Did you know that your stomach and brain are continuously interacting through a network of nerves known as the vagus nerve?
This nerve is responsible for numerous critical activities in your body, including digestion, emotion, immunity, and inflammation.
But what if you could enhance this communication and improve your digestive health by stimulating your vagus nerve?
In this blog post, you'll learn how to achieve that using easy, natural approaches you may try at home.
What Is the Vagus Nerve and Why Is It Important for Your Digestion?
The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve of the human body. It’s also called cranial nerve X12. It starts from your brain and goes down to your chest and abdomen.
It helps your body do things you don’t have to think about, like keeping your heartbeat steady, breathing normally, and digesting food.
It is part of your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your body's “rest and digest” functions.
The vagus nerve plays a vital role in regulating digestion and stimulating stomach acid and enzyme production.
It influences your gut health by stimulating the release of digestive juices and hormones that enable you to digest food properly.
It also facilitates the passage of food through your gut, allowing you to eliminate waste products effectively from your system.
The Connection Between the Vagus Nerve and the Gut Microbiome
You have many kinds of tiny living things, like germs and molds, in your intestines. They are called the gut microbiome.
They influence your digestion, immunity, mood, and overall well-being.
The vagus nerve connects your brain and gut, sending signals back and forth. This creates a communication system that affects your mental and physical health.
How to Spot and Treat Vagus Nerve Dysfunction That Causes Digestive Issues?
Sometimes the vagus nerve can become damaged or dysfunctional due to diabetes, surgery, infection, stress, or trauma.
These conditions can affect your digestion in different ways, such as slowing your stomach emptying, causing acid to back up into your esophagus, irritating your bowel, or overgrowing bacteria in your small intestine.
You may experience symptoms like feeling sick, throwing up, feeling full or swollen, having gas, feeling pain in your stomach, having trouble passing stools or having loose stools.
One of the ways to prevent or treat these digestive problems is by stimulating your vagus nerve naturally. This can improve its function and restore communication with your gut and brain.
One of the techniques that can stimulate your vagus nerve naturally is vagus nerve massage. This involves applying pressure to certain points on your body that are connected to the vagus nerve.
It helps relax muscles, improve blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, and reduce pain and inflammation.
Massage can also enhance your digestion and gut health by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes and hormones.
You can massage your neck, ears, abdomen, or feet to activate your vagus nerve.
How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve Naturally?
Fortunately, there are some natural ways to stimulate your vagus nerve and enhance its function.
Here are some of the methods you can try:
When you take slow and easy breaths, you can turn on the part of your nerves that makes you feel calm and trigger your vagus nerve.
This can help digestion and intestinal motility while also lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels.
You can try exercises that help you breathe deeply, such as breathing with your belly or changing nostrils.
Take a breath and count four times. Don’t breathe, and count four times. Let out a breath and count four times.
Keep repeating this cycle for 10 to 15 minutes a day, every day.
Singing or Humming
Singing or humming can also stimulate your vagus nerve by activating the muscles in your throat and vocal cords, according to research published in Music Perception Journal.
It raises your heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of the balance of your sympathetic and parasympathetic neural systems.
A higher HRV indicates a better vagal tone and a healthier nervous system.
You can sing or hum your favorite songs, or chant mantras or prayers, to boost your vagus nerve activity.
Cold temperatures can cause a vagal response, which decreases your heart rate and blood pressure while increasing blood flow to your digestive organs.
This promotes digestion and metabolism while also decreasing inflammation in the body.
You can make your vagus nerve work better by using cold water. You can shower, swim, splash your face, or drink cold water.
Meditation lets you focus on the present moment and reduce stress, anxiety, and negative emotions that can affect your digestion.
It can also enhance your awareness of your body and its sensations, including hunger, fullness, and digestion.
For 10 to 20 minutes each day, practice mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, or guided meditation.
Yoga is another way to stimulate your vagus nerve by combining physical poses, breathing techniques, and mental focus.
Practice yoga poses that involve twisting, bending, or stretching your abdomen, such as cat-cow, bridge, or child pose.
In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves putting thin needles into certain points of your body.
There are many benefits of acupuncture. It can help stimulate your vagus nerve by modulating the electrical activity in your nerves and muscles.
You can use it to help with pain, swelling, feeling sick, and problems with your digestion.
Medical Devices That Can Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve
If natural treatments don’t work, you can take the help of these medical devices:
Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS)
This device is surgically implanted under your skin near your collarbone. It has a wire that connects to the vagus nerve in your neck. It delivers electrical impulses to your vagus nerve at regular intervals.
It can help treat epilepsy seizures and depression and improve digestion and other functions. You can adjust the device's settings with a handheld magnet or a remote control.
Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS)
This works in the same ways as a VNS but is worn on your ear like a headphone. It has electrodes that deliver electrical impulses to your vagus nerve through the skin of your ear.
It can help improve mood, cognition, memory, and digestion. You can try it at home by yourself or with a doctor’s help at a clinic.
To sum up, stimulating your vagus nerve can benefit your digestive system. It can help you relax, lower inflammation, improve gut movement, and balance your gut bacteria.
You can easily stimulate your vagus nerve at home by doing some simple exercises, such as breathing deeply, singing, gargling, exposing yourself to cold, getting acupuncture, or meditating.
Try them and see how they can improve your digestion and overall health.