We know more and more about the vagus nerve as the scientific community conducts more research on it. According to experts, this nerve could be key to reducing levels of inflammation in the body.
While some studies have focused on stimulating the nerve through the use of implants, there are more natural and less invasive ways to stimulate the vagus nerve.
What is the vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system that controls our adrenaline “fight or flight” response to stress and danger. However, some people's vagus nerve is stronger than others, allowing their bodies to relax more quickly after a rush of adrenaline.
The strength of the nervous response is called vagal tone and can be measured by a person's heart rate.
The vagus nerve has both sensory and motor functions, including:
· Provide sensations for the skin behind the ear, the outside of the ear canal, and some parts of the throat, as well as the lungs, trachea, heart, and most of the digestive tract
· Stimulate the muscles of the heart, pharynx, larynx, and soft palate, and stimulate contractions in the digestive tract
Research on vagus nerve stimulation
A pilot study placed electrical implants directly into the vagus nerves of 20 volunteers with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The goal was to "turn off" the immune system in cases where it attacks the body rather than foreign cells, or in chronic conditions, such as RA.
Vagal nerve stimulation has already been approved for people with epilepsy, so there was already preliminary evidence for other conditions. Once the pacemaker was inserted into their throat, the volunteers were given magnets to pass through the area six times a day. This stimulated the nerve for 30 seconds each session.
More than half of the patients had a significant improvement and a third went into remission. Sixteen of the twenty felt better as the inflammation in their blood also decreased. Some are currently drug free. None of the patients wanted the implant removed.
Later, in a study, more evidence was obtained to support the idea that stimulation of the vagus nerve may help regulate inflammation and reduce RA symptoms. This is a breakthrough in the ability to help people with inflammatory diseases.
Although animal models of inflammation have been studied previously, until now there was no evidence that electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve could inhibit cytokine production and reduce the severity of disease in humans.
Is there a way to stimulate the nerve naturally?
The good news is that you don't need an implant to raise your vagal tone. A study with 65 participants showed that positive emotions can contribute to better health and vagal tone.
This was the first experimental evidence that if positive emotions were increased and that led to greater social closeness, the vagal tone changed.
Vagus nerve stimulation is also used to treat some cases of depression, and researchers believe it could be used in the future to treat Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and cluster headaches.
While most of the benefits studied seem to come from implantable vagus nerve stimulating devices, the underlying theory remains the same: it stimulates the vagus nerve, improves vagal tone, and supports your health. So here are some ways to do it.
6 natural ways to increase vagal tone and stimulate the vagus nerve
1. Deep breathing: Deep diaphragmatic breaths to slow breathing can stimulate the vagus nerve. Try to breathe six times a minute, inhale for five seconds, and exhale for five seconds.
2. Humming: A study by the International Journal of Yoga found that chanting "OM" was more effective at stimulating the nerve than simply resting. Producing a sound like "OM" or humming creates a sensation of vibration around the ears that is believed to be transmitted to the vagus nerve.
3. Yoga: Although yoga poses have their own benefits, a yoga practice like Kripalu with a specific focus on relaxation and breathing is particularly effective. If you practice or are interested in another form of yoga, incorporate mindful breathing into your sessions.
4. Meditation: Meditation is a tool that anyone can use at any time, be it for a few minutes or for a longer period of time. Simply taking a moment to take deep breaths to calm yourself is a form of meditation.
Make it part of your routine, but set a time when you can relax and focus on your breathing. Observe what other sensations you feel in your body. You can also add some chanting or humming to your practice for additional stimulation. Meditation is a good time to express positive thoughts and practice the deep breathing techniques mentioned above.
5. Cold Water Face Dip After Exercise: Exercise increases your heart rate, but washing your face with cold water immediately after exercising has been found to be effective in speeding up vagus nerve reactivation to reduce heart rate and increase heart rate. movement of the digestive system.
This works best by submerging most of your face in a bowl of cold water rather than completely submerging yourself.
6. Increased salivation: Salvia production is induced by activation of the vagus nerve, so when you salivate, you know it is working. This is most effective in a calm state.
To induce salivation and therefore vagus nerve stimulation, try sitting in a reclined position and imagining a salivary food like lemon. Take a deep breath, relax your body and try to maintain this sensation as long as it is comfortable. If you are salivating, you will know it is working.
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