The vagus nerve–cranial nerve which connects to many body systems–has a significant influence on systemic inflammation and overall physical as well as mental health.
Relation of inflammatory and vagus nerve
The inflammatory response occurs when tissues are injured by bacteria, trauma, toxins, heat, or any other cause. It is the underlying cause of most diseases as the immune system launches a protective response against infection. Detecting the initial cause of that inflammation can prove to be the more significant challenge.
In relation to this, reducing "fight or flight" responses in the nervous system and lowering biological threshold for stress can also reduce inflammation.
Why the Vagus Nerve Is Important
Derived from the Latin word vagus, which means “to wander,” as it name implies, this nerve extends from its roots in the cerebellum and brainstem, winds through the body, and branches multiple times to innervate all of the major organs such as neck, heart, lungs, and the abdomen to the brain.
This results in the vagus nerve playing a role in functions such as sensory, motor and parasympathetic, which is associated with physiological activities categorised as, “rest and digest.”
True to its name, the Parasympathetic Nerve System (PNS) functions in calming the body down and digesting food to restore the body’s energy supply among other functions. To achieve this, the Vagus Nerve communicates with its associated organs by releasing a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine which helps facilitate blood pressure regulation, blood glucose balance, heart rate, taste, digestion, breathing, crying, sweating, kidney function, bile release, saliva secretion, female fertility, and orgasms. ¹
These activity of vagus nerve is referred to vagal tone, it is not under conscious control and it can be thought of as the body's "gut feeling" that get transmitted directly to the brain.
"Brain health and gut health influence one another and the Vagus Nerve is precisely the link between the two."
Depending on which area is afflicted, Vagus Nerve dysfunction may manifest as¹ :
- Brain fog
- Chronic inflammation
- Delayed stomach emptying
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Heart rate changes (high or low)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Weight gain
Vagus Nerve Stimulation and Its Benefits
- Consume more Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The EPA and DHA found in fish oil are capable of increasing heart rate variability as well as lowering heart rate.
- Do Yoga. Yoga is a parasympathetic activation exercise that improves digestion, blood flow, lung capacity and function. A 12 week yoga intervention showed significantly improved mood and anxiety levels when compared with a control group that performed simple walking exercises.²
- Add more fiber to your diets. Fiber increases GLP-1, a hormone that supports communication between the Vagus Nerve and brain, slows stomach emptying and makes the body feel full longer.¹
- Singing. Activities like singing, gargling, humming or even activating the gag reflex, makes you work the muscles at the back of your throat which helps to activate the vagus nerve.
- Exercise. Mild exercise has been shown to stimulate gut flow and gastric motility (peristalsis) which is mediated by the vagus nerve. This in turn means that mild low level exercise can stimulate the vagus nerve
- Fast intermittently. Intermittent fasting reduces the number of calories consumed. That reduction in calories causes heart rate variability to spike and metabolism to plummet—two events that trigger Vagus Nerve function.¹
- Probiotics. Optimising gut health is ideal for maximising Vagus Nerve Stimulation as dopamine are produce through action of the good bacteria helping to break down the food. Probiotics are a good option to help promote the good bacteria and other organisms while helping to crowd out the bad bacteria, parasites and yeast.
- Use Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy. Research confirms that magnetic fields stimulate the Vagus Nerve by increasing heart rate variability. Using a device that stimulates pulsed magnetic field waves directly on the gut, head, and neck will target the Vagus Nerve.¹