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The Role of the Vagus Nerve in Chronic Illness

Tuesday, June 14th 2022 2:00pm 5 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

The vagus nerve is a pair of nerves, one on each side of the body. It plays a critical role in how your body functions. The human body has 12 cranial nerve pairs, and the vagus nerve is the 10th one. The cranial nerves are connected directly to the brain or brain stem, and they deliver messages and information between the brain and different areas of the body.

The vagus nerve is the only cranial nerve pair that originates in the cranium. Its primary function is to connect the head to various areas of the body, although it also has some roles to fill around the face and throat. It delivers messages to and from the brain and many vital organs including:

  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Colon
  • Digestive tract
  • Gallbladder
  • Neck (esophagus, larynx, pharynx)
  • Sex organs (females)
  • Spleen
  • Stomach
  • Tongue
  • Ureter

The vagus nerve is essential for communication between the brain and all of these organs. In fact, the brain uses the vagus nerve to control the parasympathetic nervous system, which deals with the digestion, detox, healing, recovery, and rest elements of the nervous system. It is an incredibly important nerve and has more impact than any other nerve.

Let’s take a deeper look at the vagus nerve especially in relation to mitochondria and the cell danger response.

Mitochondria are organelles that produce ATP, the body’s energy currency. In addition, they play a crucial role in cellular defense. When faced with a threat, the mitochondria shift from producing energy to becoming defenders. Mitochondria protect and defend themselves and the body when they face threats from chemicals, environmental stressors, heavy metals, infections, physical trauma, psychological trauma, and toxins. They do this through a metabolic function known as the cell danger response (CDR) process. Theories looking at CDR offer new insights for understanding disease.

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