Sometimes small things that go unnoticed cause us pain. If you are suffering from depression, migraine attacks, and overall inflammation, it may be due to an imbalance in vagal tone.
What is the vagus nerve?
Nervus vagus is the longest and most complex of the 12 pairs cranial nerves that emanate from the brain. Its function is to transmit information to or from the surface of the brain to tissues and organs elsewhere in the body.
A study performed at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research has shown that the vagus nerve may actually be what they call “the missing link” to treating chronic inflammation that can cause a variety of other issues including high blood pressure, migraines, digestive issues and any inflammatory related things like arthritis etc. – all without medication!
Your vagal tone
Simply put, vagal tone is the extent to which the vagus nerve can cause the body to relax. It controls the majority of the body’s internal organ systems, such as the heart, lungs, eyes, adrenal glands, and digestive tract.
Why higher vagal tone is good?
High vagal tone is an indication that the nervous system is in harmony with the various systems of the body, also known as homeostasis, in order to function together for the benefit of the whole organism.
Apart from being able to relax faster after stress, people with a high vagal tone have overall better functioning internal systems including:
- Better blood sugar regulation
- Reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease
- Generally lower blood pressure
- Better digestion due to proper production of digestive enzymes
- Fewer migraines
- Less depression
- Less anxiety
High vagal tone invariably makes a person calmer, reduces anxiety and helps to combat stress. It is directly related to a good mood. Athletes usually have a higher vagal tone than physically inactive people.
What is low vagal tone associated with?
Unfortunately, people with a low vagal tone are more prone to hearts problems and strokes, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, cognitive impairment, not to mention more inflammatory conditions such as any autoimmune diseases like thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, lupus etc.
How to increase vagal tone?
Everyone has different vagal tones. Well, the good news is that you can control the activities of the vagus nerve without too much of an effort.
These simple things may seem irrelevant but have a strong impact:
1. Breathing deep using your diaphragm
Take deep breaths instead of shallow ones from the top of your lungs. Try to breathe in and breathe by relaxing your face and especially your jaw. You can also release the muscular tension in your neck through gentle compression.
2. Humming and laughing
Did you know that laughter increases beta-endorphins and nitric oxide which is good for the vascular system? Laughter and humming also release oxytocin and serotonin, stress-relieving hormones, which restore emotional balance. You can also try repeating the sound ‘OM’.
Speaking is also helpful for vagal tone, due to the connection to the vocal cords.
4. Wash your face with cold water
Try taking a cold shower in the morning, as crazy as it sounds. It is an ancient Chinese remedy that stimulates the vagus nerve. The “hot and cold plunge” in very effective, put your face in ice cold water for 15 seconds and repeat 5-10 times.
According to a 2010 study, people who meditate regularly and think more positive thoughts tend to have better vagal tone.
6. Increase good gut bacteria
While there are countless benefits to increasing the healthy bacteria in your gut, surprisingly, this also helps to create a positive “feedback loop” through your vagus nerve and thus increase its tone. Probiotics are a good source of healthy bacteria.
All of the above methods are beneficial to your overall health simply for the fact that they also help reduce stress, which is a major factor in disease, but also knowing that you can help improve your vagal tone, and the specific issue of inflammation, is a powerful tool.
Add these simple tips to your daily routine and see how much better you feel in a relatively short time.