Use Your Vagus Nerve to Improve Gut Health

Use Your Vagus Nerve to Improve Gut Health

The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in your body.  The vagus nerve runs all the way from the base of your brain to the end of your digestive tract.  

When you digest food, the vagus nerve senses changes in the microbiota in your gut and sends this information to your brain. When the vagus nerve is working properly the brain immediately sends back the right response to your gut. For example, if you eat a food that triggers gut inflammation, the vagus nerve detects the inflammation and notifies your brain. The brain then sends information back to the gut initiating a biological process that decreases the inflammation. If your vagus nerve is weak, then the flow of information between your gut and brain is impeded. If the vagus nerve cannot properly alert the brain to inflammation the brain cannot properly respond and the inflammation can grow and become chronic. This not only contributes to digestive disorders but can also affect other parts of your body including the heart, liver, and kidneys.  

The vagus nerve is part of the sympathetic nervous system and is responsible not only for digestion but also for emotional well-being. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it sends a message to your body to relax and de-stress, which leads to long-term improvements in mood and wellbeing.   

Researchers have shown a positive feedback loop between high vagal tone, positive emotions, and good physical health. The more you increase your vagal tone, the more your physical and mental health will improve.

Research has also shown that vagal tone is passed on from mother to child. Mothers who are depressed, anxious or angry during their pregnancy have lower vagal activity and once they give birth to their child, the newborn also has low vagal activity and low dopamine and serotonin levels.

Since the vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords and the muscles at the back of your throat, singing, humming, chanting and gargling can activate these muscles and stimulate your vagus nerve. Simple vagus exercises, like the one in this video, help to turn off your stress response (your sympathetic nervous system) and activate your relaxation response (your parasympathetic nervous system). 

Try stimulating your vagus nerve to help improve your gut health!