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12 Ways to Unlock the Powers of the Vagus Nerve

By Thomas Ropp on Tuesday September 5th, 2017

How to Hack Your Nervous System

The vagus nerve is the most important nerve you probably didn’t know you had.

Unlike the other Vegas, what happens in this vagus doesn’t stay there. The vagus nerve is a long meandering bundle of motor and sensory fibers that links the brain stem to the heart, lungs, and gut. It also branches out to touch and interact with the liver, spleen, gallbladder, ureter, female fertility organs, neck, ears, tongue, and kidneys. It powers up our involuntary nerve center—the parasympathetic nervous system—and controls unconscious body functions, as well as everything from keeping our heart rate constant and food digestion to breathing and sweating. It also helps regulate blood pressure and blood glucose balance, promotes general kidney function, helps release bile and testosterone, stimulates the secretion of saliva, assists in controlling taste and releasing tears, and plays a major role in fertility issues and orgasms in women.

Dr Justin Hoffman, a Santa Rosa, California, licensed naturopathic medical physician, says:

Without the vagus nerve, key functions that keep us alive would not be maintained.

Nationally recognized sports nutritionist, strength, and conditioning coach Brandon Mentore elaborates:

The vagus nerve is extremely critical to your overall health and is intimately tied in with multiple organs and systems of the body.

The vagus nerve has fibers that innervate virtually all of our internal organs. The management and processing of emotions happens via the vagal nerve between the heart, brain and gut, which is why we have a strong gut reaction to intense mental and emotional states.

Emotional processingEmotional processing happens via the vagal nerve between the heart, brain and gut.

Vagus nerve dysfunction can result in a whole host of problems including obesity, bradycardia (abnormally slow heartbeat), difficulty swallowing, gastrointestinal diseases, fainting, mood disorders, B12 deficiency, chronic inflammation, impaired cough, and seizures.

Meanwhile, the vagus nerve stimulation has been shown to improve conditions such as:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Heart disease
  • Tinnitus
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Migraines
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Leaky gut
  • Bad blood circulation
  • Mood disorder
  • Cancer

A Closer Look At This Super Nerve

The vagus nerve is the longest of our 12 cranial nerves. Only the spinal column is a larger nerve system. About 80 percent of its nerve fibers—or four of its five ‘lanes’—drive information from the body to the brain. Its fifth lane runs in the opposite direction, shuttling signals from the brain throughout the body. Anchored in the brain stem, the vagus travels through the neck and into the chest, splitting into the left vagus and the right vagus. Each of these roads is composed of tens of thousands of nerve fibers that branch into the heart, lungs, stomach, pancreas and nearly every other organ in the abdomen.         

The vagus nerve uses the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which stimulates muscle contractions in the parasympathetic nervous system. A neurotransmitter is a kind of chemical messenger released at the end of a nerve fiber, that allows for signals to be moved along from point to point, which stimulate various organs. For example, if our brain could not communicate with our diaphragm via the release of acetylcholine from the vagus nerve, then we would stop breathing.

Longest cranial nerveThe vagus nerve is the longest of our 12 cranial nerves.

Some substances such as botox and the heavy metal mercury can interfere with acetylcholine production. Botox has been known to shut down the vagus nerve, which causes death. Mercury blocks the action of acetylcholine. When mercury attaches to the thiol protein in the heart muscle receptors, the heart muscle cannot receive the vagus nerve electrical impulse for contraction. Cardiovascular problems normally follow. Mercury used in fillings only inches from the brain as well as the 3,000 tons of mercury put into the atmosphere can interfere with acetylcholine production. Mercury-laden vaccines may also play a role in vagus nerve-related autism in children.

Hoffman says:

Theoretically, anything that helps to improve the presence and function of acetylcholine, will also help to regulate the health of our vagus nerve.

He recommends natural nootropics huperzine and galantamine for improving the sensitivity of acetylcholine receptors.

Vagus nerve damage can also be caused by diabetes, alcoholism, upper respiratory viral infections, or having part of the nerve severed accidentally during an operation. Stress can inflame the nerve, along with fatigue and anxiety. Even something as simple as bad posture can negatively impact the vagus nerve.

