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?”
Interesting information, I’ll follow the next article. I have a couple of clients with R.A and for sure this can help them a lot. Plus I believe that the coregeous ball is an amazing tool, Thanks.
You just can me one more reson to relax and stimulate my vagus nerve when I don’t seem to «have the time». I’m actually doing the YTU TT and with all the homeworks I don’t take the time to do anything else… but I think I might roll myself with the coregeous ball and go early to bed tonight as the acetylcholoine spread when we relax is also responsible for learning and memory.
Thank you for sharing this important information with us! I am looking forward t your post how you use the abdominal massage to calm the vagus nerve.
I wonder how vagal toning plays a role for those of us with autoimmune conditions but also a heightened vasovagal response and have vasovagal syncope. I’ve found the more I reduce inflammation, the lower my already-low blood pressure goes, and I have a heightened vasovagal response. I wonder if/what research exists on this.
Along with stimulating the Vagus nerve, Abdominal massage is extremely beneficial and relaxing. Unfortunately it has been omitted from many variations of body work here in the west. Being able to use a self massage technique might be just the answer! Thanks for sharing.
Good Info. its worth noting that mental health issues as well as inflammatory disease increase as vagal tone goes down. Directly contacting our trauma storehouse in the belly with the ball is so direct.
The ability to self regulate (destress) is a key in the lock of our innate ability to self heal.
Thank you Meredith! The information on the stimulation of the vagus nerve to decrease inflammation is very encouraging for a friend of mine with Lupus.
Our bodies are so intriguing. There is so much available to us. We have been cruising around in our bodies and not have read the manual. I’m so excited to be getting to know this amazing container I get around in!
So enlightening! Many people are suffering from autoimmune diseases and it’s good to learn more about them and how using physical practices with the coregeous ball can help with immunity and inflammation. Looking forward to learning more.
Thank you for sharing the correlation of the vagus nerve and inflammation in the gut. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and hashimoto (an autoimmune disease) and currently use the therapy balls for a variety of techniques to aid in stress and inflammation. I look forward to other posts related to this topic and appreciate the resources provided for this article.
I was already taken and enamored by the vagus nerve from Jill’s Breath and Bliss Immersion, but to know it helps with the immune system also! I am inclined to do more research straight away! Thank you for this valuable information.
Such great hopeful information. The vagus nerve has been a special interest of mine for quite awhile and I am thrilled to learn that it is having such an impact in so many areas! Another amazing example of how that Yoga Tune Up® is leading the way to better health.
Thank you for this fascinating post. I am always interested in new research that proves there are natural alternatives to prescription drugs. I can’t wait to check out the follow up post on the methods used in this practice.
Inflammation and immunity have always been fascinating to me. There are so many players involved, and there is still so little we understand about how they all work collectively and individually to influence pathology. The vagus nerve is a pretty powerful thing! I have seen the effects of exaggerated vagal response in my patients before, and it is pretty profound. I think it makes sense that gentle stimulation, perhaps through rolling, would produce greater relaxation. I hesitate to make the leap that rolling and relaxation could lead to a clinically significant reduction in inflammation, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try!
Thank you for this fascinating information! Auto-immune diseases and depression are 2 major issues that affect my family. Your post so clearly linked the research to the techniques we use in Yoga Tune-Up ® to stimulate the vagus nerve and reduce. Such an important key to unlock the mystery surrounding these issues.
What a great blog post Meredith! Whenever I teach a class with the Coregeous Ball I tell my students about how vagus nerve stimulation can be helpful, after reading this I certainly have much more information and all the links you shared are so helpful. Personally, I love teaching how to roll the Coregeous Ball for a bunch of reasons, firstly, because of the personal impact abdominal massage has had on myself as I have a background on anxiety and panic attacks. My first response to everything USED to be anxiety. And I emphasize the word “used” because that had changed so much since I have learned to down regulate my nervous system by learning how to breathe properly, calmly and effectively. Secondly, because there are students on my class with autoimmune disorders, fybromialgia, RA and some others. One of them being my sister. She suffers from fybromialgia and takes a lot of pills, among them, antidepressants. I know some doctors prescribes this kind of pills as a way to keep the pain controlled by artificially down regulating the nervous system which I think along the way, the body forget to do it by itself. She suffers from constipation (caused by the antidepressants intake). She just started rolling the Coregeous Ball, she’s excited but skeptic. She enjoys the idea that it is going to help her with bowel movement. I know it will maybe take a while for her to change her mindset but I am confident that she will feel better should she continue rolling away her abdomen. I will certainly take a deeper look on the links you shared, so I can keep helping her to find her own way through this. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thank you for sharing your research, your background and suggestion with rolling on the belly. This is possibly very useful info to help folks with other types of auto immune situation.
