The month of January is coming to a close and February is just around the corner. People will soon stop greeting each other by saying “happy new year.” It won’t be long before we move on to our next holiday greeting, hearing people say… “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Valentine’s Day, the day of the heart, is about romance and flowers and chocolate. Yum yum yum, gotta love that chocolate. We’ll probably be reminded numerous times of recent studies claiming that consuming dark chocolate may cut heart disease. You may notice that studies such as these tend to appear in the news right about the time chocolate sales are picking up. That’s fine, pick up some chocolate for your chiropractor and remind them that studies show its good for the heart.
Chiropractic is also good for the heart, by way of the nervous system, and the removal of spinal stress. When we talk about the heart most people think about blood, and the job the heart does pumping that blood throughout the body. But what about the connection between the brain and the heart, we don’t hear as much information about that.
Like every organ in the body, the heart is controlled by the nervous system. There is a nerve that runs from the lower part of your brain (the brainstem) down to your heart. This nerve is called the vagus nerve or the pneumogastric nerve (cranial nerve X). It is the only nerve in your brain that extends down through your neck and into your abdominal region. You certainly don’t want to have spinal stress anywhere in your neck, if anything, it just doesn’t feel good. That annoying and tender bump you can feel when you press your thumb into the side of your neck just below your ears is a fairly good sign your suffering from spinal stress. Who wants to go around choking off the flow of life energy your vagus nerve is trying to bring to your heart and stomach? That’s just not good.
The vagus nerve is not just a simple wire that creates a connection between the brain and the heart, its functions are pretty complex. We won’t get into parasympathetic innervation, innervation of the hearts sinoatrial node, the different nuclei associated with the vagus nerve, or discoveries related to the vagus nerve and the secretion of neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine. Just know that the vagus nerve performs a pretty valuable function in the human body.
Some drugs will affect the function of the vagus nerve. Depending on the drug, they can affect the nerve at the level of the heart, gastrointestinal tract, or other organs. Drugs such as Anticholinergics may even cause constipation, which also involves the vagus nerve. No one wants to be constipated on Valentine’s Day, and still have that annoying bump on the side of your neck just below the base of your skull.
Would you believe that medical doctors use to cut the vagus nerve out of the body for treating things such as peptic ulcers? You’d think maybe they would have been doing that a long long time ago, in the dark ages of medicine, but the procedure was popular up until the mid-1990s as a treatment for peptic ulcers. The procedure was called a vagotomy and it became obsolete after was discovered that Helicobacter pylori, a microorganism that can thrive in the highly acidic environment of the stomach, was responsible for most peptic ulcers. It makes you wonder how many other surgical procedures will become obsolete as we continue to discover new things about the human body.
I’m not into cutting nerves and taking drugs that make me constipated, I’d rather have my body function naturally, at its highest potential. That’s where chiropractic comes in.
This Valentine’s Day, don’t lose your nerves. Even if you don’t have that tender bump on your neck, it may be a good time to go pay a visit to your local chiropractor. They will certainly be glad to see you, especially if you’re bringing chocolate!