On the podcast, I’ve mentioned how the vagus nerve performs a component in nervous system well being and can assist with sensory problems. When you aren’t aware of the vagus nerve and what it does within the physique, you’re not alone! Increasingly more proof in recent times helps us perceive this lesser-known bodily system and the way it controls irritation, mind and organ operate, our physique’s notion of stress, and extra.
What Is the Vagus Nerve?
The vagus nerve (also called the 10th cranial nerve) is definitely a set of nerves (proper vagus nerve and left vagus nerve) that begins on the mind stem. It then meanders by the physique, touching the very important organs, and ends within the intestine. It in impact connects the brainstem to the intestine and different very important organs within the physique. The vagus nerve transmits info between these organs and performs a component within the parasympathetic nervous system.
Why Vagal Tone Issues
Vagal tone is actually how wholesome or “toned” the vagus nerve is. The upper the vagal tone, the simpler it’s to get right into a relaxed state.
Analysis revealed in Psychological Science in 2013 exhibits a constructive suggestions loop between excessive vagal tone, good bodily well being, and good emotional well being. Though the researchers admit “the mechanisms underlying the affiliation between constructive feelings and bodily well being stay a thriller,” they did set up a connection between a toned vagal nerve and higher bodily and emotional well being. The reverse can be true. The higher your bodily and emotional well being, the higher your vagal tone.
What Does the Vagus Nerve Do within the Physique?
The vagus nerve is a crucial participant in optimum well being, particularly in the case of getting into a parasympathetic state, or relaxed state. Listed below are a few of the methods the vagus nerve impacts the physique.
Connects the Mind to the Intestine
When you’ve ever had a intestine feeling about one thing, that’s due to your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve connects the mind to the intestine and sends info forwards and backwards. That is additionally known as the gut-brain axis. Your intestine tells your mind info by way of electrical impulses known as “motion potentials.”
Connects the Mind to Different Organs
The vagus nerve additionally connects the mind to different very important organs because it makes its method to the intestine. It carries sensory info from the organs to the mind.
The vagus nerve performs an necessary position in controlling the center charge. The vagus nerve stimulates the discharge of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which reduces coronary heart charge. A rise in coronary heart charges requires inhibition of vagus nerve stimulation (which suggests no acetylcholine launch). Medical doctors can plot your coronary heart charge variability (HRV) and uncover quite a bit concerning the well being of your coronary heart and vagus nerve. In case your HRV is excessive, your vagal tone is excessive.
The vagus nerve additionally performs a component in lung operate. Acetylcholine that the vagus nerve stimulates to launch can be liable for telling the lungs to breathe.
Controls the Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system is the “relaxation and digest” side of the nervous system (in distinction to the battle or flight mechanism of the sympathetic nervous system). As talked about, the vagus nerve stimulates the discharge of acetylcholine to scale back the center charge (in rest). So the vagus nerve performs an necessary position in activating rest and restoration.
Stimulates Digestive Tract
The vagus nerve is liable for stimulating digestion. It does this even earlier than consuming any meals. It sends indicators to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to start producing gastric juices to arrange for digestion. If the vagus nerve will not be optimum, digestion isn’t optimum.
Stimulates Reminiscence Making
A College of Virginia examine discovered that vagus nerve stimulation can assist solidify recollections by stimulating the discharge of norepinephrine. This may be large for individuals affected by reminiscence points or these with Alzheimer’s illness.
Prevents Persistent Irritation
One of the crucial wonderful capabilities of the vagus nerve is that it might stop irritation. Persistent irritation is implicated in lots of trendy sicknesses from most cancers to coronary heart illness. In accordance with an article revealed in Molecular Medication, when the vagus nerve senses irritation (by the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokine, for instance) it stimulates the discharge of anti-inflammatory neurotransmitters to manage the immune system.
Moreover, a 2016 examine discovered that vagus nerve stimulation helped scale back signs of rheumatoid arthritis, an sickness and not using a treatment.
Pure Methods to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve
It’s clear that vagus nerve stimulation is necessary for optimum well being. There may be an FDA regulated machine that you would be able to have implanted within the physique. It sends electrical impulses to stimulate the vagus nerve. However there are different methods of stimulating the vagus nerve with out surgical procedure, units, or unwanted effects.
Chilly remedy has many advantages from quicker restoration from train to improved immune operate. Acute chilly publicity additionally prompts the vagus nerve and cholinergic neurons and nitrergic neurons by vagus nerve pathways, in accordance with a 2001 examine. This implies chilly publicity can even enhance parasympathetic exercise by the vagus nerve, reducing the sympathetic (battle or flight) response.
