We’ve all heard of it, but have you ever wondered… What is the Vagus Nerve?
The word “vagus” means wandering in Latin. This is a very appropriate name, as the vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve. It runs from the brain stem to part of the colon.
The vagus nerve, also known as the vagal nerves, are the main nerves of your parasympathetic nervous system. This system controls specific body functions such as: digestion, heart rate, breathing, cardiovascular activity and reflex actions, such as coughing, sneezing, swallowing, and vomiting. These functions are involuntary, meaning you cannot consciously control them.
Another role of the vagus nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system is to slow the sympathetic stress response. A healthy parasympathetic nerve response is controlled by the vagus nerve and is essential for our mental wellbeing and physical health. However, due to the stress and pressures of our everyday lives, so many of us are continuously in a sympathetic state, where we are constantly in a physiological ‘fight or flight’ mode.
Conditions like depression, insomnia, panic attacks and anxiety can be a symptom of poor vagus nerve function.
Some of the ways you can help stimulate your vagus nerve and parasympathetic nerve activity are:
1 Pro and prebiotics: mean healthy gut bacteria.
2 Deep breathing: can have an immediate impact on the nervous system, stimulating the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic response.
3 Gargling or singing/chanting: Stimulates stimulate the vagus nerve by vibrating the muscle fibres at the back of the mouth in the throat.
4 Craniosacral therapy
5 Craniosacral therapy: helps to shift the body out of a fight or flight state by addressing the cranial nerves.