Recently, we came across an article and it got us so excited about the implications. The name of the article was “Hacking the Nervous System” and it was published by Gaia Vince. In this article, Gaia describes the actual experience of a woman who suffered from severe, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and her eventual treatment with a device which minimized inflammation by simply stimulating the vagus nerve. So, the main question is – what this means? Well, this means that by activating the vagus nerve which works through the parasympathetic nervous system, we can affect and have a great impact on inflammations and the immune system. So, the role of the brain on body inflammation can be intense.
If any of you suffer from digestive problems, high blood pressure, depression or any other inflammatory problem – then you must read on and we will explain the possible implications step by step.
What is the vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It originates in the brain as cranial nerve ten, and then it travels down the neck and passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs. The vagus nerve is extremely important “tool” in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the “rest and digest” part. Completely opposite to the sympathetic nervous system which is “fight of fight”.
The main key for activating the parasympathetic nervous system is the tone of the vagus nerve. The actual vagal tone is measured by tracking your heart rate alongside your breathing rate. Your heart rate speeds up a little when you breathe in and it slows down when you breathe out. So, this means – the bigger the difference between your inhalation heart rate and your exhalation heart rate, the higher your vagal tone. We can also say that higher vagal tone means that your body can relax faster after stress.
What is high vagal tone associated with?
High vagal tone is associated with many health benefits, such as: improves the function of many body systems, improves blood sugar regulation, reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, improved digestion via better production of stomach basic and digestive enzymes, and reduced migraines. We can also say that higher vagal tone is also related with better mood, less anxiety and more stress resilience. This is very important fact as well – one of the most important roles of the vagus nerve is that is essentially reads the gut micro biome and initiates a response to modulate inflammation based on whether or not it detects pathogenic versus non-pathogenic organisms. So, in this way the gut micro biome can have a positive impact on your mood, stress levels and overall inflammation as well.
What is low vagal tone associated with?
Well, low vagal tone is associated with many different health conditions, such as: cardiovascular conditions and strokes, depression, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and much higher rates of inflammatory conditions. The inflammatory conditions include all autoimmune diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, autoimmune thyroid conditions, lupus and more.
How do we increase vagal tone?
So, as we mentioned before, in Gaia’s article – the vagal tone was increased through a device that stimulated the vagus nerve. There is good news about this – you can have access to this on your own, but it does require regular practice. We all are, to some degree, genetically predisposed to varying levels of vagal tone, but this still doesn’t mean that you can’t change it. Now we are going to show you some ways to tone the vagus nerve:
- Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing – You need to breathe from your diaphragm, rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs stimulates and tones the vagus nerve.
- Humming – This is because the vagus nerve is connected to the vocal cords, so humming mechanically stimulates it. You can hum a song, or even better repeat the sound ‘OM’.
- Speaking – Did you know that similarly speaking is helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords?
- Washing your face with cold water – the actual mechanism is not known, but cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve.
- Meditation – especially loving kindness meditation which promotes feelings of goodwill towards yourself and others. A 2010 study by Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kik found that increasing positive emotions led to increased social closeness, and an improvement in vagal tone.
- Balancing the gut micro biome – the presence of healthy bacteria in the gut creates a positive feedback loop through the vagus nerve, increasing its tone.
Just follow these simple and basic instructions and the impact on your health will be far reaching. So, let me say this again, if you suffer from an inflammatory condition, digestive upset, high blood pressure or depression, a closer look at vagal tone is highly recommended. We all know that the breathing exercises and meditation are extremely helpful and beneficial for our health in general, but it’s so amazing to learn the mechanism by which they work. We really hope you enjoyed this post and you will be inspired to begin a meditation practice. And please share it with your friends and family. Thank You.
Article source: theheartysoul.com
Forsythe P, Bienenstock J, Kunze WA.Vagal pathways for microbiome-brain-gut axis communication. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:115-33.
Kok, B, Fredrickson, B, Coffey, K, et al. How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health: Perceived Positive Social Connections Account for the Upward Spiral Between Positive Emotions and Vagal Tone. Psychological Science 2013 24: 1123