Vagus Nerve Disorders

By Dr. Tony Ebel

Autism. ADHD. Anxiety. Asthma. Allergies. 

Those are the A’s. 

Colic. Reflux. Constipation. Sensory. Headaches. Exhaustion. Gastroparesis. 

That’s just a short run of many other conditions, disorders, and symptoms that could easily be linked to the Vagus Nerve in just a matter of a few paragraphs. 

It would honestly take us an entire book (maybe one day) to talk about everything that is clearly, scientifically linked to Vagus Nerve Disorders. So for the purpose of this article, we’re going to really dive deep into exactly what the Vagus Nerve does, what causes it to get off track (dysfunction), and most importantly, what you can do to get it back on track if you think your child’s Vagus Nerve is truly dysfunctional. 

The stories of Colton and Knox are the perfect example of how deep and expansive Vagus Nerve Disorders and health challenges can truly run in a child’s life. They dig their roots into the central and autonomic nervous system, the immune system, the gut, and more. 

What are Vagus Nerve Disorders?

The Vagus Nerve has been nicknamed the “wandering nerve” because it originates from the brainstem, and then travels down along the cervical spine and spreads out throughout much of the upper body. It’s long been known to control vital functions of the heart, lungs, and digestive system, but we now know the Vagus Nerve does even more important work. 

Recent research on the Vagus Nerve shows us that it’s also crucial in helping regulate our mood, emotions, and behavior. And still, other research continues to show how influential the Vagus Nerve is in regulating our immune system, especially in lowering inflammation

Simply put, Vagus Nerve Disorders can negatively affect almost every element of your child’s health. For infants, we know the most important health functions starting out are the “basics” — eating, pooping, and sleeping. Then from there, the motor system, immune system, and things like communication (speech) and emotional regulation begin to develop. It’s easy to see how a Vagus Nerve Disorder could negatively impact the function and development of one or all of those things in our children. 

What are the Symptoms of Vagus Nerve Disorders?

Much like we discuss in this dysautonomia article, the symptoms of Vagus Nerve Disorders can be vast and far-reaching. They also are most likely going to not be limited to just one symptom or condition, but have a “Perfect Storm” effect where many things become dysfunctional at once. 

The best condition that shows the various ways Vagus Nerve Disorders can show up in one child would be autism. We know in autism not only are mood, behavior, and other brain-based functions altered, but autistic children also struggle with things like digestive motility and immune function. 

Speaking of digestive motility, gastroparesis is one of the most well-documented Vagus Nerve Disorders. This is where the motility or movement of the gastrointestinal system is slowed and altered because it’s the job of the Vagus Nerve (or cranial nerve) is to stimulate and activate digestive function in this way. 

This is generally what happens across the board with Vagus Nerve disorders – some key function that is supposed to be activated and stimulated by this wildly important nerve is then slowed way down or “turned off”. 

Here is a quick list of things we know can be connected to Vagus Nerve Disorders: 

  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD)
  • Difficulty swallowing or loss of gag reflex
  • Dizziness or fainting (often called Vasovagal Syncope)
  • Hoarseness, wheezing or loss of voice, difficulty speaking
  • Loss of appetite, feeling full quickly, or unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Heart rate and blood pressure challenges
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep Disorders

COVID, Long COVID, and the Vagus Nerve?

Some new research discussed here may help provide answers and important action steps to the likely millions of people still struggling with symptoms of long COVID. 

Simply put, one of the things that makes COVID such a difficult viral infection to treat is how much it impacts the autonomic nervous system and vagus nerve. Most of the drugs that have been created to treat respiratory infections are able to target inflammation, congestion, and so forth, but medicine has long struggled to be able to have much impact on the actual nervous system. This is because the nervous system functions more like an “electrical wiring” system rather than through fluid and chemistry as do other subsystems of the body. 

From the very beginning of COVID, we could help our patients in a way that medicine could not because we knew our chiropractic adjustments — and the entire focus of our care — was to address subluxation and dysautonomia. If stress stays “stuck” in the vagus nerve and autonomic nervous system, it’s easy to see why so many see the symptoms below stay “stuck” for a long time after their COVID infection. These issues include things like: 

  • Difficulty swallowing and tasting food 
  • Loss of smell and appetite 
  • General fatigue and exhaustion 
  • Reflux, nausea, bloating, and other digestive problems 
  • Emotional dysregulation, anxiety, and other mood disorders 

If you’ve tried every prescription and over-the-counter medication, plus a whole host of other natural remedies but still have some lingering “long COVID” symptoms, consider checking with your local PX Doc to see if they can help. 

How Do You Care for Vagus Nerve Disorders?

The very first step you must take is to really address how you or your child’s vagus nerve truly is functioning, and if it’s off track, determine how much. 

The most important exam for this is what’s called an HRV Test (Heart Rate Variability). Our PX Docs are trained and equipped to run an HRV exam on children as young as a few days old, all the way up to all of us stressed, worn-out parents. 

Depending on the age, HRV is a simple test that takes just 1-5 minutes to run but gives us so much valuable information as to how your Vagus Nerve really is working, and whether or not  subluxation and dysautonomia are present or not. 

Here are two examples of what Vagus Nerve Dysfunction would look like on an HRV test: 

Vagus Nerve Disorders

This is the HRV of a busy mom who’s crazy fit and in shape, so looks healthy and strong on the outside, but struggles with fatigue, gut and immune issues, and sciatica. 

What this sympathetic dominant HRV really shows is that her Vagus Nerve “brake pedal” is not doing its job. When that side of the system becomes dysfunctional or subluxated, an overactive and sustained (sympathetic fight or flight “gas pedal” side) response is the end result. 

Vagus Nerve Disorders

This HRV is actually of an infant who is struggling with fussiness (colic), sleep challenges, reflux, and constipation. What this HRV shows with the little white dot in the lower right quadrant is that not only is the Vagus Nerve dysfunctional and not providing a good “braking” or stimulation of sleep and digestion, but also this child is absolutely exhausted from not getting enough sleep. 

Next Steps for Vagus Nerve Dysfunction! 

Really it’s the first step that puts all the healing in motion for you or your child – getting the answers that only the HRV and other neurological scans can provide! 

If you suspect that you or your child are struggling with Vagus Nerve Dysfunction, subluxation, and dysautonomia, then going through the PX Doc Clinical Process is going to be super helpful. Not only will you get the neurological scans run to find the exact level of dysfunction within the nervous system, but you’ll be able to have an in-depth consultation and conversation with your PX Doctor. 

Our PX Docs understand the Vagus Nerve and everything connected to it better than any other health practitioner out there. From there they’ll put together a personalized, customized care plan just for you or your child that will make sure and put activation and stimulation of the Vagus Nerve front and center! 
Simply visit our online directory and give your local PX Doc a call today!

Challenges Covered: ADHD | Allergies | Anxiety | Asthma | Autism | Vagus Nerve


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