For many of us dealing with chronic Lyme, the feelings of stress, pain, and fear can become chronic and common, creating a sense of permanent “fight or flight” – it becomes normalized, and our body adapts with it. However, this fight or flight feeling can stay and create health issues for us even after treatments and toxins – why is that? This past week on the Heal podcast, Dr. Margaret Christensen shared her insight into the limbic system’s role and specifically the Vagus nerve in people suffering from Lyme and other chronic diseases. It is an essential and sometimes overlooked component of a Lyme warrior’s path to healing.
The limbic system has multiple nerves and components that act as the board for all sensory input; it protects and looks out for danger and controls immune responses and actions like digestion and breathing. The vagus nerve, in particular, runs from the brain down through your chest and abdomen, and it is responsible for lowering your heart rate, providing somatic sensations to parts of your skin such as behind the ears, and helping contract your stomach muscles to push food along. Simply put, the vagus nerve is behind the sensation we are familiar with calling a “gut feeling.”
Living and dealing with a bacterial infection, Lyme, and other chronic illnesses can disrupt the limbic system’s natural function and send our bodies into a sympathetic nerve response. An impaired limbic system can cause issues gastrointestinal issues, lack of sleep, and a constant shaky, wired feeling. People who suffer from chronic Lyme tend to have an overreactive sympathetic system, which causes a continuous flow of norepinephrine and adrenaline released in the body.
One way to stimulate and rehabilitate the vagas nerve is through dynamic neural retraining, which focuses on retraining the limbic system to feel safe and lower its guard down for the body to stop being inflamed at all times. By focusing on environmental awareness and working through the triggers that might spike a reaction, you can reteach your body to not always feel in danger, thus allowing it to have proper immune responses and truly heal. Other forms include vagus nerve stimulation, which varies from medical procedures to simple breathing exercises for 15 minutes every day. Suppose you still find yourself having inflammatory reactions, feelings of shakiness, and anxiety post-treatment. In that case, it might be worth talking to your Lyme doctor about getting your vagus nerve tested and stimulated. Many times the most significant changes happen when small pieces of the puzzle are discovered and arranged.
To learn more about the limbic system and the way chronic illness such as Lyme disease affects it, head over to the Heal Podcast’s latest episode featuring Doctor Margaret Christensen an expert in the topic.