NCTV Episode 40
Continuing with the series of bitesize health tip videos which can be found here on my YouTube Channel, this episode, includes:-
- What is the vagus nerve
- Why would you want or need to activate it
- How to activate it
- The health benefits of a fully functioning vagus nerve
If you’d prefer to read the content within, rather than watch the video, then feel free to read the transcript, as follows:-
Hello and welcome to NCTV Episode 40, Activate Your Vagus Nerve.
So cutting straight to the chase, I know what you’re thinking – a) What is the Vagus Nerve? b) Why would I want or need to activate it? and c) how do I activate it?
Firstly, if we take all three points in turn. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve with the widest distribution in the body. It starts in the brain and travels to the gut, heart and other major muscles and organs. Importantly, it’s main function is to help you rest and digest.
So why would you want or need to activate it? Shouldn’t it just automatically do it’s job for you? The answer is of course, yes it should. However, common issues like inflammation, stress, or physical trauma can interfere with the nerve’s ability to function.
How do you know if the vagus nerve isn’t functioning properly? Well part of it’s function is to induce a state of calm on the body by initiating the relaxation response following either stress, hyper-arousal or a period of fear, fight or flight. Therefore, some of the signs that your vagus nerve function may be impeded could be that you feel like:-
- you can’t escape stress mode and feel as though you’re in a constant state of anxiety
- your blood pressure is consistently too high
- you suffer from brain fog, your memory is clouded
- you have food sensitivities, digestive problems
- you’re feeling fatigued
- or have poor quality sleep
If some of these issues are left unchecked then it could eventually lead to various health conditions so by stimulating the vagus nerve, this has the potential to help with the likes of:-
- anxiety disorders
- heart disease
- some forms of cancer
- poor circulation
- leaky gut syndrome
- memory and mood disorders
- migraine’s and headaches
- autoimmune conditions
- …and more
So now we know what the vagus nerve is, why it may not be functioning properly and the health issues this can create, we can move onto the final question being – How do you active it?
So here are 19 ways you can exercise and stimulate the vagus nerve courtesy of Dr Navaz Habib’s book on the matter:-
Firstly, cold showers – studies have shown that this helps to reduce the fight and flight response and increase the rest and digest function which is regulated by you vagus nerve.
Secondly, singing or chanting increases your heart rate variability and when done particularly loudly you’ll be working the muscles as the back of your throat and activating the vagus nerve as a result, so you can use that as an excuse next time you’re caught singing in your car.
Similarly, gargling water every morning will contract the muscles at the back of the throat, thus stimulating the vagus nerve and digestive tract. It’s actually best performed to the point of tearing in the eyes which is another vagus nerve response and a good sign that it has indeed been stimulated.
Next, yoga will help activate the rest and digest element of the vagus nerve which in turn will help with your blood flow and lung capacity & function, whilst improving your mood and reducing stress & anxiety levels.
Also, meditation and mindfulness are good for these reasons, plus if you combine that with chanting “Om”, then you’ll really be onto a winner.
Slow and deep breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve to help lower blood pressure and heart rate, reducing the fight or flight response and increasing the rest and digest one. For a bonus tip, make sure it’s abdominal breathing as opposed to your shoulders and chest.
As with singing and chanting, laughter is actually just as good as stimulating the vagus nerve, although perhaps not quite as sustainable as the former but don’t let that stop you watching a comedy or stand-up, knowing that you’ll actually be promoting good health in doing so.
Next, probiotics help to promote the good bacteria in your gut. Your gut is connected to your brain via the vagus nerve so if there is more bad bacteria in the gut then this will promote poor neurochemistry which disrupts the vagus nerve function.
Light exercise has been shown to stimulate gut flow and gastric motility which is mediated by the vagus nerve, meaning that the vagus nerve gets stimulated with mild exercise.
Without going into too much more detail on how these work to stimulate the vagus nerve, here are the remaining 10 things that will help to do the trick:-
- Fish Oil, particularly the Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Tongue depressors to stimulate the gag reflex
- Acupuncture to the ear
- Serotonin supplements
- Contracting your abdominal core muscles
- Eating in a relaxed state
- …and chewing your food well
So there you have it – Following these exercises and habits will not only make you feel better, it will allow you to experience the world in a relaxed, calm and enjoyable state. Happy gargling and I’ll see you next time for some more bitesize bits to help your health flourish.
Bye Bye for now!