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Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Ever thought about why we should go with our gut instinct? It’s the vagus nerve at work. This essential and unknown part of our body connects the brain to the abdomen and is more responsible for our health than we could ever know.

Keeping our vagus nerve “toned” is vital. Low vagal tone is thought to be linked to various inflammatory bowel diseases.

STRESS inhibits the vagus nerve from working effectively. Oh my goodness, you’re thinking, I don’t stand a chance of good health!

Wrong. This is precisely why so much emphasis is placed on stress in today’s busy life. We are on the clock every day, cramming in as much work, household chores, dinner, homework, you name it. However, with the knowledge that this fast-paced, high adrenaline (cortisol) lifestyle is not suitable for us, we have to believe that there are changes we can make to improve our health and our mental well-being. So what are these?

  1. Sleep. The most important part of our well-being. Getting a good night’s sleep helps the gut-brain relationship so much! Take a warm bath, stop drinking fluids and put devices away at least an hour before bed. If you have a snoring partner, consider sleeping apart a couple of times a week if you have the extra space to allow for this.
  2. Eat whole foods. Ditch processed refined foods as much as possible, and eat (or take good quality) pre and probiotics, which increase our gut flora. Many hormones are made in the gut, including our good mood ones! They produce chemicals in the brain to calm us and reduce fear, anxiety and STRESS!
  3. Deep breathe. Take at least one minute twice a day, and stop. Breathe in and out, following a sequence of counting or a shape (e.g. I imagine a square and breathe in for 6, out for 10, in for 6, out for 10). Do whatever works for you.
  4. Stimulate the vagus nerve by humming, splashing cold water on your face (or taking a cold shower if you are brave enough!), singing, and exercising.
  5. Try eating earlier in the evening (5-7 pm) and leaving at least 12 hours before eating again sometimes, which reduces the natural inflammation that the gut experiences after eating. Anything over 12 hours is known as “intermittent fasting”, which supports beneficial bacteria in the gut and supports the gut wall.
  6. Recite a mantra, join a yoga class/find yoga online, whichever makes you happier and you have time for. Mindfulness and being kind to ourselves are sure ways to help our gut and mental well-being. 

Remember that it does not matter where you are or how much time you have in a day. It is always possible to step to one side and take, quite literally, a minute to calm down and ground yourself. Only you can make that decision to make time for yourself. It is possible. I spoke from experience and did not want to spend another day looking over my shoulder, wondering where the last ten years had gone and why I wasn’t enjoying each day for what it was. I am now much better able to cope with stressful events, days, and people, and my body is happier too.