The Vagus Nerve : A Key to our Wellbeing

This is the week many of us jump into the new decade.  I wanted to talk about the importance of the The Vagus Nerve. Called the Wanderer as it is key to our  Wellbeing.

Doing all the things requires that we show up as our best selves and to do that we must balance our power plant.  The Nervous System. The Vagus nerve is a critical player in providing that balance.

This guy when irritated can cause a whole host of problems.  It will not surprise many of you that when the body is under too much stress for too long this wandering nerve which is like a super highway mainly between the Brain Stem, Heart and the Gut can not do it what it has been designed to do which is to facilitate calmness and wellbeing.

There is much still to learn … however here is what we know thus far.

Taking a deep breath. hugging a friend, singing to a favorite song, stretching like a cat, doing yoga, or meditation  are all acts that bestow a sense of calm and comfort.

 These activities stimulate a complicated system of nerves that connects the brain to the heart, the gut, the immune system, and many of the organs. That system is known collectively as the vagus nerve.

The Vagus Nerve: The Wanderer

The Latin word vagus means literally “wandering” (the words vagrant, vagabond, vague, and divagation come from the same root)

The vagus nerve is one of the twelve cranial nerves, which sprawl out from the brain and into the body like an intricate network of roots. These nerve networks act as lines of communication between the brain and the body’s many systems and organs. Some of the cranial nerves interpret sensory information collected by the skin, eyes, or tongue. Others control muscles or communicate with glands.

The vagus nerve, also called the “10th cranial nerve,” is the longest, largest, and most complex of the cranial nerves, and in some ways it’s also the least understood.

Experts have linked its activity to symptom changes in people with migraine headaches, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, epilepsy, arthritis, and many other common ailments. The more science learns about the vagus nerve, the more it seems like a better understanding of its function could unlock new doors for treatment.

The vagus nerve’s activation or deactivation is tied to the ebb or flow of hormones such as cortisol and the digestive hormone ghrelin, the amount of inflammation the immune system produces, and many other internal processes that shape human health and experience.

The Vagus Nerve: A Comprehensive Review

Here is an article outlining a comprehensive 2016 review of the research on the vagus nerve. it suggests that heightened vagal activity slows heart rate and also switches off inflammation, in part by triggering the release of immune system calming chemicals. There’s also evidence that activating the vagus nerve through electronic stimulation can produce a range of health benefits.

Pick almost any common medical condition that’s made worse by stress or inflammation — everything from arthritis to inflammatory bowel disease — and there’s research showing that vagus nerve stimulation can help treat it or relieve its symptoms.

Ways to Stimulate Vagus Activity


The first exercise is to gargle with water several times a day. The vagus nerve activates the muscles in the back of the throat that allow you to gargle. Gargling contracts these muscles, which activates the vagus nerve and stimulates the gastrointestinal tract.

Drink several large glasses of water per day and gargle each sip until you finish the glass of water.

Sing Loudly

Singing as loudly as you can when you are in your car, at church or at home. This works the muscles in the back of the throat to activate the vagus. This exercise may become a nuisance for family members, however if it stimulates a calm sensation then I  recommend it. At a recent event a speaker asks us all to do vocal exercise and then asked us to sing together… the sense of Joy when we finished was amazing.

Yoga and Meditation

We talk a lot about the value of these practices and as many of you know I am a huge fan.  I took up Yoga to heal my Mind Body and Spirit many many years ago… Science is now catching up with solid scientific research to back up the benefits.

Electrical Stimulation

In the past, this stimulation required a surgical implant in the chest that transmits electrical pulses directly into the vagus nerve. But some newer, noninvasive devices — including one that has FDA approval for the treatment of migraine and cluster headaches — are capable of stimulating the vagus nerve when pressed against the skin of the neck.  I would look for the root cause and try natural first before this option.

There’s still a lot about the vagus nerve science doesn’t understand. But as doctors uncover more of its secrets, these discoveries are revealing new and more effective ways to relieve pain, inflammation, sadness, and disease.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the Vagus Nerve?  It is clearer than ever that we need to incorporate Joy, Peace and Calm into our lives if we want to experience Wellbeing.

Congrats to all the folks that Began the P21 Program this week.  Those folks are well on their way to experiencing Calm using Food as Medicine.  Want to know more, then please contact me for details.

Have a great week.

Dr Pia