Vagus nerve healing and vagus nerve health have become popular talking points. In our eyes here at Advanced Alignment, this is an essential part of our bodies that all of us needs to know about. If you’re an avid researcher of topics surrounding the natural health space, you’ve probably seen the growing number of products and articles on this subject matter, and this is for good reason. The vagus nerve is a key to igniting better health in your entire body!
Photo credit: https://biologydictionary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/vagusnerve.jpg )
What is the vagus nerve?
The etymology of the word ‘vagus’ stems from a Latin root-word meaning wandering. This makes sense given the nerve “wanders” and touches almost every aspect of how your body operates.
“The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It connects the brain to tissues and organs elsewhere in the body. It plays an important role in activating the parasympathetic (calm, rest, digest, relax, and repair) branch of the nervous system to turn off the stress, hyper-aroused, fight, flight, and freeze sympathetic response.
Additionally, the vagus monitors your gut for pathogens and initiates a response to control inflammation which can affect your mood, your stress level, and your overall inflammation levels.” (Center for Hope and Healing)
This is not all it does; this list could go on and on. The thing to know here is that it directly connects to how you manage stress/anxiety and affects your brain, tissues, and organs (so everything!).
The vagus nerve and the mental health connection
In today’s world, stress seems to come in more giant waves and at ever-increasing rates; therefore, if more attention is paid to the vagus nerve, there can be a more holistic way of seeing that mental health is not just about the way one thinks, but how things in the body are working. Other basic rules around mental health play a part in all of this, like poor nutrition (food lacking nutrients), or eating the wrong things for a person’s unique body, which can also cause depression, mineral imbalances in the body, and so much more.
The main point is that everything in our bodies is connected, so we have to look at all the parts and see how one thing affects another.
Stress plays a part in damaging our bodies in almost every system; mental health, the digestive system, the endocrine system, you name it! And if stressors are always present, people will feel like they’re consistently under attack, and even if the person doesn’t “feel” like they’re under attack, the body can feel like it is without the person being aware, which is a dangerous state to live in. When the body is in stress, the person’s health diminishes.
There are many ways to discern if your body is under a state of stress; your insides can feel fluttery (or jittery), it’ll be tough to focus, simple activities will seem like hard work, you feel nervous for no reason, your eating patterns get thrown off (not eating or eating too much), etc. This is often because that fight-or-flight reaction stays on in the body and is not turning off as it should and is a function that the vagus nerve is responsible for.
There’s another side to this; the vagus nerve also needs to activate to ensure that people DO feel stress at the correct times as this is the body’s call to activate and do something. For example, if someone never feels stressed enough to activate and get a project done, then this can create problems with employment, being able to make a living, etc., etc.
This is why paying attention to all the parts of the body is imperative, because one part affects the other. It’s an entire ecosystem.
It’s the vagus nerve’s job to signal the relaxation “button” to turn on, so if it can’t do its job properly, the sympathetic nervous system will stay active. If this system stays active, this causes cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones) to increase in the body, and wreaks absolute havoc on your mental and physical health. If your mind and body can’t relax, you’re in an “emergency” state all the time (and that’s not good!).
3 (more) reasons why the health of your vagus nerve matters
1. A person’s “vagal tone” can be stronger than others. The vagal tone allows the body to relax faster after an adrenaline/cortisol release in the body. Relaxing faster is how we want our bodies to react. This will allow us to breathe more deeply, slow down, think more clearly, focus more intently, etc.
“Vagal tone tells us how well the vagus nerve is functioning, and it is measured indirectly by heart rate variability (HRV). Heart rate variability is a measurement of the amount of time between heartbeats, which is really an indicator of vagal activity of the heart.” - Dr. Ruscio (See Dr. Ruscio’s website).
There are natural ways to increase vagal tone like exposing yourself to cold, so think cold showers, going outside in cold temperatures with minimal clothing, or dipping your face into icy water, these are just a few examples.
Another longer-term way is to learn brain-heart coherence meditation. Learning to activate this kind of meditation can directly affect the vagus nerve, and results in less mental and emotional pressure, more effective choices, and increased resilience. You can find out how to start learning this meditation practice with the HeartMath Institute in California, which is the best and most influential place to learn how to do this meditation, and you can start here: https://www.heartmath.org/resources/courses/hrv/
2. Your major organs are blocked by bone, fat, or different things so it's sort of hard to activate that vagus nerve. This is why we need practices that can help us get the vagus nerve to activate! If we take a practice that blends some things that are prominent within Tai Chi and Qi Gong practices that directs our attention to the area around our belly button, we can understand that the gateway to activate our vagus nerve is through that center belly button area.
In fact, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are powerful practices that can help activate the vagus nerve longer-term. These are ancient practices and in 2008, a study found that these practices enhance vagal modulation (you can read more on that here).
Here’s a powerful 10-minute practice that will activate your vagus nerve, help you get you into a relaxed state immediately to help you find more ease, and it’s easy to do every single day:
3. As we’ve learned, the vagus nerve is vital to our health, so it’s important to understand symptoms that can arise when the vagal nerve isn’t functioning, and what can be healed when this nerve gets “turned on” and begins functioning properly.
Problems that people may encounter who have a vagal nerve problem include:
- Gastrointestinal disorders and digestive problems
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Mood disorders
- Chronic inflammation
- Vertigo and dizziness
- Abnormally slow heartbeat known as bradycardia
On the other hand, when the vagus nerve is activated and functioning on all cylinders, it has shown to improve various health conditions including:
- Poor blood circulation
- Anxiety disorder
- Mood disorder
- Heart disease
- Alcohol addiction
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Leaky Gut
Vagus nerve healing and vagus nerve health are important topics that every human needs to learn more about. If we can activate our vagus nerve and get our systems “humming” and working to decrease the risk of letting stress take over our systems, then we have the opportunity to mitigate the risk of dis-ease in our bodies (dis-ease of any kind).
There are some powerful activities that we can do easily in our homes. If we can spend even just 10-minutes a day working on the vagus nerve, then we can start to empower our bodies to heal faster and move towards a more balanced body within (this is called reaching a state of homeostasis).