Your body is a well-oiled machine, with a series of different systems all working closely together in an interconnected web. From the digestive system to the circulatory system, the more you optimize your body’s use of each individual component, the more you can improve your health as a whole.
One extremely powerful system in your body is the nervous system, connecting your brain to the rest of your body. Through understanding and utilizing the various parts of this system, you have the ability to reach and influence every part of the body, providing you with an important tool in the quest for better health! One often overlooked component of the nervous system is the Vagus Nerve, a nerve that, when activated, has been connected with a list of health benefits!
Dr. Paul-Peter Tak once said, “It’s become increasingly clear that we can’t see organ systems in isolation like we did in the past. We just looked at the immune system and therefore we have medicines that target the immune system. But it’s very clear that the human is one entity: mind and body are one. It sounds logical but it’s not how we looked at it before. We didn’t have the science to agree with what may seem intuitive. Now we have data and new insights.”
What is The Vagus Nerve?
The Vagus Nerve is one of 12 cranial nerves located in the body, extending from the brainstem all the way down to the abdomen, linking up several organs including the esophagus, heart, and lungs. This is the longest cranial nerve in the body, and is also known as ‘cranial nerve x.’ As part of the body’s involuntary nervous system, the vagus nerve is responsible for a number of roles in the body including controlling the digestion of food and keeping your heart rate constant.
In order to harness the power of the vagus nerve, you must first understand the concept of vagal tone, which represents the degree of activity that is occurring along this part of the nervous system. You can measure your vagal tone by tracking both your heart rate and your breathing rate, and then look at the connection between the two.
When you breathe in your heart rate will speed up slightly. You will also find that your heart rate will then slow down as you breathe out. Record your heart rate during inhalation, and again during exhalation. The difference between these two rates is your vagal tone. The larger the difference between the two, the higher your vagal tone.
How Can You Harness the Power of your Vagus Nerve?
Experts have found a connection between higher vagal tones and better overall health. There are a number of hospitals that are even beginning to record your vagal tone in your patient files due to everything that it reveals about your current health. Some of the benefits of a high vagal tone include:
- Improved Digestion
- Reduced Migraines
- More Stable Blood Sugar Regulation
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Reduced Risk of Stroke
- Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
- Improved Emotional Regulation
If you needed further motivation to work on increasing your vagal tone, not only does increasing your vagal tone provide benefits, but a low vagal tone has actually been associated with a number of health problems! These health problems include:
- Cardiovascular Conditions
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Higher Rates of Inflammation
- Cognitive Impairment
How Can I Activate the Vagus Nerve and Increase Vagal Tone?
- Drinking Cold Water
- Consume Foods High in Probiotics
- Splashing Cold Water on Your Face or Taking a Cold Shower
- Singing and Chanting
- Breathing Techniques
- Massage (especially the foot or the neck)