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The Important Vagus Nerve & Tools to Maximize Vagal Tone

polyvagal theory the vagus nerve Apr 23, 2022

The Important Vagus Nerve & Tools to Maximize Vagal Tone

by Nadya Lutz, HHC, TNC

 

The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve or the wandering nerve that begins in the brain and attaches to all the body's organs. It handles many body functions; it decides if the body is in rest and digest, also known as a parasympathetic state, or fight and flight, referred to as a sympathetic state.

 

Is it crucial for the body to be in a Parasympathetic State?  

 

When the body senses calm, it can send all the signals necessary for organs to digest food, absorb nutrients, and function properly. If the brain is in fight or flight or a sympathetic state, it believes it is in danger. For example, one might need a robust and quick boost of adrenaline to lift a car off of someone. However, this adrenaline is not a friend and can cause added stress and chronic illness. When the brain perceives fight or flight, it shuts down unnecessary organs and functions during that emergency. Digestion is often one of the first systems to halt during an emergency. The vagus nerve plays a decisive role in releasing acetylcholine, and it decides whether the body is in rest and digest or fight or flight. We will explore the various organs affected by the vagus nerve and teach natural modalities to help stimulate the vagus nerve and calm the central nervous system.



Signs and symptoms that the Vagus Nerve may need some attention.

 

Please look at the list below to check for symptoms that might mean the vagus nerve could benefit from some attention.

  1. Chronic physical complications are typical such as tense muscles, sore neck and shoulder muscles, migraine, back pain, TMJ, grinding teeth at night, eye or facial tension, cold hands and feet, intense sweating, sore muscles after exertion, arthritis, nervousness, dizziness, lump in their throat, difficulty swallowing, brain fog, thinning hair, joint pain, or Inflammation.
  2. Emotional Issues can be habitual acting as irritability, anger, depression, fatigue, feeling of hopelessness, lack of energy, tendency to cry, anxiety, heavy feeling, more extended periods of depression, fear, nightmares, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, excessive worry, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, frustration, extreme daydreaming or fantasizing, mood swings, seasonal affective disorder, mood swings, PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, or insomnia.
  3. Digestive dysfunction is prevalent: poor digestion, constipation, diarrhea, irritation of the large intestine, stomach issues, hyperacidity, ulcer, heartburn, loss of appetite, excessive eating, or inflammatory skin conditions.
  4. Heart and lung problems are routine, including chest pains, asthma, hyperventilation, shortness of breath, hypoxia, irregular heartbeat, or high blood pressure.
  5. Immune system issues are persistent, such as recurring flu or colds, minor infections, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammation, or slow healing.
  6. Behavior problems are prevalent, such as increased drinking, smoking or drugs, frequent accidents or injuries, autism, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, excessive medicine use with or without a prescription, trouble with focus and concentration, or brain fog.
  7. Relationship troubles are typical: unreasonable distrust, difficulty reaching agreements, or low libido.
  8. Hormonal imbalances are routine, with symptoms including excessive menstrual pains, thyroid issues, infertility, and weight gain around the midsection and upper back.





According to clinical research, there is a strong correlation between high vagal tone and sound emotional and physical health. Look at the image of the vagus nerve and all its innervations into the organs. Remarkably, it plays such a prominent role in our bodies. First, let us look at the digestive system and how that affects the vagus nerve and overall health.

 

Comprehension of the Digestive System and the Role of the Vagus Nerve.

 

The brain and the Brain-Gut Axis deteriorate when the vagus nerve is not 100%. To understand the connection better, let us take a deeper look at the digestive system and how the vagus nerve plays a role in each organ. It will then become crystal clear why it is essential to take care of and support the gut and vagus nerve.

 

The beginning of the Digestive System is the Mouth, Tongue, and Teeth. Chewing breaks down the food into smaller pieces that can be digested easier. The process of mastication produces saliva, which contains hydrochloric acid, HCL, and other enzymes. Chewing food begins with the breakdown of starches and fats. The vagus nerve directly connects with the facial nerve and the glossopharyngeal nerve. They both innervate with the vagus nerve, which supplies sensation to the tongue and thus begins the digestive process.

