You may have already heard of the vagus nerve in one of your school biology lessons.
It’s the longest nerve in your body and is found right behind where you feel for your pulse.
One of 12 cranial nerves, this super nerve starts in the brainstem and runs all the way to your abdomen, cutting through your heart, esophagus and your lungs.
Known as “cranial nerve X”, the nerve is part of your involuntary nervous system, the system that directs your unconscious body activity, such as keeping your heart rate stable and ensuring you digest food properly. It tells the body to heal itself, essentially.
The nerve moves around your body (like a vagabone, hence the name) sending out tiny fibres to your organs, such as your heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, and intestines. The vagus nerve is essentially controlling your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for stimulating your “rest and digest” activities.
But the most interesting thing about the vagus nerve is the new research that has revealed its link with treating chronic inflammation, which can lead to high blood pressure, digestive issues, and migraines. Known as the missing link, the nerve may be able to treat these issues without medication! Here’s how:
Vagal tone is the control the vagus nerve has over your heart rate. Recent studies have revealed that vagal tone is important in order to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. By tracking your heart rate in addition to your breathing rate your vagal tone can be measured in a person.
When you breathe in your heart usually speeds up slightly, and when you breathe out your heart rate slows down a little. To determine your vagal tone, you need to establish the difference between your inhalation heart rate and your exhalation heart rate. The bigger the difference, the higher your vagal tone will be.
High or low?
Having a higher vagal tone is a good thing. It means you are more likely to be able to relax your body after suffering from stress more quickly, and your internal systems probably function better, such as:
- Sugar regulations
- Reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Better digestion
- Fewer migraines
- Lower depression
- Less stress and anxiety
Scientists have discovered that the vagus nerve is monitoring and responding to your body. It initiates responses to any inflammation, all of which affects your mood and your ability to cope with your body’s reactions.
Low vagal tone
If you have a low vagal tone you are more susceptible to heart problems, strokes, diabetes, depression, and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and endometriosis.
However, a number of researchers have discovered that by stimulating the nerve using electrical current you can increase your vagal tone, and improve your resilience to these problems.
However, there are ways you can improve your vagal tone yourself:
1. Hum. It may sound bizarre, but humming stimulates the nerve because it is connected to your vocal chords. Try it!
2. Speak. Speak more and you will raise your vagal tone through your vocal chords.
3. Coldwater. While there is more research to be done on this technique, there has been evidence to suggest that by splashing cold water on your face you stimulate the vagus nerve.
4. Breathe Deeply. Take long, deep breaths and use your diaphragm to stimulate your vagus nerve.
5. Yoga. The relaxed, concentrated breathing practices of yoga can increase to your vagal tone levels.
6. Meditate. A study in 2013 reported that meditation and thinking positive thoughts can have a positive effect on your vagus nerve.
7. Improve gut health. One of the many positives of having a healthy gut is that it increases your vagal tone levels. It works by creating a loop of health from your gut, through the nerve and back. Try probiotics as a healthy bacteria supplement.
Adjust your daily routine to improve your vagal tone and stimulate your vagus nerve, it’s so simple but so effective. It’s time to take control of your nerves!
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This Post Has 113 Comments
Just learned ab this in class hahah!
Mahala Taylor no more headaches possibly?
It also has to do with seizures
Gonna save this too. Thank you Valerie Allmon
Ohhhhh I can’t wait to read this. Gotta make my coffee first! Lol
Josie Wyckoff just another take on what we already believe
It’s very simplified but rings true Josie Wyckoff
Jeremy Cardenas looks like your damaged vagus nerve might be more serious than they have led us to believe
This is great. I do many of those already, when I’m anxious. However, I should do them more frequently to prevent the anxiety in the first place. ❤ thanks for thinking of me
Jessica Graham worth a read x
Kori Nuckolls. This makes sense
Something for u my Lully – could help ur suffering??? Kimberley xxx
Ohhhhh worth a read 🙂
Check the 2010 study references:
Gaia Vince made a BBC Radio 4 programme about this topic, first broadcast in November 2014.
Kevin Tracey wrote about his work in the March 2015 issue of Scientific American.
A 2012 review of neural reflexes in inflammation and immunity by Tracey.
And a 2002 review by Tracey in which he predicts vagal modulation could be used to treat inflammatory disease.
Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kok’s research on positive emotions and vagal tone.
Plus the links in the comments at the end of the article:
My sister has a vagus nerve stimulator to help control her epilepsy, it’s also known as the wandering nerve.
Sarah … Interesting? Or know this?
Funny – they cut mine to stop endo pain. My gastro guy is looking into it to see if its having any effect on that whole mess…
I woke up once with a huge pressure in my upper thigh and lower abdomen and had to pee super bad. Turns out my bladder was so full it was pressing on the nerve and when I peed it released the pressure.. I got major nausea tunnel vision and bam woke up on the floor not knowing what happened. Doctor says it usually happens to old men when they pee, I’m a 24 yo female. Fml hahaha
That happened to my ex-H. He kept passing out and was so disoriented that I called an ambulance. The paramedics checked him out and gave the same prognosis as what happened to you. It was scary to witness!
Lindsay Carden for your headaches ?
thank you ❤
Viva las vagus..
