There is new hope for those of us with autoimmune diseases trying to improve our health naturally – and it isn’t child’s play, although it sure looks like it is. A new, natural treatment option for reducing inflammation comes in the form of the purple, squishy Coregeous® ball.
How can what looks like a child’s ball help to reduce systemic inflammation, like that experienced in autoimmune diseases, such as Rheumatoid Disease (aka Rheumatoid Arthritis), Lupus, and Multiple Sclerosis? It all starts with the vagus nerve.
First, some scientific background, and I will include links at the end of this post, should you wish to examine them further. The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that runs from brainstem to abdomen and is responsible for communicating with our nervous system to turn on our parasympathetic nervous system, or relaxation response. When the vagus nerve is stimulated it releases the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. According to an article by Angela Savitri Petersen, “Acetylcholine is responsible for learning and memory. It is also calming and relaxing, which is used by the vagus nerve to send messages of peace and relaxation throughout your body. New research has shown that acetylcholine is a major break on inflammation in the body.” 
In other words, when stimulated, the vagus nerve tells the brain to release acetylcholine, which in turn can reduce inflammation throughout the body. Since autoimmune diseases have a component of systemic inflammation, this information is of particular importance.
Some research has shown that patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis have reduced heart rate variability, which is a marker of vagal tone. It is proposed that reduced vagal tone triggers increased production of IL-6, TNF-α, MIF and HMGB1 by peripheral leukocytes, monocytes and macrophages; leads to an increase in sympathetic activity (remember, this is the body’s flight-or-fight response); and consequently increases inflammation due to a decrease in the production of anti-inflammatory acetylcholine that ultimately results in the systemic inflammation seen in autoimmune diseases like RA and lupus. 
This connection is why some people have success reducing inflammation through activities like yoga, qi gong, tai chi, and HeartMath®, all of which can improve heart rate variability and increase the relaxation response.
Kevin Tracey, immunologist and neurosurgeon at the Feinstein Institute in Manhasset, NY, is leading the research in the area of the vagus nerve and inflammation in autoimmune diseases. Tracey proved that the vagus nerve directly affects immune cells by conducting experiments in which he injected a toxin known to trigger production of the inflammatory cytokine TNF (tumor necrosis factor), and then stimulated the vagus nerve. The results showed that vagus nerve stimulation blocked both the signal molecule and other cytokines involved in inflammation, blocking TNF by 75%.
This explains why the use of anti-TNF drugs, such as Enbrel®, are sometimes effective in reducing the inflammation caused by some autoimmune diseases, albeit with the potential for serious side effects.
Tracey’s results led him to begin experimenting with Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) for RA and other autoimmune conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease. VNS is already being used to treat certain types of epilepsy and major depression. It uses a stimulator that sends electrical impulses to the left vagus nerve in the neck via a lead wire implanted under the skin. Initial trials in autoimmune patients are positive. 
Frankly, while this new treatment option offers hope to RA sufferers like myself, I would first rather try to stimulate my vagus nerve by rolling on a YTU massage therapy ball on my abdomen, before implanting a device in my neck to electrically stimulate my vagus nerve.
Come back later this week to read more about why and how abdominal massage can be an important new tool to help those with inflammatory autoimmune illnesses.
-  http://eiriu-eolas.org/2013/06/15/activating-the-vagus-nerve/ Good information about the vagus nerve by Angela Savitri Petersen.
-  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037330/ “Can vagus nerve stimulation halt or ameliorate rheumatoid arthritis and lupus?”
-  http://www.technologyreview.com/news/419172/neural-stimulation-for-autoimmune-diseases/
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denise-nagel-md/post_7745_b_5429315.html An article about the work of Dr. Kevin Tracey by a psychiatrist and autoimmune patient.
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25481554 “Vagus nerve stimulation: a new bioelectronics approach to treat rheumatoid arthritis?”