Why do you want to activate it in the first place? * Because the vagus nerve is connecting the brain to and controlling the most vital organs being the longest nerve in the autonomic nervous system (regulates the body’s unconscious actions). It originates in the brainstem and goes to the eyes, the mouth, throat, to the heart, the lungs, the liver and the kidneys. That’s why it got this name, that refers to “wondering” in Latin. It plays a key role in tasks such as: heart rate, breathing rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis, sweating, detoxification, speech and producing sound through vibration, swallowing, tasting even in bladder contraction. When your vagus nerve is functioning well you are calm and you are in the REST-DIGEST-DETOXIFY-HEAL state.
Inflammation is a healthy immune system response, which serves to protect and repair the body from something damaging, e.g. an infection or damaged muscle tissue. When it has served its purpose the well-functioning vagus nerve sends signals to shut down inflammation. Research shows that those with inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. often have decreased heart rate variability, which is a marker of reduced tone of the vagus nerve. This is associated with high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity, higher level of stress hormones, which contributes to compromised sex hormone levels.
When anxiety, high level of stress, worry are present instead of parasympathetic activation (vagus nerve, REST-DIGEST-DETOXIFY-HEAL) we unconsciously activate the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight).
See Dr. Stephen Porges so called Polyvagal Theory. Our nervous system’s response to stress or danger works along a three part hierarchical system: ventral vagus activation (relaxation and social engagement), sympathetic activation (fight-or-flight) and dorsal vagus activation (immobilisation or freeze).”
Different ways to activate the dorsal vagus nerve: These days, when anxiety is more present than used to, we need to find the ways that can improve the tone of our vagus nerve. If meditation is not your thing, no worries, there are many other simple ways for it. Find yours!
- Several types of breathing techniques (Join Tone your Dorsal Vagus Masterclass)
- exercises training the vocal cords or glottis (Tone your Dorsal Vagus Masterclass, or POPin classes)
- Low intensity exercise (check out our POPin classes!)
- Essential oils (select your favourite scents, typically calming is lavender, avoid synthetic scens)
- Coffee enemas
- Gargling / gag reflex
- Cold showers
- Meditation (prayer is a way of meditation), expressing gratitute
- Positive social connection
- Increasing GABA, serotonin and for girls progesterone levels;
Interestingly low progesterone levels go together with low GABA (amino acid serving as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain). When you know you need to work on increasing progesterone levels, you can support the process from the side by improving your GABA levels. You can increase your own GABA production naturally, but when you want a quick fix you can take it as a supplement. For some people taking GABA supplement serves as zipping a glass of wine for others. Check your score in this 10 points questionnaire to find out if you are low on GABA and if you can make a good use of supplementing it! If you do, build your planB, how you will change lifestyle by the time when you get off the supplement after 4 months.
The Hormone Club can definitely help.
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