Shawn Carmichael may be of interest to my lil darlin
Georgia Turner here’s that vagus nerve again
I have had luck by massageing my head to stimulate the vagus nerves.And if that don”t work I take two acetaminophens. When I was young I tried placing my head in a vise. Problem there is do not let your wife help if she is mad at you.
Liliam Garzai wonder how accurate this is
We were told as children that too much stimulation of the vagus nerve would make us go blind and grow hair on the palms of our hands.
This is where Tosh is off…
Graceè Chapman stimulate the vagus
wow, had done some research but hadn’t come up with this article, interesting
I have a vagus nerve problem. It makes my bills pressure drop to a radical low and I pass out wherever it happens. I have broken a few bones on occasions. Now if I start to feel strange I lie down wherever I am.
This was a really interesting read, I havent hummed in years
I’m humming now lolll
What happens in Vagus stays in Vagus.
Did you see the article. About vegas nerve & blood pressure?
Lol I was humming too
My vagus nerve is ruinend during operation….
Vicky Flynn thought this might interest you with the migraines but xx
Good looks dude
All I do is stimulate vagus
Hello, my inhalation raises my heart rate a little but exhalation doesn’t increase any further. In fact it lowers the reading. I am doing this on an Oximeter. Would you say this is a reliable way of monitoring the heart?
Brooke Ashley Hughes
Thanks for sharing.
Makes sense considering that the Vagus nerve innervates the Functions of the Digestive System via stimulating the parietal cell and the gastric cell.
Jenna Barnes worth looking into!
Yeah definitely!! Thanks: )
Figured I’d share to tou
Going to look into this
Thanks very interesting!!
Very interesting steph, thank you
Omg the first time I saw an image of that nerve I thought “well that’s what is hurting when I have a migraine!”
No more headaches ever from vagal inhibition.
This one particular nerve is responsible for many many many issues.
Wow- Tiffany Butterworth
Thank you Neeta. Useful information.
Gemma Hunter no wonder you love to chant
Only read the ‘front page’ but this looks interesting Patti Willner
Jennifer Eckert Toler. Interesting…just in case you haven’t seen this. You see EVERYTHING : )
Thanks Arti Wagh Sharma. Very good information
I have gastroparesis which means I don’t digest food properly and it causes very frequent vomiting and nausea. It is truly debilitating and they say it is caused by my vagus nerve not working. Just wondering if anyone else has this?? It is pretty rare but I’ve noticed I have every symptom (health issue) listed in the article. Can you stimulate a paralyzed nerve?
I wouldn’t ask medical questions to the followers of this page. Consult your doctor.
And, best of luck.
Very sound advice suzie
I am not a doctor and yes definitely talk to a doctor who could refer you to a physical therapist. You can stimulate a paralyzed nerve to get it to “remember or wake up what it used to do” using “TENS”
(Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). Supposedly they have ones at the store that are “behind the counter” I wouldn’t buy any other those especially if you are not sure of the direct cause of the problem.
Thanks! I’ll ask my doc about those
Yoga massages the vagus nerve! In just 2 weeks of doing traditional Hath yoga for 2 hours everyday you will see a difference!
Might help ur headache Becky Ellis x
Interesting must give it a read thanks xx
Jane Simmons Prisk don’t know if this will help? Maybe worth a read xx
Holly Aldred have a read
Mikel Reed-Williams..interesting read
Good input thanx
Michele Marie Jackson hope doin ok.
Carrie, Pam, Rosemary, Leanne
A really good article
Zachary Schneider comments have good/more information as well.
Dani Bailey have you read up on this? interesting…
Oh my gosh… No I haven’t thank you so much!
I’ll have to try that out
This is great thanks Gopi!
Wait…. I talk all the time, it doesn’t help
Aren’t our bodies amazing?!
Naomi Ali…see if this can help
I have been suffering from ‘Phantom Nausea’ for 13 months and I can not figure out why! Had an EGD…nothing showed up….I call mine ‘episodes’. I can feel my blood pressure dropping, I have to sit down and put my head low, the nausea comes whenever it wants to and it lasts as long as a Labor Contraction.
I do not vomit, I just have SEVERE nausea, it is painful…
Is this POTS?
Marnie look what popped up in my feed – my friend the vagus nerve.
Wow, amazing…and Yoga again…Yoga, Breathing & Mediatation…OOoooommmmm 🙂 XX
Amina Zejnilović might be useful ☺️
Interesting reading. I’m humming as I type… x
I thought men didn’t have vagus nerves. 🙂
Rachel Whitaker c how u go w your vagus nerve
Yeah smoke pot…
I’m gonna start doing yoga and hopefully, it improves. I have a cyst in my left sinus pocket so a lot of my migraines are from that and my appointment to have it looked at isn’t until October ♀️
Oh babe that would be so painful 🙁 sinus shit sucks so much let alone adding migranes too it
i reckon!! Haha oh well it will be gone soon enough
It works! That and eating real food lol
My son was completely disoriented all of a sudden after a tooth extraction he almost lost his life, he lost his voice like something caught his throat he could not talk could not walk, was wobley, his whole body was jerks, once it felt like something was jumping in him, he could not eat, lasted a week, now completely normal, this is the second time it happened to him, is this a medical or spiritual thing