How to Naturally Heal the Vagus Nerve
Ever felt stuck in between fight or flight? Sometimes we don’t even know what triggered it, but before we know it we have a tight chest, short breath and an overwhelmed mind. We know this function exists to protect us, but what do we do when we don’t need protecting?
Enter the Vagus Nerve, known as the modulator of the brain-gut axis in psychology. When we reference the brain-gut axis, we are referring to the location where the communication of the central and enteric nervous system occurs. This communication then stimulates emotional and cognitive function, so when the brain-gut axis is out of balance, this results in decreased function in these areas, which can lead to all sorts of discomfort, physically and mentally such as brain fog, digestive issues, depression, anxiety and more. So how do we begin to approach healing our vagus nerve naturally?
What is the Vagus Nerve?
First, in order to understand how to heal our vagus nerve naturally, let’s break down the components of the nerve itself. Known as the 10th cranial nerve, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in our body, reaching from our brain all the way to our abdomen. ‘Vagus’ is actually Latin for the word wandering, which seems fitting due to its wide-range of wandering nerves. Due to the vagus nerve containing both sensory (afferent) and motor (efferent) functions, it’s considered to be a mixed nerve.
What is Vagul Tone?
When referring to vagus nerve function, vagal tone is defined as the activity of the vagus nerve. Increased vagal tone means higher functioning versus decreased vagal tone.
Why the Vagus Nerve Needs Healing
Our vagus nerve can become damaged when our bodies undergo a prolonged period of mental or physical distress…(hint hint, basically our everyday busy-body lives.) One of the main ways our vagus nerve dysfunctions during this time is by failing to act as a filter for our consciousness to communicate what’s happening to our body. Without this filter, we can feel brain fog, fatigue, muscle aches and even digestion disruption. Picture yourself having access to every news source all at once; you’d feel helpless seeing the terrible things while also feeling joy for all the good simultaneously; your body trying to make sense of the juxtaposition of all the information you’re receiving is what causes the dysfunction.
Approach to Healing The Vagus Nerve
Similar to how we would approach an overwhelmed, out of touch toddler, we must take that same energy towards ourselves when embarking on healing our vagus nerve naturally. When we say natural, we mean we are using gentle and non-invasive tools. Some examples of natural healing would be breathing exercises, massage, yoga, and even gargling!
Vagus Nerve Massage
One of the most popular ways of healing the vagus nerve naturally involves manual vagus nerve stimulation through massage. The areas to stimulate are the inner surface of the tragus, the concha, and the cymba of the concha. Here’s how we like to set up for a vagus nerve massage:
- Find a place free of distractions. You preferably don’t want your body to be in a state of high alert when trying to raise your vagal tone.
- Sit in a comfortable position and take note of how you feel before beginning.
- Start by applying a couple drops of Melt Tension Serum to your fingertips.
- You're going to begin with whatever side you prefer and massage the anterior crus of the antihelix on your ear (top portion of the ear) in a circular motion with as much pressure as feels comfortable.
- Once you’ve finished, repeat on the other side.
- Apply more Melt if needed, and move down to the tragus concha. Push backward gently and begin the same circular massage motion.
- Repeat for a period of 10 minutes or so.
- Take note of any changes that you feel taking place within your body.
Vagus Nerve Breathing Exercises
Another popular way to heal the vagus nerve naturally is by participating in breathing exercises. One of the ways breathing can improve our vagus system is by improving heart rate variability and minimizing the fight or flight response. We like to start our exercises with a couple drops of Good Day to allow our brains to relax with clean energy and focus.
“When I took a full dropper I felt so even keeled I instantly fell in love! I felt like I was able to flow through challenges throughout my day with a calmer demeanor and a clearer mind.” says Brittney.
While some may say any form of deep breathing will do the trick, here two popular methods:
- Box Breathing: Box breathing, or also known as the 4-4-4-4 method, is a deep breathing technique that is often used to help decrease stress and anxiety. First envision a box, you’re going to breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, then hold again for another four counts and repeat.
- The 4:7:8 Technique: Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil , this technique is built around taking shorter inhales and longer exhales with an intentional pause in between. First, breathe in for four counts and hold at the top for seven counts. Release for eight counts. And repeat for as long as you feel necessary.
We’ve just barely begun to scratch the surface of healing the vagus nerve naturally. As we are continually learning more about how to address our body’s needs, we advise you to keep track of the things you are discovering. Whether it be daily triggers or breathing exercises that work, it’s helpful to have something to look back on. Think of this as your natural healing first aid kit.