6 Hints For Stimulating Your Vagus Nerve And Relieving Inflammation, Depression and Migraines!
The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve. It leaves the brain at the brainstem and travels down the neck to affect the heart and digestive systems. It influences all sorts of things including heart rate, peristalsis (moving food through the intestines), speech and sweating, just to name a few. It’s even responsible for the gag reflex.
Main Function of the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is involved in many processes, but they are all part of the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. You’ve probably heard the term “flight or fight.” That refers to the sympathetic branch that activates when your body reacts to stress. The parasympathetic is the opposite, and you may have heard the phrase “rest and digest.” The parasympathetic branch, regulated by the vagus nerve, is responsible for resting heart rate and digestion. The activity of the vagus nerve is called “vagal tone.” Things like depression and stress negatively impact the body’s vagal tone. Below we will discuss how to increase your vagal tone to boost your health.
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Effects of Vagal Tone
Blood Sugar. Vagal tone regulates the release of insulin after meals. Insulin allows sugar to be stored in the cells. So, higher insulin means lower blood sugar.
Cardiovascular Effects. The vagus nerve decreases heart rate and lowers blood pressure. Thus, with an increase in vagal tone, the risk of a stroke or other cardiovascular event goes down. Migraines may also be linked to high blood pressure. Increasing vagal tone brings done blood pressure, and might help to relieve migraine pain.
Digestive System. Increased vagal tone promotes proper digestion of food, ensuring that the body absorbs the nutrients it needs from the food we eat.
6 Natural Hints for Increasing Vagal Tone
1. Omega-3 fatty acids. These acids improve mood and vagal tone, which in turn reduces inflammation in response to stressors.
2. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing. You can immediately feel the effects of this one. When you are under stress, put a couple of fingers on your throat to feel your pulse, and take deep breaths. You can actually feel your heart rate slowing. That’s because these deep breaths activate the vagus nerve, which then lowers your heart rate.
3. Exercise. Exercising leads to a healthier body, and a healthy vagus nerve. Also, when you exercise hard, you breathe deep, which stimulates the vagus nerve even more.
4. Yoga. All the benefits of exercise and deep breathing combine in yoga. Yoga focuses on breathing as much as physical exertion, both of which increase vagal tone.
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5. Positive Thinking. This is called “top-down” stimulation of the vagus nerve. By thinking positively when faced with stressors, the brain can switch the body’s response from sympathetic (“flight or fight”) to parasympathetic.
6. Diet. Eating healthy also increases vagal tone and can help to lower blood pressure.
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Increasing vagal tone is simple, with practice and a little bit of effort. It may seem like a small thing, but the health and mood benefits are huge. It’s well worth the effort to take some time, take a deep breath, and boost your vagal tone.