The Vagus nerve:
The word vagus means wandering in Latin, this nerve is appropriately named as it wanders through the body with connections to many organs and body systems via the parasympathetic nervous system. It is the longest nerve in the human body originating from the brain stem at the back of the skull and weaving its way through the abdomen with branching nerves coming into contact with the heart, lungs, voicebox, stomach, and ears along with other body parts. Incoming information is distributed via the vagus nerve from the nervous system to the brain. The nerve also transmits outgoing information governing a wide range of reflex responses. Proper vagal function is critical to health and several modalities aim to stimulate the nerve to get proper function to the different body systems it regulates. There are also many techniques available that can be used to balance this vitally important nerve.
Location of the vagus nerve:
The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve and originates in the brain stem at the back of the skull. It wanders through the body connecting to several organs and systems.
Why the vagus nerve is so important for health:
Having proper vagal nerve function is vitally important to our health. This is because the nerve is connected to so many body organs and systems and regulates many body functions. The nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system which is the branch of the nervous system where rest, digestion, repair and sleep occur.
Stress can have a major impact on this nerve and switches a person into their sympathetic nervous system which is not good for health long term. When someone is in a stressed state and their brain switches into sympathetic the vagus nerve function is seriously compromised. The signals to the various body parts cannot get through properly. When we are in this stressed state over a longer period, breakdowns in any or several of these body areas can occur.
Digestionis very important for human health if we cannot digest nutrients properly, we simply cannot be well. Digestionis controlled directly by the vagus nerve, it serves a major connection from the brain to the gut. We have probably all heard of the gut-brain connection and this is exactly that. The role of the nerve with regards to digestion is to promote smooth digestion throughout the gastrointestinal tract. This process begins in the brain with the vagus nerve and then this causes the secretion of gastric juices in preparation for the food to enter your body and begin the process of being digested.
In order to sleep properly, we have to have a balanced nervous system and one that is working appropriately. The vagus nerve has a big impact on regulating sleep and allowing the individual to be able to relax and rest.
Reducing inflammation is one of the best things we can do for our health in general and the vagus nerve is very implicated in stimulating an inflammatory response. By activating the nerve, we can reduce this inflammatory response.
The immune response;
The immune response is governed by the vagus nerve, by activating it we can reduce inflammation, stimulate the correct immune response, control immune cells and prevent disease.
Ways to stimulate the vagus nerve:
- Deep breathing; this is so simple, taking a deep breath puts the nervous system at ease and switches on the vagus nerve.
- Meditation; by creating positive brain states we can switch on the vagus nerve
- Chanting & singing; chanting and singing both stimulate the nerveso sing like no one is listening!
- Gentle stretching; stretching gently is good on so many levels but making this a daily habit is important for correct vagal tone
- Making love; making love with the one we love is good for our health in many ways and it also stimulates the vagus nerve, so this is an added bonus!
- Cold immersion; Immersing the body or face in cold water can also stimulate the nerve into action. Try turning your shower down at the last minute, it’s a bit of a shock but you get used to it!
The Bowen Technique vagus nerve procedure:
In our advanced training in Bowtech, we have a procedure that directly influences the vagus nerve. This procedure is a very powerful one that influences a whole-body response. It can be used for clients presenting with a wide range of issues some of these include;
- Digestive problems
- Emotional issues
- Sleep issues
- Hormone balance
- Heart problems
- Breathing issues
- Autoimmune issues
- Inflammatory health conditions
- Chronic health conditions