In previous articles, we’ve talked about the sympathetic nervous system, which is what produces the “fight or flight” response. Today, we’re going to highlight the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is heavily involved in the parasympathetic nervous system or the “rest and digest” response.
Sometimes it’s hard to even tell that you’re stressed, it’s so ever-present in daily life. The connection between stress and gut problems is simple.
When you eat food, attention is turned toward digestion and extraction of nutrients. When you are stressed, attention is pulled away from digestion and absorption of nutrients. If you are stressed all of the time, you never get a chance to digest your food or extract and absorb nutrients properly.
When your body feels stress, digestion is affected because stress slows the release of digestive enzymes and decreases production of stomach acid, which is essential for breaking down food. Additionally, oxygen and blood are directed away from digestion toward the brain and muscles.
When you are not feeling stressed, your body is allowed to rest and digest, focusing on:
The vagus nerve is involved in many bodily functions. When it’s stimulated, it increases the vagal tone, resulting in slower breathing and heart rate, and a calm nervous system.
And it doesn’t stop there, the vagus nerve is also involved in mental health.
When stimulated, the vagus nerve can help to better regulate your emotions, allowing you to experience more empathy, compassion, a sense of calm, and can even help with navigating life’s challenges overall with more ease.
According to Forbes, the vagus nerve impacts how you develop a healthy stress response and become more resilient. From these reasons, improving your vagal tone has many benefits.
Here are a few ways to stimulate your vagus nerve and improve your vagal tone.
As always, consult with your medical provider before making any changes or if you develop new symptoms.
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