 

Equally important is the Esophagus, which is second in line. As the partially broken down food passes through the esophagus and travels to the stomach through muscular contractions or peristalsis, the Esophageal sphincters keep the food and acid from flowing back up the esophagus. Often, there is difficulty swallowing because of the loss of muscle tone and decreased vagal tone. Next, the vagus nerve innervates the lower sphincter and regulates the flow of food from the esophagus into the stomach. When the vagus nerve is weak, it can cause a reflux of food or acid. This issue can be very uncomfortable at night, leading to heartburn, indigestion, malnutrition, dysphagia, lower REM, and loss of cognition.

 

The gut is the primary source of communication between the brain and stomach, sending and receiving crucial parasympathetic information for the autonomic nervous system. Thus, the Stomach has many functions, including the churning action and releasing gastric acids and enzymes. When the stomach is acidic, it kills the harmful bacteria and parasites entering the digestive tract. Afterward, the pancreas and liver secrete enzymes and transfer the enzymes to the stomach to aid digestion. A decrease in enzyme secretion leads to decreased digestion.

 

Decreased gastric acid secretion can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. We need gastric acid to free B12 from foods. Decreased elasticity of the stomach results in a decrease in the amount of food that the stomach can accommodate, which makes eating uncomfortable for many people. Furthermore, it also results in a decreased rate of food emptying into the intestine and causes a slower process of digestion and absorption. These digestive issues may cause a feeling of fullness, reduced appetite, and weight loss. These issues can lead to peptic ulcer disease, lactose intolerance due to decreased lactase secretion, and anemia because of vitamin B12 deficiency. In short, the vagus nerve tells the stomach to digest the food, produce stomach acid, and defend against bacteria, parasites, and viruses.

 

The Small Intestine, which comprises the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum, handles most digestion and absorption. In short, issues, as we age, are many and might suggest we could benefit from more vagal work. Lactase levels typically decrease with age and lead to lactose intolerance. Excessive bacteria overgrowth is common and can lead to small intestine diverticulitis, inflammation, pain, and weight loss or gain. This overgrowth can also lead to less vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and absorption, which are all critical. The vagus nerve signals the stomach to contract and push food through the small intestine.  

 

Next in the digestive process is the pancreas, releasing digestive enzymes into the duodenum. It is also responsible for making insulin and releasing it into the bloodstream. The vagus nerve releases an important neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, and this powerful chemical produces an anti-inflammatory result and balances glucose levels. 



The Gallbladder stores and condenses bile and then releases it into the duodenum to help break down fats. Once again, the production and secretion of bile diminish with age, which further complicates the digestive process. The Liver is next and also contributes to the production and secretion of bile, detoxifies the blood, secretes and stores glucose, and produces albumin. The innervation of the vagus nerve helps the gallbladder contraction, bile secretion, and the sphincter's relaxation. As is becoming clear, a healthy vagus nerve is critical for these functions.

 

Our food then travels down to the Large Intestine. It absorbs the nutrients, water, and salt from the food and then gets rid of it. The remains then pass out of the rectum, and the colon can also absorb carbohydrates and fats. There can be a slight slowing of movement through the large intestine with age. Of course, a healthy vagus nerve will push the food and waste through the digestive tract because of the contraction message sent from the brain. This communication pathway from the gut to the brain happens when our thriving gut microbiome sends messages to our brain about the situation of the digestive tract.

 

Last but not least is the Rectum. It is the temporary storage facility for waste material and controls when the feces leave the body. We should poop after every meal. If this event is not happening, there are problems somewhere along the digestive tract or with the communication to the brain.



The Other Two Major Organs Affected by the Vagus Nerve:



In addition, the vagus nerve controls the Heart and is critical for sending an anti-inflammatory signal to balance the heart rate and blood pressure. An overstimulated vagus nerve can produce vasovagal syncope and cause someone to faint. According to James Roland and many other practitioners, several maneuvers can optimize a fast or unpredictable heart rate. Practitioners call this supraventricular tachycardia or SVT. We can do five maneuvers at home to control the heart rate. We will list five SVT techniques in more detail below because they are fabulous at increasing vagal tone.  

