I was sent an article recently about a novel treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, a potentially debilitating condition that involves an autoimmune inflammatory response. The immune cells of the body are “turned on” and attack joints, causing symptoms of pain that can lead to joint destruction.
This breakthrough treatment is the work of Kevin Tracey, M.D., a neurosurgeon who practices at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at North Shore LIJ Medical Center in New York. Biochemicals called cytokines are produced when inflammation occurs. Tracey performed experiments on animals that showed when you stimulate the vagus nerve, cytokine production slows, decreasing inflammation and further cellular and tissue damage.
This nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system which provides healing and restoration. The opposite nervous system, the sympathetic, is the “fight or flight” response. The device Tracey invented is a small implantable generator placed surgically around the vagus nerve in the neck. The device emits electricity at 60-second bursts, 4 times daily. The impulse travels to the spleen, responsible for producing the inflammatory biochemicals. In some trials specifically for rheumatoid arthritis, there have been promising results. Those with lower vagal tones not only have less inflammation, but their glucose levels are lower. This reduces the risk for diabetes.
This emerging field of bioelectronics is simply fascinating to me. Dr. Tracey, in a way, reminds me of Thomas Edison in the discovery of the light bulb. This study also reinforces a real connection between the nervous and immune systems. There is also a connection with the mind as well, a field called psychoimmunoneurology, the topic of another blog post.
What is more fascinating to me, however, is how energy is so important to our lives. It can cause disease, as in inflammation, but it can also heal. The way we harness our energies is thus vitally important. In Tracey’s article, practices such as meditation increase vagal tone, as well as positive emotions.
Interestingly, the article also talks about how energy is subconscious. One then needs to enter that subconscious space (through meditation, for example) in order to be fully aware of that energy. When we are aware of the quality of energy we use, whether it is from wholesome foods, happiness and contentment, or a sense of peaceful living, we are truly enlightened about our health.
Please share your thoughts about what kind of energy you bring into your body and mind.