Vagus means ‘wandering’ – this powerful nerve has been given this name as it innervates and impacts almost every organ and system in our body. The Vagus nerve is also the 10th cranial nerve and runs from the brain, down both the left and right sides of the body.
HRV, or Heart Rate Variability, is dependent on and hugely influenced by the healthy functioning of the Vagus nerve. HRV has come to be recognized as a significant indicator of health, and is used by athletes to determine both their level of fitness, as well as their need for rest and recovery.
The Gut-Brain-Axis, also known as the GBA, is a two way neural pathway between the Gut and the Brain. Years ago, it was thought that more nerve impulses were sent by the brain to the gut. More recently, it is well understood that in fact, more information travels via the Vagus nerve from the gut to the brain, then vice versa.The implication of this is that the state or health of the GUT has a significant impact on our brain function, vagus nerve function as well as our emotional state.
Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic:
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) runs all of the involuntary mechanisms in your body that are not under your conscious control, such as your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, respiration, cell activity, and even body temperature. The two branches of the ANS include the Parasympathetic branch, known as the “Rest, Digest and Heal” state, and the Sympathetic “Fight, Flight or Freeze” state.
These two branches operate with a push-pull dynamic and activate very different physical and mental states of being. For example, your Sympathetic branch makes energy available for muscles to mobilize, fight or flee. It is your Sympathetic state that speeds up your heart rate, dilates your pupils and increases breathing rate (stress response) while your Parasympathetic state slows all these fucntions down, allowing the body to enter a state of rest and repair.
The Parasympathetic nervous system turns on your digestion, but when you feel anxiety, the sympathetic branch kicks in and turns off digestion.
There is a constant calibration between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems with one or the other playing a more active role at any given time.
And this constant state of balance between our sympathetic and parasympathetic systems is facilitated by your vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body, which originates in the brain and wraps through almost every organ in the body.
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are always operational, but there should always be a state of balance between them.
An overdrive of the sympathetic nervous system, what is referred to as SD or Sympathetic Dominance, inhibits the Vagus nerve and over a period of time, causes low vagal nerve tone. A heightened state of stress and anxiety, especially over a prolonged period of time, causes SD.
21st century living, with all its hustle and bustle and everyday stressors, has most of us spending more time in sympathetic overdrive, pushing us into Sympathetic Dominance with high levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline wreaking havoc on our bodies.
We’re all dealing with stress, and our gears get stuck in the sympathetic’s fight-or-flight all too easily…
Vagal tone is is the ability of the ventral vagus nerve to regulate the heart beat. It is referred to in medical literature as “cardiac vagal tone.”
Higher vagal tone means that the body can return to a calm state quickly after a stressful experience ends.
Higher vagal tone does not mean a person will be less activated by stressful events, but that they will recover more easily after safety is restored.
People with low vagal tone do not recover as quickly after safety is restored. If you have low vagal tone, you may feel stuck in high or low activation for a long time after a stressful incident has ended, or even flip-flop between those two up and down states.
Nervous system dysregulation (poor vagal tone) has been linked to gut issues including leaky gut, dysbiosis and SIBO.
Vagal tone is affected by a number of different factors but it is IMPOSSIBLE to optimize your vagus nerve function, and therefore your gut, without addressing psychoenergetic healing.
Here are 10 simple ways to increase vagal nerve tone:
BIO: Chantal is a B.Sc.Hons Allied Health with an international diploma in Nutrition and Sports Nutrition. Chantal is a passionate Gut Health advocate & Functional Medicine Health & Lifestyle Coach, specialising in the improvement and management of the chronic diseases of lifestyle, the illnesses and diseases associated with dietary excess and their relationship to leaky gut and dysbiosis (imbalance) of the gut microbiome. These conditions include IBS, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, overweight, obesity, acne, eczema, depression, anxiety, auto-immune, hormone imbalance, cancer, cognitive decline etc.
Over her 25 year career, Chantal has held various positions within the health and wellness industry – including 10 years as the Executive Head of Vodacom’s corporate wellness & mobile health programs. Chantal is the owner/ founder of the DripBar which offers vitamin and mineral drip therapy in improving micronutrient deficiencies. She is also the founder/owner of a Kombucha brewery which produces the brand of organic green tea ‘booch’ called theFarmacy.
Chantal is a competitive cyclist, a plant strong vegan and mom to two grown up girls.
To book a health coaching session: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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This blog post contains information that is not designed to take the place of,
substitute, or replace any form and method of professional or medical advice
and treatment or medicine. All content is the author’s opinion and is not
intended to diagnose and remedy. The facts and figures contained in this
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