What is the Vagus Nerve?
If you’ve been at this adrenal “stuff” for some time, most likely you’ve heard of the vagus nerve. You know it’s important, but you’re not sure EXACTLY why.
Well, it’s CRUCIAL that you understand this FOR YOUR RECOVERY.
Are you ready to find out why this is said to be the most important nerve in the body?
When you understand the connection between the vagus nerve and all the symptoms you’re feeling, I imagine it will be a big motivator to start incorporating practices that keep this nerve functioning at it’s best.
The Skinny on the Vagus Nerve
The Vagus nerve is one of our 12 cranial nerves. These cranial nerves start in the brain and are each connected to different organs in the body. When these cranial nerves become compromised it impacts the associated organs and that organ’s function/s.
The vagus nerve is said to be the most important nerve for 2 reasons:
1. It’s the only nerve controlling our ability to decrease stress. It’s in charge of controlling the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest state.
2. The nerve involves so many organs (not just the gut) and their level of function. (which is why symptoms are so vast)
How do Cranial Nerves Become Compromised?
These cranial nerves become compromised for various reasons; traumas and stressful situations in our lives; physical, mental or emotional. This includes abuse, addiction, divorce, the death of loved one, surgeries, illnesses and even a high-stress lifestyle and addition to stress.
Vagus Nerve, Adrenal Fatigue and Gut Connection
The vagus nerve starts in the brain and travels to the gut. But what many don’t know is that on the way to the gut, the vagus nerve goes through the heart, the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidneys, ureter, spleen, lungs, female sex organs neck (pharynx, larynx, and esophagus), ears and the tongue. No other nerve in the body has such a broad and far-reaching effect as the Vagus Nerve.
So can you see that when this nerve is compromised it can cause many health issues, such as…
1) Either feeling wired or tired, no in between
2) Food sensitivities
3) Anxiety and/or depression
4) Poor digestion
5) Poor nutrient absorption
6) Trouble detoxing
7) Brain fog
8) Poor sleep
9) Chronic inflammation
10) Migraines or headaches
11) Heart disease
12) Poor circulation
14) Autoimmune conditions
15) Blood sugar imbalances
16) Mood swings
Do you see why you want your vagus nerve functioning at its best?
If you're stressed constantly, your stress response is overstimulated, and you’re in sympathetic overdrive. This makes your adrenals pump out more cortisol, which exhausts the adrenals and create an imbalance of hormones. You need the vagus nerve functioning at it’s best - in order to balance and heal the nervous system.
Benefits of a Healthy Vagus Nerve
· Helps control anxiety and mood
· Increases stomach acidity and other digestive enzyme production - low levels of these are correlated to the root cause of gut issues
· Controls heart rate variability, heart rate and blood pressure
· It controls blood sugar balance
· In the liver it controls bile production and detoxification
· Controls bile release to help break down fats
· Promotes general function including water balance, glucose control and sodium excretion which helps control blood pressure
· Controls voiding of urine
· Reduces inflammation
· Controls fertility and sexual pleasure including orgasms
· Controls ability to taste and saliva production through salivary gland control
· Activates tear production in the eyes
So you’re probably starting to see the connections here. And possibly wondering, what can I do to love up my vagus nerve and get it working FOR me, ASAP…
How to Stimulate the Vagus Nerve?
Here are two simple exercises to stimulate the vagus nerve.
1. Deep and Slow Breathing
This sends a signal to our brain and the vagus nerve to lower our heart rate and blood pressure. This lessens the flight or fight response and increases the rest and digest response.
Make this a part of your daily life.
Do this upon rising every morning: Inhale for count of 5, allow the belly and rib cage to expand out slightly with your breath, hold the breath for the count of 5 and then exhale the breath for the count of 8-10. As you push the breath out completely you will notice a drawing in of the belly toward the spine and rib cage back to center. Enjoy this intended movement of the diaphragm.
2. Singing, humming or chanting
Singing, humming, and mantra chanting all increase heart rate variability and works the muscles at the back of your throat, which helps stimulate the vagus nerve. So next time you feel like singing your heart out in the shower or car, do it, it’s great for your health and your vagus ;)
And if you’re tired of hearing these suggestions, they seem too easy and/or they just don’t work…
You’ve maybe tried them here and there (without noticing a difference). But, I’m curious have you honestly given these types of practices a go for longer than a couple days or a week? Have you been consistent?
If you want your adrenals to actually heal and your hormones to balance out (and you want them to stay that way for the rest of your life), start incorporating practices that stimulate the vagus nerve on a daily basis. I challenge you to add 5-10 minutes of slow, deep breathing or chanting to your morning routine. I believe you will see shifts almost immediately.
I’d like you to open your mind to the fact that it can be that easy. With consistently, these exercises do work. It can be that easy. We just have to break old patterns.
Here’s another way to start loving up the vagus nerve - start reacting differently to life. And this is a habit that’s hard to break, right? This is about interrupting the stress pattern you have in place and probably have had in place, for a very long time. Interrupt it, stop it in it’s track and create a different pattern or pathway in the brain.
“Stress Pattern Interrupt” Practice
Find a simple word or phrase that is calming to you and embodies what you want to create instead of stress. When you’re start to feel anxious or overwhelmed, repeat the word or phrase until you feel less resistance or you feel lighter. Or you can ask a certain type of question (question examples below). You can also think of something you are grateful for.
A few examples:
All is well in my world
I am safe
I am grounded
What would it take for me to have more ease or calm in this moment?
How can I experience more peace right away?
I acknowledge I’m not feeling great right now, but I’m so grateful for…(my home, my children, clean water, healthy food…)
I acknowledge I’m not feeling great right now, but each day I’m getting better and better.
Be the energy of the word, phrase or question. (Trust you know how to do this).
Questions, comments? Please share below in the comments and after a week of stimulating the vagus nerve report back.
To your amazing vagus nerve,
Angela (& Danielle)