Vagus Nerve, Part 3

Today, stress can increase and result from an almost unlimited number of factors. Thousands of years ago, the main stressors were linked to survival. Find food, water and shelter. Avoid predators. Coexist with others or fight to protect family and home. To deal with these survival stressors, our bodies have a two-part Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) designed to respond immediately to stress and then to return to normal function.

Briefly, whenever anything is recognized as a stress of any type, the Sympahetic Nervous System (SNS) immediately activates a “Fight or Flight” response. Blood is shunted from the digestive and reproductive organs and sent to the brain and muscles for rapid responses. Mental focus, vision and hearing increase. Blood pressure, heart rate and breathing increase. This helped early humans survive predators and enemies. After successfully responding and surviving, The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) slows everything down and reactivates normal digestive, reproductive and immune functions.

In modern societies, instead of basic survival, family and societal dynamics have become increasingly pervasive stressors. Currently, the original survival stressors have escalated exponentially with mandates for illogical, uncientific shots, useless masks, restricted social interactions and millions of lost jobs and businesses.

This political and media-choreographed worldwide insanity has led to rampant feelings of fear, anxiety and powerlessness. Fortunately, you can still control how you respond to all life’s stressors. You can calmly and clearly choose different options to activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System and slow your Sympathetic Nervous System. This changes an overstressed, poorly functioning, unbalanced body to one with normal digestion, elimination, reproduction and immune function as well as mental, physical, and emotional balance

The longest nerve in your body, the Vagus Nerve, directly connects your brain to your gut. It also connects to everything from your ears to your lungs, heart and every other organ in your digestive tract. This means the microbes in your gut have direct access to your brain, often without your control. They control how you respond to everything coming into your body from the environment around you.

Whenever you decide to eat something, your PNS “tells” your body to “rest and digest.” Your heart rate and breathing slow. Your skeletal muscles relax. Your microbiome produces short-chain fatty acids which are released into your circulation that go to your brain and trigger a parasympathetic resting state.

There are unique things made by your microbiome that have significant effects on balancing your metabolism as well as your SNS and PNS. One is short-chain fatty acids. These butyrate, propionate and acetate fatty acids are made from fiber (e.g. vegetables) and resistant starch digestion in your colon (the lowest part of your large intestine). In addition, when digestion begins postbiotics are produced. These are new, active ingredients made any time the microbes in your gut digest food.

Your microbiome is an ecosystem and all ecosystems work best when balanced. The best way to achieve and maintain balance is to increase diversity. With increased diversity in your microbiome, you have more short-chain fatty acids and more postbiotics produced. GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid) is another extremely important microbiome-derived component needed to activate your PNS.

In addition, 90% of serotonin is made in your gut in enterochromaffin cells which are stimulated by certain amino acids (digested proteins). The result is the production of 5-HTP which is converted into serotonin and released into your circulation. Serotonin also tells your body to go into the Parasympathetic state of rest and relax as well as promotes your bowels moving so you have more effective digestion.

As a counterpoint, stress activates your SNS. This causes your brain to release cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These three stress chemicals/hormones contribute to inflammation in your gut and increase the growth of opportunistic pathogens (bacteria) in your microbiome. These “unfriendly” microbes wait until stress weakens your immune system. Then they produce toxins that can make you sick.

Stress also causes inflammation that results in Leaky Gut Syndrome. This is one of the primary causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Inflammation in the lining of the gut causes the “tight junctions” in the lining to open. This allows constant leaking of a toxin called lipopolysaccharides. If this bacterial-derived toxin is allowed to leak through into the circulation, it becomes the foundation for a vast majority of chronic illnesses such as stress-induced dysbiosis (digestive dysfunction), stress- induced leaky gut, clinical depression, age-related disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancers,

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