The impact of stressStress can inflame the vagus nerve, along with fatigue and anxiety.

It’s also believed that diet plays a role in vagus nerve health. An obesogenic ‘cafeteria diet’ (high-fat, high-carb junk food) reduces the sensitivity of the vagus nerve. Spicy foods can also cause it to misfire.

A Feeling In Your Gut

When people say they feel it in their gut, that’s not just imagination, according to Dr. Mark Sircus, acupuncturist, and doctor of Oriental and pastoral medicine.

Our gut instincts are not fantasies but real nervous signals that guide much of our lives.

This is because the enteric nervous system (ENS), which governs the function of the gastrointestinal tract, communicates with the central nervous system (the brain) via the vagus nerve. This is known as the gut-brain axis. The ENS is sometimes referred to as the second brain or backup brain centered in our solar plexus. Sircus continues:

We now know that the ENS is not just capable of autonomy but also influences the brain. In fact, about 90 percent of the signals passing along the vagus nerve come not from above, but from the ENS.

Keeping the gut and vagus nerve gateway healthy impacts our mental health. A recent study shows how antibiotics can make us aggressive when they upset the microbiome balance in our gut. An important study last year by McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, found that certain beneficial gut microbes can actually prevent PTSD. Probiotics can help keep the gut and vagus nerve signals in a healthier state, according to a report in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Mental health and the vagus nerveKeeping the gut and vagus nerve gateway healthy, impacts our mental health.

Dr Abby Kramer, a holistic practitioner and chiropractor in Glenview, Illinois, explains:

Probiotics help promote vagal activity, due to its connection to the gut and digestive functions. Zinc is also a great supplement for anyone with stress or mental health issues, which also links back to the vagus nerve.

Boosting With Electricity

Doctors have long exploited the nerve’s influence on the brain. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve, called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), is sometimes used to treat people with epilepsy or depression. VNS is designed to prevent seizures by sending regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. These pulses are supplied by a device something like a pacemaker. It is placed under the skin on the chest wall and a wire runs from it to the vagus nerve in the neck. Researchers studying the effects of vagus stimulation on epilepsy noticed that patients experienced a second benefit unrelated to seizure reduction: their moods also improved.

A 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), showed how stimulating the vagus nerve with a bioelectronic device “significantly improved measures of disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” a chronic inflammatory disease that affects 1.3 million people in the United States and costs tens of billions of dollars annually to treat.

Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerveVagus nerve stimulation (VNS), is used to treat epilepsy, depression and arthritis.

12 Vagus Nerve Stimulation Techniques

The vagus nerve doesn’t need to be shocked into shape. It can also be toned and strengthened similar to a muscle. Here are some simple things you can do that might improve your health markedly:

1. Positive Social Relationships – A study had participants think compassionately about others while silently repeating positive phrases about friends and family. Compared to the controls, the meditators showed an overall increase in positive emotions like serenity, joy, and hope after completing the class. These positive thoughts of others led to an improvement in vagal function as seen in heart-rate variability. The results also showed a more toned vagus nerve than when simply meditating.

2. Cold – “Cold exposure such as cold showers or face dunking stimulates the nerve as well,” says Mentore.

Studies show that when your body adjusts to cold, your fight or flight (sympathetic) system declines and your rest and digest (parasympathetic) system increases–and this is mediated by the vagus nerve. Any kind of acute cold exposure including drinking ice cold water will increase vagus nerve activation.

3. Gargling – Another home remedy for an under-stimulated vagus nerve is to gargle with water. Gargling actually stimulates the muscles of the pallet which are fired by the vagus nerve.

“Typically patients will tear up a bit which is a good sign and if they don’t, we recommend that they do it regularly every day until they notice that they do start tearing up a bit,” says Hoffman. “This has been shown to immediately improve working memory performance.”

