The vagus nerve is just one of the twelve cranial nerves. It is the longest among the cranial nerves. The vagus nerve begins in the brainstem and goes to the vital organs including the heart, lungs, esophagus, and into the abdomen.
Vagus is a Latin word meaning wandering, which is also the origin of words like vague, vagabond, and vagrant.
Although it may sound meaningless and nothing, it serves a vital purpose. Dr. Dacher Keltner, a researcher studying the vagus nerve calls it the “love nerve“.
Mainly because, as Dr. Keltner says, the vagus nerve produces oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and better known as the “love hormone”.
Before we go further exploring the ways to stimulate the vagus nerve and unlock its potential healing power, watch this as Dr. Keltner explains more.
Natural Ways To Stimulate And Unlock Vagus Nerve Healing Power
Proper stimulation of the vagus nerve leading to the unlocking of its full potential for healing and happiness. Fortunately, there are natural ways to stimulate the vagus nerve. It is not necessary to do them all.
Practicing one or two on a regular basis is good enough. The key is consistency and mastery of the techniques. Of course, some stimulation is easy while others require efforts to master.
Simply begin with the one you are comfortable doing without stressing yourself. But before we begin, let us witness how a person can be put to put to sleep by tickling. Yes, you’ve read it right.
Symptoms of a Vagus Nerve Dysfunction
Just like any other parts of the body, symptoms can occur when there is a dysfunction or problem. This is also true with the vagus nerve. Among the problems one may encounter who have a vagal nerve problem include;
- Gastrointestinal disorders and digestive problems
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Mood disorders
- Chronic inflammation
- Vertigo and dizziness
- Abnormally slow heartbeat known as bradycardia
On the other hand, proper stimulation of the vagus nerve has shown to improve various health conditions including;
- Poor blood circulation
- Anxiety disorder
- Mood disorder
- Heart disease
- Alcohol addiction
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Leaky Gut
At this point, it’s clear that proper vagal nerve stimulation has many health benefits. Of course, this includes stress management.
Here are the ways in which you can stimulate your vagus nerve naturally and properly.
1. Cold Showers
Cold showers have been known for its many health benefits scientifically. Of course, regular cold showers also have a positive impact and stimulates the vagus nerve.
2. Social Relationships
It is true that social positive relationships and connections are linked to happiness and longevity. In one study1 wherein the participants give thoughts of love and kindness to others feel hopeful, happy, and serene.
This results in an improvement in vagus nerve function through a heart-rate variability. Moreover, the results of this study also showed a more toned vagus nerve than just simply doing meditation.
Chanting and singing although they appear very simple, have a significant positive impact on the vagus nerve. A simple hum, sing, and chant influence heart-rate variability. These are like starting a pump into the vagus nerve that sends out relaxing waves to the entire body.
And, it feels good, too!
Who would have thought that as simple as a gargle can stimulate the vagus nerve? How does this happen? When you gargle, it stimulates the muscles of the pallet, which are triggered by the vagus nerve.
5. Breathing Exercises
Breathing slowly and deeply is probably, the most common way to calm the vagus nerve and the entire body. It reduces the heartbeat allowing a more serene feeling and eventually calming the entire body.
There are baroreceptors or neurons around the neck that detect blood pressure and send that signal to the brain. This stimulates the vagus nerve particularly the one that connects to the heart responsible for controlling blood pressure and heart rate.
Breathing slowly and deeply in an equal amount both inhale and exhale increases the baroreceptors’ sensitivity and vagus nerve stimulation.
6. Yoga and Tai-Chi Practice
Interestingly, one study2 showed that yoga asana sessions increase brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels.
These findings demonstrate that in experienced yoga practitioners, brain GABA levels increase after a session of yoga. This suggests that the practice of yoga should be explored as a treatment for disorders with low GABA levels such as depression and anxiety disorders.J Altern Complement Med. 2007 May;13(4):419-26.
A later study3 also supports the previous findings.
The 12-week yoga intervention was associated with greater improvements in mood and anxiety than a metabolically matched walking exercise. This is the first study to demonstrate that increased thalamic GABA levels are associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety. It is also the first time that a behavioral intervention (i.e., yoga postures) has been associated with a positive correlation between acute increases in thalamic GABA levels and improvements in mood and anxiety scales.Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, et al. Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study. J Altern Complement Med. 2010;16(11):1145‐1152. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007
And, what about Tai-Chi, is there any study that backs its helpful stimulation of the vagus nerve? Certainly, there is. A study4 back in 2008 found that tai-chi enhances vagal modulation.
You might have heard the phrase, “laughter is the best medicine.” Fortunately, it’s true. A genuine laugh naturally triggers happiness and being happy is an amazing natural immune system booster.
Furthermore, laughter just like gargling naturally stimulates the vagus nerve. In one pilot study5 of patients waiting for an organ transplant, laughter has been shown to increase heart variability.
Having a massage truly soothes and relaxes the body. This is the case of a whole-body massage. But do you know you can stimulate your vagus nerve with a just a massage in the neck and feet?
A proper neck massage can help lessen the occurrences of seizures. On the other hand, foot massage is helpful in lowering blood pressure and heart rate.
Exercise has also been proven to stimulate vagus nerve6.
Whatever you do to chill out, it’s helping in stimulating your vagus nerve positively. There are many ways to achieve relaxation including reading a book, watching something soothing and appealing, and of course, listening to your favorite music.
Giving yourself the time to seek relaxation is a vital way to keep your vagus nerve at ease.
While these vagal nerve stimulation techniques work well with regular practice, diet, or good nutrition, as well as mind-body exercises like yoga and meditation, are also helpful.
Although stimulating the vagus nerve properly works, it may not be an all-in-one solution to all your health problems. Hence, pay attention to your diet as well as make to maintain healthy lifestyle practices.
Serotonin and dopamine along with oxytocin make us feel good, which is a helpful vagal nerve stimulation allowing the body to switch to rest and digest, or healing mode.