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What is the Vagus Nerve

The Vagus nerve is the main nerve connecting your brain down to your heart and your gut. It controls everything from your heart rate and blood pressure, down to digestion and your breath. When your nerve is strong and functioning properly, you feel healthy and secure moving through your world every day. If is is over triggered, it can have a hard time regulating the every day functions.

Fight or Flight

When the body experiences stress, the sympathetic system goes into effect. This is the fight or flight response that people experience. When the body is not under stress, the Vagus nerve activates the parasympathetic system. When the parasympathtic system is activated, your body is focused on rest, healing, digesting, and functioning well in everyday life. This is the sate that we are meant to be running in most of the time. There are so many stressors in everyday life that it can be easy to get stuck in fight/flight system and for the Vagus nerve to struggle into the rest/digest/healing state. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic “If your parasympathetic nervous system doesn’t stabilize and calm you, you may be living in a constant state of anxiety,” states Dr. Lin. “You are also at higher risk of other health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”

Common Disorders From Dysregulated Vagus Nerve

Some of the disorders that occur when your Vagus Nerve is dysregulated include:

  • Gastroparesis: If your Vagus nerve is damaged, it won't properly signal your intestinal tract to move food from your stomach into your intestines. Everything can get back up and stuck. In addition, if your digestive tract is running slow, then it's not getting all of the nutrients and energy out of the food you do eat, leaving you feeling bloated, sluggish and slow to process and respond to things. 

  • Vasovagal Syncope: When the Vagus nerve that branches to your heart is overstimulated by heat, hunger, pain, fear etc. your blood pressure can drop very fast, causing you to have a syncopal episode, aka you will faint. 

Symptoms of Unhealthy Vagus Nerve

Signs that your Vagus nerve is not functioning:

How to Strengthen Your Vagus Nerve

The good news is, there are things you can do to strengthen your Vagus nerve. A strong and healthy Vagus nerve can be a powerful tool in helping you bring your system back into a parasympathetic state. Not to sound like a broken record, but the right amount of exercise and sleep are the primary ways to have a healthy Vagus Nerve. In addition to sleep and exercise, activities that provide heart rate variability help your nervous system recover faster when it's faced with a trigger. These activities include:

Reach out if you'd like to explore a path to assess and strengthen your own Vagus Nerve.


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