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Electronics that control inflammation? – Episode 003

Imagine a future where your anti-virus software has to protect your nervous system, not just your home computer. Or, where overseas hackers can commandeer your digestive tract. Science fiction coming alive is just around the corner with the growing field of bioelectronics – implanting electronic devices into the body to treat disease and regulate body functions.

Bioelectronics coming of age, predicted 100 years ago by a magnetic healer?

Pacemakers and insulin pumps have been around for awhile, but now tiny computers are being used in the body for all sorts of purposes. The launching pad for today’s show is an article in Scientific American by Kevin J. Tracey, a neuro-surgeon who has been investigating the process of inflammation in the body.

Recently Tracey and his research team made an accidental discovery: a powerful inflammation chemical named tumor necrosis factor can stimulate body wide inflammation, using a nerve called the Vagus Nerve. Up until this time no one knew there was such a direct nervous system link between the autonomic nerve system and the inflammatory process. As it turns out, this inflammation can be stopped by cutting the Vagus nerve.

What does it all mean? We unpack it, and also go back into history to a mysterious healer who predicted the discovery of this information a century ago.

Topics in this podcast include:

  • How an overactive inflammatory process is recognized as the common factor in all chronic disease
  • Why inflammation isn’t all bad – it’s actually a necessary part of the healing process which tears down old and worn out cells and tissue before being rebuilt
  • Some people get locked into inflammation and its difficult to get under control
  • The discovery of tumor necrosis factor (TMN), produced by cells called macrophages, as an important chemical the stimulates inflammation
  • How Kevin J. Tracey discovered that a small amount of TMN could inspire inflammation by inserting it into the nervous system
  • And how this connection to the nerve system was made by cutting the Vagus nerve in rats, and seeing how this changed the inflammation process, something that wasn’t thought possible
  • Controlling inflammation with drugs has some serious side effects, so being able to influence inflammation via the nerve system directly is a promising method
  • The Vagus nerve shouldn’t be confused for the Vegas nerve
  • The Vagus is a nerve that comes of the brain stem, and leaves through two small holes on either side of the skull going down through the neck, then traveling through the body
  • The role and and function of the Vagus nerve as a major nerve of the parasymphathetic nervous system, which regulates heart rate, breathing, and digestion among other functions
  • The connection between the Vagus nerve and inflammation will lead to an expansion of the field of bioelectronics, where the Vagus nerve, and other parts of the nerve system will be regulated via tiny computers implanted into the body
  • The fact that major investment into bioelectronics is coming from the pharmaceutical industry
  • Biolelectronics may not just be used to influence the nerve system, but also gather data from it in order to identify future disease risk
  • Chiropractors were writing about the connection between inflammation and the disease process long before inflammation was recognized as the common factor in most chronic disease
  • Nervous system inflammation and tension was seen as a cause of dis-ease (lack of ease) – proceeding disease – as part of the founding chiropractic philosophy used to explain the physical effects of the chiropractic adjustment
  • How the writings of Daniel David Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, predicted the connection between inflammation and the nervous system in his book “The Chiropractor” in the early 1900s
  • Chiropractors have theorized about the role of disturbed nerves in health since the start of the profession in 1897, but didn’t have the technology to observe the possibility of nerves and tissue inflammation being directly related in the way that Tracey discovered in his research
  • The connection between inflammation and the Vagus may explain why a chiropractor can correct the neck and influence the bowel health of a patient, like in a condition like Chron’s Disease, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Zach’s experience with a patient with Positional Orthostatic Tacchycardia (POTs syndrome)
  • How electronic implants are now being used for Rheumatoid Arthritis patients, and those patients are reporting visible reduction in their joint swelling
  • Vagus nerve stimulation was approved by the FDA in February 2015 to curb hunger in the treatment of obesity
  • How half the population could alter their diet to reduce their level of inflammation
  • As the use of biolelectronics expand, there may be questionable applications of the technology that has some side effects, as there is a lot we don’t understand how all this nerve signally works
  • How there is a history of trying to alter pain signalling pathways with extreme treatments, like electoshock therapy
  • Is it possible that we could be permanently altering the nerve system and human programming through electronic implants?
  • If bodywork and chiropractic influences the nerve system through the skeletal system, then this treatment isn’t
  • The recognition that a disturbed system (perhaps even in inflammation) has been a part of other healing systems (like traditional Chinese medicine) to some degree for thousands of years
  • Vibration as the physics of life have definitely been a part of the philosophy of Eastern health philosophies, and a part of chiropractic
  • All life requires vibration/frequency and this reality is still mysterious, as we don’t exactly know where the origin of the vibration in the nervous system really arises, though we know that loss of vibration of frequencies in certain areas of the brain is the definition of clinical death
  • D.D. Palmer recognized that all life requires vibration – and even consciousness requires vibration
  • You can access your own autonomic nerve system through specific breathing exercises and biofeedback to defeat stress and anxiety
  • Gaining some influence over your autonomic nerve system will most likely influence the Vagus nerve
  • Upper cervical chiropractic corrections is another way to potentially influence the autonomic nervous system, and the affect on the Vagus nerve may explain some of the miraculous changes certain chiropractors get with certain patients
  • Patients facing the prospect of an implant should consider the possibility of spinal corrections

 Related Resources:
Electronic Medicine Fights Disease by Brian J. Tracey in Scientific American

Vagus Nerve Anatomy from Medscape

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Procedure – What You Can Expect from Mayo Clinic

Resolution of Irritable Bowel Symptomatology in a Patient Undergoing Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care

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