4. Singing And Chanting – Humming, mantra chanting, hymn singing, and upbeat energetic singing all increase heart rate variability (HRV) in slightly different ways. Essentially, singing is like initiating a vagal pump sending out relaxing waves. Singing at the top of your lungs works the muscles in the back of the throat to activate the vagus. Singing in unison, which is often done in churches and synagogues, also increases HRV and vagus function. Singing has been found to increase oxytocin, also known as the love hormone because it makes people feel closer to one another.

Compassion meditationCompassion meditation has been shown to result in a more toned vagus nerve.

5. Massage – You can stimulate your vagus nerve by massaging your feet and your neck along the carotid sinus, located along the carotid arteries on either side of your neck. A neck massage can help reduce seizures. A foot massage help can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. A pressure massage can also activate the vagus nerve. These massages are used to help infants gain weight by stimulating gut function, largely mediated by activating the vagus nerve.

6. Laughter – Happiness and laughter are natural immune boosters. Laughter also stimulates the vagus nerve. Research shows how laughter increases HRV in a group environment.

There are various case reports of people fainting from laughter and this may be from the vagus nerve/parasympathetic system being stimulated too much. Fainting can come after laughter as well as urination, coughing, swallowing or bowel movement—all of which are helped along by vagus activation.

7. Yoga And Tai Chi — Both increase vagus nerve activity and your parasympathetic system in general. Studies have shown that yoga increases GABA, a calming neurotransmitter in your brain. Researchers believe it does this by “stimulating vagal afferents (fibers),” which increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system. This is especially helpful for those who struggle with anxiety or depression.

Studies show that tai chi also can ‘enhance vagal modulation.’

8. Breathing Deeply And Slowly — Your heart and neck contain neurons that have receptors called baroreceptors, which detect blood pressure and transmit the neuronal signal to your brain. This activates your vagus nerve that connects to your heart to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Slow breathing, with a roughly equal amount of time breathing in and out, increases the sensitivity of baroreceptors and vagal activation. Breathing around 5-6 breaths per minute in the average adult can be very helpful.

9. Exercise – Exercise increases your brain’s growth hormone, supports your brain’s mitochondria, and helps reverse cognitive decline. But it’s also been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve, which leads to beneficial brain and mental health effects. Mild exercise also stimulates gut flow, which is mediated by the vagus nerve.

Laughter is a natural immune boosterLaughter stimulates the vagus nerve and increases HRV in a group environment.

10. Coffee Enemas — Enemas are like sprints for your vagus nerve. Expanding the bowel increases vagus nerve activation, as is done with enemas. This cleansing is accomplished by increasing the liver’s capacity to detoxify toxins in the blood and binding them to the bile. In the process, the liver cleanses itself as it releases the toxic bile into the small, then large, intestine for evacuation. The entire blood supply circulates through the liver every three minutes. By retaining the coffee 12 to 15 minutes, the blood will circulate four to five times for cleansing, much like a dialysis treatment. The water content of the coffee stimulates intestinal peristalsis and helps to empty the large intestine with the accumulated toxic bile.

11. Nervana — This wearable product sends a gentle electrical wave through the left ear canal to stimulate the body’s vagus nerve, while syncing with music, which in turn stimulates the release of neurotransmitters in the brain that generate a calming sensation throughout the body.

12. Relax – Learning how to chill may be the No. 1 thing to help keep your vagus nerve toned. According to Hoffman, most relaxing activities will stimulate the vagus nerve.

Ultimately, this is where the most profoundly felt impacts can be found. Reading a book, listening to music, watching children play–whatever it is, my advice is to seek relaxation and make time in your life for it. ~ Dr Justin Hoffman

 

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24 Responses to 12 Ways to Unlock the Powers of the Vagus Nerve

  1. ..curious why my doctor hasnt pinpointed this as a possibility… yet they dint like us trying to get help from internet, thank you

  2. This article is full of half truths or partially tested theories. Please add your references to these studies and discuss their limitations as well. That is just good and responsible science. Also, the vaccine autism link has long been disproved, it is EXTREMELY irresponsible to make that vague comment in an article that could mislead lay people and cost children’s lives. We will not get the essential message of the positive effects of vagal nerve science to the public if it is polluted with poor science.

