Optimum Vagus nerve function or vagal tone is a hot topic in current research, especially as it relates to the treatment and management of chronic illness.
As practitioners, we are just now beginning to understand how important supporting this nerve is to maintaining health.
So what exactly is the Vagus nerve?
Spanning from brain stem to gut, the Vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. Its branches extend from the brain to the heart and most major organs above and below the diaphragm and its function is vital to all of these organs and much, much more.
The Vagus nerve controls the switch between the “zen-calm, rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system and the activation of the “fight flight or freeze” response of the sympathetic nervous system.
Although we need the quick action of the sympathetic nervous system to protect us from danger, we are finding that the Vagus nerve can get stuck in “fight or flight”, essentially blocking our bodies ability to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering our ability to restore a feeling of calm and relaxation, and blocking the natural healing response.
Our brains and bodies depend on our Vagus nerve to regulate things like:
- Anxiety and the fight or flight response
- The immune response
While a poorly functioning Vagus nerve is linked to poor health outcomes and chronic disease, research is showing a well functioning Vagus nerve is essential for achieving optimal health and recovering from chronic illness.
Dysfunctions of the Vagus nerve also contribute to chronic inflammation, which is implicated in many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and dementia as well as mental health conditions like PTSD trauma, anxiety, and depression. Chronic viral, bacterial and parasitic infections and toxic exposures to mold and other environmental toxins are also linked to Vagus nerve dysfunction.
Finding ways to address Vagus nerve dysfunction may help to improve resilience, recovering our innate ability to bounce back after stress.
Many of the symptoms experienced by people suffering from chronic illness, infections and toxic exposure stem from too much inflammation in the body. A well functioning Vagus nerve is important because it helps to regulate inflammation in the body and restores our ability to shift back into homeostasis and healing.
So how can you help restore the function of your Vagus nerve naturally?
- First step is always removing triggers, like inflammatory foods, infections and toxins
- Supplements available on Fullscript: OrthoMega 820, SomnoPro with melatonin, 5-HTP and L-theanine and Quicksilver Melatonin help to heal nerve tissue and promote sleep and calm
- Available exclusively from Boulder Holistic: Probiotics, specifically those containing Lactobacillis Rhamnosus strain, have proven helpful in supporting Vagus nerve function. This includes: Xymogen ProbioMax Compete DF and ProbioMax 350 DF
Other supportive measures for optimumVagus nerve function
- Coffee enemas support detoxification in the liver by boosting glutathione as well as stimulating Vagus tone. Click here for our recipe.
- Get a Chiropractic adjustment, specifically upper cervical adjustments greatly benefit the Vagus nerve function
- Acupuncture, especial in the ear, supports parasympathetic tone and Vagus nerve function
- Cranial Sacral Therapy can help to support parasympathetic tone and release the Vagus nerve
Vagus nerve stimulation practices you can do yourself at home
- Stimulate the Vagus nerve: Gargling, singing, humming, coughing, laughing, chanting, chewing gum and “OM-ing” all stimulate Vagus nerve function.
- Breath work: Slow, deep breathing, or alternate nostril breathing, can help reset the Vagus nerve.
- Cold water: A cold shower or bath, or even splashing cold water on your face, can stimulate the Vagus nerve.
- Get direct sunlight: Sunlight boosts MSH, another hormone that supports the Vagus nerve.
- Mindfulness: Practice Yoga, meditation or Tai Chi.
- Be social: Research shows that feeling closer to others builds resilience and improves Vagus nerve function.