Our Gut Feeling: The Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve is a superhighway in our miraculous body that connects brain, heart, thymus, lungs and all the digestive organs or what is called our gut. The longest cranial nerve communicates with every organ, muscle, tissue, nerves, etc., and continually helps reduce inflammation by alerting the brain to release neurotransmitters to repair the body or protect it from intruders like viruses and bacteria or danger.  It is a wonderful gift to our nervous system—our mind, body and gut connection! Do you trust this gut feeling, your intuition?

Your hair stands on edge, you feel your heart racing, you’re short of breath, your pulse is elevated, your throat is dry, and you break out in a sweat. These are the fight or flight emotional stress responses of your sympathetic nervous system triggered by the amazing vagus nerve of an imminent threat to your body. On the other hand, the vagus nerve is also responsible to evoke a rest and digest response with a sense of peace and well-being, which is the parasympathetic system. This in turn slows down the heart rate and breath which in turn increases digestion and strengthens immunity, facilitates absorption of nutrients, increases vitality and creativity and helps us get a good night’s sleep. Both components, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, are an integral part of our autonomic nervous system both equally important for proper functioning of our bodies to be healthy.

Ideally our life should be about balancing these two autonomic nervous systems. But alas in our world of hurry, curry, and worry we are constantly in a dominant state of stress, which leads people to chronic health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. While we cannot control the stressors that life brings us, we can certainly make lifestyle choices to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which can help fight chronic diseases and help us develop a higher resilience to stress to maintain balance.

To improve this rest and digest response and increase and improve vagus nerve activity, we can meditate, do regular exercise, practice yoga, sing, laugh, and use massage and essential oils. These are some of the few activities that can help. I love a forest bath or spending time in nature. Ayurveda breathwork called pranayama helps tremendously, and taking fish oil helps too, as do cold showers. The healing work I do, Universal White Time Healing, helps tremendously to bring into balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, two autonomic systems.