Chiari Malformation and the Vagus Nerve, One of Twelve Cranial Nerves...

...and the major nerve that, when constricted, can negatively impact our body's ability to regulate heart rate, breathe (feels like chest tightness, or, as it was for me, an elephant sitting on my chest) and digest food. In my experience, I couldn't swallow very well and if I ate too much (think small breakfast taco with one egg and a corn tortilla) it would cause chest tightness immediately.

The reason I'm writing about this is that a squeezed/altered vagus nerve is a major cause of symptoms for us. It literally controls many body functions that we all have experienced impairments of. For me: speech, eating, heart rate and breathing. But this makes sense. I don't know whether my tonsils herniated around 2011 or if they were herniated my entire life and my body was balanced enough to handle the tightness in that area until that time. Was it just the simpleness of aging? Having had two miscarriages? This is the mystery we all want to solve: How and why does symptom onset occur. Of course my atlas (C1) was misaligned, adding to the symptoms and perhaps made them much worse. All I know, having gone through what I did, is that once I got my head on straight - literally and emotionally - my symptoms dissipated.

The vagus nerve connects our brainstem to the body, due to which the brain receives, controls and monitor several body functions automatically. The vagus nerve forms a sort of electrical circuit while linking our heart, lungs, and gut to the brain-base. This type of ancient circuit connection is common in birds, mammals, reptiles and also amphibians. This vagus nerve connection resembles the USB or Firewire computer connection in many ways. It encompasses the major nervous system and contributes to motor control of physiological functions including gut mobility and heart rate.

image from healthline

What are the Functions of the Vagus nerve?

Some of the main functions of the Vagus Nerve include,

  • Breathing

  • Speech

  • Sweating

  • Helping in keeping the larynx open during breathing

  • Monitoring and regulating the heartbeat

  • Informing the brain of the food that is ingested and food that has been digested

  • The Vagus Nerve performs the major function of emptying the gastric region of food

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