Vagus nerve and palpitations when bending
The secret “nerve of rest” in your body and how you can strengthen it with simple tips
Modern research has gained enormous amounts of knowledge about ours in recent years Intestinal flora won. You can read a lot about it in our last articles. In particular, many scientists also explored the connection between our gut and our brain.
To put it simply, the findings: There is a kind of dedicated line between the two organs - and that has more physical and emotional effects than you might have thought. Or have you always wondered why certain illnesses or emotional states literally "hit you in the stomach"? At first glance it seems surprising why migraines or epilepsy are associated with diarrhea or constipation, doesn't it?
But science knows today: The connection between the intestine and the brain is made by the so-called Vagus nerve which acts as the main communication channel between the digestive tract and the brain, sending signals in both directions.
But let's start from the beginning:
What actually is this vagus nerve?
The vagus nerve runs from the base of the brain, through the neck and then branches into the chest, stretching to the abdomen and touching the heart and almost all major organs - it's the longest nerve in your body and has an immense impact on yours physical and mental health.
How does the vagus nerve affect your health?
Science has found that the vagus nerve has many functions. Although not yet thoroughly researched, one thing is certain: the vagus nerve is a main actor in the parasympathetic nervous system.
You remember? The "resting nerve" parasympathetic activates our resting and digestive systems - more about it in our article "Our breath: The fastest training against stress!"
The more we stimulate the vagus nerve (for example, by breathing deeply), the more we amplify the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. Our two nervous systems in the intestines and brain communicate with each other and together ensure balanced body functions such as blood flow and immune function.
So a lot depends on the vagus nerve: A well-functioning vagus nerve - and thus also how well the intestines and brain communicate - has far-reaching effects: from the reduction of anxiety, an optimized heart rate, a functioning digestion to weight regulation and much more.
What if your vagus nerve is subpar?
The Causes of a poorly functioning vagus nerve can have many faces: excessive stress, illness, certain medications, inflammation, and infection.
You can imagine this as a coherent system: If your vagus nerve is “attacked”, it is more difficult for your body to relax and to carry out its main functions such as sleeping, breathing, digesting and so on.
Poor vagus function, for example, can affect your digestive tract and allow the bad gut bacteria to gain the upper hand in the intestines. And that in turn can lead to all sorts of unpleasant effects:
- Anxiety and depression
- Weight gain
- stomach pain
- Joint and muscle pain
- a headache
- Memory loss
Does not sound good? We think so too! The question now is:
How can you train your vagus nerve ...
... to improve the communication between the intestines and the brain - and thus also your general state of health?
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to optimize communication between the brain and the gut through the vagus nerve. Look at you our 11 tips on - they can help you stimulate the vagus nerve, reduce inflammation (which inhibits the activity of the vagus nerve), and maintain a healthy parasympathetic and sympathetic balance.
PS: This can also help you to recover faster after periods of stress!
So, let's go!
1. Breathe deeply or meditate (or do both!)
Deep breathing is one of the simplest and most effective methodsto stimulate the vagus nerve. When your exhale takes about twice as long as your inhale, the vagus nerve sends a signal to your brain to activate your parasympathetic nervous system.
Try the following: Inhale and count to three, and then exhale and count to six. Take a short break between inhaling and exhaling. Several studies show that meditation has a direct effect on the vagus nerve. Thus, regular meditation can help improve pain, lack of sleep, loss of appetite, anxiety and improved gastrointestinal function.
2. Do yoga
Research shows that regular moderate exercise like yoga increases the movement of your stomach. The contractions of the smooth stomach muscle, which is responsible for the movement of food through the digestive tract, are stimulated during yoga - and this also activates the vagus nerve, which then has a positive effect on digestion1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20948179
3. Take a cold shower
No - not all the time. It is enough if you finish your shower with a minute of cold water. Walking in the cold also has a similar effect: studies show that a short burst of cold activates the vagus nerve and ensures that your parasympathetic nervous system is activated. That means you become calmer.
4. Eat foods high in tryptophan
You can find tryptophan especially in protein-rich foods, i.e. in dairy products (yogurt, cheese) and in fish, poultry, beef, and lamb. Also in spinach, seeds, nuts and bananas. Tryptophan is an amino acid that we can only ingest through food and is, among other things, the building block for the release of the happiness hormone serotonin. The amino acid is used in the gut and can help certain cells in the brain and spinal cord control inflammation. As a result, communication from the intestine to the brain via the vagus nerve improves.
5. Keep your weight in the green area
Too much body fat and bowel inflammation can weaken the vagus nerve and affect the connection between the brain and gastrointestinal tract. So if you want to shed a few pounds, you now have another reason. The well-known, sustainable methods are best suited, such as: exercise daily and eat healthily (lots of vegetables and fruit as well as nuts, seeds and legumes).
7. Eliminate sugar from your diet
Excess sugar not only causes chronic inflammation, but also affects the functioning of cells and their signal transmission. If your intestinal tract is inflamed, pathogens can more easily send further inflammatory signals to the brain.
8. Eat probiotic foods
Yogurt, kefir and fermented foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi) contain probiotic microorganisms. Research shows that certain intestinal microorganisms can activate the vagus nerve 2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21876150. In one study, mice given the probiotic “Lactobacillus rhamnosus” showed reductions in stress, depression and anxiety. However, this beneficial effect did not occur in mice whose vagus nerve had been removed.
If you eat a lot of animal protein, cut it down. Red meat and eggs contain choline, which can be good in moderation, but too much of it increases inflammation. If you eat less of it, you reduce the likelihood of inflammatory processes. You enable the vagus nerve to better regulate the parasympathetic and sympathetic interaction, e.g. via blood pressure and heart rate.
10. Try intermittent fasting
Some studies show that fasting and eating breaks can activate the vagus nerve. Given the multitude of other benefits of fasting - from improved cognitive function to weight loss to reduced inflammation - it's worth trying3)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12763082
11. Sing your favorite songs
Research shows that singing has a biologically calming effect that is controlled by the vagus nerve. So sing along when you're in the car - or better yet, when you take a cold shower4)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705176/
These are just a few things you can do to give your vagus nerve the best possible support. The The connection between the brain and the gut is fascinating and it makes sense that everything is connected. If you want to be less stressed and live healthier, then do everything possible to support your vagus nerve so that it can do its job. And if you are to be completely honest: You have certainly heard the 11 tips above in other contexts and they definitely help to improve your brain function, the intestinal function and everything in between.
Ilene Ruhoy gave us the basis for this article in an article.
You can find another, very well-researched article on the subject of the vagus nerve at Andreas from "My way out of fear"
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