Have you ever heard of the vagus nerve? Yeah me neither until a few years ago, while I was in the midst of my training to become a certified health coach. It’s incredible how much I thought I knew and actually didn’t know. It’s incredible how our bodies work hard to keep us healthy and strong. Taking mine for granted used to be my default.
As a kid in school, biology always fascinated me. I wasn’t a good student, I had the tendency to struggle and honestly didn’t receive much help when I most needed it, therefore I didn’t put much effort into my studies. Once I returned to school in my 40’s it was the complete opposite, so learning about the body and things such as the microbiome, the vagus nerve while getting certified in gut health, I was fascinated.
Have you been through situations such as these, where you got a second chance to make up for lost time?
So, the vagus nerve is quite an amazing nerve in our body, it plays a huge role when it comes to our digestion and gut health, our gut-brain signaling pathway, it is the CAPTAIN of our nervous system. It is a cranial nerve that extends from our brain all the way to our bowels and back. Holy Cow!
Have you ever heard of the gut-brain connection? Keep reading and it might make sense to you in a bit.
So I don’t know about you, but when I am stressed about anything (and this can even be good stress such as me going on a vacation), it all goes directly to my digestive system. That’s when I have to excuse myself to the loo for a while and just breathe and calm my mind to get rid of the stomach aches and diarrhea.
Honestly, I think it’s ridiculously unfair, don’t you?
So, let’s just get a bit clearer on what the vagus nerve helps with. It helps with a lot of things but I’ll just name a few today. So, first of all, it helps with the motility of the contents of the digestive system, (remember my loo excuses when I am very stressed) yea makes sense right? As my vagus nerve is overstimulated during times such as these but will get to that in a bit. It also plays a role in appetite regulations, stimulates Vitamin B12 intake, nutrient absorption, stress regulation (loo).
The vagal tone is the activity of the vagus nerve, so the vagal tone and vagus nerve play a huge role in the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system the rest and digest nervous system, which is so vital for proper digestion and nutrition absorption, right.
To get a bit more into that I will explain it this way; the nervous system can be overly sensitive if it is not working correctly, which means that stress can speed up (loo) or slow down digestion which can contribute to leaky gut, IBS..and this is exactly why stress reduction is too vital to our digestive system.
I know this might be a lot to follow, but that’s about the simplest way I could explain the role of the vagus nerve, so I hope you are not throwing this blog out yet. LOL I know I can get a bit dry when it comes to this kind of stuff, as it just fascinates me. I also believe that it is important to understand how vital it is to take care of our body and understanding partly how things work can bring us awareness and leave-taking it for granted behind.
So let’s get into how we can recognize a vagus nerve not working as it should. Let’s start with the vagal tone being low. The way we can recognize this is if we experience things such as anxiety, depression, elevated heart rate, inflammation, loneliness, elevated blood pressure. If the vagal tones are overstimulated, we can experience bloating, hiccups, loose stools, reflux, shortness of breath. Now I don’t want you to self-diagnose as that’s never a good thing. Let a doctor handle that, I am most certainly not a doctor, so this is just me simply sharing what I have learned and I want to bring awareness to my fellow ladies.
My goal is to bring self-awareness and look beyond the facts of having to leave some foods out of your diet, being healthy, and getting your digestive issues under control goes way beyond that.
So before we get into the things you can either talk to your doctor, I would like to mention just a few things that can influence the negative impacts of our vagus nerve, which are spicy foods, alcohol, bad fats, and STRESS.
I find it fascinating how much stress can influence our health, on a daily basis, just incredible. For me stress reduction has become one of my number one ingredients in conquering my digestive issues, it was not an easy task, but so worth it once you can recognize your triggers and remove them from your life.
There are a few things we can do naturally that will help with the stimulation of our vagus nerve.
- Cold plunge (no not the one where you jump into a freezing cold lake) but
- Where you switch of from warm to a cold shower
- Spa pools
- Splashing your face with cold water
- Deep breathing such as:
- Extended exhales such as alternate nostril breathing
- Belly breathing
- Gentle movements such as:
- Yoga or Thai Chi
- Helpful yoga poses are: gentle backbends, sun salutations
- Positive emotions:
- Positive social connection
- Vocal works such as singing or chanting
- Positive self-talk
So, as you can see, we rely on our gut for many things such as digesting our food, protecting us from unwanted pathogens, and it is our largest sensory system. This means keeping our vagal tone and vagus nerve working well is important, to say the least
As a health coach, I can support you with quite a few things for getting you to where you want to go, from keeping the communication between you and your doctor open, guiding you through healthy diets and lifestyle factors such as stress management and exercise. I can help you improve your vagal tone, by identifying triggers and experiment with alternatives. I can provide you with basic information on the digestive processes, probiotics, prebiotics, polyphenols, gut microbiome, agricultural industries, and the food growing process.
These are all important and often forgotten when it comes to our health. I know I had no clue about any of the connections back in the day. I had no idea why or how I suddenly became ill with a food sensitivity at the age of 38, especially after never having sensitives or allergies before. Most of all I had no idea how I could possibly get back to a normal life, without my constant digestive issues.
So that’s it for today, I thank you so much for stopping in and reading my blog, I always love seeing you here. If you enjoyed this blog, I recommend that you will enjoy my blog about the microbiome as well, click here to read:http://staging2.healthyforfood.com/2020/04/24/the-microbiome-what-is-it-is-it-important/
Until next time, lots of love,
Helping mother entrepreneurs overcome digestive issues due to food sensitivities.