 

Last but not least, the vagus nerve also controls the Lungs. The vagus nerve has a massive influence on breathing and pulmonary disease. It helps control inflammatory responses, mucus, the cough response, the constriction, or dilation of the bronchial tubes, breath control, breathing patterns, hypoxia, and much more. Most people do not have the best breath mechanics. When we breathe short, shallow, and through the mouth, it activates the fight-or-flight response. A simple nostril slow breathing exercise can profoundly affect the vagus nerve and overall health. There will be exercises to try below.

 

 

Scientifically, it is all about slowing down the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, deepening the breath, and relaxing different muscles. These sensations all have the vagus nerve and its connection to the brain in common. We will spend the following sections talking about various techniques to optimize health naturally to increase the vagus nerve tone.

 

Here are some practices to increase the vagal nerve tone for better overall health.

 

Below are many natural techniques that have directly or indirectly improved vagal tone, reduced anxiety, and optimized health. We do not mean this paper to be medical advice, and it is simply an educational tool. To take advantage of this tool, try adding one or more of the following practices:

 

 

  • Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation, Reiki, Qigong

 

These modalities boost mood, reduce anxiety, and increase vagal tone. These activities' slow, deep breathing creates interesting, calming changes in the body.  

 

  • Build a Strong Network of Friends and Family

 

Strong relationships make people feel closer to others, and that feeling stimulates the vagus nerve. Hugging also releases oxytocin, which helps to keep the brain happy and the vagus nerve in check. Ever wonder why most babies enjoy swaddling or why some dogs need thunder vests to calm down? The compression or hugging mechanism activates the vagus nerve and calms the central nervous system.

 

  • Chewing Gum or Anything

 

Chewing gum aids in the hormone release, cholecystokinin, CCK, and HCL, which helps in the digestion of food. In particular, chewing food thoroughly also has the same effect. 

 

  • Coughing and Laughing Frequently

 

They discovered the connection with the vagus nerve because when people coughed, laughed, choked, or went to the bathroom, they would faint. There could also be additional neurological and cardiac benefits. Coughing hard generates pressure in the chest and thus stimulates the vagus nerve. These are some of the ‘vagal maneuvers’ that can reset a rapid heart rate.

 

  • Gagging

 

Gagging with a finger can stimulate the vagus nerve and also is one of the ‘vagal maneuvers’ recommended for resetting a fast heart rate.

 

  • Get Direct Sunlight and Watch the Sunrise/Sunset

 

Ultraviolet A or ultraviolet B rays increase a hormone, stimulating the vagus nerve. Furthermore, watching the sunrise and sunset resets the circadian rhythm of melatonin and enables the parasympathetic state as well.

 

  • Humming, Gargling, Singing, Chanting

 

Chanting, gargling, humming, and singing increase HRV or heart rate variability. These activities engage the larynx, and these activities help put the body and keep the body in a Parasympathetic State. In addition, many religions and cultures adopted these practices centuries ago, not knowing that there is a scientific reason behind them to calm the nervous system.

 

  • Exercise

 

Low to medium-level exercise stimulates the digestive system and, therefore, the vagus nerve. In contrast, research shows intense exercise possibly has the opposite response in some people.

 

  • Increase Fiber Content

 

Fiber increases glucagon-like peptide-1 or GLP-1, a hormone that helps communication between the gut-brain axis via the vagus nerve. Fiber also helps the digestive tract motility.

 

  • Intermittent Fasting

 

Intermittent fasting gives the body a chance to rest and digest. Fasting allows for additional healing at night and a prolonged period during the fast. The heart rate variability and metabolism benefit from fasting. 

 

  • Cold Therapy

 

Ice therapy triggers an immune response, which activates the vagus nerve. Put the wrists in icy water, drink cold water, take cold baths or submerge the face in cold water to reset the central nervous system. Researchers have found that exposure to colder temperatures improves the stress response, reduces anxiety, constricts blood vessels, and up-regulates the vagus nerve. Equally important is training the body that regular stressors do not need extreme cortisol responses. Cold therapy is another ‘vagal maneuver’ that resets the SVT, supraventricular tachycardia, and a fast, erratic heart rate.

 

  • Hold the Knees Firmly Against the Chest

 

A fabulous way to reset the vagus nerve in infants and children is clasping the knees against the chest. The direct pressure on the abdomen/digestive system removes the gas from the intestines, but the pressure created along the vagus nerve can help with a reset. This pressure is another vagal maneuver recommended to reset a fast heart rate or SVT.  

