Vagus nerve stimulation has come a long way! What was once considered an invasive and risky treatment is now a minimally invasive, well-tolerated treatment option with a growing body of evidence to support its efficacy. There are several different types of vagus nerve stimulation devices on the market today, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. The vagus nerve is a lot better understood now than it once was, and more of the benefits of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) are being discovered all the time.
So, what does all this mean for you? First, if you’re considering VNS as a treatment option, it’s essential to work with a team of experts who can help you determine which device is best for you and your specific needs. And, keep in mind that VNS is not a “one size fits all” treatment – what works for one person may not work for another. But, don’t let that discourage you! VNS is a safe and effective treatment option that has helped many people manage their conditions and improve their quality of life.
Today, we’ll tell you more about some of the game-changers in the field of VNS of which we speak.
As we mentioned, VNS is a lot more accessible than ever before. This is largely thanks to the introduction of handheld VNS devices, including Xen by Neuvana. Such devices stimulate the vagus nerve through the ear, rather than relying on surgical implantation like traditional VNS devices.
What are the benefits of a handheld VNS device? First and foremost, they’re minimally invasive. No surgery is required, meaning no recovery time is required and less risk overall. They’re also much more portable than traditional VNS devices, so you can take them with you wherever you go. Additionally, they tend to be more affordable than traditional VNS devices.
Another exciting advancement in the field of VNS is the discovery of its potential to reduce inflammation. This is a big deal, as inflammation has been linked to a whole host of chronic conditions, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
It is thought that VNS works to reduce inflammation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, leads to the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
One area that is being studied in great detail is VNS and rheumatoid arthritis.
As this study reports:
“One well-characterized cytokine-inhibiting mechanism, termed the “inflammatory reflex,” is dependent upon vagus nerve signals that inhibit cytokine production and attenuate experimental arthritis severity in mice and rats. It previously was unknown whether directly stimulating the inflammatory reflex in humans inhibits TNF production.”
As the results of the same study found:
“Vagus nerve stimulation (up to four times daily) in RA patients significantly inhibited TNF production for up to 84 d. Moreover, RA disease severity, as measured by standardized clinical composite scores, improved significantly. Together, these results establish that vagus nerve stimulation targeting the inflammatory reflex modulates TNF production and reduces inflammation in humans. These findings suggest that it is possible to use mechanism-based neuromodulating devices in the experimental therapy of RA and possibly other autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases.”
This is incredibly exciting for those who suffer from this debilitating illness. But, it’s also just the beginning. The potential for VNS to help reduce inflammation in other chronic conditions is vast and the implications are far-reaching.
Another area where VNS is showing great promise is in the realm of weight loss. Once again, this is linked to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. When this occurs, it leads to increased satiety hormones and a decrease in hunger hormones. This, in turn, can lead to weight loss.
One study looked at the effects of VNS on appetite and weight loss in obese individuals who had not been able to lose weight through diet and exercise alone. Again, the results were very promising, with patients reporting a decrease in hunger and an increase in satiety.
The potential for VNS to help relieve pain is another area of great interest. This is because, once again, it is thought to be linked to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. When this occurs, it leads to the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which can help to reduce pain along with inflammation, as discussed.
One clinical trial looked at the effects of VNS on chronic lower back pain. The results showed that those who received VNS treatment had a significant reduction in pain compared to those who did not receive treatment.
From anxiety to depression and PTSD, VNS has also shown great promise in the realm of mental health.
As this 2016 study reports: “Invasive and non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a promising add-on treatment for treatment-refractory depression, but is also increasingly evaluated for its application in other psychiatric disorders, such as dementia, schizophrenia, somatoform disorder, and others.”
This is likely linked to the fact that VNS can help to regulate the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight-or-flight response.
When our fight-or-flight response is in overdrive, it can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, and even depression. By regulating this response, VNS can help to ease these symptoms.
Finally, VNS and heart rate variability (HRV) are also linked. HRV is a measure of the variability between heartbeats and is an important marker of cardiovascular health.
Low HRV has been linked to conditions such as hypertension, heart failure, and even sudden cardiac death. On the other hand, high HRV has been linked to increased fitness levels, lower stress levels, and improved recovery from exercise.
Numerous studies have found that VNS can help increase HRV, which suggests that it may benefit those with low HRV.
These are just some of the ways in which VNS is being used to help improve our health. But, as research continues, we will likely see even more uses for this incredible technology.
If you are interested in learning more about VNS and how it can help you, be sure to speak with your doctor. And, keep an eye on the latest research to see what new and exciting uses for VNS are discovered!