If you live in an urban area, broadband service companies are tripping over each other to compete for your business, offering you “faster internet speeds” than the others and/or unlimited data. But if you are in a rural area, you may find it much harder to get high speed internet. That is because the communication infrastructure needed to get you the highest speed access is most cost effective where population density is high, making the equipment much more efficient, but where the population is more spread out, this expensive equipment serves less people, so it is relatively inefficient. Service providers can’t afford to invest in rural areas unless they charge customers much higher fees or are subsidized through government taxation to cover the extra costs.
Your body has certain economies in communication as well. Communication infrastructure is invested more in highly important areas. Internal organs get a higher investment. The brain is the central computer which needs to send and receive signals from all parts of the body, especially the heart and digestive system. To these two a communication “superhighway” exists with the brain called the vagus nerve.
What happens in vagus doesn’t stay in vagus
The brain has around 86 billion neurons. However, the enteric nervous system, which is the nervous system of the gut, has around 500 million, or half a billion, neurons. The heart has about 40,000 neurons in its “intrinsic cardiac nervous system.” Both of these neuron systems are similar to that of the brain, so these are considered secondary, or little brains. To communication with these secondary “brains”, the vagus nerve supplies two-way signaling with the brain.
Research on the gut-brain axis, where the brain holds conversations with the digestive tract, shows that the signaling from the digestive tract is quite significant, and that the health and activity of the gut can directly affect brain function. The same holds true for the heart: more signals actually come from the heart to the brain than from the brain to the heart. The vagus nerve is 80% afferent, which means it is largely tuned to send signals from the body to the brain, and only 20% efferent (brain to body). The signals are directed primarily to the medulla, amygdala, thalamus, hypothalamus, and cerebral cortex regions of the brain. The amygdala is associated with emotions, and the cerebral cortex is where the highest mental capabilities originate — our highest level of thinking.
The greater the communication that exists between two organs, systems, or people, the closer they act together. High communication coordinates them. The vagus nerve’s job is to bring the brain close to the heart and the gut, coordinating their activities. The vagus nerve is a conduit or pathway of information — it doesn’t originate or retain signals. But, in a lab, the nerve system can be stimulated, sending fake or artificial electrical signals, showing the impact on the brain. Also, the health or “tone” of the vagus nerve can vary, tending to degenerate with age — if the tone is poor, communication quality suffers.
Learning from vagus
Since the vagus nerve is signaling portions of the brain dealing with higher thought, what is communicated through it should impact brain function. And that is what research is showing. Published in Neuron, researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus experimented with stimulating the vagus nerve in an animal study and viewing the neuronal activity in the learning centers of the brain. Each time the nerve was stimulated, brain neurons activated, promoting enhanced learning and memory. The stimulation led to the animals learning tasks much faster, and mimicked signals that would have been sent along the vagus nerve to the brain, particularly the gut and heart.
If stimulation of the vagus nerve promotes learning and memory, signals along that nerve system from the heart or gut should do likewise. You can stimulate it through humming or singing, since your vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords. Meditation and listening to calm, soothing music also works. Exercise is good for the vagus nerve, but the best vagus nerve toning is through breathing exercises: deep slow breathing with extended exhales. Your heart rate should drop, indicating your parasympathetic nerve system is kicking in. Since the PNS utilizes the vagus nerve heavily, anything good for one is good for the other.
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) techniques are practiced with epilepsy and depression patients to improve their condition. Published in Biological Psychiatry, researchers at the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurosurgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas took 60 patients with unipolar or bipolar depression for an average of ten years who had not responded to an average of 16 different drugs, and used artificial electrical VNS for ten weeks with those patients. About 30% responded positively and 15% achieved remission. The study ruled out other likely factors for their improvement, showing that vagus nerve signals have a major positive impact on brain function.
How sympathetic are you?
Our bodies have two opposing nervous systems: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is the “fight or flight” system, while the PNS is the “rest and repair” system. While they are opposing, they are truly separate systems. When the SNS is activated, it is capable of a mass discharge across the body, instantly readying it for flight from a sudden threat. This sudden discharge overrides the PNS signaling, which is the “calm” system and operates over longer time periods. Of course, if the SNS is being activated frequently or constantly, the effect of PNS activity is limited. Ideally, the signals are clear, with one system dominant at a time, and that system should be the PNS most of the time for good health: the fight or flight reaction tears down the body in trade for outperformance in the short term.
The SNS has its own communication nerve system outside of the vagus nerve, while 75% of parasympathetic nerve fibers are in the vagus nerve, communicating with the heart, lungs, stomach and intestines, and liver. The SNS has very widespread signal distribution, while the PNS focuses more on heart, breathing, and digestion.
When it comes to SNS versus PNS, it’s best not to be “sympathetic” too much. You want the parasympathetic system to be active more of the time, and save the SNS for true emergencies, rather than worry or fear.
Putting this all together, we want to be calm, parasympathetic individuals with the vagus nerve at peak performance, carrying its messages of calm to the brain. This promotes brain and body health. Load your heart with calming influences, peaceful thoughts, and above all, love.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
A very interesting fact is that more signals actually come from the heart to the brain (80%), than from the brain to the heart (only 20%.) So who is talking to who?
The heart talks the loudest because it’s the area that connects to love and should make the majority of the decisions. The problem in this world is that many have chosen not to listen to the heart but only to the mind.
God’s ways are not man’s ways. God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts. God’s heart does not breakthrough very often into man’s thoughts because man is too distracted with self.
The more parasympathetic dominant you are, the more you learn, the more your body heals, the better and longer you live. This is the rest, digest, sleep and heal system. The more sympathetic dominant you are, the less you learn, the more you react, the less your body heals, and the more intense and shorter you live. This is running away from the lion mode in fight, fright, flight response to stressors. So in every situation there’s an on and off switch. On means give it energy, off means pay no attention to it. The choice is yours. Your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system is subservient to your perceptions, beliefs and choice.
In our Revolution New Medicine® protocol we monitor the sympathetic and parasympathetic balance continually. When the brain entrains to the heart, the nervous system shifts into a parasympathetic dominant mode and healing occurs.
Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:
- Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
- Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
- Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
- Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.