 

  • Grounding or Earthing

 

Humans have walked without shoes and slept directly on the ground for most of evolution. Nature has an unlimited amount of negative ions flowing from the earth, and these negative ions counteract the positive ions coming from our technology. In addition, rubber sole shoes disconnect us from the negative ions. Research shows that 10 minutes spent in nature can be enough to reduce stress and help the vagus nerve. One can also use a grounding mat to help with the negative ion grounding connection.

 

  • Neurofeedback

 

Our brain is happiest when our brain waves are even. Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that helps equalize the brain waves naturally without medication. Applying sensors to the different brain areas creates a neurofeedback loop to give us valuable information. The sensors read the brain waves and make suggestions to train and optimize the brain wave activity. Neurofeedback is an excellent adjunctive therapy to all other protocols. This modality helps signal the brain that everything is okay by putting someone in a rest and digest state.

 

  • Massage

 

Whole-body massage stimulates the vagus nerve directly, and it helps with digestion and keeps the vagus nerve happy. One spot just below the ear and another on the inside of the collar bone can offer an instant reboot of the central nervous system.

 

  • Enemas and Colonics

 

They can help develop a positive shift in the vagus nerve pathways. It helps stimulate and prevent constipation, and research shows that ten consecutive days can help reset the digestive tract.

 

  • PEMF Therapy 

 

Protected management frames or PMF devices stimulate waves everywhere the vagus nerve innervates. It increases HRV, regulates blood flow, promotes healthy cell function, stimulates the digestive process, and reduces inflammation.

 

  • Infrared and Negative Ion Therapy

 

Many devices can help reduce inflammation, decrease pain, and calm the central nervous system. Some are infrared lights and panels, infrared mats, and infrared saunas. These modalities can restore the essential microbial balance to digestive and overall health. It can also enhance serotonin production naturally, which helps the vagus nerve directly. We spend most days absorbing positive electrons, yet we do not allow the negative ions back in to balance our bodies. These modalities can help ground and restore our central nervous system.

 

  • Cannabis

 

The endocannabinoid system, ECS, regulates the ‘crosstalk’ between the body’s system. Clinical researchers found controlled cannabis use in clinical trials to mimic the natural ECS system, thus helping to reduce anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, and increased vagal tone.

 

  • Frequencies/Rife/Scalar Waves

 

Rife frequencies and other balancing frequencies help stimulate the vagus nerve and bring the body back to balance. Royal Rife and Albert Einstein determined that each organ, nerve, and cell in our bodies resonate at a different frequency. By stimulating various frequencies, the body can come back into balance.  

 

  •  Breathing Techniques

 

Breathing is a free and readily available way to control the system immediately. For centuries, we have known that conscious breathing by yogis and women in childbirth can have a profound effect and control pain. Most people are shallow breathers, which puts them into fight or flight by simply working on our deep, controlled nostril breathing. These types of breathing are great to practice when someone is having an anxiety attack, and also, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The more we practice this type of breathing, the more natural it becomes. Deep breathing is fabulous. Practice the following breathing techniques and see which resonates best with the body. Please try these types of breathing and see which resonates the best—monitoring the heart rate before and after the breathing is a simple method to test the response to breathing.

  1. Nostril Breathing

 If we are talking about calming the central nervous system or vagus nerve reset, breathing in and out of our nose is the ticket. There are many reasons for this. Mouth breathing refers to our primitive brain. We would breathe heavily when a tiger was chasing us, and then our organs would shut down to get us out of danger. In short, nostril breathing signals the brain that everything is ok.

  1. Diaphragm Breathing or Belly Breathing

Inhale, the belly rises and exhales slowly as the belly sinks towards the spine. Both actions are very calming to the brain. Also, when the breath is deep, the rise and fall of the abdominal wall massage the organs. This breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which innervates with our major organs. It is best to lie down when practicing this type of breathing.

  1. Box Breathing

Box Breathing is breathing in for four breaths, holding the breath for four breaths, breathing out for four breaths, and again holding the breath for four breaths. Many research studies have shown an increase in Carbon Dioxide, which enhances the cardioinhibitory response of the vagus nerve. The exhalation stimulates the parasympathetic system, which creates a calm response and improves decision-making. With this in mind, try this type of breathing before sleeping.

