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The Vagus Nerve And Overcoming Pots


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If anyone has time to look into this guy (the vagus nerve) I would highly recommend it. This nerve is strongly associated with syncope, heart rate, and blood pressure. When I took anatomy and physiology in college, my professor told us that syncope is caused solely by this nerve. Now whether or not it is a chicken or an egg in our condition is questionable. However, by knowing about its actions, for me at least, it has been helpful. Syncope may seem to us like the bane of our existence, but it is there for a very important reason, to maintain blood pressure, and sustain life. Our bodies are not new to this living game and next time you are frustrated, ask yourself, what would happen to me if I didn't faint or get the signal from my body to lie down when things are going haywire? The answer is brain damage or even death. It's easy for us to become very frustrated with our bodies, and feel like they have let us down but in reality our symptoms have saved our lives more than once. I try to remember that and it helps me. On a further note, I believe that we have more control over our autonomic nervous system then we might know or understand. In fact monks, have the ability to raise their temperature through the power of thought and meditation, and temperature is an autonomic function. And undeniably, this implies a psychological link to autonomic function. So with that in mind my next question to myself is, how can I control this? And my answer to myself was this: stay calm. Haha! Easier said than done right?! " okay brain you are telling me to stay calm when the room is spinning, my heart is flying and palpatating all over the place, death feels imminent, my blood pressure is all over the place, I hardly know who, what, where, or when I am, I feel like I am floating around half the time, my life as I once knew it is over and so are all of my hopes and dreams, I'm pouring sweat, and scared beyond belief? Yeah, sure, calm, right." It is hard, I mean for me at least, it takes all the will I have and I still haven't mastered it. But I ask myself this, what is having sadness, anxiety, neurosis, or depression going to do for me? Absolutely nothing, except possibly make it worse because stress will stimulate my vagus nerve and only increase my symptoms. There is no cure for this disease. And I have come as far as medication can take me. I don't have cancer, or a b12 deficiency, or lupus, or some underlying heart problem that no ekg, echo, or holter monitor can find. I have pots. And if this thing were going to kill me, it would have already. And if it is going to kill me, there isn't anything I can do about it that I havent already done. And if the time comes when things do get serious then I will either live or I won't period. In the mean time, I am going to enjoy my time here on this earth, whether I feel miserable or not. I realized this three weeks ago and my productivity has increased infinitely. Yesterday I stood for three hours without sitting down. Did it feel bad? Yes like torture. But I lived through it and actually did something and had a wonderful day. If I faint, I faint. If I die, I die. Either way, sitting at home doing nothing clearly isn't going to help me beat this thing so I gotta keep moving forward. Pots, you stink and i will never forgive you for finding your way into my body. But these are the cards I have been dealt and nothing can change that. It's what I do with the hand that has been given to me that matters. Gotta start making some lemonade. I truly hope that this helps someone out there. It is what I needed, and has made all of the difference for me.

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I've had the vagus nerve inadvertently triggered when having body work done by a couple different very skilled therapists. (People who teach this stuff internationally.) So I can definitely attest to how much it plays into a lot of our symptoms. However both of these therapists were totally caught off guard by the excessive reaction that was triggered in my body. Neither one had ever had a patient react like I did and neither one was able to get it to calm down despite their best efforts. I've done yoga and meditation for 15+ years and no amount of meditating or breathing was able to control the episodes when they flared. I do think you're right in thinking that the vagus nerve is somehow involved but I don't think it's the only factor.

I agree with your attitude about moving on in life. It's just the days where I literally CAN'T move that provide a bit of a challenge to my resolve. But I do tend to think... regardless of how I feel, if I CAN move, I WILL move. Sometimes I think that's the only thing that's keeping me from being bed-bound and some days I think I'm my own worst enemy who keeps setting myself back in an endless cycle of overdoing, flaring, being stuck in bed, then overdoing, flaring...etc etc

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I know as I started to get better, there were challenges unique to that experience.

My overall POTS experience, so far, was several months of very acute POTS, where no matter how much I wanted to fight through it, physically or emotionally, I simply could not stand up for longer than a minute, or seconds, or even appear normal in any way. I was extremely exhausted, weak, faint, etc. I did try biofeedback during that time and I think it helped with reducing some adrenaline related to anxiety, but overall, I don't believe this state could have been significantly improved by any amount of meditation, biofeedback, etc.

Then the tide slowly began to turn and I began to get better, albeit with relapses and uncertainty from day to day. When at this stage, I agree there is an emotional/psychological element that may come in to play, not so much in recovery as in the choices you make--you deal with your fear of getting worse/ doing something to cause worse symptoms, your fear of having sudden symptoms in public, when driving, etc. It takes courage to brave these fears, and the continuing symptoms, to try to live some semblance of normalcy. I remember many times (and still have these during relapses) where I almost have this feeling that I am an imposter--trying to look normal and function in the world, when in truth I do not feel so at all. I think at this stage, at any stage, it is good to challenge yourself physically (and only YOU know what that challenge is, no one else, including your doctors--I say this b/c when my POTS was acute I remember the nurse recommending aerobic exercise 30 min a day which was laughable, although I should temper this by saying that of course you should talk to a dr about physical activity as it relates to your health), while all the time also gauging realistically what your limitations are so you do not over-reach and pay for it. Very challenging.

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I'm not sure it's that simple and also I don't think that every time we get triggered we would die if we weren't. I think our bodies get thrown into episodes and many of them are overreactions to what is actually going on-if that makes sense.

So I don't think that all of my episodes are saving me from death or that it is that extreme.

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Well written piece. I've been ill since I was 23 and I'm now 51. I love my life even though I have a pared down existence. I believe our minds are very powerful when it comes to our physical health and calmness and peace can help many conditions. I don't think of death but life as we have this one life here on earth and I want to enjoy, laugh and love. I want to leave my mark and not let my illnesses define me. Love your life and live in the moment.

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The fainting response as I have read is due to loss of oxygen or glucose to the brain. Whatever is causing that is trivial, probably loss of blood pressure, who knows, but either way, the laying flat or fainting restores the supply of glucose or oxygen or whatever is missing, and the vagus nerve is what causes the body to turn off its consciousness during such circumstances. Maybe this is wrong though, the human body has infinite feedback pathways in the nervous system. I once heard it explained that in modern medicine we are better plumbers (heart an vessels) than electricians (brain and nervous system).

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  • 5 years later...

I know this is almost 6 years old but I was diagnosed in April with dysautonomia I also have pots. I have had two teeth pulled in the last 2 months that weee severely infected and the last infection was all the way down into mybja bone. Obviously had been infect d for quite some time! I’m thinking and wondering how much of my problems come from a posinl infection in my vagus nerve be???

On 1/6/2012 at 8:31 PM, Lemons2lemonade said:

The fainting response as I have read is due to loss of oxygen or glucose to the brain. Whatever is causing that is trivial, probably loss of blood pressure, who knows, but either way, the laying flat or fainting restores the supply of glucose or oxygen or whatever is missing, and the vagus nerve is what causes the body to turn off its consciousness during such circumstances. Maybe this is wrong though, the human body has infinite feedback pathways in the nervous system. I once heard it explained that in modern medicine we are better plumbers (heart an vessels) than electricians (brain and nervous system).

 

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