In this blog, we will be talking about Vagus Nerve Health and why the Vagus nerve has such a crucial role to play in achieving optimum health.
Understanding the Vagus Nerve
The Vagus Nerve: What is it?
The vagus nerve connects the body and the brain together like a superhighway. Its main job is to send afferent signals from many body organs, such as the heart, liver, gut, and lungs, to and from the brain.
The Unique Role Among Cranial Nerves
The vagus nerve is the only one out of the 12 cranial nerves to have such a significant impact on both the body and the mind.
Influence on Behavior and Emotions
It triggers our fight, flight, or freeze survival stress response as it travels through our reptilian brain, which protects us (at the base of the brain), but it can also influence our behaviours and thoughts because it connects with the limbic brain too, and so it has the ability to affect how secure, anxious, and avoidant we act and feel.
Regulating Relaxation and Digestion
The vagus nerve controls our capacity to be able to relax and unwind. It also controls our ability to be able to rest and digest and on top of that it maintains our homeostatic inflammatory response.
The Vagus Nerve Under Stress
When the body feels alarm, anxiety, pain, gut-wrenching trauma or visuals, sadness, or heartbreak, this type of stress can overstimulate the vagus nerve, wearing it down over time and causes a flood of dangerous afferent nerve impulses to the brain.
Link to Immune System and Gut Health
Numerous studies link vagus nerve tone disfunction to the consequences of trauma that has happened at any stage of life (especially in adolescence), with chronic digestive issues, PTSD, migraines, sleep difficulties, and autoimmune diseases.
Furthermore, the vagus nerve directly affects the health of our immune system because a significant component of it is located in our gut. When an imbalance occurs in these organs, the brain receives a message nearly instantaneously, and actions are then made to correct the imbalance. The gut is a crucial sense organ because it serves as a significant interface between our internal environment and the external world.
Acetylcholine Release and Its Effects
The vagus nerve also causes the release of acetylcholine, which slows the heartbeat, opens blood vessels, and controls muscles. It’s safe to argue that the vagus nerve might be the most significant nerve that most people are still uninformed about.
Inflammation Control and Healing
Inflammation is constantly under the vagus nerve’s control. It signals the presence of inflammatory proteins called cytokines so that the brain can release neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters aid in wound healing and then lower inflammation in the body.
Associated Health Concerns
Scientists have connected vagus nerve dysfunction to gastrointestinal (GI) problems, obesity, chronic inflammation, depression, chronic illness, anxiety, and seizures.
Aging and Vagus Nerve Responsiveness
Studies show that as people age, the responsiveness of the vagal nerve also declines.
Understanding Vagus Nerve Health and Vagal Tone
The Vagus nerve regulates our body’s automatic functions through what’s called “vagal tone.” When we’re stressed, this tone can decrease, weakening the nerve. But managing stress can restore and even boost it.
Stressful situations can speed up our heartbeat, change our breathing, tense our muscles, and increase cortisol, our stress hormone. This not only affects our physical state but also disrupts the connection between our mind and body.
The Vagus nerve links to the brain’s emotional center, the limbic system, which includes the amygdala and hippocampus. This connection means our emotions and Vagus nerve health are closely intertwined.
A common saying among us is, “What happens in VAGUS never stays in VAGUS.” The vagus nerve is unique, when someone has too little vagal tone (which we often see), it can be fatal, but too much vagal tone can also be disastrous.
The Link Between Vagus Nerve Dysfunction and Health Issues
The vagus nerve has been linked to significant depression, PTSD, and severe anxiety as well as inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Your holistic practitioner may be able to tell from a number of signs that you need holistic support for your chronic vagus nerve overstimulation or weakening. This is only one of the many variables we look at in our root cause analysis to identify the main cause or causes to your health concerns.
Below are many conditions that could be related to underactive or overactive vagus nerve tone.
- Heart rate irregularities (especially an abnormally low heart rate)
- Loss of gag reflex, difficulty swallowing, or difficulty speaking
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic pain or inflammation
- Mood disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Bladder issues
- Blood sugar imbalances
- A weakened immune system
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s disease
- Digestion issues/GI disorders
- Anxiety, the inability to unwind and feel “secure”
- Autoimmune conditions
- Heart disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Sexual arousal issues
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cluster headaches
- Chronic inflammation
- Chronic disease
- Metabolic disease
- Other conditions that involve inflammatory processes.
Healing The Vagus Nerve
Fortunately, there is no need for surgery to heal the vagus nerve. Vagal tone can be stimulated naturally with approaches that are easy to carry out at home. Increasing your vagal tone will benefit your mood, digestion, and overall health.
12 Techniques to Boost Vagal Tone
- Gargling: This is most likely the easiest and most convenient approach for someone to increase their vagal tone. Try your hardest to gargle with water in the morning. When your eyes start to tear up, you’ll know you’ve activated the vagus nerve.
- Deep breathing: Vagus nerve stimulation can be achieved by taking deep, steady breaths from the abdomen. Take as deep a breath as you can when you sit or lie down. Hold it for one or two seconds before letting go. Do this 5 to 10 times. Afterward, you’ll experience euphoria and relaxation.
- Laughing: A lot of neurotransmitters are released during laughter, which enhances vagal tone. Laugh loudly and frequently.
- Yoga:Yoga’s breathing and asanas aid in digestion and have been demonstrated to raise GABA levels. The vagal tone will be stimulated by increased GABA levels.
- Singing:The vagus nerve is stimulated while singing because it works the muscles in the back of the throat. To achieve this effect, just be sure to sing loudly. In the car is a fantastic place for this.
- Cold showers: The Vagus nerve can be stimulated by taking a cold shower or bath, or simply by pouring cold water on your face. Although initially uncomfortable, taking cold showers can significantly enhance vagal tone. The sympathetic nervous system weakens and the parasympathetic nervous system strengthens as your body becomes used to the cold, both of which have an impact on the vagus nerve.
- Massage: A massage activates the lymphatics and enhances vagal tone.
- Aromatherapy: Essential oils like lavender and bergamot have been demonstrated to improve vagal tone by raising heart rate variability. We have a great functional health essential oil blend for Vagus Nerve Support in our online shop.
- Chanting, chewing gum, humming, coughing, and “OM-ing”
- Spend time in the sun: Sunlight increases MSH, a hormone that helps the Vagus nerve.
- Tai chi or meditation.
- Be social: Research demonstrates that social connections strengthen resiliency and enhance Vagus Nerve health.
This is why attaining optimum health and healing from chronic illness requires a healthy Vagus nerve. Vagus Nerve health is so important to keeping and maintaining good health. If you would like to know more about Vagus nerve health, feel free to get in contact with us for more info or take our free online root cause analysis health assessment.
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