  1. Oxytocin Breathe

Breathe into the belly, and on the slow exhalation, make the elongated sound ‘Hah’ and repeat this exercise for 2 minutes. Not only does this help bring someone into homeostasis, but it also produces the hormone Oxytocin, the love hormone.

 

  •  Simple Exercises to Help Reset the vagus nerve

 

These exercises are from the book, Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve by Stanley Rosenberg. They are excellent at resetting the central nervous system instantaneously. If someone has a panic attack or has severe anxiety, try these. They are fantastic at keeping the vagal tone high.

  1.  Reset the vagus nerve 
  1. Lay on the back
  2. Place both hands behind the head with fingers interwoven.
  3. Do not move the head, but look far right.
  4. Stay in the position until a yawn or swallow simultaneously happens. It is okay to fake a yawn until it becomes natural.
  5. Return the head to the neutral state with the head and eyes straight to the ceiling.
  6. Repeat on the other side.
  7. This is great to do before bed to reset the central nervous system for the night.
  8. Neuro-Fascial Release Technique 
  1. Push gently at the base of the skull and feel the right and left sides of the occipital bone.
  2. Feel the skin to see if it can slide easily back and forth. Slide the skin to the right and let it come back to neutral and then to the left.
  3. Push into the side that has the most significant resistance. 
  4. Pushing into the resistance and sigh or swallow to release the tension.
  5. Continue doing this until the skin slides easily to the right or left.
  1. Half Salamander Exercise 
  1. Stand tall and look directly to the right with both eyes.
  2. Let the right ear lower to the right shoulder and keep the eyes looking to the right for 30-60 seconds.
  3. Let the head return to a neutral position and look forward again.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
  1. Acupressure/Acupuncture Points to Reset the Vagus Nerve.

Someone can directly stimulate the vagus nerve with acupressure, and it will promote digestion, calm the central nervous system and improve communication amongst the cranial nerves. Research shows several points reset the central nervous system, and here are three points.

  1. Large Intestine (LI) 20 

 

Find the point, gently massage it on the face, and lightly press into the resistance. Press gently, breathe into the pressure, and wait for the release.

  1.   Bladder (UB) 2

 

  1. Use the thumb and massage through all layers on that spot. Gently glide the thumb across the bone on the bottom of the eyebrow. Hold the resistance until a release happens. Sigh or swallow to help with the release.
  2. Tragus Stimulation
  1. Gently massage the tragus.
  2. Sigh or swallowing will help with the release.



  1. Tapping

Clinical trials have reduced stress anxiety and reset the central nervous system by using the fingers to tap on these specific points. Research has found that using EFT or emotional freedom techniques with breathing exercises and self-affirmation statements is very effective at reducing anxiety.





  1. Practice Jin Shin Jyutsu finger holds.

This gentle finger method hold is a form of light acupressure, which is easy to do when stressed. We recommend taking six full nostril breaths during the hold to help release various emotions and calm the central nervous system.



  1. High Quality, Uninterrupted Sleep.

Since the gut axis dysfunction can make one feel tired, it is hard to tell the sleep quality. It is crucial to eliminate blue light and screens up to three hours before bedtime and from the bedroom and reduce EMFs coming into the bedroom. It is ideal to sleep in a cold and completely dark area. Also, a grounding mat will help improve sleep, which will also help the vagus nerve.

 

  1. Cell Salts or Biochemical Phosphates.

German Physician W.H. Schussler discovered ‘cell salts’ in the mid-1800s. Hyland has a Nerve Tonic with five cell salts that quickly control stress, anxiety, nerves, and irritability. The five cell salts listed on their packaging and the website are “Calcarea Phosphorica, Ferrum Phosphoricum, Kali Phosphoricum, Magnesia Phosphorica, and Natrum Phosphoricum.” The company recommends taking three tablets four times a day until symptoms ease.



Foods and Supplements that Support the Vagus nerve

 

  •  Foods with Tryptophan

 

Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids in our diet that helps control the inflammatory response in the gut. Studies suggest the vagus nerve can send and receive signals quicker. Some foods high in tryptophan are eggs, turkey, chicken, pork, red meat, fish, tuna, cheese, milk, tofu, beans, nuts, seeds, spinach, kale, spirulina, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and oatmeal.

