How to Heal your Vagus Nerve
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of attention on the vagus nerve and it’s great! It is a crucial nerve for our overall health and wellness. One thing that I am not seeing a lot about are the reasons why the vagus nerve can be irritated enough that it needs healing. So let’s go over those!
What’s Does the Vagus Nerve Do?
Our vagus nerve goes from our brain stem all the way down to our colon. It is the longest of our cranial nerves, and it controls our parasympathetic nervous system. This system can get so stressed out these days due to poor diet, too much stress, infections, and so much more. The vagus nerve also plays a role in inflammation prevention, breathing support, heart health (it controls the heart rate), helps us to relax and switch off our sympathetic nervous system, and can even help us to make memories (source). Our vagus nerve communicates with the body body basically: the gut, heart, liver, lungs, throat, and more! It is the most important aspect in communication between the body and the brain.
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Why Does the Vagus Nerve become Irritated?
Number one reason: A Hiatal Hernia!
This little hernia can be a big deal. It’s often a silent health issue as it doesn’t always cause apparent symptoms that you’d relate to the area that you find it in. Common symptoms of a hiatal hernia include: air hunger, GERD or acid reflux, heart palpitations (especially unexplained increases at times- if your heart rate spikes for no apparent reason, it is possible that the hernia is pressing on your vagus nerve and it can irritate the heart), esophageal spasms, shallow breathing, and more.
One of the most annoying issues that can happen with a hiatal hernia and vagus nerve irritation are “vasovagal responses”. These reactions can happen when the vagus nerve gets severely irritated. Some peopel experience a series of symptoms during these attacks: tunnel vision, multiple bathroom trips with very loose stools, heart palpitations, a feeling of being very cold and shivering, and then once it passes they tend to be really tired and need to rest. These tend to happen to people that are pretty toxic too- it’s a way to purge a lot of toxins quickly when the body is very stressed out.
To fix this hernia: the allopathic way would be to do an endoscopy to confirm and depending on the severity they would do surgery (which rarely sticks as the hernia can pop back up later) or just to manage GERD. Holistically, one can see a chiropractor, acupuncturist, or any natural health practitioner that knows how to feel for it and adjust it externally. I had an amazing chiro that did this for me, and he would check it periodically after the initial fixing (I only needed it adjusted after I had my son!). Healing your gut, working on nervous system healing, and balancing minerals are all important as well. Check out Youtube for videos like this so you can try to fix it yourself as well- I usually recommend watching the video and feeling around the area that they’re pointing to. See if you have any pain or tenderness in that area, and you’ll have a better idea on if you’re dealing with this hernia.
Number 2 Reason: Leaky Gut and Nutritional Imbalances
With leaky gut, the whole stomach can become inflamed and irritated. We’re also dealing with mineral deficiencies so we’re at more of a risk for our muscles to not work well. This often leads to the hiatal hernia mentioned above because the esophageal sphincter becomes weak and it’s easy for the stomach to be pushed up. Healing your gut is essential to heal from literally any illness anyway, as is mineral balancing and replenishing. With leaky gut, we have a hard time absorbing these minerals like magnesium and potassium that are crucial for muscle health.
Third Main Reason: Infections
Chronic infections like Lyme, EBV, Bartonella, parasites, etc can all stress out the nervous system. If the nervous system is imbalanced, then the vagus nerve can start acting up as well. The infection connection with vagal nerve health is only just now gaining popularity though, mostly since scientists are only recently paying more attention to the vagus nerve. But chronic infections can influence the entire body anyway.
Healing from chronic infections takes a whole body approach though- check out my entire post on infections here.
How to Support your Vagus Nerve Health
So to actually heal and support your vagus nerve, here are some great ideas:
- Heal your gut!
- Balance your minerals
- Fix a Hiatal Hernia
- Hum or sing daily- this helps to stimulate your vagus nerve
- Gargling activates the vagal nerve- even just 30 seconds or so can help
- Do yoga- it’s great for healing the nervous system
- Meditation or prayer
- Reduce stress in your life
- Buteyko Breathing exercises, or any breathing exercises that you feel drawn to and feel good with
- Laughing! I recently found out there is a HUGE link between laughing, vagal nerve health, and the immune system. If life is stressful lately and you’re not finding much to laugh about, find something! Funny cat videos online, your favorite comedy movie, anything that will get you to get in those deep belly laughs. Healing is hard work and it’s easy to get sucked up in feeling flat or depressed- laughing can help so much. (source)
- Use acupuncture