What Is A Vagus Nerve And How Does It Impact Our Gut And Well-Being?

The Vagus Nerve (sometimes referred to as the Vagal Nerve) has more of an impact on your digestion, heart rate, blood pressure, and overall health than you probably can imagine.

Have you not heard of the vagus nerve before? No worries – many people haven’t.

This nerve runs from the brain stem to the abdomen, and carries information between the two. We now understand that the gut (and the bacteria that reside there) talk to the brain as much as the brain talks to the gut.

Here are the other major functions of the vagus nerve:

✨Helps control muscles in the throat and our voice, and is responsible for our gag reflex

✨Regulates heart rate

✨Carries sensory information from organs back to the brain

✨Controls sweating and regulates blood pressure

✨Is the major nerve that impacts our parasympathetic nervous system, which is essential not only for good digestion, but also for our hormone health

While overstimulation of the vagus nerve can be bad in some situations – particularly for those with dysautonomia, or POTS – many people can use a little extra love for their vagus nerve.

Why Stimulate the Vagus Nerve?

 

 

Before we talk about how to stimulate the vagus nerve, let’s talk about the purpose of stimulating it.

From a hormone and gut-related standpoint, the main reason we want to get into the habit of stimulating the vagus nerve is because of how it effects the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

You’ve probably heard me talk about how we spend way too much time in our sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is our fight-flight-freeze response.

Our days are filled with stressors that keep us locked into this part of our nervous system, not to mention drinking caffeine and eating higher carbohydrate diets, which also does so.

Because rest and repair happen when we are in our PNS, the body can really begin to break down when we are constantly living in the SNS. This is where we begin to get sick more often, have major digestive issues, eventually feel more lethargic, and ultimately will suffer with a lot of health issues.

Our hormones are also impacted by the being stuck in PNS, namely by the focus on cortisol and adrenaline production in the adrenals, which leads to a down-regulation of sex hormones production in the ovaries (aka estrogen and progesterone) or testes (testosterone).

Studies have shown the vagus nerve has a direct relationship with our hormones:

👉This nerve is “crucial” for growth hormone regulation, and helps to regulate the release of testosterone

👉Our active thyroid hormone, T3, is mediated by the vagus nerve

👉Ghrelin, our “hunger” hormones that lets us know when it’s time to eat, signals via the vagus nerve

👉Insulin production stimulates the vagus nerve

As for the gut, the vagus nerve helps to:

👉Stimulate stomach acid

👉Increase the release of pancreatic enzymes

👉Relase bile from the gallbladder, which helps us absorb fat

👉Increases gut motility

And the list goes on.

As you can see, most systems in the body are impacted by the vagus nerve, so stimulating this nerve can make a massive difference in both major and minor illnesses.

Conditions That Stimulating the Vagus Nerve Can Help

There are so many issues that can stem from vagus nerve dysregulation, or simply not getting into your parasympathetic nervous system often enough. Research shows that stimulating the vagus nerve can be helpful for many conditions, including but not limited to:

Gastroparesis

Epilepsy

Depression

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Cluster Headaches

PTSD

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (there is a current clinical trial to see if stimulating a branch of the vagus nerve in the outer ear helps this condition)

There’s even a medical device approved by the FDA that is implanted in the vagus nerve for conditions including stroke rehabilitation, depression, and epilepsy. Sometimes referred to as a “pacemaker for the brain,” electric impulses travel from your neck to your brain, where they disperse to different areas to change the way brain cells work.

But even if you don’t have these conditions, or aren’t prepared to have a device implanted, there are many ways to naturally stimulate your vagus nerve.

Natural Ways to Stimulate The Vagus Nerve

There are some very simple, yet effective ways to stimulate your vagus nerve. Most of them are something you can do at home, and include as part of your morning and evening routine. Here are some of my favorites:

Singing or humming

Deep breathing

Massage

Meditation (which is made easier with a device like what I’m using above, the Sensate Pebble. It triggers your vagus nerve by vibrating, or as I like to think of it, humming for you. And you can get $25 off it through this link with code “CHRISTINEG” at checkout.)

Exercise

Probiotics

Yoga

Laughter

Other ways to get your vagus nerve going are via cold therapy, PEMF therapy (I love the Higher Dose PEMF mat, and you can get 15% off with code “WHOLE15” at checkout), fasting, and acunpuncture.

Most anything that you do that relaxes your body is going to stimulate your vagus nerve. The key is to do it daily and make it a part of your routine. Over time, you’ll see your digestion improve, your hormones begin to level out, and feel more of what I like to call “calm energy.”

Remember, SO many of our health issues, including our hormonal ones, are rooted in stress, overdoing it, and not utilizing active relaxation in our daily life. When you make it a priority to relax, it will help your digestion to work better, support your adrenal, thyroid, and ovarian function, and overall make you a happier, healthier person!

Looking for other ways to calm your nervous system? Are you also struggling with money issues and hormones that are crazy? If you are in the Asheville area, come join us for our workshop, “Money, (Self) Love & Hormones” on Oct. 22nd from 3-5pm. Learn more and purchase your tickets here.

 

 

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What are the 3 things underlying your hormone issues?

Learn what they are and how to have pain-free periods in my free video series

 

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