 

  • Zinc and Serotonin (5 HTP or 5-Hydroxy tryptophan) Rich Diet is Ideal

 

According to animal studies, a diet rich in zinc seemed to increase vagus nerve stimulation. Foods high in zinc include beef, pork, chicken, oysters, lentils, mushrooms, yogurt, seeds, nuts, bananas, raspberries, apricots, and figs. Many people are deficient in zinc and serotonin, so it is vital to concentrate on the foods above.

 

  •  Vitamin C Rich Diet

 

Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, increases the ability of the nervous system to respond to pressure variations, and it also helps to maintain the immune system and reduce inflammation. Natural sources include citrus fruits (orange, lemon, and grapefruit), papaya, guava, strawberries, cantaloupe, kiwi, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.  

  1. Probiotics

Taking Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, a good bacterium, if the Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase or MTHFR gene is not active, can improve the function of GABA or gamma-Amino-butyric acid receptors for the vagus nerve in animal studies. They also showed Bifidobacterium Longum to reduce anxiety in animal studies. 

 

  • Seafood or Omega 3’s

 

Studies have shown that EPA and DHA in Omega-3 Fatty Acids reduce heart rate and increase HRV. These are two factors that go hand in hand with vagal tone.

 

  •  Adaptogens

 

We have used these ancient herbs for centuries to help people adapt to stress. Several studies have positively impacted the immune-neuro-endocrine system, directly affecting the vagus nerve.

  1. Ashwagandha lowers blood pressure, improves the immune system, calms the central nervous system, and reduces swelling.
  2. Rhodiola Rosea stimulates the body's resistance to physical, neurological, environmental, and emotional stressors. It might also help protect cells from damage and regulate the heartbeat. 
  3. Ginseng may strengthen the anti-oxidant immune system, improve the immune system, enhance brain function, neuro stabilizing effects, and fight fatigue.
  4. Goji Berries are the number one herb in Chinese medicine. This protein source contains 16 amino acids and eight essential amino acids and is a fantastic protein source for a small berry. Along with their protein and fat content, goji berries' health benefits are an excellent source of antioxidants, especially carotenoids. They improve immune function, stabilize fight or flight, fight cancer, help stabilize blood sugar, improve eye health and boost energy.
  5. Licorice root contains 300 bioactive compounds in one serving that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the brain.
  6. Tulsi or Holy Basil helps maintain epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This adaptogen helps the body regulate stress and calms the nervous system.
  1. Bitters

Bitters can improve heart circulation and thus help the vagus nerve. In addition, it helps with all the digestive fluids, such as saliva, enzymes, and bile. These are all crucial for the digestive system. Place the bitters on different tongue parts as they innervate with other cranial nerves to see the best result.

  1. Warming bitters are Angelica archangelica, Citrus aurantium flos, Inula helenium, and Rosmarinus officinalis. They will help people who are always cold and might have low blood pressure.
  2. Cooling bitters are Arctium lappa, Cynara scolymus, Gentiana lutea, Erythrea Centaurea, and Verbena Officinalis. They are great for elevated blood pressure, hot flashes, flushing, and heat issues.
  3. Balancing bitters include Matricaria recutita and Stachys betonica. These bitters are excellent for people who alternate between hot and cold temperatures.
  1. Fermented Food.

Sauerkraut and kimchi are naturally occurring pre-and probiotics and are beneficial for the gut. A healthy gut has thousands of molecules that communicate via the gut-brain axis. In addition, these beneficial bacteria create neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which help the brain-gut axis.  

  1. Cacao 

Cacao intake significantly increased (200%) HRV and improved parasympathetic response. It is the highest antioxidant in the world. The flavonoids in cacao lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular function, neutralize free radicals, improve digestion, and improve the immune system. According to David Wolfe, they contain “alkaloids, proteins, beta-carotene, leucine, linoleic, lipase, and lysine, all of which contribute to the improvement of physical and mental health. They are also excellent sources of potassium and magnesium, zinc, manganese, and copper.” Besides all the beneficial reasons, cacao is super yummy!

