral organs to the central nervous system and is involved in peristalsis.
The vagus plays a key role in regulating inflammatory responses (Sloan et al. 2007). Acetylcholine, the principle neurotransmitter of the vagus, relaxes the body and inhibits inflammation. Several inflammatory diseases originate with an autoimmune reaction in the gut including inflammatory bowel disease, crohn’s disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis (Fujimura et al, 2010) amongst others. So, stimulating the vagus nerve not only relaxes the body but dampens the fires of inflammation which are related to the negative effects of stress.
In a craniosacral therapy session the vagus can be influenced by supporting change around the jugular foramen, the superior and inferior sensory ganglia below the jugular foramen, the carotid sheath, the larynx, the tragus of the ear, freedom in the breath and diaphragm, and resolving inertia in and around organs (especially the heart, lungs and sub diaphragm organs) to free up vagal motor ganglia and the enteric nervous system.
‘Vagus Nerve Stimulation has been proven to be a useful treatment across a number of domains and has been used effectively to treat epilepsy and depression in adults. There is accumulating evidence to suggest that it can be used to help quell inflammation in a number of other autonomic or inflammatory disorders, which would make it useful for a wider range of pediatric patients as well. Preliminary studies have shown promise for VNS being used for stroke, autoimmune diseases, heart and lung failure, obesity, and pain management, but further studies are needed to fully elucidate the mechanistic actions that explain VNS’s potential role in treating these disorders. Many of these studies are not mechanistic in nature, and further pathway analysis and studies focused on the mechanisms by which VNS alters autonomic tone are key to further our understanding of vagus nerve modification. VNS interacts with the body’s immune system to modify inflammatory tone by altering the release of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines.’