Viva the vagus (nerve that is)!

Yes we want our vagus nerve to have a long healthy life, so how can we aid the health of this longest and most complex cranial nerve and thereby improve our overall health and longevity??

The vagus nerve connects the brain stem to the body and allows the brain to monitor and receive information about several of the body’s different functions. One of the functions is that it is part of a circuit that links the neck, heart, lungs, and the abdomen to the brain.

The vagus nerve has such effects as delivering information from the gut to the brain - the second brain (gut) - you may be familiar with that term and playing a big role in the parasympathetic nervous system health. What that means, is it can help relax the body through breathing, decrease inflammation, lower our heart rate (which we know speeds up when stressed) as well as helping with fear and subsequent stress response to it.

A vagus nerve that is not functioning optimally, has been associated with anxiety, depression, PTSD, irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, and even dementia!

The main reason I'm bringing all this up, is that lately I've been referencing that my focus more and more, is on stress, anxiety and how to reduce it and ultimately manage it. Stress underpins and exacerbates all physical and mental health conditions. There is no two ways about it!

Did you know we can actually stimulate and improve the tone of the vagus nerve and in doing so, improve various health conditions including anxiety, depression and gut conditions!

Some ways we can activate the vagus nerve:

  1. Singing

  2. Chanting or humming

  3. Breathing - deep breathing with longer exhalations

  4. Yoga poses - certain inversions and twists work on the vagal tone.

  5. Gargling

  6. Gagging - yes not the nicest I know!

  7. Massage around the sides of the neck

  8. Topical Essential oils

  9. Regular exercise

  10. Cold therapy - a cold water blast at the end of your shower or washing your face with cold water.

  11. Laughter

  12. There are electrical stimulators you can use topically.

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