The vagus nerve has been a topic of fascination and thriller all through historical past. In historic occasions, Greek and Roman physicians believed that it helped regulate respiratory and management the voice. Within the Center Ages, the vagus nerve was considered a religious channel between the physique and the soul.
The vagus nerve was additionally believed to play a job within the manufacturing of tears, with the time period “vagus” getting used to explain a wandering individual.
It wasn’t till the nineteenth century that the true nature of the vagus nerve started to unfold.
“Scientific research started to offer extra detailed insights into the features of the vagus nerve,” mentioned Megan Donnelly, D.O., lead neurologist and ladies’s headache specialist at Novant Well being.
What’s the vagus nerve and what does it do?
The vagus nerve is split into two foremost branches — the left and proper vagus nerves — and it travels all the best way down out of your mind by way of your neck into your chest and stomach. This nerve is a vital aspect of our parasympathetic nervous system, the a part of our mind that, to place it merely, calms issues down.
“Consider the vagus nerve as the primary nerve for relaxation and digestion,” Donnelly mentioned. “It turns down the center price and blood strain and causes digestion.”
The vagus nerve additionally regulates respiratory price and some reflex actions like coughing, sneezing, swallowing and vomiting.
What occurs when the vagus nerve isn’t working proper?
When the vagus nerve isn’t functioning usually — also referred to as irregular vagal tone — your well being can undergo in some ways.
A vagus nerve that’s overactive, or too responsive, may cause fainting, decreased coronary heart price and nausea. An underactive vagus nerve can result in fast coronary heart price, decreased digestion and gastroparesis, a situation that retains your abdomen from emptying all the best way.
Moreover, irregular vagal tone, which is what it’s known as when your vagus nerve isn’t working accurately, may cause:
- Belly ache
- Acid reflux disease
- Problem swallowing
- Speech issue or hoarseness
- Lack of urge for food
- Weight reduction
- Adjustments in blood strain
- Migraine assaults
“There are a number of handheld gadgets [on the market],” Donnelly mentioned. “They’re held to the neck space and emit mild electrical pulses.”
Autoimmune situations may additionally be tied to a vagus nerve that isn’t working correctly, though they is likely to be the trigger fairly than the results of the malfunctioning vagus nerve.
“If something, autoimmune illness can have an effect on nerves all through our physique and the vagus nerve is the largest and the longest,” Donnelly mentioned.
Lengthy Covid, for instance, might set off an autoimmune response, which may have an effect on the vagus nerve.
Does stimulating the vagus nerve assist anxiousness?
Activating the vagus nerve has been proven to assist scale back anxiousness — at the very least within the second of an anxiousness flare-up. So, stimulating the vagus nerve throughout say, a panic assault, may also help calm the physique down.
One of the simplest ways to stimulate the vagus nerve, which you’ll be able to’t bodily contact, is by exposing your self to ice-cold temperatures.
“Chilly water immersion has been proven, with some blended outcomes, to boost vagal tone and enhance HRV (coronary heart price variability),” mentioned Sarah-Nicole Bostan, Ph.D., a medical well being psychologist who’s board-certified in biofeedback. “The parasympathetic nervous system shortly kicks in, which ends up in slowed coronary heart price. This may really feel grounding for an individual experiencing the bodily signs of hysteria, like racing coronary heart and issue respiratory.”
Ice is a good instrument to make the vagus nerve kick in. Jennifer Surak-Zammitti, LCSW, a psychotherapist, recommends “icing” as an anxiousness coping mechanism to her sufferers.
“After they’re feeling anxious, I’ll inform them to carry and squeeze ice cubes of their hand,” Surak-Zammitti mentioned.
She additionally recommends icing to folks prone to self-harm.
“I inform them to carry an ice dice to their wrists,” Surak-Zammitti mentioned. “It provides them the sensation of one thing on their wrists that they’re craving. It additionally buys them time to get to a different coping talent to get out of the scenario [that is] inflicting them to need to self-harm.”
If you happen to’re feeling anxious, one thing so simple as super-cold air may also help as properly.
“If it’s winter, open a window and let the chilly air hit your face,” mentioned Surak-Zammitti. “It’s extraordinarily calming.”
How will you enhance your vagal nerve tone?
“This contains not simply specializing in frequency of train, however regularly rising depth and size of time spent, and ranging the kind of workouts carried out,” Bostan mentioned.
One other strategy to get vagal toned: deep respiratory. One latest research discovered that simply 5 minutes of sluggish, deep breaths reduces anxiousness and will increase vagal tone.
The vagus nerve remains to be mysterious in some methods
Though we perceive extra in regards to the vagus nerve at this time, there’s a side to it that’s nonetheless, properly, obscure. For instance, we don’t know if irregular vagal tone is extra widespread in ladies than in males.
“General, the connection between gender and vagal tone is advanced, and extra analysis is required to completely perceive how these components are associated,” Donnelly mentioned.
Within the meantime, it’s at all times a good suggestion to maneuver extra — particularly as we age. And we must always bear in mind, when within the grips of hysteria, that our moms had been proper all alongside: A chilly compress in your brow truly may also help make all of it higher.
Associated Articles Across the Internet