I came across upon some very interesting research regarding the vagus nerve and chronic viral infections. This happened almost the exact same day someone very close to me had a heart attack shortly after a herpes virus infection. He is now out of danger and well into recovery, but his words stayed with me: “I think the herpes virus got a hold of my vagus nerve and that is why I had a heart attack”. I thought to myself, it is entirely possible!
The Vagus Nerve: Our Smart Wanderer
The vagus nerve is the heart of the parasympathetic nervous system, the anti-stress system. The vagus nerve is your calming and relaxing nerve which goes from your brain and down to your abdomen, dividing itself into multiple branches that reach your throat, your heart, and all your viscera.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter responsible for learning and memory. It is also calming and relaxing, and is the neurotransmitter your vagus nerve uses to send messages of peace and relaxation throughout your body. It is also a major factor regulating the immune system. Acetylcholine is a major brake on inflammation in the body and as it happens, inflammation is linked to every known disease. For instance, brain inflammation is linked to every known mood, behavior, attention, memory, or degenerative disease.
Stimulating your vagus nerve sends acetylcholine throughout your body – not only relaxing you – but also turning down the fires of inflammation. So activating the vagus nerve on a daily basis is critical to keep your brain and body healthy. By activating your vagus nerve you can reverse or stop all the negative effects of stress.
Éiriú Eolas – Stimulating the Vagus Nerve
Inflammatory molecules such as cytokines are necessary to protect us against pathogens and promote tissue repair, but excessive cytokine production can lead to systemic inflammation, organ failure and even death.
As a blessing from above, local and systemic inflammation is calmed down by the brain through what is called the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway which is a mechanism consisting of the vagus nerve and its neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
When there is inflammation, the vagus nerve is working suboptimally. Stimulation of the vagus nerve is already being used in epilepsy and depression, but now this anti-inflammatory pathway has extended its potential benefits to autoimmune diseases and beyond!
Lets look closer to this nerve and what else has in store for us.
20% of the fibers of the vagus nerve controls the organs of maintenance (heart, digestion, breathing). The rest 80% of the vagus nerve fibers sends information from your gut and other viscera to your brain, and the signals generated have the potential to affect the entire organism in order to achieve an homeostatic balance. This is why the vagus nerve is also known as the great wandering protector (vagus: vagare, to wander), for its protective role in our bodies.
The vagus nerve enhances neurogenesis (the creating of brain tissue) by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) output, which is like a super fertilizer for your brain cells. It helps repair brain tissue, but also helps with regeneration throughout your body. BDNF plays an important role in neuronal plasticity which is essential for learning, thinking and higher levels of brain function.
Stem cells are related to the vagus nerve as well. Activating your vagus nerve can stimulate stem cells to produce new cells and repair and build your own organs. Stem cells are mother cells, progenitor cells which have the potential to form different specialized cells in the body.
This is why the Éiriú Eolas breathing and meditation program has an amazing stress-control, healing, detoxing and rejuvenation effect in our bodies. It is based on stimulating the vagus nerve and its healing potential on all the body. For more information see Mass nervous breakdown: Millions of Americans on the brink as stress pandemic ravages society and also eebreathe.com.
I’ve been doing Éiriú Eolas for over 6 months now and I’ve had some great results! Leading a “modern” lifestyle rapidly left me totally stressed… a busy work environment with long hours and short deadlines, three teenage children and generally trying to get ahead in life. I was overweight and not able to sleep for more than 4 hours at a go. After practicing EE for a short period of time, I found I was more relaxed and calm. It was much easier for me to put life in perspective so to speak. My sleep is now much better and I now am able to sleep for 6-7 hours without waking up. Recently while talking with a group of new friends, I asked them to guess my age. I was surprised when the nearest guess put me 5 years younger. I figure that must be rejuvenation!! By far the best benefit from Éiriú Eolas has been the ability to put my life in perspective. I feel I’m now back on track and better equipped to figure out what’s really important in life. I’d like to thank all those who developed and are helping to share this amazing program. – Kinyash, Kenya
Herpes virus infection of the vagus nerve?
So it was with interest that I read the following research “Chronic fatigue syndrome from vagus nerve infection: A psychoneuroimmunological hypothesis.” As this article states:
For years, CFS researchers have been looking in plasma and blood cells for a pathogenic agent that causes the myriad of symptoms experienced by patients with the condition. However, according to VanElzakker, they may have been looking in the wrong place (plasma) and need to search instead in the tissues of the peripheral and central nervous system. During infection, the sensory vagus nerve sends a signal to the brain to initiate “sickness behavior,” an involuntary response characterized by fatigue, fever, myalgia, depression, and other symptoms that are often observed in patients with CFS. However, VanElzakker proposes that when sensory vagal ganglia or paraganglia are themselves infected with any virus or bacteria, these symptoms would be exaggerated. He notes that many of the symptoms of sickness behavior (such as fatigue, sleep changes, myalgia, cognitive impairment, depression and zinc depletion) are also mediated by proinflammatory cytokines and observed in CFS.
