Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Vagus Nerve Part 2

The Vagus Nerve Part 2: by Wendy Hayden

The vagus nerve is the highway that travels from the gut to the brain. Messages travel from the gut to the brain and from the brain to the gut along the Vagus nerve. Most of the communication is from the gut telling the brain what it needs to work properly. 80-90% of the communication messages are from the gut traveling up to the brain. Besides digestion, 80% of our immune system is in our gut. Poor gut health, leaky gut, and vagus nerve issues lead to immune problems, Food intolerances and nutrient deficiencies, especially vitamin D and glutathione can cause leaky gut; underlying infections like SIBO, yeast, mold, or detox pathways that aren’t working efficiently make our body toxic. Chronic stress, trauma, insulin resistance, hormone imbalances, estrogen dominance, adrenal fatigue/cortisol imbalance, and vagus nerve dysfunction can also cause leaky gut. When the vagus nerve isn’t working properly, communication between the gut and the brain breaks down and the gut doesn’t get what it needs. Low vagal tone causes constipation, low stomach acid, leaky gut, inflammation in the gut, imbalance in gut bacteria, and a lack of digestive enzymes to break down food. When the vagus nerve isn’t working properly, there is a lack of communication between the microbiome and the brain. Lack of communication between the microbiome to the brain causes problems with bacteria, parasites, and yeast. Low stomach acid can lead to many problems. We need stomach acid to digest our food, fight off parasites, stop reflux and fight bad gut bacteria. Many people struggling with reflux think they have too much stomach acid, so they take acid reducers. But a certain level of stomach acid triggers the sphincter muscle that stops reflux. If you lower your stomach acid, the sphincter muscle isn’t triggered to close. This leads to reflux. When our vagus nerve isn’t working, we don’t produce the proper amount of stomach acid, which can lead to reflux. Stomach acid helps break down our food. If you are struggling with constipation or you see undigested food in your stool, you might not have enough stomach acid. You can eat an organic whole-food diet, fermented foods, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and supplements to heal your gut, but if your vagus nerve isn’t working right, you will fight an uphill battle to improve how your gut works. You will still have gut problems if your vagus nerve has a low tone. Past or current traumas, infections, parasites, chronic stress, chronic illness, toxic relationships, abuse, or neglect can cause problems with our vagus nerve. But anything that makes us feel unsafe can affect the health of our vagus nerve. If students bullied you in school, if you moved frequently and weren’t able to be a part of a community, had mold in your home or work environment, if you work in a stressful job or have a stressful home life, it can affect your vagus nerve. Some signs that your vagus nerve isn’t working as it should: Swallowing or coughing issues, Heart palpitations, High blood pressure, Shallow breathing, using the chest instead of the belly, Slow to digest food/undigested food in stool/constipation, Liver problems, Acid reflux/Low Stomach Acid/Heartburn/GERD, Migraines, Poor circulation, Leaky gut, Kidney problems, Gallbladder problems, Cortisol issues, Hormone problems, including issues with your menstrual cycle, reproductive organs, or menopause, Depression, Anxiety, Inflammation, Sleep issues, Obesity and weight issues, Tinnitus, ADD, ADHD, Gastroparesis, IBS, Fibromyalgia, Diabetes, Sexual dysfunction, and Sleep apnea. Another test is to test your breathing. You can put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Take three deep breaths. 1…………2…………..3…………. Do you feel the breaths in your chest or in your belly? If your hand on your chest is lifting and lowering, it is a sign that you are in a stressed state and can be a sign of vagus nerve dysfunction. If your belly is where you feel your breaths, then that is an excellent sign that you are in a relaxed state. Community is very important to our emotional health. Being with people that support us and that we feel a connection stimulates our vagus nerve. The vagus nerve signals the release of oxytocin, the bonding, or the love hormone. We think of oxytocin as just a hormone that is part of the birthing or breastfeeding process or the hormone that bonds us to our baby, but it involves much more than that. Oxytocin increases feelings of love, empathy, and connection to others and facilitates feelings of trust. Increasing our oxytocin lowers our feelings of fear and has an antidepressant effect. Scientists believe that oxytocin reduces inflammation by decreasing cytokines. Having love, compassion, and forgiveness for yourself will help you heal and help your vagus nerve. If you feel stressed or panicked, you might feel your shoulders raise, your tone of voice becomes strained and your brow furrow, this sends a signal through your vagus nerve that you are not safe. Consciously relaxing your shoulders, softening your tone, and putting a smile on your face can convince your vagus nerve and your brain that you are safe and not in danger. Take a minute right now to lower your shoulders, take a deep relaxing breath and gently smile. Did you feel any different when you did this? Note your thoughts on how you felt before, and after.