Generati0n Rescue has a provocative post running today on their blog. Is the Vagus Nerve the Culprit Behind Speech Delay?
Team GR: Part of a healthy routine is staying in alignment. We asked chiropractor Dr. David Foss to help explain the vagus nerve and how it may be affecting individuals with autism.
Written by David Foss, D.C.
As much as I love watching some classic Elvis shows in Vegas, new studies on the vagus nerve and its implications to those with autism spectrum disorders make me sing, “Viva Las Vagus!”
We can now understand so much more about the reasoning behind some of the behaviors that those with autism exhibit because of their neurology.
Science can now explain how “vagal tone” influences social behavior, immune function, digestion, detoxification and heart rate. Having a better understanding of functional neurology allows doctors to give hope for autism recovery.
Let’s first start with some understanding of the vagus nerve and what it’s responsible for. I’ll then introduce what can happen when the vagus nerve is stressed, what can cause stress to the vagus nerve and finally how to correct the imbalance to bring about an optimally functioning nervous system.
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body that originates in the brainstem. It has branches that travel throughout the head and control a various amount of functions.
Some of these cranial branches travel to the ear affecting how we hear, our throat affecting how we speak and our eyes affecting how we focus and attend to other people.
The vagus nerve works in conjunction with oxytocin receptors in the brain, which stimulates feelings of bonding, attraction and love. This is the “social” component of the vagus nerve.
When functioning to this critical component of the vagus nerve is compromised, it will have negative effects on sensory processing, socialization, speech, vision, hearing and focus.
The vagus nerve also has two branches that travel down each side of the neck and extend throughout the body. This critical nerve is part of what is called the autonomic nervous system, which automatically regulates the functions our mind does not consciously control.
Working separate from our conscious mind, our autonomic nervous system is responsible for controlling essential and vital body functions. It consists of two components: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve systems.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for stimulation when the body is at rest and ease- including digestion, salivation, immune response, reproduction and in the brain, it enhances mindfulness and executive functioning. Think of the parasympathetic nervous system as the brake pedal in your car, slowing things down.
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for stimulating activities associated with the fight or flight response and perceived danger. It involves increased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle energy and stimulates the hind brain or the “survival” mind. Think of this system as the gas pedal in your car, speeding things up.
The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system and when functioning properly, inhibits the sympathetic nervous system.
What Happens in Vagus Doesn’t Stay in Vagus…
What comes next is most critical in understanding this complex nerve. A malfunctioning vagus nerve can cause the autonomic nervous system to be locked in a constant state of “fight or flight”.
When the autonomic system is in “syspathetic overload,” a whole host of health problems can follow including but not limited to: sensory processing disorder, sleep problems, speech problems, digestive disorders, difficulties with social interactions, immune system suppression and difficulty detoxifying…just to name a few!
Read more here.