It seems to me that this is another explanation why Éiriú Eolas practitioners report significant improvements for many problems that at first may seem disconnected.
The research is unique in that rather than blaming one specific virus or pathogen as a single causative agent of disease, it focuses instead on the location of an infection: the vagus nerve.
The Vagus Nerve Infection Hypothesis (VNIH) of CFS is as follows: While the sensory vagus nerve normally signals the body to rest when it senses a peripheral infection, that fatigue signal is pathologically exaggerated when an infection is located on the vagus nerve itself. More specifically: Immune cells, including neuroimmune cells called glial cells, sense infection and launch the same basic neuroexcitatory response
regardless of infection type. When the glial cells that envelop the sensitive vagus nerve are activated by any viral or bacterial infection, their neuroexcitatory secretions escalate afferent vagus nerve signaling, which is misinterpreted by the brain as evidence of a severe peripheral infection. The brain then initiates sickness behavior, which includes fatigue and many other CFS symptoms (see Key Terms Table). Because of the way that glial cell activation may persist in a pathological positive feedback loop (as it does in neuropathic pain conditions), these CFS symptoms can persist for many years.[…]
The study of phenomena – such as sickness behavior – that sit at the intersection of behavior, brain biology, and immunology, is a relatively new field of study known as psychoneuroimmunology […] To understand the VNIH, one must understand each part of the connection among behavior (‘‘psycho-’’), the nervous system (‘‘-neuro-’’) and the innate immune system (‘‘-immunology’’).
The VNIH offers CFS researchers and patients a specific mechanism for explaining symptoms, and it offers testable hypotheses and treatment strategies. According to this hypothesis, the major symptoms experienced by CFS patients represent pathologically exaggerated sickness behavior caused by infection-activated glial signaling somewhere along the afferent vagus nerve system. Several researchers have advanced theories that align with the VNIH of CFS. Many groups have pointed out that CFS symptoms are consistent with viral infection and ongoing immune activation. More specifically, Shapiro theorized that CFS could be caused by the common neurotropic herpes virus varicella-zoster infecting the peripheral nervous system . Maes has pointed out the overlap between inflammation, depression, and CFS . The vagus nerve hypothesis provides an exact mechanism to these hypotheses, as well as an explanation for many of the inconsistencies in the literature.[Med Hypotheses. 2013 Jun 18. Chronic fatigue syndrome from vagus nerve infection: A psychoneuroimmunological hypothesis. Vanelzakker MB.]
This herpes virus varicella-zoster is a very problematic virus that contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction even in its latent infection phase. As I explained in On Viral “Junk” DNA, a DNA Enhancing Ketogenic Diet, and Cometary Kicks , most, if not all of your “junk” DNA has viral-like properties and if a pathogenic virus takes hold of our DNA or RNA, it could lead to disease or cancer.
Herpes simplex virus is a widespread human pathogen and it goes right after our mitochondrial DNA. Herpes simplex virus establishes its latency in sensory neurons, a type of cell that is highly sensitive to the pathological effects of mitochondrial DNA damage. A latent viral infection might be driving the brain cell loss in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Members of the herpes virus family, including cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus which most people have as a latent infection, can go after our mitochondrial DNA, causing neurodegenerative diseases by mitochondrial dysfunction. But a ketogenic diet – a diet based on animal fats – is the one thing that would help stabilize mDNA since mitochondria runs the best on fat fuel. As it happens, Alzheimer’s disease is the one condition where a ketogenic diet has a profound positive effect.
The role of mitochondrial dysfunction in our “modern” age maladies is a staggering one. Our mitochondrial energetic sources are essential if we are to heal from chronic ailments. It is our mitochondria the one that lies at the interface between the fuel from foods that come from our environment and our bodies’ energy demands. And it is a metabolism based on fat fuel, a ketone metabolism, the one which signals epigenetic changes that maximizes energetic output within our mitochondria and help us heal.
So with all of this in mind, it was not surprising to hear speculations such as, “what if the herpes zoster infection had a role in my heart attack via an infection of the vagus nerve?”. I thought that was pretty smart. If the vagus nerve is unable to calm down inflammation due to malfunction and/or infection within its sensory pathways, we are set up for trouble.
The more reason to welcome the idea of practicing Éiriú Eolas to balance up and heal the vagus nerve on a daily basis and so much needed dietary changes! Hopefully my old friend will introduce them soon enough as tools for his recovery.Share
About the Author:A countryside family medicine doctor and former heart surgeon in service of the Hippocratic Oath.