Of all the things that can get in the way of healing, stress is arguably the #1 obstacle that my patients face. That’s why using techniques to support your vagus nerve is needed.
Think you’re not stressed but experiencing some of the following symptoms? Then your vagus nerve may be playing a role:
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Chronic Fatigue or poor memory or focus
• Insomnia or trouble sleeping
•Gasteroparesis, also known as delayed gastric emptying
• Heartburn, reflux, gastritis or GERD
• B12 Deficiency
• Chronic Inflammation
• Fast or slow Heart Rate
• Difficulty Swallowing
The vagus nerve is a key player in the body’s stress response. It is a long nerve that connects the brain to the organs in the body, including the heart, lungs, and digestive system and it plays a critical role in regulating many bodily functions, including heart rate, breathing, digestion, and immune response. It is the longest cranial nerve, running through the neck and throat, and even as far as the uterus.
When a person experiences stress, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated, which triggers the “fight or flight” (or freeze, or fawn) response, and the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This leads to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, and a decrease in digestive activity. This response is designed to help us deal with acute stressors, like running away from a predator.
However, chronic stress can lead to the prolonged activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which can have negative effects on the body. This is where the vagus nerve comes in. The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” response.
The vagus nerve works to counteract the sympathetic nervous system, slowing down the heart rate, decreasing blood pressure, and increasing digestive activity. This helps to promote a sense of relaxation and calm in the body.
In addition to its role in regulating the stress response, the vagus nerve also plays an important role in immune function. It helps to regulate inflammation in the body, which is a key component of the immune response.
Chronic stress can lead to dysfunction of the vagus nerve, which can contribute to a number of health problems, including anxiety, depression, digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders, migraines, and heart disease.
There are several techniques and practices that have been shown to help stimulate and improve the function of the vagus nerve. Here are a few to consider incorporating into your week:
It’s important to remember that everyone’s body is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. If you’re interested in improving the function of your vagus nerve, it’s a good idea to try a variety of techniques and see what feels good and works best for you and it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider before trying any new treatments or therapies!
One of the focuses I take in my practice for toning the vagus nerve is addressing any issues at the level of the gut, especially imbalances in the microbiome, such as SIBO. If you experience any IBS, diarrhea or constipation, bloating, GERD, heartburn, nausea, or gastritis (pain or burning at the breastbone), consider taking the SIBO quiz here.
- Dr. Willow
I help women achieve optimal digestive and hormonal wellness through a root cause, individualized approach to medicine that utilizes functional lab testing, diet and lifestyle modification, nutritional and herbal medicine, and acupuncture to re-establish lasting health.
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