I have a heart condition with symptoms initially diagnosed as stemming from “only” a vagus nerve problem. I had no idea how important this nerve is, how many things it is responsible for. After this article, I will for sure pay attention to YTU therapy balls and how they might affect me.
I’ve known through using the Coregeous ball with my 8YO daughter who struggles with GI issues anxiety, what an impact it can have on her mood and helping her down regulate but didn’t realize there was a benefit to stimulating the vagus to help with autoimmune related inflammation – such an impactful post to read as myself and family members have various autoimmune disorders. I’ll continue to be on the look out here for further articles on this subject. Thank you!
Great background information. Yoga Tune Up always steps up to offer the ‘science of….’
Yet again another benefit to rolling. I love the way that rolling will not only allow you to physically feel the results but can heal you by stimulating your nervous system. Thank you for also including the references so I can continue to inform myself on this matter. Knowing that we have the power to heal ourselves through this type of work is mind blowing, and I can’t wait to share this knowledge.
Well, this would go a long way to explain why smashing a Coregeous ball in my gut would relieve pain from my IBD when nothing else would. I’d assumed it was restoring slide and glide to the tissues and improving blood flow (garbage out, groceries in as Kelly Starrett would say) but perhaps it’s more than that.
Thank you Meredith for such current and valuable information. I also appreciate the reference list as I need to broaden my understanding of the vagus response. And learning yet another very positive benefit of Coregeous ball ab rolling is a big plus!
Wow! I love that you broke down how the coregeous ball can affect the vagus nerve and what that specifically means for autoimmune diseases. I always fees great after using it, but now while rolling I can think of all the acetylcholine that is being released:)
This truly brings hope to so many who are suffering with autoimmune disease. Very interested to learn more about the vagus nerve and depression. Thank you!
Wow. Looks like a breakthrough for those suffering with autoimmune disorders. I look forward to learning more.
This is a really interesting article…excited to learn even more about abdominal massage to stimulate the vagus nerve. I will also pass it on to my friend who struggles with autoimmune disorder and has tried everything else. I would never have thought that using the coregeous ball on the abdomen would be able to have such an affect on an autoimmune diseases. How cool! Thank you for sharing this valuable information.
I am looking forward to trying this during the day when I am experiencing stress, or even at night when I’m having trouble sleeping. Increasing my vagal tone through abdominal massage is definitely something I will try.
The connection between the vagus nerve and autoimmune diseases seems like a promising new direction. I wonder if the same connection exists for conditions that mimic autoimmune diseases, Lyme disease, osteoarthritis, or other conditions that involve joints and inflammation. If so, that would suggest that rolling may be useful for an even wider population.
Yes, Marcia Thompson, that is a typo.
thank you so much for your scientific information as well as resources! I have a few good friends currently dealing with auto-immune inflammation and non-specified “dis-eases”. I have passed along your blog link to them!
Interested to continue reading on this topic.
Cool to learn about non-invasive and non-drug related ways to help relieve symptoms of auto-immune conditions. A better route towards wellness
I had just read about stimulating the vagus nerve with electrical impulses and was wondering how else this can be done. I’m so happy to find a much less invasive method! Thanks!
You are both so welcome! I hope it helps others who suffer with autoimmune inflammation. Julie, I believe abdominal massage is also good for adrenal fatigue, as it is so down regulating for the nervous system.
I find this article fascinating, made me want to share it with my physical therapist who suffers from RA. THank you
Thank you for sharing your findings. It is always an amazement when we find more use for our Ball practice. I am looking forward to read more and also wonder if you have any intake in Adrenal fatigue syndrome? One more reason to keep my morning princess ball rolling going. 🙂
Excellent will tune in to next blog
I am so excited about this! I was told I had RA over 20 years ago, at the age of 19. I am now 42 and have recently been told by my doctor that he doesn’t think I have RA but some other type of inflammatory arthritis. Ugh! Kinda hard to wrap my mind around it, but Ok. Hardest part is not really knowing. I have pain and inflammation that is visible to the untrained eye but I have no name for it. I am willing to try anything!
I assume that the following sentence: New research has shown that acetylcholine is a major break on inflammation in the body.” needs to be corrected to: ” . . . a major BRAKE on inflammation . . .”.
Not sure what possible meaning the sentence could have the way it’s currently written.