Your vagus nerve is critical to optimal health, no matter what your issues are.
Introduction to The Vagus Nerve
In people with fatigue, food sensitivities, anxiety, gut problems, brain fog, and depersonalization, the vagus nerve is almost always at play. These people have lower vagal tone, which means a lower ability of the vagus nerve to activate or perform its functions.
The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, referred to as the rest and digest system.
The word vagus means “wanderer,” because it wanders all over the body to various important organs.
The vagus nerve connects to the brain, gut (intestines, stomach), heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney, ureter, spleen, lungs, fertility organs (females), neck (including the pharynx, larynx, esophagus), ears and tongue.
Given the importance of the vagus nerve in the gut (and other organs), when it’s not working right, it will cause digestive disorders including dyspepsia, gastroparesis, esophageal reflux, colitis, anorexia, and bulimia nervosa, to name a few (R).
The Vagus Nerve and Health
In the brain, the vagus helps control anxiety and depression.
In the gut, it increases stomach acidity, digestive juices, and gut flow. Since the vagus nerve is very important for increasing gut flow/motility, having less vagus activation will increase your IBS-C risk, which is a result of a slower flow (R).
Stimulating the vagus nerve increases the release of histamine in stomach cells, which helps with the release of stomach acid (R). By releasing intrinsic factor, the vagus nerve is important to help you absorb B12 (R).
In the heart, it controls heart rate variability, heart rate, and blood pressure. Vagus activation will lower the risk for heart disease and other major killers (R).
In the liver and pancreas, it helps controls glucose balance (R).
In the gallbladder, it helps release bile, which can help you get rid of toxins and break down fat.
The vagus nerve promotes general kidney function. It helps with glucose control and increases blood flow (R), which helps filtrate your blood better. Vagus activation also releases dopamine in the kidneys, which helps excrete sodium (R) – and thereby lower blood pressure.
The vagus nerve goes to the bladder (R). A side effect of vagus nerve stimulation is urinary retention (R), which may mean that less vagus stimulation can cause you to urinate frequently. Indeed, I see frequent urination among many of my clients (also due to low vasopressin, low aldosterone, and high cortisol).
In the spleen, it can reduce inflammation (R). Note that vagus activation will reduce inflammation in all target organs (by releasing acetylcholine) (R), but when it activates in the spleen it’ll probably be more systemic.
Satiety and relaxation following a meal are in part caused by an activation of vagus nerve transmission to the brain in response to food intake (R).
The vagus nerve explains why a person may cough when tickled on the ear, such as when trying to remove ear wax with a cotton swab (R).
The vagus nerve is important in conditions like GERD not only because it controls stomach acidity, but also because it controls the esophagus.
The vagus nerve is largely responsible for the mind-body connection since it goes to all your major organs (except your adrenals and thyroid).
It’s been suggested in studies that the vagus nerve is important for getting in the mental state of flow. It’s believed that the combination of sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and vagus activation creates the right environment for a flow state (R).
The Vagus Nerve and Hormones
Insulin activates the vagus nerve in some ways through a domino of steps and leads to decreased glucose production by the liver (it activates K-ATP channels in the arcuate nucleus, decreases AgRP release, and through the vagus nerve decreases enzymes that increase blood glucose -G6P, PEPCK) (R).
Acetylcholine is the principle vagal neurotransmitter. This means that it will have many of the same effects as vagal stimulation because this is how the vagus nerve stimulates various organs.
The original article has more information about the vagus nerve and then shows 28 ways to stimulate the vagus nerve. The Self-Hacked site has lots of other interesting information on different aspects of health.
About The Author:
At 18, I was functionally illiterate, socially awkward, with a laundry list of health issues including brain fog, OCD and chronic fatigue. My health issues kept getting worse and I had a complete meltdown at 25.
Not capable of working, I was financially broke, with almost no help. Both conventional and alternative medicine failed me. So I resolved to take things into my own hands and fix myself.
With a mix of ancient wisdom and cutting-edge science, I’ve completely turned my own life around in every way imaginable – mentally, physically, financially and socially. My mission is to give you the information and strategies necessary to selfhack and transform your own life.