  1. Bee Pollen

Bee Pollen protects against neuroinflammation in animal research. It contains almost all the nutrients the body needs, including 18 vitamins, 22 amino acids, protein sources, minerals, enzymes, etc. It reduces inflammation, helps with allergies, boosts immune disease, reduces inflammation, and helps with menopausal symptoms. 

  1. Spirulina

Spirulina helps to restore the central nervous system. It contains copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, and potassium, among other minerals necessary for a healthy brain/gut connection. It also contains a healthy dose of vitamins and disease-fighting antioxidants. With all these positives, spirulina benefits include detoxing heavy metals, boosting energy, speeding up weight loss, reducing chances of stroke, cholesterol reduction, eliminating candida overgrowth, lowering blood pressure, etc. It has incredible benefits, but it is essential to find a high-quality source.

  1. Marine phytoplankton 

Marine Phytoplankton, a micro-algae found in fresh and saltwater, supports the vagus nerve and nervous system, detoxifies the body, and improves heart health. David Wolfe says, “Phytoplankton helps restore health at a cellular level. It contains over 65 compounds that the body needs to stay healthy, including amino acids, essential fats, vitamins, trace minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes.”

 

Herbal Remedies to Help Calm the Central Nervous System

  1. Damask rose - Very soothing for nerves, antidepressant, and gentle sedative. Add this oil to the temples, throat, or baths. Combine Damask rose with Sandalwood or Lavender to enhance the calming effect.
  2. Neroli - Great for anxiety attacks, calms the nervous system, stops palpitations, and calms hysteria. Massage Neroli on the temples or throat and combine it with lavender to enhance calming.  
  3. Hyssop - used for hysteria and gentle enough to calm down upsets in children. Mix with almond oil and massage the temples, neck, and abdomen.
  4. Oats - A restorative nerve tonic that combines well with vervain tincture, lemon balm, or St. John’s wort.
  5. Borage - Restorative for the adrenal cortex.
  6. Valerian - Blocks the response to excitatory neurotransmitters and improves concentration. Not suitable for those with trapped heat.
  7. Geranium - Balances blood pressure and blood sugars and decreases neuroinflammation.
  8. Capsicum has a ‘slap in the face’ effect to jolt the vagus nerve back to homeostasis.

Essential Oils are Calming to the Central Nervous System and Increase Vagal Tone

Since the vagus nerve is such a large, wandering nerve, we have many points where we can apply essential oils to help calm the central nervous system. Some fantastic points are behind the ear, at the base of the neck, and inside the foot's arch. Essential oils are a natural, non-invasive way to help calm the fight-or-flight response. Inhaled oils travel directly to the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, immediately calming the flight response. Applying oils to the skin can cross the blood-brain barrier, directly stimulating the vagus nerve. Inhaling through the left nostril is more beneficial to calming the right side of the brain, which can trigger anxiety. Combine these oils with breathing techniques to reduce anxiety and calm the central nervous system within minutes.

  1.  Cedarwood helps to strengthen the nervous system and keeps focus for people with ADHD/ADD or attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder.
  2. Clove buds can help stimulate the vagus nerve through the digestive tract. It can help with circadian rhythm energy, boost mood and relieve memory issues.
  3. Frankincense is a beautiful anti-inflammatory oil for the brain. Applying this oil to the belly button and nape of the neck will increase communication between the gut and brain.
  4. Holy basil on the temples will help sleep, headaches, and stress.
  5. Lavender can balance mood disorders, reduce stress and tension, and calm the mind. Research has shown that lavender helps regulate serotonin and GABA.
  6. Lime stimulates the brain and helps with concentration. Combining clove bud and lime before meals behind the ear and jawbone will help digestion.
  7. Melissa has been shown in multiple research studies to help improve anxiety, depression, and cognition. 
  8. Rose Oil will calm the fear stimulus and suppress the brain’s stress responses and hormonal signals. It is also the highest frequency oil.
  9. Rosemary is an excellent oil for the memory, nervous system, and brain, and it also helps with chronic fatigue, stress, and the central nervous system.
  10. Vetiver has a 100% performance improvement in children with ADHD/ADD in a 2001 study. It is one of the best oils for grounding, calming the nerves, and focusing on specific tasks.
  11. Ylang-Ylang maximizes blood flow, relieves inflammation, calms anxiety, and enhances focus. Research has found that inhaling ylang-ylang decreased the dopamine concentration and increased the serotonin precursor, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), in the brain.

