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The Enteric Nervous System and the Vagus Nerve

The Wandering Nerve. The Second Brain. Both so inherently important, yet…easily dismissed. Relatively unknown to the general population until a few years ago, these nerves dominate our systems and can change the way we feel. If they are out of whack…we are out of whack.

Whackless wonders.

If you want to know more about this particular subject, there is some information at the bottom of this blog you may appreciate. Anyway, let’s explore a bit. Let me tell you about two nerves that you may not be thinking about. One is responsible for more than 90% of the Serotonin in your body (yeah, baby, Serotonin one of your favorite neurotransmitters) and can change how you feel in your body in mere MOMENTS. The other runs almost from the rooter to the tooter, can impact headaches, mood and saliva production. These two are game changers that impact you so getting to know them may be beneficial because not knowing about them is not supporting your mental or physical health. And, that is what we are here for…authenticity, wellness, radical self care and boundary setting.

Your Vagus Nerve is the other half of your Nervous System which is divided into two parts. Simplistic version, indeed…but work with me. Your nervous system is made up of your Sympathetic Nervous System (fight, flight, freeze) and your Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest, relax and digest). We will learn more about digestion in a bit. So, you may be wondering…what does this have to do with anything, Melissa? Well, because if you’ve missed these two systems either willfully or simply because you didn’t know…the challenges you faced may have possibly been faced with more calmness or ease.

Let’s begin with my favorite, the Enteric Nervous System also known as The Second Brain. This is one of my favorite things to teach. It guides you in ways you may not be able to imagine. This almost autonomous part of your body controls immune and endocrine function, motor functions and…the vast majority of your Serotonin. Remember, Serotonin makes you feel good. It loves to make you feel happy and optimistic. Anyway, back to the Second Brain. It is a web of neurons – sensory, motor and interneurons. If it is in good shape, it feels like good health. You won’t even notice! You are contented. You can assist your body in keeping it functioning optimally through exercise, managing blood pressure and blood sugar. If it is not doing well then it feels like gastrointestinal issues. Constipation? Acid Reflux? Indigestion? These could all easily pop up. Getting it back on track (assuming no actual damage to the ENS) is relatively simple by using deep diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing), gentle exercise and anti inflammatory foods. If you need some ideas for exercise, check out this blog --> <--

Now, my good friend teaches on the Vagus Nerve, it is her absolute favorite. Hey, Shauna, hey! I am not going to pretend that the ONLY things that can make you feel: Stress, Digestive issues, Neck and jaw pain, Headaches or Brain fog is an out of whack Vagus Nerve, but I am saying it could be playing a huge role in how YOU are feeling. It’s a part of your Parasympathetic Nervous System and it influences or controls: digestion, heart rate and reflex actions such as: coughing, sneezing and swallowing. If it is not doing well, you may be feeling some unfun things like unwanted changes to heart rate, abdominal pain and bloating. You can aide your body in the care for your Vagus Nerve by being physically active, eating a healthy diet, managing conditions like Diabetes (regardless of the type), blood pressure, and through practicing techniques such as meditation, hypnotherapy or yoga. And, even if there is actual damage to the nerve, research is currently being conducted on how to assist using cold water immersion and biofeedback.

Sounds like… both the Enteric Nervous System and the Vagus Nerve are cared for by similar things…interesting. Almost like, everything is connected. Shocking! Next, someone is going to tell me that dental health can directly influence heart health or that mental health challenges can manifest in the physical…oh, wait…

If you are interested in learning more about this and how to help yourself feel better, join Alicia and myself on May 3, 2023 at 1pm Pacific! This will be a virtual presentation that should help you understand what is happening in your body when you are stressed AND how to manage it using DBT skills to help regulate your stress response.

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