The Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is what could be termed a very important player in the health game.
Until recently it was not known or understood how much the vagus nerve has an impact on the state of our health. It has a 2 way communication with virtually all the organs in the body and the brain.
You may be familiar with the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system to stressful situations and danger. There is also a third response to extreme threat which is a survival response leading to Freeze mode.
This disconnects us from what is going on, leaving us feeling frozen, numb or “not here”. This is the vagus nerve protecting us from harm and conserving energy. Normally the vagus nerve helps the efficient function of the organs in the body. In partnership with the parasympathetic nervous system, it is associated with rest, relaxation, digestion and regeneration. The vagus nerve is part of the control system here.
Studies have shown that anxiety and learned fear in rats is regulated by the gut. Because the vagus nerve connects the gut to the brain emotionally, so our “gut feeling” is very real!
As it is connected to the brain, so a toned vagus nerve will also help calm our moods and reduce anxiety and depression.
When the vagus nerve is “happy” or toned, our digestive system works well, our heart rate is slower and regular, our blood sugar levels are well controlled, our blood pressure may be lowered and inflammation will be reduced.
Research by neurosurgeon Kevin Tracy has shown that the Vagus nerve influences inflammation in the body. When the vagus nerve is toned, the spleen switches off the inflammatory action. As inflammation is implicated in much disease in the body, then we can see just how important the vagus nerve is for our health.
When the vagus nerve is lacking in tone, we can see these symptoms:
Inability to relax * insomnia * obesity and weight gain * brain fog * IBS * anxiety * depression * chronic fatigue * high or low heart rate * heartburn * dizziness/fainting * B12 deficiency * chronic inflammation * allergies * heart palpitations
Calming the vagus nerve with positive stimulation can bring about improvements in these symptoms. It is also thought to help with:
Migraines * fibromyalgia * tinnitus * MS * memory disorders * mood disorders * poor circulation * leaky gut
Many of the techniques in Five Minute Fast Fixes will have a beneficial effect on the vagus nerve as well as the problems they are intended for!
How you can stimulate the vagus nerve yourself and reduce stress and inflammation:
Deep slow breathing and also making the outbreath longer
A cold shower or even just splashing your face with cold water
Singing, chanting or humming
Playing a musical instrument, especially a wind instrument
Yawning helps reset the brain as well as the vagus nerve
Laughter and smiling
Probiotics and a wholefood diet
Stroking down from the ears along the neck to the collarbones soothes the vagus nerve
Gratitude and kindness
Loving-kindness meditation also helps tone the vagus nerve reduce anxiety and allows us to feel more connected to others. In a comfortable position, letting a feeling of love build in your heart space, silently repeat the first line for yourself. Then silently repeat the second line for others in the world.
“May I feel safe, may I feel happy, may I feel healthy, may I live with ease”
“May you feel safe, may you feel happy, may you feel healthy, may you live with ease”