For those who haven’t heard of the “Vagus Nerve,” it may sound like a mysterious or even fictional term. In reality, it is an important part of the body that holds the key to nervous system regulation and has a big impact on mental health and wellbeing.
The Vagus Nerve is the longest and most complex cranial nerve and runs from the brain through the face and neck and down to the abdomen. It influences breathing, digestion, and heart rate, as well as the body’s response during times of rest and relaxation. When the body is not experiencing stress (a flight-or-flight response), the Vagus Nerve sends messages telling the body to calm down.
Not surprisingly, researchers have studied ways to harness the power of the Vagus Nerve to promote anxiety release, stress release, and a sense of peace and well being.
Here are just a few examples of the healing power of the Vagus Nerve:
- Epilepsy treatment. By stimulating the Vagus Nerve, doctors have been able to treat epilepsy in patients who did not respond to other types of treatment.
- Mental health treatment. Vagus Nerve stimulation has been used to treat psychiatric disorders. The FDA has approved a Vagus Nerve treatment for patients with serious depression disorders.
- Inflammatory disorder treatment. The vagus nerve is closely connected to the body’s digestive system and gut microbiome. Vagus Nerve treatments are sometimes used to heal inflammatory disorders.
While the Vagus Nerve operates unconsciously, there are several simple ways to improve the activity of the Vagus Nerve, known as Vagal Tone.
These methods include:
- Deep breathing from the diaphragm
- Cold exposure
- Balancing the gut microbiome