Highlights from : "Vagus Nerve" by David Reyes

1.The Vagus nerve is an incredible part of your body. It is long, meandering, and powerful. It is unique and complex. It is truly amazing! Sometimes called CNX, this is the tenth cranial nerve, and it extends from the base of your skull to your colon. Along the way down from your brain stem, the Vagus nerve makes several stops along the way, extending in various areas, and acting as an information “highway” for your body to tell the brain what it is experiencing, and for the brain to tell the body how to respond. And in many instances, this is all happening subconsciously!

2. Your blood pressure lowers and heart rate slows down when the Vagus nerve is stimulated.

3. Otto Loewi, a physiologist from Germany, identified the connection between a stimulated Vagus nerve and acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. It was early in the 1920’s when Loewi recognized that the Vagus nerve sent the message to release this, and its primary function is to calm the body and mind when it is experiencing stress.

4. And one of the best and easiest methods for triggering the release of this neurotransmitter is by breathing deeply very slowly.

5. “Controlling” your Vagus nerve, or learning how to work with it, is important because you can keep it functioning properly. If it becomes over-stimulated, you can experience responses like emotional disturbances, added stress, and anxiety.

6. An overactive Vagus nerve can lead to increased stress and anxiety. An underactive Vagus nerve can lead to gastroparesis, which then can lead to diabetes.

7. Techniques to self-stimulate the Vagus nerve include:
  • Engaging your abdominal muscles
  • Acupuncture
  • Chewing gum
  • Prayer
  • Resting on your right side
  • Tai chi
  • Massage
  • Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting
  • Laughter
  • Engaging in positive social relationships and situations
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Chanting
  • Singing
  • Cold showers

8. Cold temperatures: studies have indicated that when your body has to adjust to colder temperatures, it increases your parasympathetic response system to allow you to relax, thereby inhibiting your sympathetic response. This process is overseen by your Vagus nerve. And this does not need to be an extreme exposure to cold; just a small amount of cold exposure can activate your Vagus nerve. One method you can try is dipping your face in ice-cold water or taking a cold shower. You can also expose yourself to cold by going outside in cold temperatures or standing in front of the open freezer door. Drinking ice-cold water is also effective.

9. Chant or sing. You can easily increase the variability in your heart rate when you sing. You can change this variability in different ways when you sing energetically, sing hymns, chant mantras, or hum. The reason this is effective is because of the stimulation of the vagal pump on your throat. If you sing at the top of your lungs you can engage the back muscles in your throat, activating your Vagus nerve. It also triggers your sympathetic nervous system along with your Vagus nerve. Also, singing is shown to increase oxytocin production.

10. Laugh a lot. The more you laugh the more you stimulate your Vagus nerve and calm your body. Studies have shown many times that this really is one of the “best medicines.” There are reports where people fainted from laughing too much. This is likely due to overstimulation of the Vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sensation becomes extreme and activates the immobilization response. In addition, people that experience this response to laughter often have an illness called Angelman’s, which is a fairly rare condition.

11. Increase the amount of zinc you consume. Zinc is a common mineral in foods and in supplements, but surprisingly many humans do not consume enough. In a study where rats were given a diet low or deficient in zinc for three days, it was clear the Vagus nerve was not functioning at full capacity. When zinc was reintroduced the Vagus nerve was activated and stimulated.