    • Science is a constructed belief system that works because we were tought/conditioned in school and it takes a major role of ‘importance’ ‘official’ to make it work, like any form of propaganda. And if you have ‘scientific’ proof vaccins are safe, you can make $100.000 from De Niro and Kennedy. So I would suggest you take your fairytales there doctor in what?

    • Thank you, Doctor… I’m interested in the vagus nerve but some of this is just plain wrong. Coffee enemas? These have been touted for years and some people have gone so far as to throw away their cancer medicine in favor of these untested procedures — with predicable, tragic results. Modern science may not be perfect, but it’s far superior to the marketing-driven nonsense promoted as an alternative. Thanks for speaking up.

  3. Vagal tone can also be measured with heart rate variability equipment. I have seen permanent improvements in my work with evox software by zyto Corp. Sound Health LLC on FB

  4. As a recent massage school graduate after reading this and having an understanding behind this article it makes sense as to why a lot of this works and truly shows the power of the vagus nerve. Our bodies are simply amazing and have a ton of important functions and knowing how it works makes it interesting when I read things like this

  5. Some great information regarding vagal stimulation, however it would be very helpful to have the references to the research you referenced to be able to read further on these topics. I’m disappointed however to see an ongoing reference to mercury (thimerisol), immunisations and autism. Thimerisol was removed from all childhood vaccines in the USA in 1999 and in Australia in 2000 to reduce the potential load of environmental mercury. It should be noted that the rate of ASD continues to rise since that time, which would be the opposite response expected if there was a correlation between the two.

  6. A fast entropy production rate accesses globally bent timespace just like gravity and velocity. But, globally bent timespace doesn’t cause gravity; rather, gravity causes globally bent timespace. Current in electricity (the Philadelphia Experiment), and a fast polarity cancellation rate, also access globally bent timespace. without the gravitational component. All probability timelines exist, for each and every difference. There is infinite room for them all in infinity, and, they are repeated an infinite number of times, each and every one. Yet, in infinitely dimensioned Hilbert space each and every probability timeline is only Planck’s distance from any other probability timeline.

    Access only depends on the tuning. If over fifty percent of your brain believes anything, it will become your reality by drawing you by inductive resonance to the probability timeline where your belief is reality.

    It’s all true and real. Here is an example, presented by Dr. Max Tegmark, professor of quantum physics at MIT. Here is the Multiverse: Page on mit.eduhttp://space.mit.edu/home/tegmark/PDF/m … _sciam.pdf

    By increasing your percentage of conscious brain use you may switch to the timeline where what you imagine is reality there, by varying extents of will, inversely proportional to your percentage of conscious brain use. The power of the mind is will times imagination. The MRI shows that we normally use 10% conscious brain use. From 10% to 19% brain use, the world feels euphoric. That is called “perinatal matrix one”.

    But, from 20% brain use to 49% brain use, the mind is flooded with that which has been called “the knowledge of good and evil”, and this is called “perinatal matrix two”. From 20% to 29% brain use, if you symbolize what you want, especially with a logo of solid colors in an emblematic form you will go to the timeline where getting what you want is reality. From 30% to 39% brain use, if you write down what you want, you will get it. It is what has been called “real magic”, for, you don’t even feel that you have gone anywhere. You just get what want by writing it down. Between 40% and 49% brain use, what ever you say will become your reality. Jesus Christ said, “If you have the faith of a mustard seed and say to this mountain move it shall be moved”.

    But, from 50% to 100% brain use, called “perinatal matrix three”, every thought manifests as your reality. I don’t know anyone who can control every thought all the time. If you imagine what you don’t want to think of, it too will then become your reality. Things go wrong, and soon you wish you were someone else, and “zap”, you are in the body of that someone else, but, now probably with a body down to 10% brain use again. But, it isn’t your body, so that when that body sleeps or dies, it’s on to another body you go, and, in this way you body switch backward and forward in time into everyone you have seen, and, this can go on for about a hundred years duration. This was called an “aioniu amartematos”, an aeon of failure, in the Greek New Testament, but it was mistranslated into English, “eternal damnation”. There has always been much secrecy about this hyperdimensional travel. Psychiatry presents it as delusions within the brain; but, we now know that these hyperdimensions exist. Over 50% conscious brain use, “perinatal matrix three” has been used for punishment.

