The Vagus nerve runs from the brain and thorax to the abdomen. It is a nerve that contains parasympathetic fibers - your “rest and digest” system.

Studies have shown that people with vagal dysfunction had delayed gastric emptying and a higher prevalence of SIBO.

Signals from the vagus nerve travel from the brain to gut and are responsible for that “gut feelings” that you’ve experienced. It has also been associated with modulating mood and some types of anxiety and fear - also prevalent in people with digestive disturbances.

Vagal nerve stimulation is being discussed more among practitioners with clients who have digestive issues and SIBO and it is one that is well worth looking into. Strong vagal tone helps your digestion to work more efficiently and many of the exercises promote relaxation of the nervous system turning on the Parasympathetic Nervous System - or, your “rest and digest” system. Many of us are in constant Sympathetic mode - “fight or flight” - which sends signals to your body to get ready for a stressful situation and to redirect energy flow from the stomach because at this time - digestion is not important - more on this system on another post!

What can you do to stimulate the Vagus Nerve?

  • Deep breathing techniques - Breath in deep, hold and breath out for longer than you breathed in. Do this for at least 5 minutes. Use this before meals as well to bring your body into Parasympathetic mode for optimal digestion.

  • Gargling or…gagging. Yep, gagging will exercise the vagus nerve. Some people might be OK with inducing gagging but understandable if you just can’t! So - gargling with water is the next best option - time it with your teeth brushing!

  • Humming, singing (loudly) or yoga Ommmmm’s will also stimulate the nerve.

  • Diving reflex - splashing cold water on your face or dunking your face in icy cold water or placing an ice pack on your face will induce relaxation of your body, reduce the heart rate and increase blood flow to the brain.

  • Yoga & meditation both calm the body and mind and with deep breathing exercises also stimulates the vagus nerve.

  • Acupuncture to stimulate the vagus nerve

If you’re interested in reading studies on the vagus nerve, here are two links:

~ Barb Handy

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