It’s well-known that deep, sluggish respiratory can assist induce rest. As talked about earlier, vagal stimulation may cause rest however the reverse can be true. Rest can stimulate the vagal nerve. So inducing rest by deep respiratory can assist enhance vagal tone. This may then make it simpler to get right into a relaxed state sooner or later!
Singing, Buzzing, Gargling
Singing and buzzing could also be stress-free on their very own, however there’s a physiological purpose for it. The vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords. Analysis revealed in Frontiers in Psychology exhibits that singing, buzzing, and even gargling can assist activate it. Chewing additionally stimulates vagus nerve exercise (and the parasympathetic system that prompts digestion, which is sensible!). This implies chewing gum, whereas it could have its downsides, additionally stimulates the vagus nerve.
I’ve talked about intermittent fasting and the way it may be helpful to your well being. Intermittent fasting can enhance mitochondrial and cognitive operate. It could additionally enhance metabolism and scale back the chance of coronary heart illness and most cancers.
Nevertheless it seems these well being advantages could also be associated to intermittent fasting’s skill to stimulate the vagus nerve and enhance vagal tone. A 2003 examine discovered that fasting is a physiological activator of the vagus nerve.
Wave vibration has been closely studied by the scientific neighborhood for its well being advantages. This remedy includes standing on an oscillating plate that produces low-level vibrations. These vibrations then create constructive stress all through the physique (just like the type of stress created by train). This stress prompts the vagal nerve amongst different elements of the physique.
Probiotics are an necessary a part of the food plan and are helpful for a lot of illnesses from digestive issues to pores and skin points. It seems, probiotics can also be useful in stimulating the vagus nerve. Researchers of a 2011 examine discovered that giving mice Lactobacillus Rhamnosus elevated their GABA manufacturing and decreased stress in addition to melancholy and anxiety-related habits.
Apparently, these given the probiotics who didn’t have a vagus nerve (it was eliminated) didn’t see the identical outcomes. This means that the improved stress resilience had one thing to do with activation of the vagus nerve.
Wholesome Fat and Omega-3s
A 2011 examine revealed in Frontiers of Psychology found that prime fish consumption is related to a nervous system that’s predominantly parasympathetic (relaxed) and enhanced vagal exercise. Researchers surmised that the omega-Three content material of the fish was the explanation for this. That is one purpose I take an omega-Three complement every day.
Train is a crucial a part of a wholesome life-style. Nevertheless it appears like it could even be useful in stimulating the vagus nerve. This might be the explanation that train helps us to loosen up. One 2010 examine discovered that delicate train stimulated gastric emptying and improved digestion. They found that this occurred due to vagal stimulation.
Analysis means that therapeutic massage could be helpful in stimulating the vagus nerve. In a single 2012 examine untimely infants who had been massaged had larger weight achieve resulting from vagal exercise. That is one purpose we attempt to use a wide range of therapeutic massage methods and instruments at dwelling.
Foot reflexology can even assist enhance vagal tone. In accordance with a examine revealed in Various Therapies in Well being and Medication, foot reflexology elevated vagal modulation, decreased sympathetic modulation, and lowered blood strain.
Laughter and Social Enjoyment
We already know that laughter and being round family and friends is an effective method to loosen up. However a 2013 examine stumbled upon an attention-grabbing discovering: there’s a connection between bodily well being emotional well being and social enjoyment. Optimistic social interactions affect constructive feelings, which enhance vagal tone. This then improved bodily well being.
The examine concluded that “constructive feelings, constructive social connections, and bodily well being affect each other in a self-sustaining upward-spiral dynamic.” The examine additionally discovered that common meditation and constructive affirmation may get individuals into this upward spiral.
The traditional Chinese language drugs therapy of acupuncture could also be helpful in stimulating the vagus nerve. Analysis exhibits that ear acupuncture can profit the next:
cardiovascular regulationrespiratory regulationgastrointestinal tract regulation
Additionally, foot reflexology can lower blood strain by modulating the vagus nerve, in accordance with a 2012 examine.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation: It’s Good for Well being!
The vagus nerve has gotten a whole lot of consideration recently for all of the wonderful issues it might do for well being. As extra science explains the mechanisms of the mind-body connection, strategies like this turn into rather less “woo” and much more mainstream.
It’s quite simple and simple to stimulate the vagus nerve and get these advantages, making vagus nerve stimulation an accessible (and low-cost) manner to enhance total bodily and emotional well being. I’ve been making an attempt to work extra of those methods into my every day routine (the children particularly love after I stroll round gargling!).
Backside line, I’m keen to look a bit of silly if it means educating my children a few lesser-known bodily system (the vestibular system is one other one we’re engaged on) and how you can maintain it.
Have you ever heard of the vagus nerve earlier than? Do you utilize any of those strategies, or others? I’d love to listen to!