    What awakens the brain like this? We have inhibitory neurons in the brain which keep our conscious brain use down to 10% brain use. Blocking these inhibitory neurons causes higher percentages of conscious brain use. LSD, and similar seratonin blockers block seratonin, the neurotransmitter of our brain’s inhibitory neurons, thereby awakening our brains to more that the normal 10% conscious brain use. Large doses of LSD were used for the “Clockwork Orange” treatment to put it victims into perinatal matrix three, after showing these victims horrible films of human torment, so that these torments are experienced as real as life, for it is real on those timelines.

    But, these inhibitory neurons may be overriden by muscarinic nervous system, like the parasympathetic nervous system, stimulation, mechanical, even with one’s own hands, or chemical, like by muscarine which doesn’t even pass through the blood/brain barrier, so it doesn’t even have to enter the brain. Muscarine excites the whole parasympathetic nervous system, therefore it is messy, and not popular in the West. The West has mechanical ways of exciting muscarinic nerves near the brain, therefore, cleaner.

    Crucifixion forces what is called “holotropic” breathing, which stimulates the parasympathetic nerves of the respiratory nervous system, the stimulation of which, spreads to the brain. Remembering the body switching, you can see how Jesus Christ, being God the Son, body switched, backward and forward in time, into everyone who ever was, is, or will be, and that is how Jesus Christ is in you and I. With ordinary people, therefore on a lesser scale than Christ’s, waterboarding has been recently used to inflict the Clockwork Orange treatment.

    In “Living Systems” by Dr. James Miller, he made the basic statement that, “There are two things in the universe: energy; and, information, which is the conformation of energy. It is obvious that energy is the “one substance” of the universe. It is also obvious that in one substance motion can only be in closed circuitry, that there be something to move out of the way and fill in behind. Some of these closed circuits have been called “magnetic Page on fluxes”.it is also obvious that these basic closed circuits would only slip by one another, and no one would be conscious of anything, if there wasn’t the granularity of Planck’s volumes to provide a frictional grip. Planck’s volumes are moving in closed circuits of Planck’s volumes in the matrix composed of Planck’s volumes.

    This is how information is differentiated from energy. Dr. James Miller called matter “alpha code information”. I have seen these concepts printed elsewhere around the internet. I am writing this in my own words from what I remember, much of which is unforgettable, especially the scheme of compulsory and inevitable manifestation. The perpetual and eternal mechanisms of manifestation are: The infinitesimal point nothingness, . , is rastered by time into timespace, U , that exerting its oneness in one direction, / , stirs closed circuitry, O , that all going the same way, vO^XvO^ , clashes (a Big Bang), X , forcing confluency, = , undifferentiating individual closed circuits into nonexistence.

    The energy that maintained their differentiation is released as photons. Closed circuits being turned by that “exertion of the oneness of the one substance”, energy, on apparently both sides is allowed by one side being in timespace with a value of pi different from the other side, as this manifestation of a world expands, also fifth dimensionally. This fifth dimension was defined for science by Harvard University professor of quantum physics, Dr. Lisa Randall, in her book “Warped Passages”.

    The counterclockwise and clockwise of these closed circuits are the basic opposite polarities. Structure, maintained by orthogonality, is the cause of the separation of opposite polarities. Now we take the variously bent timespaces into consideration, that Scientific American has written about before. As we leave the rigid orthogonality of flat timespace, where the value of pi is 3.14159265…, like, for example, by accessing globally bent timespace by the mechanical velocity analogues in electricity, current, and thermodynamics, entropy production rate, etc., we depart from that rigid orthogonality of flat timespace that maintained the separation of opposite polarities, so that individual closed circuits may undifferentiate into nonexistence. `

    We wouldn’t be conscious if differentiation didn’t cause consciousness. Reciprocally, all the differentiations have caused energy itself to be eternally conscious. As you know, everything is “trying” to run down, or is being built up by that which is running down. In other words all differentiations are being pushed to undifferentiate. To undifferentiate is the actual true will of every differentiated thing in the universe.

