Not many people have heard of the Vagus Nerve. With a name like that, there is little wonder. But it plays an important part in your body and nervous system. The Vagus Nerve is the longest nerve in your body and is linked to many parts of your body. It starts in the brain and is known by the pretty nondescript name of ‘cranial nerve ten’ before travelling around –
- The digestive system
- The liver
- The pancreas
- The heart
It controls a lot of one of your nervous systems – the one known as the parasympathetic nervous system. This looks after the parts of your body that are involved in processing your food and giving the body much-needed rest and recuperation. You should think about your Vagus Nerve and the role it has to play in your body. Looking after yourself is a holistic thing, including drinking aloe vera gel as well as knowing about your systems.
The Vagus Nerve triggers this system when needed, so it knows when your heart rate in increased and accordingly prepares your body for rest after this has happened. This is known as the vagal tone – a high vagal tone means that the body is better prepared for rest –
- The blood pressure is lowered
- The digestive system is more efficient
- More enzymes are produced to break down food
- Better regulation of blood sugar levels
- The chance of a migraine is reduced
- Your mood improves
- You feel more relaxed
What Does the Vagus Nerve Do?
So, you can see how the Vagus Nerve and its connection to all these organs and important parts of your body can control the way you feel and act. This design helps you recover from times of stress or high energy consumption. The ideal way to do this from an evolutionary point of view is to rest and to take in more energy from food. The Vagus Nerve and the system it regulates are primed to get the most from these activities.
As you would expect, the opposite happens when your vagal tone is low. If your body doesn’t experience these times of stress or high energy consumption then it doesn’t prepare the body in the same way. So, a consistently low vagal tone is associated with a body that doesn’t function in the same way. It causes problems such as –
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Poor digestion
- Inflammatory disease such as IBS, arthritis, endometriosis, lupus and more
Over time, the body has been designed to cope with the shocks we always face during our years as hunter-gatherers such as the threat from wild animals, having to expend a lot of energy to catch our food and the cold. Our bodies are genetically built to face the shocks that our ancestors faced for millennia. The fact that we don’t experience these things in our modern world any more does change the way that our system works. Look at the issues above and it is no coincidence that all of these are seeing a massive rise in reported cases at the same time we no longer carry out these daily tasks that our ancestors would enter into as a matter of course.
The Vagus Nerve and You
We try to counter these things in different ways. I don’t think there are many people, particularly in the Western world, that spend their time and energy hunting down their next meal. FYI spending time on Trip Advisor looking for the best-rated restaurants in your local town doesn’t count as hunting down a meal. So, we try to replicate the energy that we would have expended hunting for that meal by going to the gym.
Consider a healthy part of any lifestyle to work out and try to stay in shape in some way. It does hark back to our past where we as a species didn’t sit behind a desk all day. We spent our time outside living, hunting for our food, and growing the fruit and vegetables that we would eat. This burned up energy and activated the Vagus Nerve to deliver all the benefits that can be felt by the different parts of the parasympathetic nervous system. And this does deliver some great health benefits.
But the one element of the parasympathetic nervous system activation that is missing is the connection to the cold. The shock of the extreme cold also triggers the system. Our ancestors maybe used to jump into ice cold rivers to catch fish, spent time in the frozen wasteland hunting for meat and had to tend to their crops whatever the weather. The shock of the cold in these situations triggered the Vagus Nerve. And this made sure that the body was ready to rest and recuperate after these shocks. Just the simple act of washing your face in cold water activates the Vagus Nerve. Hence, coldwater especially on your face is something that stimulates the Vagus Nerve and allows your organs to produce all of the things that help keep illnesses away.
How Does the Vagus Nerve Do This?
Your blood pressure drops and all the related conditions such as heart disease and strokes become less likely to occur. When blood sugar levels are regulated there is a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes with less sugar in the bloodstream for the pancreas to deal with.
Your body digests food in a more efficient way, so you don’t feel bloated or unable to process food. It helps with IBS and other digestive issues that are blighting the lives of people across the world.
It enables the body to respond to inflammation. Because this reduces the chances of related diseases such as IBS, arthritis, endometriosis, lupus and more.
You feel more in control of your life and the Vagus Nerve produces the relaxed state that helps you deal with depression and anxiety.
The Vagus Nerve is a powerful part of the body. And of the nervous system. It can control many of the illnesses and diseases that we face in the modern world today. Simple exposure to the cold in terms of the cold water running onto your face can have a massive effect. It is triggering the same response in the body that our ancestors would have felt when dealing with the extremes of cold in nature over the millennia. It is a vital part of our health system that we should all know more about.