Homeopathy to support the vagus nerve

 

  • Ignatia stops the emotional stress after a breakup or disappointment, and it calms nerves irritated by grief, anger, jealousy, or shock.
  • Nux vomica can benefit workaholics under stress who quickly become irritable, impatient, or angry.
  • Argentum nitricum is ideal for stress or anxiety before a big event. This remedy helps those that are often anxious, obsessive, or overly emotional.
  • Gelsemium is fantastic for stage fright, stress-induced nerves, trembling, weakness, or forgetfulness.
  • Arsenicum album helps to soothe those with anxious restlessness, exhaust themselves with worry, obsess over minor details, and feel a need to control things around them.

 

Trapped Emotions and the vagus nerve

Last but not least is the role emotions play on the vagus nerve. Research and experience show that those who repress emotions are more likely to get cancer, clinical depression, or an autoimmune disease. On the flip side, when people express emotions, the biochemicals and the neural pathways send out the positive chemicals. The paradigm needs to change. They taught us at such a young age at home, school, and church to suppress our feelings and emotions. We need anger to define boundaries, and fear protects us from danger. Grief is necessary to deal with our losses. Several therapies help people identify and release trapped emotions quickly. These trapped emotions and traumas can keep someone in a fight-or-flight state and prevent healing. In short, here are a few to explore besides regular talk therapy.

  1. The Emotion Code/Body Code 

Emotion Code and Body Code are simple ways to release trapped emotions and Heart-Walls. The subconscious mind often creates these trapped energies to protect the heart from harm. A certified practitioner will use applied kinesiology to identify and release the trapped emotions, often resulting in a much lighter feeling.

  1. PSYCH-K

A certified trainer leads the client through simple exercises or balances to help reprogram subconscious beliefs and perceptions. This method also uses Applied Kinesiology to create positive beliefs to replace specific health, self-esteem, and finances.

  1. New German Medicine

Five ‘laws’ help get to the root of the problem or illness and reset the beliefs. The founder of New German medicine believes that all disease starts with a conflict shock. The second biological law believes that there are two phases: a day phase or fight or flight and a night phase of rest and calm. They have identified the root causes of all diseases and then helped the person resolve the root causes.  

  1. NLP

This powerful modality can help release anxiety by rewiring the brain and trigger points. A series of appointments allow the brain to operate in the parasympathetic state for a more extended period.

 

An Example of How to Stack Techniques for Better Results 

This article gives a better understanding of health through the lens of the vagus nerve. Hopefully, there are many natural options for improving the vagus nerve, central nervous system, brain-gut axis, and adrenals. Please take time to experiment with these techniques. It is a great idea to keep a journal and evaluate one symptom of each technique in the experiment. Here is an example:

Alexis woke up with the following symptoms: severe anxiety (8/10 overall), racing thoughts and heart, and difficulty getting a full breath.

  1. The client splashed ice-cold water on her face and wrists 5/10 but increased to 7/10 10 minutes later.
  2. The client started with a four-count box, breathing for 2 minutes - breathing 6/10
  3. The client added in smelling of rose oil with a four-count box, breathing for 2 minutes, 3/10
  4. The client added in a massage of LI 20 on the face, four-count box breathing with humming on the exhalation 1/10
  5. If her anxiety increased at all during the day, she repeated #4
  6. Within 2 hours, she was at a 0/10 and remained that way for a week until another stressor happened.

In conclusion, physical and emotional well-being are very much connected. For example, it is difficult to have a migraine and be in a good mood. However, if someone nourishes and rests the body, the person is more likely to be sociable and healthy. Few people realize the connection between the vagus nerve and their overall health. By keeping a log of the various techniques above, one can build a toolbox that will come in handy when needed. When the brain knows that it has tools to help combat these symptoms, it is very calming and allows the person to remain in a parasympathetic state for a longer time.

 

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a qualified medical provider. Always seek the advice of a medical physician or a qualified medical provider with questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have heard or read here. Any actions taken because of the information in this article are your responsibility. This information is not patient education, nor should it create any patient-physician relationship. We do not diagnose or cure disease, and we are presenting general information about the human body. The information in this article is not medical advice and is for entertainment only.

 

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