    Descending into globally bent timespace matter acquires a tenuousity that has been called “spirit”, and as we descend into globally bent timespace it gets more and more flexable until, especially with the fast polarity cancellation rate allowed there, all is literally flames. But, undifferentiating being pleasure, undifferentiating into nonexistence is the attainment of the satisfaction of all desires.

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics indicates that in our infinite universe, also including what has been called the “multiverse”, the reunion of previously associated Planck’s volumes back into their original closed circuits is impossible so that the attainment of total undifferentiation is the eternal satisfaction of all desires. It can also be said that there are three things in the universe: entities, properties, and relationships. In the one substance, energy, a sphere can manifest as a closed circuit. A sphere can turn on itself. That could be called a particle. We know we are entities. “I hurt therefore I am”.

    Our entity is a closed circuit of the one substance, energy, in the one substance, energy, that is a ring, that qualifies to be called a unit of “dark matter”. Dark matter is composed of all those closed circuits that don’t qualify to be called particles. Remember, we are the information, not energy. If we were energy we would never sleep. Thinking you could figure that an entity “being almost everywhere” is a hyperdimensional view, I neglected to explain this phenomena, for, the great quantum physicist, Dr. Hugh Everett, already explained this. He said that for every possibility there is a “parallel universe”. Actually, these “parallel universes” can be called probability time lines sideways in time. This direction, sideways in time can now be called the sixth dimension.

    So, we have all the entities, and their “similarities”, in all their possible probability time lines. We can call them “similarities” rather than duplicates, though MIT professor of quantum physics, Dr. Max Tegmark, revealed that in the infinite eternal universe, that he calls the “multiverse”, each entity has an infinitude of exact duplicates, hyperdimensionally.

    “The fact that an entity is a closed circuit, its shape is a property, and the rate of its circulation, counterclockwise on one side, and clockwise on the on the other side are also properties, etc. Counterclockwise and clockwise circuits, ^OvvO^ , able to go confluent when face to face, is a relationship. Side to side they draw other entites in like a ringer, which pushes them apart, of course, also by closed circuit configurations.

    The universe had all one polarity in the beginning. The infinitesimal point nothingness, . , was rastered by time into timespace, U , which being one substance exerted its oneness in one direction, / , stirring closed circuitry, O, that all going the same way, vO^XvOx, repelled, X , a Big Bang. If it is said that the exertion, /, was equal on both sides, no, it was different due to the increasing of pi, from the globally bent timespace of a pi value of zero, to our relatively flat timespace, 3.14159265…, (perfectly flat timespace has a pi value of 20612/6561) and beyond, the “saddle” timespace caused by “dark energy” on a grand scale, probability. And, the pressure of repulsion forces circuits to turn around, again by the mechanism of closed circuitry, so that circuits can undifferentiate by confluency, =, into nonexistence. The final fate of any universe, in the “multiverse”? Nonexistence.

  7. Well, you had me until the mention of vaccines causing autism, which has been disproved, and the coffee enemas. I know several of the other points have a scientific basis, but come on, coffee enemas? It may be true, but they are too unusual for most Americans to try. If the water content of the coffee is so important, a regular Fleet’s enema should be useful also. And how do you make a coffee enema anyway?

  8. This article contains opinions stated as fact. I quit reading at “mercury laden vaccines…”. The only vaccine that has any trace of mercury is the flu vaccine. It is used as a preservative due to the mass quantities that must be produced. Check the CDC website for information.

  9. I have experienced flu or virus symptoms and will experiment with the vagus nerve stimulation to alleviate the symptoms. I will do yoga and sing.

  10. Great to read this article. I have recently “hit the wall” in all levels and liken it to what in the times of my youth would have been termed a”nervous breakdown”.
    I have been doing these things you recommend whilst waiting for specialist appointment. I believe my nervous system is benefiting- daily meditation, yoga nidra, walking when able, reading light material, mindful with breath, and certainly in the past singing and laughter yoga.
    It’s always affirming to read that these are recommendations from others
    Kim

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