On the podcast, I’ve mentioned how the vagus nerve performs an element in nervous system well being and will help with sensory problems. When you aren’t conversant in the vagus nerve and what it does within the physique, you’re not alone! Increasingly more proof lately helps us perceive this lesser-known bodily system and the way it controls irritation, mind and organ perform, 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 important organs, and ends within the intestine. It in impact connects the brainstem to the intestine and different important organs within the physique. The vagus nerve transmits info between these organs and performs an element 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 better it’s to get right into a relaxed state.
Analysis printed 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 vital participant in optimum well being, particularly on the subject of coming 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 referred to as the gut-brain axis. Your intestine tells your mind info by way of electrical impulses referred to as “motion potentials.”
Connects the Mind to Different Organs
The vagus nerve additionally connects the mind to different important organs because it makes its approach to the intestine. It carries sensory info from the organs to the mind.
The vagus nerve performs an essential function in controlling the center price. The vagus nerve stimulates the discharge of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which reduces coronary heart price. A rise in coronary heart charges requires inhibition of vagus nerve stimulation (which suggests no acetylcholine launch). Docs can plot your coronary heart price variability (HRV) and uncover loads in regards to 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 an element in lung perform. Acetylcholine that the vagus nerve stimulates to launch can be chargeable for telling the lungs to breathe.
Controls the Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system is the “relaxation and digest” facet of the nervous system (in distinction to the combat or flight mechanism of the sympathetic nervous system). As talked about, the vagus nerve stimulates the discharge of acetylcholine to scale back the center price (in rest). So the vagus nerve performs an essential function in activating rest and restoration.
Stimulates Digestive Tract
The vagus nerve is chargeable for stimulating digestion. It does this even earlier than consuming any meals. It sends alerts to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to start producing gastric juices to organize for digestion. If the vagus nerve just isn’t optimum, digestion isn’t optimum.
Stimulates Reminiscence Making
A College of Virginia examine discovered that vagus nerve stimulation will help solidify reminiscences by stimulating the discharge of norepinephrine. This may be enormous for folks affected by reminiscence points or these with Alzheimer’s illness.
Prevents Power Irritation
One of the crucial wonderful features of the vagus nerve is that it may well stop irritation. Power irritation is implicated in lots of trendy sicknesses from most cancers to coronary heart illness. In accordance with an article printed 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 cut back signs of rheumatoid arthritis, an sickness with out a remedy.
Pure Methods to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve
It’s clear that vagus nerve stimulation is essential for optimum well being. There’s an FDA regulated system which you can 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 side effects.
Cold therapy has many advantages from quicker restoration from train to improved immune perform. Acute chilly publicity additionally prompts the vagus nerve and cholinergic neurons and nitrergic neurons by vagus nerve pathways, in keeping with a 2001 examine. This implies chilly publicity may also improve parasympathetic exercise by the vagus nerve, reducing the sympathetic (combat or flight) response.
It’s well-known that deep, slow breathing can help induce relaxation. As talked about earlier, vagal stimulation could cause rest however the reverse can be true. Leisure can stimulate the vagal nerve. So inducing rest by deep respiratory will help 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 enjoyable on their very own, however there’s a physiological cause for it. The vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords. Analysis printed in Frontiers in Psychology exhibits that singing, buzzing, and even gargling will help activate it. Chewing additionally stimulates vagus nerve exercise (and the parasympathetic system that prompts digestion, which is sensible!). This implies chewing gum, while it may 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 perform. It might additionally enhance metabolism and cut back the chance of coronary heart illness and most cancers.
But it surely 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 group 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 sort of stress created by train). This stress prompts the vagal nerve amongst different components of the physique.
Probiotics are an essential a part of the weight loss program and are helpful for a lot of illnesses from digestive issues to pores and skin points. It seems, probiotics may 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 printed in Frontiers of Psychology found that top 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 rationale for this. That is one cause I take an omega-3 supplement day by day.
Train is a vital a part of a wholesome way of life. But it surely appears to be like like it might even be useful in stimulating the vagus nerve. This might be the rationale that train helps us to calm down. 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 have been massaged had larger weight acquire as a consequence of vagal exercise. That is one cause we attempt to use a wide range of massage techniques and tools at home.
Foot reflexology may also assist enhance vagal tone. In accordance with a examine printed 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 approach to calm down. However a 2013 examine stumbled upon an fascinating 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 might get folks into this upward spiral.
The traditional Chinese language medication therapy of acupuncture could also be helpful in stimulating the vagus nerve. Analysis exhibits that ear acupuncture can profit the next:
- cardiovascular regulation
- respiratory regulation
- gastrointestinal tract regulation
Additionally, foot reflexology can lower blood strain by modulating the vagus nerve, in keeping with a 2012 examine.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation: It’s Good for Well being!
The vagus nerve has gotten numerous consideration recently for all of the wonderful issues it may well 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 straightforward to stimulate the vagus nerve and get these advantages, making vagus nerve stimulation an accessible (and low-cost) means to enhance total bodily and emotional well being. I’ve been attempting to work extra of those methods into my day by day routine. (The youngsters particularly love after I stroll round gargling!)
Backside line, I’m prepared to look slightly silly if it means instructing my youngsters a few lesser-known bodily system (the vestibular system is one other one we’re engaged on) and the best way to maintain it.
Have you ever heard of the vagus nerve earlier than? Do you employ any of those strategies, or others? I’d love to listen to!